JOURNAL ISSUE 13

2006/2007

 

 

The Social City Programme in Erfurt, Germany: Background, implementation and challenges

Tilo Fiegler
City District Manager, Erfurt, Germany
Associate Lecturer
Department of Social Work
University of Applied Sciences
Erfurt, Germany 99084

Monika Frank
Coordinator
Internship Office
Department of Social Work
University of Applied Sciences
Erfurt, Germany 99084

Mark Lawrence
Associate Professor of Geography
Department of Geography & Political Science
Bemidji State University
Bemidji, MN 56601
USA

 

Abstract


The political change in eastern Germany and in Eastern Europe 16 years ago was the beginning of dramatic social and economic transformations. However, social progress has been more apparent than real, especially in terms of poorly implemented processes of democratic participation and decision-making. Using the example of an Erfurt City District, we will discuss the progress made by a nationwide programme for development of especially disadvantaged communities. Based on this, we will try to find out what challenges and demands European communities more generally have to cope with to respond in up-to-date, flexible, tolerant, and sustainable ways to rapid social transformation processes in the 21st century.


Strong opposing ideological and cultural forces have built up around the ethic, starving it to the point that it is at risk of "failing to thrive." In the version of the narrative and myth that are being enacted now, many social work educators and practitioners are adapting to cope with the siege. It is too soon to know whether this siege process will be irreversible. In this paper, the authors offer their perspective on the state of the social work profession in light of the siege of the pursuit of social justice, as well as some ideas about how social work might overcome it.

 

 

 

 

Introduction


Few would dispute that the reunification of Germany in 1990 brought about dramatic changes longed for by people in both halves of a country torn by war and foreign occupation decades previously. However, for many, the hopes of what reunification could have brought about have been dashed. Processes of radical adaptation to market requirements caused an almost complete collapse of the economy in the region of the former German Democratic Republic (GDR), with high unemployment rates persisting today. Parallel and often contrary processes have complicated this economic collapse, including political radicalization at all levels of society leading to a sharp rise in cultural and social intolerance not present during the GDR period despite the rule of an oppressive one-party State. Likewise, large-scale migrations locally, nationally and internationally since reunification - and the nearly simultaneous collapse of the Soviet Union - have occurred at the same time as striking demographic changes, including the shrinking of cities and villages creating almost totally depopulated regions in the East.


Without doubt, new opportunities opened up for people in the former GDR after 1990, not only with the initial development of a modern infrastructure and industry but also in the fields of education, occupation and democratic participation. Yet the new facades of towns and villages only feign social progress. Considerable strain has been placed on the utilization of individual and community resources, not only by extra layers of bureaucracy but also as people become increasingly disenchanted with incapable politicians. Worse, there is a lack of understanding of democracy and participation by both authorities and inhabitants.


Our purpose in this paper is to examine the "Social City" programme in Erfurt, Germany as an example of the progress made by a nationwide project for development of especially disadvantaged communities. From an assessment of the persistent and novel challenges faced by two communities within Erfurt, we will identify some of the up-to-date, flexible, tolerant, and sustainable ways by which communities more generally have to cope with rapid social transformation processes in the 21st century.


Impacts of demographic change in eastern Germany


Our focus is on Erfurt, a city of about190,000 which is now the capital of Thuringia, one of the five new federal countries (Bundesländer) in Germany. With approximately 2.4 million inhabitants, Thuringia has lost 10% of its population during the last 10 years (Gather 2006). According to the Thuringian Federal Authority for Statistics, only three cities in the Bundesland (Eisenach, Weimar and Jena) will have a population increase of up to 5% by 2020; all other communities will lose on average 10-15% of their inhabitants, some rural regions even up to 25% (Gather 2005, 14). According to several demographic scenarios, the Bundesland as a whole will have lost 20% of its population by 2020. What are the reasons for this dramatic decline, especially when Thuringia is the part of the former GDR that now forms the heart of reunified Germany? What are the impacts and consequences for those who stay in the region?


As previously noted, eastern Germany suffered almost complete industrial collapse by 1994, and today it still experiences an unemployment rate that has reached 20% on average, twice the rate of western Germany and not unlike that experienced in many substantially less-developed countries. Still, the difference in regional unemployment rates would be much more extreme if hundreds of thousands of people in the east had not decided to leave their home regions or to commute every week to the former West Germany to earn their livelihood. This labour migration had several impacts on the new Bundesländer, which will be described briefly in the following.


