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Designing Sustainable Urban Futures

Marius Albiez
Gerhard Banse
Kenyon C. Lindeman
et al.

2. Research and Development Processes

Local Citizen Participation in the European Context

Albert Geiger

Texte intégral

1Europe is undergoing change, it is changing ever more rapidly, and the relationships are becoming increasingly complex. In Germany, we will lose nearly 17 million inhabitants in the next 30 years, according to the latest forecasts. Every third person in this country will be 65 or older by then. The number of students will be halved in the next 30 years. The energy transition must be achieved. For a European city, it is more than ever important to find answers to the crucial questions of the future.

1 “We are they and they are we!”

2In practice, there is no clear path with a sign at the beginning that reads: “This takes you directly to the simple answer to complex questions about the future.” In fact, there are many ways. Most of them are neither mapped nor prepared for a navigation system. In order to find the way forward for Ludwigsburg, in 2004 the city administration and city council embarked on a journey towards finding the right coordinates. We called this journey “Opportunities for Ludwigsburg”. In the following, we put emphasis on broad citizen participation. The city designed the future program in a two-year process with more than 1,000 participants.

3Master plans were designed for key issues such as education, integration, energy, culture, work, and economy. This is a tedious task that promises fewer headlines than announcing prestigious construction projects. When more citizens overcome the inertia of the mass and get involved, we all benefit; this dispels mistrust and builds more trust among the actors. It is no longer about those at the top who do what they want anyway. The new slogan is “We are they and they are we.” The power struggles about tax distribution and consolidation contributions must give way to a strategically coordinated and jointly supported financial policy based on intergenerational equity. Political decisions at the local level tend to become more factual. Individual decisions can be more effectively integrated into overall strategies and priorities.

4Ludwigsburg’s policy approach thus gives access to the creative ideas of the citizens. They identify more closely with their city. They get involved in an incredible number of ways and contribute to the challenges of drawing up intergenerationally equitable budgets. The principle is: “The sustainable city does not charge the future.” The sustainable urban development policy is in line with the objectives of the Rio Conference in 1992. The initiatives and developments that have emerged in many cities since then are an integral part of the sustainable urban development with intensive citizen participation.

5Since this is not only a local but also a national and international issue, Ludwigsburg decided in 2005 – during the hottest phases of citizen participation in the urban development concept – to take part in the European project called Managing Urban Europe (MUE) (2005-2008). In this project, 25 European cities worked intensively on developing successful participation, management tools, and a method for long-term sustainable urban development. During the project, the actors in the Ludwigsburg city administration realized that cities in Europe have much to learn from each other in terms of successful citizen participation. At this time, Brussels had already approached the local authorities and promoted the involvement of people in shaping the future using participatory approaches.

6So it was a matter of ensuring that these findings would be reflected in practical administrative action in the future. The management cycle in the MUE project offers European cities and municipalities a tool to institutionalize citizen participation in the development and maintenance of the programs for the future regardless of events. In 2007, during the German EU Council Presidency, the Leipzig Charter on Sustainable European Cities set out important guidelines towards this end. For understandable reasons, the strategies defined therein became a prerequisite for access to communal EU and partly national funding programs. According to the logic of horizontally networked policy at the local level, such networking must also take place at the regional, national and European levels. The same logic shows that the policies from the community up to the EU also need to be better integrated vertically. Given the current financial crisis and imminent state bankruptcies in the EU as well as the already partially incapacitated municipalities, this, in particular, presents a substantial opportunity and responsibility.

2 Processes of Change

7During the projects above, we made organizational changes to better manage overall urban development planning processes. These were aimed at shaping the future in line with the expectations of the citizens. “With the world becoming more complex, more brains need to think” is the guiding principle of this idea. The Department for Sustainable Urban Development was established in 2008, responsible for managing change processes and the integration of various fields of action. Based on the findings and due to the exceptionally positive experience in the project Managing Urban Europe, Ludwigsburg has since participated in a large number of European funding programs. Some of them focus on the topic of participation in the European context. Urgent challenges of the future, such as energy and climate protection, generally play a key role here. In autumn 2010, for example, the European project MUSIC (Mitigation in Urban Areas) was launched. The total budget of 5.62 million euros is distributed among seven project partners: the cities of Ludwigsburg, Rotterdam, Ghent, Montreux and Aberdeen, and two research institutes. The project deals with the question of how to achieve the energy transition in the cities and significantly reduce CO2 emissions using new approaches and instruments. The focus is on three areas:

  • Transition management – an innovative method of citizen participation, which was developed by the project partner DRIFT (Dutch Research Institute for Transitions of the University of Rotterdam) and is used in the partner cities of the project.
  • Urban energy maps summarizing various information on energy in a geographic information system (in collaboration with the project partner Research Institute Henri Tudor)
  • Pilot projects in the partner cities of the project: high-quality, energy-efficient public buildings with high visitor numbers.

