Changing Local Democracy and New City Making Practices in Amsterdam and Istanbul

Experts from Istanbul and Amsterdam met at ‘Muze Gazhane’ in August 2021 for a knowledge exchange meeting withing the framework of the research project “Changing Local Democracy and New City Making Practices”.

‘Changing Local Democracy and New City Making Practices’, is a comparative research project initiated by Play the City, the Istanbul Planning Agency’s Vision 2050 Office and the City of Amsterdam. The hands-on research focuses on an open, inclusive and participatory city practices and made possible with support of the Netherlands Creative Industries Fund [Stimuleringsfonds Creative Industries]. On 19–20 August, a knowledge exchange meeting was held at Muze Gazhane bringing experts from Amsterdam and Istanbul together through a number of lectures and interactive workshops. Both Amsterdam and Istanbul are developing their Vision 2050 plans in a participatory manner, which makes the exchange more concrete and purposeful. About 20 Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality -IMM- employees attended the event with the participation of the relevant units of the Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality and the Amsterdam Municipality as well as a number of external experts.

Prior to the program, on 18th of August, participants from Amsterdam and Istanbul joined informative field trips. Initially they paid a visit to the Validebag Korusu, guided through civil initiatives such as Validebag Volunteers and Validebag Defense. These organisations informed visitors about local processes regarding preservation of this city forest. Next stop was the Kuzguncuk Information center. Here, IMM’s Department of Transportation informed about their interactive social work with the community. The group also visited the Dutch Consulate and was informed about the relevant Liveable Cities program that the consulate is conducting with multiple local partners.

On 19th of August, participants were welcome by the Vizyon 2050 Office Coordinator Burcu Ozupak Guleç and Istanbul Planning Agency’s international relations coordinator Simten Birsoz İnanç shared the founding principles and the progress of IPA in terms
of open governance and city making. During the first lecture Dr. Ekim Tan and Muge Yorgancı shared initial results of the research through a comparative lecture highlighting participation processes conducted through local governments and the civil society in Istanbul and Amsterdam. Taking part in the project team on behalf of the Municipality of Amsterdam, Prof.Dr. Caroline Nevejan (Chief Science Officer) highlighted the importance of cultural capacity for planning city and citizen paradigms. Nevejan focused on the need to better think about how to incorporate people, networks, policies and data into decision processes in cities that are transforming into complex participatory systems. The Amsterdam Open Research Platform, described in detail in the presentation, was created for researchers, municipalities and designers to collaborate.

Miray Ozkan from the Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality City Planning Directorate presented the participatory planning studies carried out through the Prince Islands Strategic Plan, Beyoğlu Strategic Plan. Egbert Fransen explained the role of the Pakhuis de Zwijger in support for the participation tracks of the City of Amsterdam. Pakhuis de Zwijger is a dialog center where many activities are carried out on issues concerning the city. It offers an accessible, independent and safe public meeting place for everyone in the city and supported with the funds of the Amsterdam Municipality and the civil society.

In the second part of the meeting, evaluations were made on the Vision 2050 strategies that both cities are working on. In her presentation, Vizyon 2050 Office Coordinator Burcu Ozupak Guleç conveyed the importance of creating a shared vision for Istanbul. Martin van der Maas from the City of Amsterdam informed participant about the experiences built around “Omgevingsvisie Amsterdam 2050”, which started shortly before the Istanbul Vision 2050 works.

President of the Istanbul Kent Konseyi [Citizens Assembly] Tulin Hadi presented the reasons for the establishment of the Citizens Assembly and the efforts made for the implementation of the participatory budgeting in Istanbul, which was initiated and implemented on the metropolitan scale by the Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality. Next Zola Can from the City of Amsterdam shared her work on what kind of a relationship can be established between the “lived city” and the “planned city”. She coordinated a project on collecting citizen stories on the city in order to monitor the Amsterdam’s 2050 city vision plan. Providing a good example of the evaluation and monitoring of the 2050 participant Vision plan for Istanbul, Can’s work is guiding in terms of understanding the approach of fellow citizens to decisions taken at different scales. Complementary to Can’s work, Aartie Mahesh from the City of Amsterdam focused on co-creation and experiences of participation in the Nieuw West district of Amsterdam.

The second day of the events focused on how Amsterdam and Istanbul can transform the work of Vision into concrete strategies and the responsibilities of local government for the meaningful participation of civil society. Massih Hutak from Verdedig Noord (Defense of the North), an active citizens’ initiative in the north of Amsterdam, talked about how citizens can make active and meaningful contributions to the services provided by the municipality. In the continuation of the workshop, it was discussed how the cooperation and joint work of the public with civil society could be improved. Pınar Şefkatli, who works with various service units on behalf of the Amsterdam Municipality Science Board on an approach that unites the policy of the municipality with the public, emphasized the importance of using the data obtained by observation in the field and big data together in the presentation of municipal services in Amsterdam.

We will continue sharing the results of the ‘Changing Local Democracy and New City Making Practices’ through a detailed written and video report in. A logical follow up of the event is receiving experts from Istanbul in Amsterdam to make the exchange and collaboration between the two cities possible.

Relevant Istanbul Internet Links

mayor’s intro to participatory budgeting: imamoglundan-istanbullulara-cagri-ilk-katilimci-butce-video-galerisi-2200628.htm

Istanbul is yours:

Workshops facilities by the Metropolitan City of Istanbul or various partners

Plans open to public’s reaction before city council voting

Instagram account Istanbul’s mayor



architect, urbanist, game designer, writer, founder of Play the City and Games for Cities

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Ekim Tan

architect, urbanist, game designer, writer, founder of Play the City and Games for Cities