Wellbeing and local governance – a workshop review

In July 2019, we – Stewart Gold and I – hosted a workshop on Wellbeing and local governance with scientists, civil society and local governance representativesfrom Petrozavodsk, Republic of Karelia and Tuebingen, Germany in Tuebingen.

This DAAD-funded workshop is a follow up workshop to the 2016 Workshop in Petrozavodsk on local governance and participation. During the whole first week in July we discussed issues of wellbeing, local welfare production and governance in different contexts.

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The workshop startet with a public lecture and reception and was continued by presentations on research projects on ölocalö democracy, participation, creative class, urban space, cooperation bettwen NGOs and local authorities, and comfortable urban environment.We also visited several projects as the “Café Pausa”, an integrative project of the Arbeit in Selbsthilfe gGmbH or the LebensPhasenHaus as examples for enhancing individual and collective wellbeing.

A fourteen-member delegation from Petrozavodsk arrived on July 1, 2019. A public opening event took place in the Old Assembly Hall of the University of Tübingen. After the welcome by Dean Josef Schmid and an introduction to the topic “Local governance and Well-Being” by the project manager, Prof. Seeleib-Kaiser gave a keynote speech on the topic ofTübingen (14) migration and social rights. The public event followed by a reception was very well attended by about 50 guests and contributed to the visibility of the event in the city society.

On 02.07. the workshop was continued with keynote speeches on the topic of public space and participation. Christopher Gohl from the Weltethos Institute Tübingen presented new leadership concepts and the role of public dialogues. Konstantin Terentev argued that public urban space was a central condition for dialogue. Denis Sachuk highlighted the role of the middle classes in the development of public welfare and Rolf Frankenberger presented the results of a study on democracy in the city. In the late morning, the workshop continued with lectures on social innovation and well-being. Here Daniel Buhr and Yuliya Petrovskaya discussed the central importance of social innovations, i.e. new forms of organization and cooperation, for local welfare production. Mariia Pitukhina presented an example from Petrozavodsk that could also be exciting for rural areas in Germany: The “Occupational Barometer” as a new platform for local labour market mediation. In the afternoon, a first excursion took place in the form of a city tour, during which the participants got to know the city of Tübingen and its social institutions.

The workshop continued on 03.07. with a panel on welfare production through participation. Anni Schlumberger from the Integrata Foundation presented examples of participation procedures in the development of urban districts in Baden-Württemberg, Elena Chernenkova explained the role of NGOs in Petrozavodsk and Karelia in the development of urban projects, Kseniia Chumak from the Karelian Resource Center of NGOs presented new forms of cooperation between city and civil society and Analtoly Tsygankov, journalist and political commentator, took stock of projects to preserve rural communities in Karelia. In a second round, Isabel Sinner presented her thesis on populist discourses in Baden-Württemberg and Rolf Frankenberger presented a study on participation with a focus on populist actors. Irina Miliukova summarized a study on the satisfaction of the citizens* of Petrozavodsk with their living environment in the city. In the afternoon, the workshop participants were welcomed by the First Mayor Daniela Tübingen (401)Harsch and Stephan Klingebiel, the person responsible for the town twinning Tübingen-Petrozavodsk, in the town hall. They were also given a guided tour of the city council and an introduction to the processes of municipal decision-making. Afterwards, the Russian delegation was received by the West-East Society in Tübingen. This also enabled the integration of an important civil society actor in the town twinning.

On 4 July, the workshop was continued in the LebensPhasenHaus, a place where generations meet and a project house for generation and age-appropriate living. Among other things, the participants gained insight into concrete technical and social implementation possibilities for improved living conditions for old and disabled people. On the one hand, student projects on the participation of women, the role of youth in the development and production of welfare, the evaluation of the living environment and regional development were presented and discussed. In addition, Natalia Lavrushina, Stephan Klingebiel and Ekaterina Shestakova discussed the role of “People Diplomacy” and town twinning for good living conditions in a public event.
Two excursions took place on 06.07. On the one hand, the Hohenzollern Castle was visited. The participants were given a guided tour, during which the work of the “Princess Kira von Preussen Stiftung” for the support of disadvantaged children was presented. Afterwards the group visited the integrative project “Café Pausa” in Mössingen. People with and without disabilities work together in the café run by “Arbeit in Selbsthilfe” gGmbH. The idea behind it is not only to reintegrate them into the labour market, but also to increase their individual well-being through work. Managing Director Markus Holz also explained the work of the gGmbH as one of the largest employers in the region and a project to save the litter meadows as a cultural landscape and local recreation area.

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Finally, the workshop participants met to take stock and plan further possible cooperation. First of all, it was noted that the ‘challenges for shaping local living conditions are the same: On the one hand there are limited resources available, on the other hand there are many challenges for local welfare production, for example through regional and national migration or demographic change. People’s wishes for better living conditions are also the same. Creative and often low-threshold solutions are developed by civil society actors and discussed in public. The participation of people and exchange between people (also across borders) is of central importance. However, there are also differences, for example, with regard to the instrumentalisation of civil society actors and their co-optation by state institutions. The question was raised as to what role experts actually play in local governance structures. Based on these considerations, the idea for the project “UniverCities”, which is being funded in 2020, was developed and subsequently implemented.

It was also discussed how the results of the workshop could be communicated to a broader public. This gave rise to the idea of presenting the activities of the now well-functioning network at a ceremony to mark the 30th anniversary of the town twinning in Petrozavodsk. Accordingly, Rolf Frankenberger and Stewart Gold travelled to Petrozavodsk from 8-12 October and presented the cooperation within the framework of the DAAD-funded projects TUE-PETRO-NET and TUE-PETRO-LOGOV at an exhibition opening and at the Petrozavodsk State University. Furthermore, the preparation of a publication on the workshop was discussed. The final preparation of the manuscript is in progress. The book will be presented to the public in 2020.


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