Ghent 2020: a long-term planning for a sustainable municipal future
Mayor of Ghent, Daniël Termont
Ghent 2020 is more than a strategic long-range plan, since it intends to initiate a social movement in view of the year 2020. All ‘creative forces’ in society are invited to shoulder the development of a sustainable, open and solidary city of Ghent.
The Municipal Decree compels all Flemish cities and towns to develop an integrated strategic long-range planning. The City of Ghent developed the method of strategic planning on a local scale. Ghent 2020 is more than a strategic long-range plan, since it intends to initiate a social movement in view of the year 2020. All ‘creative forces’ in society are invited to shoulder the development of a sustainable, open and solidary city of Ghent.
The method of the strategic planning was introduced in the City of Ghent in 2003. At that time, every department of the municipal organisation created its own departmental strategic plan. In June 2005, a first attempt was undertaken to develop a coordinated municipal plan, with integrated municipal objectives. However, owing to the nearby end of the term of office (December 2006), new policy options and political choices were close at hand, which made the development of a final municipal plan impossible. In the meantime, instigations were being set up by means of “perspective”, which constituted the first bridges between various sectoral (and departmental) strategic plans.
At the onset of the new term of office (2007-2012), the new Municipal Executive of Mayor and Deputy Mayors was prepared to continue the preparatory work that had been done in the previous term, with departmental strategic plans and cross-sectoral perspectives, which had to be finetuned to the compulsory requirements of the municipal decree.
In concert with the Management team, the Municipal Executive formulated a new mission statement for Ghent, based on an environmental analysis and a SWOT-analysis:
“Ghent, a creating city, a pioneer in the development of a sustainable, solidary and open society by uniting all creative forces.”
This mission statement delineates the direction to be taken by the City of Ghent in 2020. It is no promotional instrument, but reflects the line of march as regards policy in the coming years.
Five strategic municipal objectives were derived from the mission statement:
1. Knowledge, innovation and creativity
2. Social sustainability
3. Economic sustainability,
4. Spatial and ecological sustainability,
5. Communication and participation
All policy options in every policy domain are set in function of the achievement of the mission statement. The strategy of the whole municipal organisation is entirely tuned to the image of Ghent in 2020. By means of a stakeholder’s consultation and a comprehensive communication towards all actors in Ghent (including all inhabitants), we intend to obtain and achieve a broad consensus in this respect.
A mission statement and organisation strategy for all municipal staff workers
For the implementation of the strategic plan (Ghent 2020), the Municipality has opted for a project approach, which surpasses the departmental boundaries. With the project Ghent 2020, we are creating a structured approach as regards the development, fine-tuning and attuning of various planning systems and planning mechanisms (strategic planning, financial planning, Human Resources planning, facilitary planning, ICT planning, etc.).
In concert with the IT-department, the city administration has elaborated the web application ‘Ghent 2020’. The entire strategic plan, including links to staff members and budget, will be implemented in Ghent 2020. The ensuing reports will constitute the basis of the budgetary discussions. By means of brainstorming groups, the users will be consulted to best meet their needs and requirements.
Moreover, “Ghent 2020” boasts a dynamic link to “PRINS”, the Project Inventarisation System – in which all initiated and ongoing projects are being updated and interlinked if necessary. In Ghent 2020, the projects are planned and budgeted; whereas PRINS can provide additional information (as regards project leadership, milestone plan, project team, scope, etc). Both the development and implementation of these instruments was achieved within a limited period of time and was only possible by a permanent cooperation between Municipal Executive and administration on the one hand and between various departments and fields of knowledge on the other hand.
The development of the internal strategic plan was initially held up by quite some resistance. It required a new attitude by all parties involved. Municipal staff members had to leave their ‘departmental islands’ and were incited to cooperate. Political leaders had to overcome their obsession for their individual competences. Consequently, Ghent has developed an internal participation route which is aimed at all municipal staff members.
A mission statement for the population
In order for an ambitious municipal plan such as “Ghent 2020”to succeed, a double mobilisation project is required: a first mobilisation within the municipal administration and a second one among the population.
With an external participation route, Ghent is trying to reach all Ghent citizens, visitors to the city and municipal actors. This project - entitled “Gent over Morgen” (Ghent About Tomorrow / Ghent The Day After Tomorrow) – intends to have every Ghent citizen “reflect about Ghent and about tomorrow”. The external participation route is concretised by means of four tracks, maximally using the already familiar involvement and participation channels.
