At the beginning there was frustration. Why is it so hard to find and compare examples of innovative projects in other cities? Where can I look first? And who can I contact in order to learn more about an initiative that interests me?
Today there are numerous urban news websites, learning platforms, good practice databases, awards and competitions one can turn to for information, but the search often remains fragmented, random and incoherent. While some platforms are limited to a specific topic, others only focus on projects from a particular region.
What is more, there are dozens of international urban awards – sponsored mainly by institutions, individual cities or city networks for promotional reasons – that regularly award prizes to recognize internationally innovative urban development projects across a variety of categories. Awards cycles also vary in frequency, and prizes are given either annually, or every two or three years.
As a result, it has been almost impossible to get an overview of the most promising projects that are being implemented in our cities today. Moreover, there hasn’t been a standardised format in which to publish a case study and tag it, either. Consequently, experts have to invest a great deal of time and energy when carrying out research.
The city of Berlin set out to change this and launched the METROPOLIS Policy Transfer Platform in 2014. Having been initially designed to help the 140 METROPOLIS member cities to be able to continue to exchange ideas and experiences in the periods between annual conferences, it quickly became an open platform for internationally recognised projects and experts.
Our platform is a learning and exchange platform for both practitioners and other experts who concern themselves with urban development projects. A good third of our registered users work for metropolitan and local authorities; one third are academics and researchers, and the remainder are companies, NGOs and citizens’ action groups.
There are two ways of contributing content to the platform.
As an individual, I can contribute by creating my own expert profile and uploading a new case study. We then check to ensure that the uploaded material is legitimate and sound and sometimes carry out a small amount of editing. In this way, the platform crowdsources content from professionals in the urban field from across the world. All the information on the platform is public, so normal users can use it for their research too.
The second way in which we add content to the platform is through our partnerships with award secretariats. We work closely with the secretariats and help them to republish their case studies on our platform in a unified format. We then get in touch with the local project contacts in the cities as well, and encourage them to sign up on the platform. In this way, they can keep their own case study regularly updated and their peers can contact them with questions via the platform’s secure messaging system.
About one in four case studies on our platform has been recognised by an international award, either as a short-listed or as a winning project. To highlight this achievement and this indication of quality, these projects also rank higher in our search results.
To give you just a few examples, the projects on our platform have been recognised by the METROPOLIS Award, Guangzhou Award, EUROCITIES Award, Deutsche Bank Urban Age Award, European Green Capital Award, Dubai International Award, Lee Kuan Yew World City Prize and others.
On the Policy Transfer Platform, you will find hundreds of experts and case studies telling the story behind the world’s most innovative urban projects. You can search by region, topic, instrument and award.
With this open and free resource, Berlin hopes to increase the flow of ideas and experiences between cities. For comments, ideas and partnership requests, please contact: firstname.lastname@example.org.
About the Authors:
Barbara Berninger is Head of the Division for EU and International Affairs at Berlin’s Senate Department for Urban Development and the Environment. She is also the Regional Secretary Europe for the METROPOLIS city network and Chair of the Berlin Initiative on Policy Transfer.
Jonas Schorr coordinates all partnership and communications activities of the platform and oversees its technical development. (Twitter: @JonasSchorr)
Camille Toggenburger manages the community of the Policy Transfer Platform. She reviews all incoming submissions, works with the platform partners and contributes to the overall development of the platform.