8In Ludwigsburg, the “local energy transition” process was launched as part of the transition management. In a first step, a project team was formed within the city administration. In addition to the project managers from the Department for Sustainable Urban Development, the Department of Civic Engagement was involved with a focus on citizen participation and energy issues. The team jointly selected citizens of Ludwigsburg who in fall 2011 were interviewed about the urban development process, sustainable energy supply, and possibilities for citizen participation in Ludwigsburg. Among the 30 respondents were members of the municipal council, energy experts and interested laypersons. The aim was to stimulate enthusiasm for the process among so-called “front runners”, that is, people who think outside the box, who are creative and committed to dealing with new issues and promoting them.

9The innovative approach of “transition management” (the management of change) is not to invite to a broad participatory process, but to start with a small group of selected “front runners.” Later, the process will be re-expanded to involve more actors. In November 2011, all respondents were invited to a kick-off meeting where the main results of the interviews were presented. They provided very interesting insights into the various areas considered. The findings were then incorporated into the process with the interested “front runners.” Until September 2012, seven meetings were held with ten to fifteen participants each.

3 Thematic Links

  • 1 Editors‘ note: “Ludwig and Ludwiga” is a synonym of “male and female residents of Ludwigsburg”.

10After taking stock of the issue of energy in Ludwigsburg, the group identified primary urban development topics that could be linked together – from housing, education, culture and green spaces to mobility and energy issues. It was interesting to see that energy is involved in all aspects of daily life – where we live, what we buy, how we move, where we recover, etc. The participants then jointly developed a vision “One day in the life of Ludwig and Ludwiga in 2050”.1 In the next step, they looked at various topics such as consumption, recycling, and energy saving in buildings, and discussed from the perspective of 2050 what needs to happen by 2030, 2020, 2015 and today to make this vision a reality. Based on this, practical recommendations and ideas were formulated and reconciled, resulting in an agenda of who and what is needed to put these measures into practice. The results achieved were then discussed at the “energy roundtable” with around 60 politicians, citizens and other stakeholders. In an “energy café,” various topics such as “green in the city,” “feel-good railway station,” “innovative energy supply,” and “sustainable consumption” were discussed.

11The results from the “energy roundtable” were discussed at the City’s fourth Conference on the Future in November 2012, taking into account of other issues and developing ideas such as “face-to-face energy advice” or “energy exhibition”. Here, connections to the EU project “Livinggreen” became obvious. This project aims to develop “Energy Info Centers” in the project’s partner cities, which offer innovative advice on the renovation of buildings, saving energy, energy efficiency, and renewable energy. As part of the project, Ludwigsburg plans to establish an exhibition on energy, together with Energetikom – Center for Energy Competence and Eco Design and the Public Library in the cultural center of Ludwigsburg. At the end of 2012, the entire “local energy transition” process was posted on the newly launched citizen participation platform “MeinLB. de” ( as a project. In February 2013, all those involved and other interested persons were invited to an “Energy Market of Opportunities” in order to develop concrete projects to be implemented by and with citizens based on their ideas, suggestions and visions. Several energy projects are going to be realized soon – ranging from a tree of books with literature on sustainability and a car-free week with celebrities as role models.

4 European Exchange of Experience

12The exchange of experience with other European cities plays an important role for Ludwigsburg, such as in the project EnSURE (Energy Savings in Urban Quarters through Rehabilitation and New Ways of Energy Supply). The aim of this project is to improve urban energy balances by developing integrated approaches and implementing pilot projects on energy-efficient renovation of buildings, renewable energy, mobilization of owners to improve the urban energy balances, and innovative financing instruments. To this end, the 13 partners from Germany, Hungary, Italy, Poland, and Slovenia will exchange experiences and support projects for sustainable urban development. One focus is on the development of approaches in which the respective energy projects are embedded. This is particularly important as in Europe individual measures are still too often implemented without reference to an overall strategy. In the European project EnSURE, Ludwigsburg, the lead partner of this project, brought its experience in integrated urban development to the European partnership, based on the city-wide integrated urban development concept. In Ludwigsburg, the district and quarter level was considered in more detail. Using a specially developed energy strategy, a concept of energy-efficient renovation was developed for a typical post-war quarter.

13The concepts include retrofitting scenarios, a follow-up study, new concepts of energy supply, and implementation strategies. In addition, strategies have been developed to encourage owners and tenants as well as key stakeholders such as energy suppliers and housing associations to cooperate in the process. An important outcome of the project is that the major players must necessarily be involved from the beginning of the process. The pilot energy project is integrated into the ongoing development process in the district (development plan “Oststadt”). Energy issues can thus be discussed along with other aspects as part of an iterative and integrated approach.

14These examples demonstrate that a citizens’ Europe can only succeed if the cities and municipalities engage in dialogue with the public based on committed participation and communicate European issues to their citizens as partners of Brussels. The change in mentality introduced with the Leipzig Charter, which can also be described as a cultural change, is an excellent opportunity to do so. Brussels wants to reach out to the citizens. They are supposed to shape Europe. This will only succeed if the two lower rungs of the ladder leading to the people are stable and solid. These rungs are the municipalities. They play a key role. They are the ones who must successfully design citizen participation. Thus, from the perspective of local, regional, state and federal but also European policy, there are no alternatives for successful participation.


1 Editors‘ note: “Ludwig and Ludwiga” is a synonym of “male and female residents of Ludwigsburg”.


City Administration, Head of the Unit Sustainable Urban Development, Ludwigsburg, Germany;


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