“We have to come up with good ideas and good projects to deal with the challenges that rural Europe is facing. And that is what we will focus on during this conference”, said ICN general secretary Alf S. Johansen when opening the 8th annual meeting of the Innovation Circle Network. Indeed, that is what the 40 participants did for two days in the middle of Berlin, Germany’s vibrant capital. Besides ten presentations dealing with topics like examples of transformation, design and development, current trends in urban development or innovative governance and resilience strategies the participants from Sweden, Norway, Poland, Germany, Estonia, Scotland, Finland, France and Latvia discussed plans towards a resilience strategy for smaller places and rural regions.
Jens Hubald, city planner from Rathenow a city with about 25.000 inhabitants located about 60 kilometres outside Berlin in a region called Havelland, introduced the concept and process of the inner city transformation of Rathenow. The city faced a depopulation of 20 per cent since 1991 and is not only confronted with demographic change. Rathenow also has an above average proportion of children in poor households and the next highway is about 50 minutes away. To strengthen the city centre the municipality started a transformation process in which the inhabitants were involved. Citizens were asked for their opinions in surveys, they were invited to play an active role in working groups even theme parties took place to motivated citizens and shorten the construction period. Since then the city’s face has changed and for the first time in many years the number of inhabitants increased in 2015.
Not only Rathenow has to come up with ideas to make the city attractive to live at. “Half of our municipalities are loosing people moving to the vibrant city”, explained Michael Fuller-Gee from Arendal's town planning department. There are a lot of empty spaces where nothing is happening, to encourage municipalities to transform a new price for the most attractive place in Norway had been released. In 2015 the most attractive place is Trondheim. "They do interesting things other places can learn from", said Michael Fuller-Gee and presented a lot of interesting ideas to turn a boring place into a more attractive one, such as underground parking places, creative meeting places, flats and appartments accessible for elder people. "Minimum distances to maximum pleasure or activities. We need to walk or cycle more – we got very lazy", stressed Michael Fuller-Gee.