Centre for Technology and Society at Technical University of Berlin, Prof. Dr. Martina Schäfer
Since the Conference for Development and Environment took place in Rio de Janeiro in 1992, people in many towns all over Germany made efforts to put the idea of sustainable development into practice. Based on the Agenda 21, the central Rio document, there have been - and still are - numerous initiatives aimed at developing a ‘Local Agenda 21’ via participative processes involving citizens as well as other relevant stakeholders. These local agendas are then implemented by means of sustainability goals, guidelines, activity plans and specific projects.
Today, there is a wealth of experience and evaluations on how to implement the Agenda 21 in various fields of action. One important insight is that even though it is often crucial to involve scientists as well as the business sector, this is not done to a sufficient degree. Those active in local authorities and civil society do articulate a pressing need for more knowledge and cooperation. This applies to general processes of town development planning, but also to highly specialized sub-processes of such planning, and to the concrete projects of implementation.
However, this apparent need for cooperation of Local Agenda 21 initiatives with both science and the business sector is confronted with a clear and often articulated deficit in such cooperation. The reasons for this are manifold, including information and communication deficits, provisos against some potential cooperation partners, negative experience in past cooperation related to, e.g., missing institutionalized communication platforms and moderated exchange, conflicting goals, and disparate development paths of potential cooperation partners.
The goal of this research project is to develop a practical handbook presenting best practice examples and summarizing success factors for cooperation of Agenda 21 initiatives with science and businesses. Using various case studies, we will present the spectrum of possible forms of cooperation with science and the business sector. We will also derive conclusions on the motivation of the various cooperation partners for initiating cooperation as well as on supportive factors and obstacles. On this basis, we will develop practical recommendations for overcoming the existing obstacles in the medium term, e.g., related to organising cooperation processes and creating cooperation incentives. The goal of these recommendations is to intensify cooperation of Agenda 21 initiatives with science and the business sector.
Part of the handbook is also a list of supportive contact partners and intermediaries for those interested in initiating cooperation. The handbook will be finalized in fall 2008 and presented at the second national Networking-21-Congress in Leipzig, Germany, taking place on 29 and 30 September 2008.