First, there has been a significant change in Thuringia's population structure. The biggest labour migrant group included those between 18 and 35 years old, most of them women, and many well-educated. Besides the fact of a generally sinking birth rate in Germany as a whole (with the most severe decline experienced in the regions of the former GDR), labour migration impacts have narrowed the base of regional population pyramids - especially rural areas and in smaller towns. Not only are there greater numbers of older people than younger people but also fewer children today mean even fewer in the future. As a consequence, the population of eastern Germany is aging rapidly. While there were 500,000 children under the age of 15 in Thuringia in 1990, by 2006 there were only 250,000 (Gather 2006, 2).


The migrations to western and southern Germany caused another new phenomenon in the regions of the former GDR: shrinking cities. While people in eastern Germany formerly were always confronted with housing shortages, today there are lots of empty flats and empty houses, especially in those residential areas which were built during the socialist period, mostly situated at the margin of the towns. Stories about shrinking cities, towns and villages have filled the German media since reunification. Importantly, such stories have typically viewed the demographic change in the eastern regions negatively, as usually only growth has stood for something positive. Only recently (and only very gradually) has it been possible to notice a change in approach that considers the shrinking of cities as presenting an opportunity for renewal and improved quality of life.


A third change, closely connected to out-migration and aging of remaining populations in the eastern region, is deterioration of the infrastructure there. Less public transport has led to reduced mobility for older or handicapped people, the appearance of more private cars, and the generation of more air and noise pollution. Other infrastructural losses include fewer kindergartens and schools, fewer shopping facilities for daily goods, and increased supply bottlenecks in medical care. Such deterioration of services rapidly becomes part of a vicious circle, as this situation causes more and more people, young and old, to leave the villages or towns.


Under the circumstances, probably the most troubling aspect of the post-unification changes in the former GDR has been a widespread radicalization of social problems. The changes of the last 16 years have demanded a lot of flexibility on the part of the people of eastern Germany. To become part of a new economic, political and social system has meant learning and re-learning how to orient oneself within all fields of life (i.e. as regards the legal system, the social insurance and health care system, the education system, and often within one's job or profession). Certainly, many people have mastered these multiple transformations, finding new opportunities and trying to make the best out of them, though not all have been successful. The changes have caused a tremendous adaptation pressure and a rapidly developing social polarization. Moreover, unemployment or the fear of becoming unemployed has been a Sword of Damocles hanging over individual lives, fostering a loss of solidarity among people. In 2004, a government report indicated that 'only about 60 percent of eastern Germans capable of gainful employment are in fact employed' (Berg et al. 2005). Consequently, workers in the eastern region work longer and more flexible schedules for only two-thirds the cost of labour in western Germany, among other things thereby weakening unions to the point that less than 8% of workers in the east are organized to protect their interests. Perhaps, not surprisingly, narrow-mindedness is more commonplace than previously, including a culture of complaining on a high level, political indifference (particularly evidenced by low levels of participation in elections regionally, with only 44.5% of the electorate in Sachsen-Anhalt going to the polls in a regional election in March 2006), and intolerance or even hostility to foreigners. Open borders alone do not create open minds and to install democracy by law alone does not guarantee that it will work automatically. In short, 40 years of socialism cannot simply be thrown overboard as people cannot simply be reprogrammed. It takes time, perhaps two or more generations, and in the meantime eastern Germans are experiencing a growing sense of Sonderbewusstsein, of being 'different' in their own country.


Germany and especially the new Bundesländer today face the problem of rising right-wing extremism. The growing number of brutal attacks on foreigners is only the tip of the iceberg. The problem is that Germany needs foreigners, lots of them, not only to profit from their professional qualifications or to bring more 'multi-kulti' colour to Germany, but also to compensate for the shrinking population. According to demographers' mathematical projections, Germany needs 200,000 immigrants per year until 2020 just to maintain the present population numbers (Gather 2006, 3). Recent literature deploys the almost cynical term Bestandserhaltungs-Immigration - stock maintenance immigration, a typical German technocrats' creation. Naturally, like other developed countries, Germany is more interested in highly qualified and easily integrated immigrants, because the problem is not only about maintaining population numbers but also remaining a strong economic power in the future.


Balancing demographic trends against immigration needs, in less than 15 years 20% of the German population will not be Germans. While on average 6% of Europe's population is foreign-born today, including 9% of the population in former West Germany, only 2% of the former GDR's population is foreign-born. What remains unclear from an examination of these numbers is whether they foretell a potentially explosive xenophobic reaction, or instead suggest an opportunity for building a tolerant, open-minded, multicultural, globally integrated Germany in the future?


