Shaping the city together? Discussion about the role of participation in urban spaces

The ninth and final part of the Open Innovation City Speaker Series "Talking About Innovation" focused on the topic of participation. Volker Vorwerk, expert for innovative forms of broad public participation and participatory technology design as well as founder of, discussed this topic with Arturo Holuigue de la Vega, responsible for strategy and policy planning in the executive staff of the Lord Mayor of the City of Dortmund. The discussion at the Founders Foundation was moderated by Radio Bielefeld editor-in-chief Timo Fratz.

Participation is one of the central topics for cities that is often the subject of controversial debate. The question arises: How can urban society be involved in the important issues of our time, such as climate change, the mobility revolution and digitalization?

Volker Vorwerk emphasized that urban societies have great treasures of knowledge to which more attention should be paid. According to Vorwerk, urban politics and administration often do not take participation processes seriously enough. Only with the right commitment, adequate funding and broad-based activation can participation be successful. From his own experience, the founder of cited the participatory budget of the city of Stuttgart, where lively participation led to good results.

Arturo Holigue de la Vega warned against carrying out participatory processes half-heartedly. This leads to frustration among all participants. Well-planned processes tailored to the respective city are needed, he said. According to de la Vega, Dortmund has been successful in this area because it has developed a city-specific approach. To this end, he said, detailed analyses of the city's own urban environment, especially milieu studies, are of great importance.

During the discussion, Vorwerk and de la Vega fielded many questions from the audience on the spot and from the live chat. In conclusion, de la Vega advocated viewing participation as an important pillar of urban sustainability, and Vorwerk suggested approaching important issues in an experimental way together with the urban community.

Missed the discussion on participation? No problem. The recording is available here.

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