Vienna Charta
Municipal Department 17 – Integration and Diversity

A. Problem Analysis

 1. What was the problem before the implementation of the initiative?
Large cities are in many ways (gender, age, beliefs, life style, sexual orientation, abilities,…), diverse and heterogeneous, and diversity increases with internationalisation. Not only migration of third-country nationals but also the mobility of the citizens from other Member States within European Union is a growing important aspect in the social life of European cities. Therefore, it is crucial that everyone living in a city is able to deal with this diversity calmly, objectively, and without fear, but also with a critical and open mind. This is indispensable for us to feel comfortable and increases the individual quality of life. It is also important for social cohesion and solidarity. So the Vienna Charter aimed to set the course for a good and respectful climate in the city. Living together cannot – and should not – be regulated by law alone. Things like respect, consideration of others, cannot be legislated.

B. Strategic Approach

 2. What was the solution?
The people who live in Vienna need to come to an understanding and formulate mutually acceptable solutions. Therefore, the core element in developing the Charter were e wide range of communication and sometimes controversial discussion processes. Nothing was prescribed from above – the City of Vienna merely facilitated the process. The idea was that the city has the role as that of an initiator and enabler of a process rather than its sole manager, seeking - and finding - a completely new way of establishing a partnership with civil society. Everyone who lives in Vienna was welcome to join the project and express their ideas and suggestions for good neighbourly relations in the city. The people of Vienna would determine the contents of the Charter, but fundamental principles (formulated in the “core document”) were not open for discussion (democracy and the rule of law, human and fundamental rights). After establishing an online and an offline platform where the citizens were able to depot the topics, the moderated Charter talks were organized by the citizens, where people met to discuss issues face-to-face. The City of Vienna provided moderators free of charge for these talks. The results of these talks were placed online in a completely transparent manner, so that both the participants and the general public could see them. The project resulted in a collection of basic principles of living together respectfully and in good neighbourly relations gathered by the people who live in Vienna. This program provides action and makes citizens taking responsibility in dispute with themselves and with their social environment. Among those who take part at this program discussions eliminated mutual reservations and prejudices so that this come-together provided an insider impression of the “other”. All people were appreciated, acknowledged and heard which contributes to the good neighbourly relations and positive climate in the city. Dialogue and open discussion are the basis for participation and consensus in the democracy.

 3. How did the initiative solve the problem and improve people’s lives?
The Vienna Charter is a unique project in Europe (or maybe globally) and has received attention on the national and international level. So it was presented - just to give some examples - at a UNESCO conference in Rumania and at a conference of the World Bank for Mayors from south-east-European countries. To aspects of originality can be mentioned: 1) Goal and concept: People at all ages, with different outlooks on life, ethnic backgrounds, professions, and opinions came together to discuss and develop the Vienna Charter. The Viennese themselves chose the topics and participated actively to the development of the Charter in discussions. The Vienna Charter is an agreement they have arrived at mutually and out of their own conviction. The people could express their views on how good neighbourly relations should work from now on and what they would do to contribute to that. It was about what every individual can do to improve the way we live together in our city.

C. Execution and Implementation

 4. In which ways is the initiative creative and innovative?
The Organisation of the process in close partnership with civic society 651 charter talks could be organized. In order to reach out so many and such diverse citizens, an innovative approach was used: All organisations in the city (businesses, clubs and associations, social partners, religious communities …) were invited to become partners. An invitation letter from the Mayor was sent out to all cooperation partners of the City. It was also expressed in public (Media …) as an open invitation to anyone interested in participating. Partner organisations had two obligations: They organized Charter talks (for their employees, customers, members, neighbourhood etc. and provided a room. They registered it online or by phone. The charter office staff selected from a pool of 300 moderators based on their availability. The moderators were paid by the City of Vienna. Every group result was posted online by the moderators. The other obligation of partner organisations was to use their communication channels (media, www …) to spread awareness of the project. The following timeline was developed: • Presentation of the project and press conference: 12 March 2012 • Topic collection: 19 March to 1 April 2012 • Presentation of topics by the advisory committee: 13 April 2012 • Charter talks: 13 April to 14 October 2012: • Second online phase: 28 September to 14 October 2012: • Presentation of the Vienna Charter: 27 November 2012

