Municipality of Maastricht
Can you help us to design and facilitate a broad citizen dialogue for Maastricht of tomorrow?
- Mapped out the central themes and the stakeholder field together with two working groups – social and economics
- Dialogue process designed and supervised based on World Café and Ritual Dissent
- The harvest summarized in a visual newspaper report
- Many new encounters and connections in the city
- Generated widely supported ideas and solutions
- Collected valuable input for the urban, social and economic vision
The Limburger of 25 October contains a short message sent in by Michel van Gelder. He reflects on the city dialogue about Maastricht of tomorrow a few days earlier in the MECC. He writes: “It felt good to taste the difference between ‘discussion’ as a dispute and ‘dialogue’ meaning open discussion with no predetermined outcome.”
Nicely said Michel! That open conversation was exactly our intention. ‘Exchanging perspectives and interests’ and ‘Thinking out loud together about possible solutions to realize our desired city’, were at the top of the list of goals for this meeting.
How do we live, learn, work and enjoy together in Maastricht 2040?
The Municipality of Maastricht had asked us to facilitate a broad city dialogue about the future of Maastricht. Before the summer, many wishes had already been collected from residents and other stakeholders. Now it was time to delve deeper into the most important themes and to jointly investigate dilemmas, opportunities and potential solutions.
The system in the room
150 people gathered at a safe distance in a huge hall in the completely renovated MECC convention center. In addition to residents from various neighbourhoods, there were entrepreneurs and all kinds of professionals from the business community, care and welfare, education and culture, from international institutions and neighborhood networks and, of course, civil servants and politicians. Many usual suspects – people who know their way around the municipality and who actively contribute ideas about all kinds of developments in the city. But also new faces such as Michel. Not a perfect reflection of the city, but diverse enough to experience the complexity and interdependence of themes that were on the table.
Encounters and solutions
It was an evening full of encounters and solutions. In four successive rounds, people talked about their desired city, at alternating tables with new people each time. Everyone had the opportunity to share what he or she thought was important and to learn from the viewpoints and interests of others. The flow of the evening enabled new insights and widely supported solutions to emerge.
“It felt good to taste the difference between ‘discussion’ as a dispute and ‘dialogue’ meaning open discussion with no predetermined outcome.”
At the end of the evening, ideas and solutions for 15 different themes were presented. Like daring to opt for ‘the healthy city’, using community power, giving neighbourhoods space and actively involving young people, including from primary school. The evening’s harvest will be incorporated by the municipality into the urban, social and economic vision. These will be presented to the City Council later this year.
Michel writes: “Involving citizens in policymaking is a challenging undertaking that requires investment, learning, adjustment and perseverance.” We couldn’t agree more. One swallow does not make a summer. Citizen participation takes time and effort and does not necessarily generate ground-breaking new ideas.
“Involving citizens in policymaking is a challenging undertaking that requires investment, learning, adjustment and perseverance.”
What it does do is increase involvement and shared ownership for local issues. And it creates awareness that the issues at hand are complex, that simple solutions don’t work (anymore) and that they require an approach that takes all perspectives into account. But that requires a lot of patience and changes in roles and responsibilities. Not only from citizens, but also from the government itself.