Co-producing quality places: the importance of stories

A photograph of an urban street at night - in Mannheim Germany - people cross the road in front of a tram.
Published: 31/05/2017

This blog series looks at lessons learned from a trip to Mannheim, Germany, in early 2017. It sets out some of the observations and learning for Scotland. In this piece, we look at the importance of stories in shaping action with communities. This relates to the Place Standard theme of social interaction.

Stories matter in Mannheim

The head of urban development in the city authority’s strategy unit collects stories of change across the city and organisation. He tells the story of co-production with examples, underpinned by clarity on outcomes.

The city is committed to ensuring every citizen is given the opportunity to build their language skills from early years so their learning future is given the best start. Every parent will be given the best childcare to ensure they can participate in the city. Every learner will be given the opportunity to develop choices around their learning experience.

Every outcome has indicators, regularly monitored. And every indicator can be told as a metric and as a story around:

  • the person from Mannheim and how talent is retained
  • refugees and how tolerance enables their participation in the city
  • a re-structuring industry: the industry 4.0 narrative on digital, creative industries and new industrial production

There is a clarity around strategic ambition, and local action. There is a commitment to a change process at a city scale based on ‘plan, do, check, act’. This is a framework that has much resonance with the National Outcomes Framework in Scotland.

So, what does Mannheim’s story tell us? 

Our study visit has highlighted the need for clarity on:

  • what we mean by co-production
  • motivations and resourcing
  • the way co-production is integrated into real decision-making, visible at every level of citizen and city participation

It also highlighted the need for frameworks to bind the different levels of participation in shaping the city together, from outcomes to connected systems.

And it highlighted the need for continuous engagement. This is so that the data from this engagement informs real clarity on the purpose of action, who can do what, and why.

Lessons on co-producing quality places

Explore the rest of our blog series on co-producing quality places. It sets out some of the observations and learning for Scotland from a 2017 trip to Mannheim in Germany.

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