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Connecting Cities: Building Successes 4 Lessons Every European City Can Learn From Oberhausen

20 April 2017

We in the URBACT Ireland Team really like this article by Petra Ockerl.  Irrespective the size of city or town, regardless of whether you are a policy-maker for, or resident in, these settlements, this article contains a number of core messages around place-making and place-shaping. 

The changed fortunes of Oberhausen are echoed in many towns and cities across the island of Ireland – a historical background in industrial / traditional manufacturing followed by steep decline (with all the associated social and economic ills) and various levels of success in the many attempts to revitalise and rebuild.

The first three lessons highlighted in this article will resonate with communities and policy-makers across the island of Ireland:

  • Shopping centres are not a solution;
  • Use the remains of the industrial past;
  • Promote cultural and artistic projects;

With, many would argue, the first lesson not being learnt early enough!  Across the island, we continue to see the hollowing out of town centres due to the penchant for edge of town shopping centres with their offering of free car-parking and the promise of many ‘services’ under one roof. 

Across the island, attachment to place – and the culture and history of that place - is very important, and well celebrated.  Lessons two and three, therefore, are well considered at local government level and actively pursued through local community development groups and partnerships.  The assets of a place are unarguably its wealth; and increasingly recognised as key drivers to economic growth.

Lesson four, treat refugees as a valuable source of hope and energy, requires a more concerted effort across the board.  This is despite our long history of being refugees – first fleeing famine and then recession after recession.  Yet, as we can see from Oberhausen, the smallest interventions – based on respect and sharing of knowledge and skills – can reap amazing rewards.  It is unfortunate that much of the narrative in the media surrounding the current refugee crisis is negative – focusing on the ‘problem’ rather than the ‘opportunity’ presented. 

Such lessons as highlighted in this article are key to changing mind-sets and policy!  We are all guilty of silo-working…key to changing this is more peer-to-peer knowledge exchange.  And who knows, we might even find out through the sharing of experiences and lessons that we are innovators! 

To see the full article please click here