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Society/business Science Shops Language, Culture and Communication Projecten

Don’t-Mow-in-May

Who are we?

We are a group of three students from the faculty of Arts currently enrolled in the ‘career’ minor. We are an interdisciplinary (two history, one media) and international (one Dutch, one British, one American/Brazilian) team of students intrigued by the ideas of future-proof city management.

From left to right: Jorik, Bela and Matthew
From left to right: Jorik, Bela and Matthew

The task at hand:

The municipality of Groningen is always looking for ways to improve the environment of the city, not only for its citizens but also for the insects, animals and plant life that exist with us in this space. With new information and strategies comes change to the city’s habits. Often times we can take for granted how these changes are delivered. How is it that an idea regarding environmental strategy goes from theory to practice? Who is responsible in this process? And how is that change managed effectively? Our project explores how these environmental changes are implemented and how future changes to the environment can incorporate different voices and expertise in order to ensure their success.

Working with Stadsbeheer (City management) in Groningen, we have learnt about the issues that can arise with attempting to change the tried-and-tested methods that the city has followed for, sometimes, decades. With an organisation such as Stadsbeheer, with its ~700 employees, the communication channels can provide a complex challenge. With each level of the organisation specialising in different areas, such as theoretical policy changes or practical implementation of these policies, messages can get lost in translation, creating confusion amongst Stadsbeheer employees and, ultimately, the citizens of the municipality.

One particular environmental change found itself struggling to navigate this chain of communication. The Maai-Mei-Niet scheme (or Don’t-Mow-in-May) is designed to increase the biodiversity of grass areas across the city. The plan itself – don’t mow the grass until the month of May is over. That may sound like a simple task in principle, but executing such a policy requires a lot of planning, cooperation, and awareness. During the trial in 2021, the Stadsbeheer had trouble communicating the idea to its employees in order to have everybody pulling in the same direction. As a result, grass areas that were designated as ‘do-not-mow’ ended up being mowed; to the confusion of the public. Our project will look to collaborate with multiple layers of the organisation of Stadsbeheer to understand where communication issues most arise, and hopefully develop a new communication strategy that will enable a more efficient and cooperative approach towards implementing future-proof environmental policies.

Last modified:14 December 2022 4.13 p.m.
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