The 'Social City' programme


Importantly, the issues identified are not unique to eastern Germany or to Germany as a whole, even if they appear in sharper relief in the new Bundesländer. They are also European problems (and even more generally, Western societies' problems). Already being called a 'silver continent', all of Europe from Spain to Poland is aging, complicating the transition from the industrial to the information age that has transformed the economic, demographic and infrastructural geographies of many European regions. Likewise, Germany's situation reflects that of the continent's as a whole: caught between growing numbers of refugees and asylum seekers on the one hand and the proliferation of restrictive immigration laws and acts of intolerance, indifference and hostility to foreigners on the other hand.


In this context, it is necessary to bear in mind that given the extreme problems of huge conurbations and megacities in other world regions, European spatial development strategies aim at developing or maintaining a relatively balanced and polycentric population and spatial development pattern (EUREK 2006). Together with more general transformative processes (EU enlargements, polarization over social problems, migration patterns, etc.), this forms the background for programmes targeting the equal development of urban and rural areas, in Germany called the 'Social City' and 'Village Renewal' programmes. Our focus here is on the former.


Based on the experiences of purely urban construction programmes, the new quality of the 'Social City' (Soziale Stadt) is the intensive and extensive integration of citizens in the question of community development in all its facets. It is not enough to reconstruct houses and streets - to give a community a nice face - when at the same time people face mounting problems in mastering their daily lives. Likewise, tax revenue is wasted when expensive social or cultural facilities are built without being accepted by the people because these externally-initiated projects do not meet their actual needs.


Both authorities and residents have difficulty appreciating the need for - and seeing the benefits of - citizen participation in urban planning. This is especially the case because Germany has had such a strong tradition of Raumordnung, or general planning in which everything, including citizens' own interests, has been subordinated to the expertise of planners and the constraints of long-term 'strategic' plans. Indeed, the supposed rationalism of German planning culture strongly influenced other national approaches to community and regional development for a long time (Sutcliffe 1981). Paradoxically, even substantial social changes such as the end of the Cold War and the rise of the European Union - with attendant phenomena including large-scale labour and refugee migrations, as well as alterations in national standards of economic and environmental well-being - have confirmed for many the need for more, not less centralization of control over what happens to city districts. The former Dezernent for planning of Frankfurt, for instance, believes that 'The hope that the future can be regulated through comprehensive planning . has collapsed . With all the sound and fury of small-scale battles ranging from bus routes to high-rise apartment buildings, the basic consensus regarding the city's further development is scarcely detectable' (Wentz 1992, 17).


In eastern Germany, the slower approach to adoption of a more decentralized and autonomous planning culture mostly has to do with an inadequately developed understanding of democracy, with administrators typically unwilling to hand over responsibility and decision making power to citizens, and citizens needing to be willing and able to take over responsibility for the implementation of decisions made about their districts of the city. This transition from exogenously to endogenously initiated processes is difficult and slow, though in its best sense it can become an experience of a living democracy, taking place in the direct living environment of the inhabitants, young and old, Germans or foreigners. Importantly, it involves relaxing the tensions previously presumed to exist between a focus on all-encompassing plans versus more locally-specifiable projects (Buchmüller et al. 2000).


This is especially important in many of the cities of the former GDR since over the last 20 years they have developed districts often largely uncoupled from general urban social trends. In these areas, inhabitants increasingly have to shoulder burdens not carried by other populations in the new Germany. The phenomenon of shrinking cities, for example, means that a significant percentage of housing stock is empty. Even if still partially occupied, such housing is often no longer profitable for its owners. According to one estimate, as many as 1.03 million flats were empty in eastern Germany in 2002 (Liebmann & Robischon 2006). Since unprofitable housing is rarely maintained by owners, the consequence for cities in the former GDR has been demolition of uninhabitable units on a massive scale. The federal programme Stadtumbau Ost hopes to achieve a target of demolishing 350,000 vacant flats by 2009. Half of the population of eastern Germany lives in cities participating in the Stadtumbau Ost programme, with most experiencing a vacancy rate of 10-15% of housing stock. However, by some estimates demographic losses in the eastern region will continue at such a rapid pace that in 2010 there will still be surplus vacant housing; in other words, demolition is an insufficient and costly way of trying to create demand for new and better quality housing.


