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Interview with Iris Gleichmann

Integration. Participation. Context.
Interview with Iris Gleichmann
Iris Gleichmann is a founder of Gleichmann Urban Management Office in Dresden, works as consultant to cities, ministries and GIZ in Urban Management and Local Self Governance. Before her lecture in the framework of CANactions Public Program Iris talked about the mechanisms for involving people in urban planning processes, the importance of public discussions, as well as her expectations of being involved in the Educational Program Team of CANactions School.
CANactions: Being highly experienced in the Ukrainian context, could you define any specificities of urban development in Ukrainian cities?

Iris Gleichmann: Positive: Many Ukrainian cities have still jewels of historical buildings or urban landscapes that could be key for development (but are often neglected). Negative: a lack of power over building decisions be it because of corruption or be it because of a legislation that is centralised. Fast change of city policy or lack of long-term policy.

Does your work on consulting in urban management and local self-governance in Albania, India, Germany and Ukraine have any similarities and connection?

Yes. Obvious similarities are the discrepancy between the city or government administration and the citizens or public. This gap is often enhanced by not talking to each other.

The engagement and interest of young people in urban topics and in change is comparable between Albania and Ukraine.

What are the mechanisms for involving people in urban planning processes?

Political will is the bases – it is key that the political leadership is open for participation and really wants it. That implies the sincerity to consider what is been suggested and to adjust a project or process.

Transparency, communication, drawing people in with their knowledge and thoughts and taking suggestions and comments into account but at the same time having a clear idea in which direction to go. The involvement of people can start with awareness raising and engagement for a topic.
Seminar "Introduction to Strategic Spatial Planning"
Photo: Margo Didichenko
How to develop the culture of public discussion of projects and territory development plans?

Participation and with that public discussion is not a switch that has to be switched on but it is a learning process for both sides, how to say something what to say – not daring to say something. Often at first there is only criticism, but then after a while it is becoming productive.

Encouraging public discussion or public meetings – even if they are about smaller topics.

These can be a self-organized neighbourhood street or square festivals and/or public meetings concerned with specific or general urban development projects or issues aimed at eliciting citizens' opinions, e.g. in the form of a "world café" or similar forums. Discussions should happen early on in a process, so that new ideas can be taken into account.

Public discussions can be the starting point for an urban or architectural competition to formulate the brief for the competition and to make a transparent process throughout the procedure.

It is a trust building process and only if the results of meetings are taken serious and are realised — in small or large projects - people build this trust otherwise people loose believe.
Seminar "Introduction to Strategic Spatial Planning"
Photo: Margo Didichenko
You are the senior mentor of the program "Integrated Urban Development in Amalgamated Hromadas", organized by CANactions School with support from
U-LEAD with Europe programme. What do you expect from this experience and how do you see your mission there?

Communities that recently amalgamated face new kinds of challenges, that have to be addressed. The program should promote processes that will encourage communities to develop coordinated strategies that take into account the longer perspective. This is going to depend on the willingness of communities and/or their representatives to become engaged in the mutual development of useful ideas and procedures. As a result of the program, such processes should continue to develop and become accepted planning practise in hromadas.

A further important aim of the program is to encourage the exchange of experiences between communities, and the building of capacities and expertise within and between them. Communities might (or are likely to) face similar problems – good solutions should be shared.

Further the professionalization of the representatives of the hromadas and also of the planners in the field of urban and regional development should be another result.
Text: Olena Vozniak