Co-producing quality places: Mannheim stories and what they can teach us about social interaction

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This blog series – by A&DS Director of Place Diarmaid Lawlor – looks at lessons learned from a trip to Mannheim, Germany, in early 2017 and sets out some of the observations and learning for Scotland. This blog looks at the importance of stories in shaping action with communities, touching on the Place Standard Theme of social interaction.

Stories matter in Mannheim.

The Head of Urban Development in the Strategy Unit of the City Authority collects stories of change across the city and across the organisation. He tells the story of co-production with examples, underpinned by clarity on outcomes.

The city is committed to ensuring that 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; around refugees and how tolerance enables their participation in the city; and around 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 – a framework which 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; clarity on motivations and resourcing; and clarity on 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, so that the data from this engagement informs real clarity on the purpose of action, who can do what and why.

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