Consequently, we can also talk about 'polarized cities', split into colloquially labelled 'rich' and 'poor' districts. On the one hand, there are districts where people can afford to live because of their economic position (i.e. they can afford to pay high rents). On the other hand, there are districts where people have to live due to poor economic standing. Indeed, in some cases, 'poor' districts are those to which people might even be referred because they pay only a minimum rent there. This is the case, for instance, of social benefit recipients, but importantly in the context of previous discussion, also of asylum seekers or German resettlers, including the Wolgadeutschen from the former Soviet Union (1.7 million of whom moved to Germany between 1991 and 1999). These are districts which already play only a marginalized role in the development plans of city administrators, where investments beyond a basic supply of necessary infrastructure and services are not considered worthwhile. Consequently, cities increasingly disintegrate into negatively-labelled districts in which low-income households are concentrated, in contrast to the privileged districts (Franke et al. 2000, 244-246). It is now recognized that the serious problems that arise from this divisive social geography cannot be solved by traditional urban development planning schemes, i.e. by pure investments of the sort that amount to telling residents in a particular district 'we built you something, so now accept it!' Without social state interventions, and without significantly leaving the city districts to their own devices, such areas would move further down a downward spiral of disinvestment and decay.


A rethinking was urgently needed, and in this sense, the introduction of the Social City programme in 1999 was a milestone. The goals of the programme are {a} to initiate revitalizing developmental processes, {b} to implement integrative concepts, and {c} to mobilize local resources. With the programme, the German Government wants to set new city development accents and to aim at a stronger linking of city development schemes with measures of other fields of politics in endangered city districts than has been the case until now. At present, there are 390 programme areas in 260 German cities. The programme's financing is split between the federal government, provincial governments, and the participating community, each taking one-third of the costs. The more specific objectives of the programme target improvements in {a} the physical residential and life conditions (mainly structural measures), {b} the individual life chances of the population (for instance, through improved access to possibilities in the labour and housing markets), and {c} the district image, its publicity management, and identification with the city district on the basis of concrete stabilization and revitalization measures that are both significant and sustainable.


As previously suggested in overview, the difficulties of the strained city districts that take part in the Social City programme are immense. In particular, they include any or all of the following: bad housing conditions, abandoned houses, devastation of public areas, vandalism of property, lack of public green spaces and playgrounds, noisy and polluted environments, deficits in supply structures, high unemployment rates, low incomes and high household poverty rates, 'problem schools', low professional qualifications, dependency on social benefits, health problems, communication problems (especially for foreign citizens), and high crime rates. Such strained life conditions often cause psycho-social problems, such as social isolation, lack of perspectives, resignation, hopelessness, insecurity and fear, and hostility towards foreigners (Becker et al. 2002,16).


A key instrument for developing resolution of these problems is the city district management, including a simultaneously horizontally and vertically networked cooperation and management structure at the administrative and city district levels, between these levels, and in collaboration with all other locally relevant protagonists. The guiding principle behind this intimately networked structure of city district management is the motivation to guarantee promotion and support of the active participation of district inhabitants and local protagonists as well as their cooperation with city administrators.


The Social City experience in Erfurt


As has already been noted, despite its status as a provincial capital, the city of Erfurt has also been dramatically affected by post-unification changes, particularly considering the decrease of its inhabitants (-16% since 1988) and the massive decline of former large industry (Landeshauptstadt Erfurt 2003a, 6 ff.). Erfurt's north (called Andreas- and Johannesvorstadt) is in especially bad shape. It is an area of high population density, the highest density of foreigners in Erfurt, a largely collapsed industry, few green areas and playgrounds, high unemployment, low educational levels, a higher crime rate than in other city districts, a loss of infrastructure, etc. People who can afford to do so move away from this district, with 26% of the former population of the Andreas- and Johannesvorstadt district having left between 1990 and 1999 (Landeshauptstadt Erfurt 2003a). Only since 2001 has there been a slight population increase, mainly by incoming foreigners and resettlers from the former Soviet Union. The Wolgadeutschen are only the biggest group among such émigrés from Soviet regions, with groups coming from Ukraine, the Baltic States and Kazakhstan, as well as Jewish populations. The foreign-born population of the district represents 17% of Erfurt's total, with more than twice as many residents per square kilometre in the district than across the entire urban area (Landeshauptstadt Erfurt 2003b).


