‘’Be out on the streets!’’ (Amsterdam civil servant)
Are people in different cities around Europe facing comparable challenges when they work in deprived neighborhoods? How can we better – and more cleverly learn and inspire each other?
With that idea in mind, a group of more than 28 civil servants from the municipality of Amsterdam visited Copenhagen and Malmo. And SmartUrbI joined them. This work-trip, organized by the municipality of Amsterdam and Platform31, aimed to learn, to bond and to exchange ideas about daily practices and dilemmas. Especially concerning area management (in Dutch: gebiedsgericht werken) which has been implemented in Copenhagen and Malmo in different ways, and therefore could be of inspiration to Amsterdam civil servants.
One of the SmartUrbI researchers went along with the program and observed the ‘walk and talk’ of these civil servants: noting down their practices, dilemmas and how they cope with issues. Next to this ‘shadowing’ practice, Annika Agger from the Danish SmartUrbI team also organized a meeting between the Amsterdam group of civil servants and 14 of their Danish counterparts in Copenhagen. The session was organized as a “giftgiving – sharing session”, where the two teams talked about their best and worst practices in relation to local work in close contact with citizens. This included:
- Presentations from Amsterdam in which they showed how citizens can be involved in current decision-making, showing for instance one example how the design of a grim space (tunnel) can be developed by residents in Amsterdam. See: https://www.amsterdam.nl/bestuur-organisatie/stadsdelen/stadsdeelwest/openstadsdeel-0/projecten/project-fietstunnel/
- Presentations from Copenhagen, showing how citizens can be informed about a future railway and how neighborhood workers can manage to standup and make a voice, not just against but in thinking along with such a plan
After these presentations, the group was divided in subgroups to exchange thoughts about their most pressing challenges and how they define their role. It enabled intercultural dialogues by which the conclusions were written down in postcards. These postcard messages (which also included the heading quote of this blog) were collected and will soon be returned to both offices.
Overall, it was an inspiring meeting. Not only did it show how useful it is to have intercultural dialogues about professional experiences, but it also showed comparisons and differences in municipal thinking about citizen initiatives. It was also a good learning practice for the SmartUrbI research team since it was a good experience in setting up a Transnational Living Lab in Copenhagen. Moreover it also showed the relevance of science-policy dialogues and it indicated the significance of case comparisons between Amsterdam and Copenhagen.