From 30 June to 2 July members of the NOW Mayors’ Network from 10 different countries gathered with researchers and NGO representatives from the NOW Working Groups. During this NOW Community Meeting they got to know successful practices on employment, participation and community building and discussed topics pivotal to social cohesion in municipalities.
Topic: Youth Employment
Dirk Maier, deputy project manager at the Coordination Unit Youth – Education – Employment, presented the Vienna Vocational Training Guarantee – a comprehensive approach to create a smooth transition for young people in Vienna from school to skilled work. To ensure qualification beyond compulsory school level, the offers a range from youth coaching, information centres, vocational schools, corporate and inter-corporate trainings to specialist courses that increase the applicant’s chances in the labour market. Counselling activities already take place at an early stage, in order to take the needs of the beneficiaries into consideration.
The success of the programme is based on the involvement and coordination of all the key players. The collaboration between institutions like municipal departments, the Public Employment Service, the school board and social partner organisations has several advantages:
- Better coordination of programmes and integration pathways
- Mutual understanding and knowledge among key players and their diverse perspectives
- Quicker achievement of results and better solutions for young people
- Joint development and funding of projects
Moreover, to achieve a sustainable impact it is key to collaborate for a long period and provide young people with educational and vocational skills on a high level.
Topic: Bringing Diverse Communities Together
In the Viennese district of Hernals the mayors visited the community project ‘Mitten in Hernals’ / ‘Just in the heart of Hernals’. The organisation’s founder, Martin Winkler, presented the exciting initiative, which features over 300 events throughout the year to promote a good neighbourliness as well as social cohesion in the district.
When the far right, populist party gained a lot of votes in his district, Winkler felt the need to find out about the motives and situation of the people living there and simply started talking to them on the street. He noticed, that the inhabitants are co-existing but not engaging with each other.
In order to bring together people with different social backgrounds (religion, origin, age) he rented a building in the neighbourhood and established a community centre. He personally knocked on each door of the 180 households of the district four times to invite everyone to the community centre and asked what they like and what they need. Winkler always kept a positive attitude which paid off: Sometimes, the most reluctant persons had the best ideas. Another learning is that community activities need to be set up as a long-time project since building trust takes time and persistence.
Topic: Innovative practices on youth engagement and employment
Nicholas You from the Guangzhou Institute for Urban Innovation presented award-winning urban projects noted for their innovation in areas such as the environment, the economy and women’s rights. They respond to the challenges of urbanisation, globalisation and climate change in extraordinary ways by implementing new policies, technologies, new business models, cultural projects or partnerships and governance practices.
In Surabaya, the second largest city in Indonesia, the enormous problem of plastic waste is solved in a highly original way: empty plastic bottles can be used as a bus ticket. This way, the rubbish ends up at a collection point and not on the street like before.
The Turkish city of Mezitli has created local fruit and vegetable markets where the sellers are exclusively women. This has given women the opportunity to earn their own money for the first time in their lives, and to open their own bank account. Beyond that, the women working together created a new dynamic between host and refugee communities which decreased tensions between both groups.
In La Paz, Bolivia, young people dressed as zebras direct the traffic. This led to a decrease in the number of victims in the city with the highest number of traffic fatalities in South America. Drivers decelerate when they see the animal costumes; and young people who were previously unemployed and living on the streets got a new job. By being able to regulate the behaviour of adults, young people were empowered by gaining self-esteem. To push urban innovation, municipalities need to engage people, share information, exercise leadership and be in the driver’s seat.
Topic: Project Development with Experts
Moreover, in interactive and dialogue-oriented sessions the needs of municipalities were matched with the expertise of the NOW Working Groups aiming to develop project ideas together to promote social cohesion in municipalities.
The planned projects include defining operational standards for youth councils in municipalities in Lebanon and Eastern Europe; a forum on the exploitation of children and young people; the dissemination of successful educational strategies in diverse and multilingual classrooms; the development of materials and trainings to support people who have undergone traumatic experiences and measures for gender-sensitive sexual education.