Track 1 - Territorial: District About Tomorrow
The existing participation in the 25 Ghent districts is linked to “Ghent About Tomorrow/ Ghent The Day After Tomorrow”. It is called “District About Tomorrow / District The Day After Tomorrow”. This approach offers the opportunity to improve the quality of the familiar formula of two municipal debates in each term of office, and to have them directly linked to the policy and political choices.
Track 2 - Target group oriented
The existing participation with youngsters, senior citizens, and people with poor means of subsistence, people with a handicap, ethnic-cultural minorities and other target groups is also more directly linked to the policy.
Track 3 - Theme oriented: advisory councils
The departments of education, mobility, environment, etc. will submit their sectoral policy more often to the natural partners in their sector and others by means of the existing advisory councils: are we on the right track? Which side effects are raised by the policy? What adjustments are necessary? “Ghent About Tomorrow / Ghent The Day After Tomorrow” is the ideal means to organise more participation moments between Municipal Executive and population.
Track 4 - Focus on professional stakeholders: “Ghent, a creating city”
The first 3 tracks are mainly aimed at participation, but the Ghent Municipality also wants to take further action and intends to involve its citizens, organisations and companies to actively co-operate in achieving Ghent 2020. The dynamics, the diversity and the creative potential in the city are manifold. Ghent boasts a large openness and freedom to test new ideas and solutions and many actors take a responsible role in social debates.
By means of the strategic programme “Ghent, a creating city”, this creative and engaged environment will continuously be nourished. Thus, Ghent hopes to be able to formulate innovative answers on social challenges, and to create the space for a cross-fertilisation of expertise and understanding from various domains and disciplines.
The programme “Ghent, a creating city” ensues from a broad stakeholder’s inquiry as a result of the municipal mission statement Ghent 2020. It will link people from various formal and informal networks and tries to observe the municipal society from a broad point of view. The bonds which are created by means of “Ghent, a creating city”, will lead to multidisciplinary project groups that offer answers to social issues, first of all regarding issues requiring a cross-sectoral and creative approach (e.g. poverty, climate change, aging process etc.).
Textbook example: ecological sustainability
The way in which people handle ecological sustainability is a textbook example of the integrated and participative approach of social challenges in Ghent.
The municipal organisation assumes an exemplary role as regards ecological sustainability, for instance by means of the cities project for sustainable procurement, by large efforts in the field of rational water and energy use in municipal buildings and others. Sustainability is also a key guideline in municipal development projects and at the end of 2009, the Ghent Municipality has signed the Green Digital Charter (engaging itself to use ICT in order to reduce the CO² emissions by 30%).
Furthermore, the Ghent Municipality also initiates a comprehensive Climate Alliance from 2010 onwards. The objective of the Climate Alliance is to make Ghent a climate-neutral city by the year 2050. Like the municipal mission statement Ghent 2020, the above-mentioned objective can only be achieved if the project is carried and carried out by all actors in the city.
The campaign “Thursday Veggie day” is a fine example of how this combination of efforts can be concretised. In concert with a local NGO (EVA vzw), the municipal Environmental Department and Health Department have pursued a broad campaign to sensitize people of the positive impact that one meatless day a week has on the environment and on biodiversity, on one’s proper health and on North-South relationships. They have succeeded in involving other municipal services, thus, Ghent municipal schools are serving vegetarian meals on Thursday.
Sustainability as a European and global perspective
A municipal mission statement such as Ghent 2020 is inextricably linked to developments on the European continent and on a global scale.
Ghent chairs in the Executive Committee of Eurocities, a European network of over 140 major cities in approximately 30 European countries, which tries to enhance the attention for local policy in European legislation.
Ghent also participates in the Eurocities forums “Social Affairs”, “Environment” en “Knowledge Society” to share and promote its ideas regarding social, economic and ecologic sustainable policy and evidently also to learn from the experiences from other cities.
In 2008, Ghent signed the “Covenant of Mayors”, a European commitment by more than 1800 signatory towns and cities to go beyond the objectives of EU energy policy in terms of reduction in CO2 emissions through enhanced energy efficiency and cleaner energy production and use.
Ghent tries to conclude partnerships with local authorities outside Europe, which also yield great priority to sustainability. In fact, during the 2010 World Exhibition in Shanghai, Ghent will examine the cooperation opportunities with the Chinese city of Baoding, which will have gained considerable economic interest by developing an Industry park for Renewable Energy.
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