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Don’t kill your darlings

Five tips to let initiatives from the city thrive

Initiatives are increasingly launched by the people of the city — its residents, entrepreneurs, local organizations. Municipalities and funds regularly support such initiatives, but things can sometimes go wrong when it comes to working together. To ensure that initiatives don’t stall before reaching fruition, we’ve drawn up a list of five ‘growth tips’.

Our ‘growth tips’

  1. Be patient. Residents and entrepreneurs develop the initiative in their free time, often alongside a busy job and/or family life. So it makes no sense to increase the time pressure unnecessarily, for that will only encourage people to abandon the project. Instead, let them discover things at their own pace.
  2. Give them freedom and autonomy. People who show initiative, value independence and room to manoeuvre. They want to find out the meaning of the project on their own, in their own time, as well as how to enhance the value of a place. Give them the space to do that, and don’t impose any policy goals on them.
  3. Don’t create false expectations. Initiatives that do not align with municipal policy are unlikely to receive encouragement or financial support. Be honest about that. Don’t create false expectations, and be sure to communicate the framework conditions. But give residents room to arrive at their own interpretations. Who knows, they might surprise you in positive ways.
  4. Cooperate with others. Though the initiators value their room to manoeuvre, they also need a solid relationship with their municipality. So engage in an enduring partnership with them in terms of both development and funding.
  5. Take them seriously. The fact that they are not employed by a public authority or a property developer does not mean that residents or entrepreneurs cannot come up with feasible projects that improve an area. Indeed, these projects might well amount to more than a temporary initiative and form the basis for a lasting development.

In short, embrace the city initiative, but do not smother the initiators. Have the courage to be a partner who sticks his neck out and acts creatively, and does not feel compelled to force an initiative into another format. And above all, devote attention to it. After all, give something attention and it will grow.

 

More on participation? Read here.