Local communities are getting more involved in political decision in six districts of the Austrian capital thanks to an ERDF co-funded project, which has helped a wide variety of sustainable urban development projects. Compared with other big cities around Europe, political decision-making in Vienna has traditionally been centralised to the City of Vienna local authority, with district councils only having a small say in a relatively small range of issues.
Since 1986, this model has progressively been decentralised. Following the launch of the “Local Agenda Plus Vienna” project in 2009, local communities in six districts of the Austrian capital have had an even greater say in how public money is spent on small to medium-sized sustainable urban development projects. The project’s aim of improving participatory democracy has been achieved by fostering new forms of cooperation and communication between citizens, administrative bodies and politicians at the district and city level. The project has also helped to further gender mainstreaming and diversity in policy making.
A good example of such work is a project to enlarge a community park, where a special area was set aside for hopscotch for girls, another area was set aside for senior citizens and another area was designed to meet the needs of families with small children. The programme had led to local communities having a greater say in projects taking place in their neighbourhoods in fields such as traffic planning, cycle paths, community gardens, the redesign of public parks and the creation of a Montessori school (which has created three permanent jobs). Other initiatives that the programme has fostered include youth and sports projects, mobility measures for the disabled, green energy schemes, public art installations, the establishment of a farmers’ market as well as improved intercultural and intergenerational understanding and dialogue. Overall, the project has improved the development of the six (out of 23) Viennese districts which have taken part. The six districts in which the project has been active are: Wieden, Alsergrund, Donaustadt, Liesing, Landstraße and Josefstadt.
The main achievement has been that communication between citizens, the administration and politicians is much better than before. All the actors are satisfied and happy with the projects they realised together and the increased trust has led to new ideas, which can be realised more easily than before. The project has been so successful that the City of Vienna has decided to continue with the project using its own money for the whole project costs. Total investment for the project “Local Agenda 21 Plus Vienna” amounted to EUR 1 844 880, of which the EU’s European Regional Development Fund contributed EUR 922 440 from the “Vienna” Operational Programme for the 2007-2013 programming period.