As a methodological approach for the implementation of international dialogue events, Connective Cities has opted for a strategy that is highly participatory and practice-oriented. This is meant to ensure that practitioners taking part communicate their respective practical context and receive feedback on their part that leads to common learning. In addition, the foundations are laid for future project activities that generate and disseminate solutions proposed for sustainable urban development processes.
The participants already assume an active role in the preparation of the Connective Cities dialogues. We attach importance to active participants who take part in shaping the design, process and course as well as the desired goals of a Connective Cities dialogue event.
The selection of topics is correspondingly oriented on demand and reflects both the personal interests and the challenges that the municipal practitioners see themselves faced with. Experience has shown that a contingent of 20-30 participants enables an interactive approach and ensures that concrete results are achieved.
Fitting in with the chosen topic, with themes ranging from “Greening Cities” through “Innovative Financial Instruments for Urban Renewal” to “Smart Cities”, the participants prepare the event by working out a “Good Practice” (method, procedure, solution model, etc.) of sustainable urban development or a concrete challenge / problem situation from their direct practical environment. These contents are brought in into the attended event.
In accordance with the objective of the venture, the Connective Cities dialogue events feature an international structure of participants. In this manner, challenges occurring locally and globally at the same time can be addressed at precisely these levels with a focus on solutions. The dialogue event creates a world-wide platform for municipal practitioners to learn together.
Phase I Thematic introduction
The dialogue sets out from a scientific introduction to the theme, which at this stage is introduced, contextually categorised and thematically grounded. Here, keynote speakers assume a central role.
Phase II Exchanging Good Practices
Good practices serve as process initiators, form the foundations of discussions and serve as stimulators.
The good practices are brought in by the practitioners from their immediate professional or work environment and are structured along the key questions with regard to the basic issue and the institutional background, approach, conclusion and transferability. A Power Point presentation is consciously avoided in presenting the respective topic. Rather, the good practices are illustrated with the aid of posters on notice boards. This enables core elements to be mediated lastingly with an optimum of comprehensibility and orientation on practice. The idea is not to present so-called “best practices” but to give an insight into practical action in a local or regional context. Following a presentation lasting approx. 20 minutes, the participants can engage in a discussion. Ideas, tips and criticisms are exchanged among the practitioners at ‘eye level’ and stimulate self-reflection. On the basis of discussions, further issues and challenges already emerge that can then serve as a basis or as an input in subsequent peer consulting.
An excursion giving an insight into local practice is a further elementary part of this phase.
III Peer Consulting
Peer consulting forms the core of each Connective Cities dialogue event. In addition to the challenges resulting from the presentation of good practices, concrete problems are gathered in the plenum or proposed by individual participants in advance. Thus it is real-life challenges from the immediate environment of the practitioner with a focus on solutions that are addressed in peer consulting. The aim is to commonly develop practice-oriented solutions for a concrete issue.
For this purpose, guided by their respective interests, the participants then form groups of various sizes and assign themselves the roles of the case presenter, moderator and consultant. In a Connective Cities dialogue event, it is the municipal practitioners themselves who give each other advice. No external consultants, experts or moderators are involved. Rather, these roles are taken over by the group itself. Within the group, implicit knowledge is turned into explicit knowledge through openness and practical relevance that is mobilised and shared by peer consulting. People from similar fields of activity give each other qualified advice on key sustainable urban development issues at eye level and based on their own experiences, and together, they develop innovative solutions for concrete challenges facing them in local practice.
Peer consulting incorporates the following steps:
Step 1 The roles are distributed among the group members.
Step 2 The concrete case (problem or challenge) is presented, and the resulting key issue/s is/are defined. Comprehension questions are raised and answered by the municipal case presenter.
Step 3 Solution proposals from the perspective of the municipal practitioners are worked out and documented.
Step 4 Results are evaluated with the case presenter, presented to the plenum by the reporter and then discussed.
Peer consulting requires engaged discussing and targeted action. The participants enhance their problem-solving skills and are encouraged to seek new ways and strategies to better cope with concrete challenges in their immediate environment.
Phase IV Common project development
The fourth phase of the workshop deals with the development of new project ideas. Setting out from common interests, queries and existing expertise, participants get together and work out new project ideas that are then discussed, put into concrete terms and elaborated. The participants provide inputs on content orientation, analyse the prerequisites and specific framework conditions or commonly develop a proposal on the approach to be applied. The result of this step is the jointly developed ideas and proposals for innovative measures, whether it be urban development projects or further education and training corresponding with the challenges the practitioners are facing. At this point, agreements are arranged reaching beyond the conclusion of the event. When the dialogue event is over, Connective Cities continues to support the municipal experts in developing further networks and promotes cooperation by offering learning programmes, virtual project workshops up to mutual project consulting.
The Connective Cities dialogue events are the first step towards supporting the municipal practitioners in establishing projects of their own in their cities.
As a result of the dialogue event in South Africa on “Rethinking Public Service Delivery: Innovative Solutions for Managing and Financing Public Services in African Cities”, urban actors have already got together to develop new ideas for projects relating to the topic of “Municipal Waste Management” in the context of a project workshop.. The participants of the dialogue event on “Innovative Financial Instruments” in Leipzig have agreed to prepare the setting up of regional revolving urban development funds. And the dialogue on “Smart Cities” has resulted in a project workshop on start-up ecosystems as factors in regional economic development.