Berlin’s neighbourhood management project brings decision-making on social development to the local level
The introduction of Neighbourhood Councils in deprived districts of Berlin has strengthened the participation of local residents in decision-making on the selection and financing of projects to improve their living conditions.
To counteract the negative outcomes of social segregation and social issues found in certain areas of Berlin after the reunification of the city, the Neighbourhood Management Berlin intervention strategy was launched in 1999 by the city authorities and, for more than a decade, it has proven to be a valuable tool in the development of the ‘Socially Integrative City’ of Berlin.
The socially disadvantaged areas of Berlin have suffered from a demonstrable neglect of public space as well as unemployment, dependence on state aid and the issues arising from a lack of social and ethnic integration. The overriding aim of the EU-supported Neighbourhood Management Berlin (NMB) programme has been to change this situation and create neighbourhoods of solidarity with equal development opportunities for the neighbourhood and its inhabitants.
The key partners in the project are the local residents working in cooperation with the city’s Senate Department for Urban Development and the Environment, the local boroughs and the Neighbourhood Management Teams. A vital role is also played by local bodies such as housing societies, schools, businesses and community centres which often provide valuable synergy.
Discussing the neighbourhood
The underlying philosophy behind the NMB is that the local neighbourhoods themselves should become the main actors driving their own development and improving social conditions.
The city administration set out to involve as many people and institutions of a neighbourhood as possible and to assign responsibility to them. In the target areas, Neighbourhood Councils have been set up, composed of representatives of local institutions and citizen’s associations - usually nurseries, schools and churches - as well as the local police and the local housing societies, which are closely attuned to the needs of the neighbourhood.
All residents and local actors are invited to debate the strengths and problems of an area and to jointly work out the best strategy to consolidate and improve the neighbourhood. They can also submit project ideas to improve the quality of neighbourhood life.
The most popular actions undertaken include support to schools to let them become ‘special places’ in the area, the refurbishment of public houses to strengthen social cohesion, and the promotion of the neighbourhood culture to establish a new solidarity.
The integration of migrant groups is an important factor in the work of the Neighbourhood Councils, as they face many different challenges. Most deprived areas have a large population with a migrant background, in some cases, up to 79 %.
Increasing local residents’ participation
NMB has received support from the European Regional Development Fund both in the 2000-06 and the 2007-13 programming periods.
In particular, since 2005, the participation of local residents within Neighbourhood Councils has been extended through their role in the decision-making process. The spectrum of NMB activities has expanded to also focus on education and job support as well as social and ethnic integration.
NMB is part of a long term strategy of social integration in Berlin and the Senate Department for Urban Development and Environment is aiming to continue the programme in the next European funding period.