Together with populations already resident in the Andreas- and Johannesvorstadt district, this cultural diversity occupies an area of 60 hectares with a total population of 6000. While Erfurt as a whole has a population density of 770 people per square kilometre, the Andreas- and Johannesvorstadt district's population density is four-and-a-half times higher (3462.5 per square kilometre). As previously mentioned, there is a severe housing shortage; indeed, while the vacancy rate is 20% for Erfurt as a whole, it is as high as 28% in the programme area. Likewise, what remains available, especially for immigrant populations, is generally of poor quality. Flats in the district are about 11% smaller in total area than on average in the city. Further, while 18% of Erfurt's shops citywide are empty, together with 13% of its industrial facilities, the rates for the Andreas- and Johannesvorstadt district are 29.5% and 18%, respectively (Landeshauptstadt Erfurt 2003b).


Complicating the consequent search for adequate housing and other infrastructure, in 2003, Erfurt had a 12.8% unemployment rate citywide (Landeshauptstadt Erfurt 2003b), while the district had a rate of 16% (especially among people aged 18-25, for which age group the citywide unemployment rate was 9.8%). At present, the citywide unemployment rate has risen sharply (to 19.3%), presumably paralleled by worsening situations in the Andreas- and Johannesvorstadt district (Landeshauptstadt Erfurt 2006, 9). The number of recipients of social benefits within the district is almost 35% higher than is the case for Erfurt citywide. The district has an average crime rate more than 1.8 times higher than that of the entire city of Erfurt, with a 31% increase reported just between 2001 and 2003 (Landeshauptstadt Erfurt 2006).


In 2000, the Andreas- and Johannesvorstadt district applied for entry into the Social City programme and was admitted one year later, which is indicative of a strong financial backing. In its first three years, the Social City programme involved cities with a total population of 1.74 million people nationwide; inasmuch as the territory of the former GDR included only about 23% of all participants (Becker et al. 2000), the Erfurt North case is an especially important one for demonstration of challenges and opportunities in the eastern region. At the very beginning, the district managers' positions were filled and the district office opened. This is the place where district inhabitants can express their concerns, where the citizen advisors' sessions take place, where building measures are discussed with the citizens, where committees such as the Round Table meet, or where people simply socialize. More specifically, the district management's tasks are fourfold: {a} coordination in the city district, {b} organization of citizens' participation, {c} project initiation, and {d} participation in evaluation processes.


For the district managers, coordination in the city district involves public relations (inside and outside the district), networking with different interest groups with the goal of developing an overall district concept, becoming and remaining involved in cooperative efforts with all kinds of local public authorities and social or cultural agencies, and regularly participating actively in meetings of local politics. Organization of citizens' participation, meanwhile, involves provision of support to citizens' representatives, initiatives and activities, supporting citizens' projects in building contacts and co-operatives, working on ways to activate and involve local economic potential, and working with housing authorities and private house owners in the interests of improving the life quality in the district.


Such duties frequently require the city district management to take the lead in project initiation in the Andreas- and Johannesvorstadt programme area. This can mean identifying and then enabling initiators of projects within the community to design workable concepts for their projects, as well as moderation of project development processes and coordination of locally intended project ideas. In this regard, the Social City programme is multi-dimensional in scope, the city district management operating beyond the normal bureaucratic limits of authorities' responsibility thinking, especially insofar as the programme can target city district related job creation.


Finally, the city district management is expected to participate in evaluation processes, preparing and submitting permanent reports to the client (the programme heads) about recent developments, problems and progress trajectories of projects initiated within the district. This requires active participation not only in drafting a report but also in the initial process of evaluation design. Under this heading, the city district management is also expected to prepare and submit a final report on its own progress in forwarding the Social City programme idea, since each district participating in the programme has to have its membership reviewed for renewal regularly.


In summary, the essential work principles of the district management are {a} to have a local focus, {b} to have an inhabitant orientation, and {c} to have a process orientation (Staroste 2001). Consequently, the district management presents and supports the negotiation processes regarding interest conflicts and the development of projects, connecting local protagonists to each other and with different levels of the public sector. Ideally, this offers chances to change previous planning processes from those controlled from above and outside the community in a purely supply-oriented mode into those controlled between levels, i.e. in a mode emphasizing cooperative but autonomous participation in local development processes.


Simply expressed, the motto of the Social City programme could be 'What do we want and do we all want this?' Discovering the answer to these questions means discovering how to get the inhabitants of the district involved in their own community; moreover, discovering how to generate enthusiasm and inspire them to be involved. Above all, this requires good public relations between the community and city district management, and therefore a continuing presence in the area. This means keeping the citizens and other local protagonists informed about problem situations and wishes in order for issues to be tackled by them jointly. Moreover, the district management serves as a direct citizens' 'spokesperson' to the local city administration. Administrations still have the tendency to ignore citizens' individual voices or to process their needs only hesitantly, and citizens often find different departments refusing to accept their administrative responsibilities, a situation which leads to frustration and ultimately to resignation.


