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Participation as a playground

Assignment from the Municipality of Groningen - City Management

Are you interested in a career as a policy officer? And are you interested in new forms of democracy, making future-proof policies and how theories about participatory democracies translate themselves into local policies? Then this assignment at the Municipality of Groningen might be something for you.

Do you want to know how students found this client for you? Read more here!

About City Management

They sweep our streets after a night out, mow our sports fields and keep the Noorderplantsoen neat and tidy. The City Management Department of the municipality of Groningen plays a crucial role in keeping our public space liveable. This requires a diverse team, from mowers to maintenance technicians, and from foremen to strategic policy advisors. An unique organisation, where policy and practice are close to each other.

The research question

The way in which we want to give meaning to our public space is subject to major changes. We used to want our parks and roads to be neat and tidy, but now we prefer not to mow in the spring because it is better for biodiversity. At the same time, we are thinking about new forms of local democracy, in which residents can have an active say in the municipality’s policies. This gives a new dynamic to the division of roles between government and residents.

The municipality’s board (College van Burgermeester en Wethouders) considers participation to be very important. In the coalition agreement 2022-2026 they state that citizen participation is more than voting once every 4 years. Involving residents in the design and maintenance of public space is no exception. But how do you do that in a valuable way as a city management department? What are best practices; do's and don'ts? How do you involve residents in a good way? You can advise the municipality on that!

What are you going to do?

● You start the research with a number of informal conversations and some reading. What does the municipality's coalition agreement say about citizen participation? What does City Management’s strategic policy look like and how does it fit within the framework of the coalition agreement? What does the city council mean by the Groningen model when they talk about participation? You can analyze which tools are already available at the municipality, such as Stem van Groningen (voice of Groningen), and how participation processes in large projects such as Ring Zuid and the Groninger Forum were designed. In this way you and your group get an idea of what is being said about participation, and what is already being done.
● You then conduct a literature study: what has been written about participatory democracy from an academic perspective? What forms of participatory democracy do you have, what works well and what doesn't? You try to connect information to the context of Groningen, based on your own education. If you are an international, you can also look at best practices from cities within your own country.
● Finally, based on a case in Haren, you provide an advice to City Management: the design of a new playground. You participate in a brainstorming session with residents and you speak with various stakeholders in the neighborhood. You bundle bottlenecks, stakeholder’s needs and best practices from these interviews and link the findings to the literature search and analysis. This results in concrete policy advice for City Management on do's and don'ts with regard to participation processes in public space. Products In addition to the research report, you submit a short memo with a number of concrete policy recommendations on participation for the City Management department. You also think about a product that civil servants can use in their daily work (a checklist, a presentation, etc.). This can be further explored based on the team’s strengths.

Why this assignment?

● You have the opportunity to translate global developments into local action
● You will experience up close how our municipality is maintained and the unique dynamics between the civil servants and the workplace
● You give advice on an important transition within our municipality
● City management is highly practical: once established policy can be quickly applied in the work field
● You contribute to active citizenship and the role of the municipality in this
● The possibility to work at the community center in Haren Coaching

Together with your project group you identify your strengths and weaknesses, how you want to structure the research (which points you pick up and which you leave behind), and which products you deliver. This is of course an advisory report, but you also discuss with the client what they need. In this way you ensure that the work you provide can actually be used. The final project and process are assessed by both the lecturer and the client.

The supervision takes place in a steering group with the following persons:

● Anna Krämer (Strategic advisor, Municipality of Groningen): Client, first point of contact for the Municipality, substantive management and feasibility management
● Djamila Boulil (Career minor teacher): Grades the report, supervises content/methodology and process
● Vincent Hazelhoff (Science Shop RUG): Provides process-related support, steers towards a final product that is satisfactory for all parties, supports communication of the report and acts as an intermediary in case of a conflict

Last modified:27 November 2023 4.00 p.m.
View this page in: Nederlands