Over five years of collaboration, citizens and representatives of the urban government elaborated a holistic strategy for the future urban development of Korneuburg (AT). First, an urban mission statement with common values and goals for sustainable development was formulated. On this basis, the “Masterplan Korneuburg 2036” was developed, comprising more than 100 implementation measures for nine fields of urban life. These are: urban planning, economics, education, mobility, energy, participation and communication, social issues, leisure and quality of living, as well as culture.
Finally, a charter for citizen participation, i.e. an agreement on future collaboration, was elaborated, building the groundwork for long-term collaborative structures and collective action for future urban development. Besides the tangible project outputs, the process contributed considerably to an open and trustful atmosphere and shared responsibility for urban life. The whole process was accompanied by an interdisciplinary team of external experts and scientists.
1) Visionary urban development goals: in close collaboration and in a creative process, citizens, representatives of urban government and external experts developed a common orientation (urban mission statement) for the cities’ future development. It is now binding for future urban decision-making and helped to create a common identity. A broad participatory process ensured a high social and political acceptance of the vision.
2) Long-term strategy for implementation of development goals: it was obvious to everyone involved that the mere elaboration of a common orientation wouldn’t be enough to undergo a meaningful urban transformation process. Thus, specific steps of implementation, based on the formulated development targets, were elaborated. The resulting master plan for future urban development comprises implementation measures for all dimensions of urban life (short-, mid- and long-term measures).
3) Building resilient structures and securing future dynamic development: as the trusting collaboration was a core success factor, a charter for future citizen participation was elaborated. With this, the urban government commits itself to a regulatory framework for long-term urban co-management between the city and its citizens.
The centrepiece of the charter is a steering committee that supervises the implementation and dynamic adaption of the master plan and the mission statement as well as long-term citizen participation.
The project started with developing goals for sustainable urban development by illustrating a picture of how the city – being sustainable in all segments of urban life – should look in future. The mission statement and master plan take into account all dimensions of urban life (urban planning, education, mobility, economics, energy, participation and communication, social issues, leisure and quality of living as well as culture), and thus differ from other urban development strategies, which often focus on spatial planning or economic development. They build on a holistic view of urban life, including knowledge of the citizens and also considering the inseparability of issues.
While elaborating these development goals and implementation measures, it became obvious that political, environmental, and social conditions may change over time and that it is at least as important to design flexible and adaptive instruments (dynamic documents) as well as learning structures and institutions, which allow for ongoing adaption to changing frameworks.
A close collaboration between all urban actors (citizens, civil society, political and administrative representatives) ensured a high quality of the development process, and allowed for a profound learning process among all participants. The agreement to continue this collaboration ensures learning structures for the future. Today, the city is just beginning to take steps towards networking with other cities on the national level.
As this profound urban development process (now ongoing for more than five years) traces back to a citizens’ initiative, the participative approach is a centrepiece of the process. Citizens and municipal actors were equally represented in a steering committee, as well as experts from different disciplines.
The quite exhaustive undertaking comprised more than 45 meetings in the steering committee and approximately 50 meetings in sectoral working groups. The more surprising it was, that fluctuation among people involved was quite low. All participants, who voluntarily committed themselves to the project for such a long period, spent by far more time and effort on the project, than their regular obligation would have required. It is more than just a case-related participatory endeavour, but rather laid the foundation for long-term urban co-management.
The process can be characterised by a trustful collaboration on eye-level, allowing for creativity and intense social learning processes. With implementing the charter for citizen participation and a long-term steering committee, acting as an advisory board for the city council, the city committed itself to future urban co-management.
The project has developed from a citizen initiative to a broad participatory process, involving all groups of urban actors. It ended in a long-term collaboration agreement between citizens and the municipal government and generated considerable self-reinforcing tendencies over time. Each and every step gave an impetus for further development and for searching ways to consolidate newly evolving ideas and structures.
In the mission statement, the vision of a new cooperation culture between citizens and municipal government was identified as a central pillar for future urban governance. Thus, when elaborating the master plan, the issue of participation became a cross-sectional topic considered in implementation measures in all of the nine fields of action. Finally, a collaboration agreement, including rules and quality criteria for future citizen participation (Korneuburger charter of citizen participation), secures the commitment of all parties to share responsibility for future urban development.
In all project phases, citizens collaborated on eye-level with representatives of the municipal government in a very open and trustful atmosphere. Although the mayor’s party even increased the overall majority within the local council at the middle of the project, they continue to focus on cooperation and consensus between all political parties and urban actor groups. The process noticeably changed the understanding of how to govern and develop the city towards shared responsibility.
Sustainability and resilience of urban systems heavily depend on the ability of urban actors to interact, deliberate and collaborate as well as to continuously adapt and transform their institutional structures. Allowing for long-term and reliable but flexible and forward-thinking collaboration among citizens, politicians and municipal administration seems necessary to build networks of adaptive capacity.
Of course, as each and every city has its own identity, frameworks and prerequisites, we don’t think, that there is a “one fits all” solution, which can be applied for all urban locations. Nevertheless, cities may connect themselves and learn from each other’s experiences.
Based on this understanding, the Korneuburg way of urban development might inspire the design of long-term collaboration agreements. It provides knowledge about crucial issues when designing co-management strategies and offers experience in moving beyond traditional forms of case-related citizen participation. Also in terms of holistic strategy-building for urban development (master plan) the city may offer empirical know-how. Experiences with the development of scenarios as a basis for strategy building (guided by scientific experts) may as well be of interest for other cities.