Through networking, all participants involved in the development and planning process can finally achieve results, and most importantly, results that are accepted by the inhabitants of the district 'durably'. This is vital, since it is only in this way that inhabitants can establish a new identification with their residential area. Thus, all planning processes need to take place close to and with the citizens, as transparently as possible. This includes citizens' meetings, joint city district visits to neglected places, discussions of construction intentions, the design of public green zones, etc. For example, efforts to help the Andreas- and Johannesvorstadt population establish a meaningful identification with the city and to engage in a cultural revaluation of their city area are promoted by such district events as the 'Open Door' days at local schools, social or cultural agencies, local enterprises and institutions - all designed to create a 'we' feeling. Thus, instead of highlighting single bigger projects, such as the opening and reconstruction of a schoolyard as an open playground, the Social City programme in Erfurt North emphasizes a great variety of small projects on the basis of small budgets coupled to big engagement (including art projects with young people, senior citizens' projects, intergenerational projects, small playgrounds, etc.).


Cooperation between the project management and the local administration, tradesmen, educational facilities, free-time facilities, police, cultural clubs, and especially the immigrant community take many forms in the Erfurt North district. In our estimation, the essential fields of Social City programme activity include those which emphasize attention to {a} the labour market and local employment conditions, {b} economic promotion and district economics, {c} housing supply and quality, {d} residential surroundings and cultural infrastructure, {e} social integration in the city districts, {f} the closely related issues of schooling, {g} health promotion, and {h} security. In all these areas, the district management forms the intersection and pool of information and project propositions, while also serving partially as a job centre as well as the mediation centre of all matters arising from the city district basis, its inhabitants.


Conclusions


An initial appraisal of the Social City programme was produced in 2002 (Becker et al.), and reports have also been published with reference to 16 'model areas' (German Institute of Urban Affairs 2005). In line with general trends towards recognizing the need to connect new visions of local community with more global processes of change (Castells 2005), the Erfurt programme has established a multifaceted website (http://www.typisch-thueringen.de/sz/index.htm), and is actively seeking renewal of its membership in the programme after a scheduled review of progress expected to begin soon. The programme has pursued projects in 21 parts of the Andreas- and Johannesvorstadt district, effecting improvements in the quality of life by creating green areas, sports activity areas and rest zones in former fallows. Effort has also been made to construct affordable rooms for district inhabitants to rent for public and/or private events, such as family festivities, weddings, readings, lectures, meetings, etc.


The Social City programme has also established fixed annual events in the Andreas- and Johannesvorstadt district, such as the City District Festival, the Open Door Day of local agencies (welfare, counselling, cultural, and educational), and an Integration Day aimed at improving cultural relations between populations traditionally resident in the area and the relatively recently arrived immigrants. A keystone project in this regard has been foundation of the 'IG Magdeburger Allee', an Interessen- and Solidargemeinschaft ('interest/solidarity community') of local small business and tradesmen who cooperate and support each other (in the face of high bankruptcy rates in recent years), while also supporting local agencies and events, etc., as sponsors or participants in district festivals to demonstrate their 'belonging' to the area.


For all this activity, though, city district management remains a very young field of social work, especially in the cities of the former GDR, inasmuch as they were historically without the experience of locally-grown social planning efforts (subject instead to central planning by a national-level administration). Consequently, until now city district management has mostly been installed as part of special programmes such as the Social City. Thus, it is above all a trial field, where not everything is obvious, much must be thought anew, and well-functioning networks of cooperation still have to be firmly established. Nonetheless, the first steps, even if small, have already been made. If this newly adopted city management method in Erfurt North can be sustained beyond the officially set duration of the programme, the district will be emancipated from its most relevant problems step-by-step and become a really liveable area, for 'old-established' inhabitants as well as for those newly arrived, Germans or foreigners. In our estimation, there is significant opportunity to profitably use the experiences gained in local political decisions and strategies during the course of the Social City experience as a model for all involved in community development processes. This is especially the case as the need grows to discover - both across Germany as a whole and elsewhere in the world as well (Friedmann 2005) - a new basis for defining 'community' at the start of the 21st century.


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