 5. Who implemented the initiative and what is the size of the population affected by this initiative?
A process as broad as this one, which sought to involve all parts of Viennese society, cannot and should not be organised by political decision-makers and the city administration alone. Therefore, we chose a new, innovative approach: All organisations in the city (businesses, clubs and associations, employer associations, trade unions, religious communities, political parties, etc.) were invited to become partners of the Vienna Charter. An invitation letter from the Mayor and the Deputy Mayor was sent out to all cooperation partners of the different Administrative Groups of the Vienna City Administration. It was expressed as an open invitation to anyone interested in participating, and was also publicised on the homepage and in interviews to reach a wide range of people. 325 partner organisations from an impressively diverse range of fields declared their intent of supporting the process actively by holding Charter talks and/or using their information channels to spread awareness of the project. This included large companies (such as Siemens, McDonald's, IBM), both sides of industry (Austrian Chamber of Labour, Austrian Economic Chamber, trade unions), various cultural and sports associations and clubs, migrants' organisations, communities of faith (the Catholic, Protestant and Orthodox churches, the Islamic Community of Austria, the Jewish Community, the Buddhist Community) and the Freethinkers Association, three of the four political parties represented in the Vienna City Council (Social Democrats, People's Party, the Greens) and the district organisation Margareten of the Communist Party, self-help groups of people with special needs, and the Homosexuals' Initiative. These are just a few examples to illustrate the wide range of partner organisations. A list of all partner organisations is available online at https://charta.wien.gv.at/start/charta/partnerorganisationen/liste/ .
 6. How was the strategy implemented and what resources were mobilized?
In November 2010, Municipal Department 17 - Integration and Diversity was given the task to develop and implement the concept for this project. Concept work, preparation and organisation was mainly done by the regular staff of Municipial Department “Integration and Diversity” (MA 17). During 2012, an average of three persons (full-time equivalents) were working full time in this project. One person out of the staff of the communication department of the City of Vienna was in charge of PR work. The external agency neu&kühn was contracted for the online implementation. They were involved in the online concept development and its technical implementation, and moderated the online forum during the online phases. The partnerorganisations contributed by providing a meeting place for the charter talks and doing the information work to invite people to the talks they hosted. Every Charter talk was moderated by two moderators, they were paid an agreed remuneration/fee. This project was funded by the city of Vienna. Costs: 450.000€ for: a) Development of new technology: The external agency neu&kühn was contracted for the online implementation. They were involved in the online concept development and its technical implementation, and moderated the forum during the online phases; b) MA 14 – Implementation of the new technology for the City of Vienna c) Moderation: Costs for external moderators d) material (folder, sticker …).

 7. Who were the stakeholders involved in the design of the initiative and in its implementation?
In total, 651 Charter talks were held in all districts of Vienna and at nearly any kind of venue imaginable (in club houses, pubs, offices, schools, people's flats, parks, and public swimming pools). Some 8500 people participated in them, investing a total of 12,700 hours into discussing good neighbourly living. The participants represented a true cross-section of Vienna's population: children, young people, senior citizens, blue and white collar workers, entrepreneurs, non-working persons as well as people with different mother tongues and countries of origin, people with special needs, people with different religious beliefs, worldviews and political opinions, and people with different sexual orientations. Particularly at the beginning of the talks, the participants were sometimes unsure what to do: What exactly are you supposed to do at a Charter talk – just talk? And what exactly are you supposed to talk about? The hesitation was visible¬. We are used to talking about concrete topics or to making demands of someone who is not present (the building management, our boss, politicians…). We are also used to speaking in a certain role (e.g. as a representative of an organisation). But talking to each other as individuals, without any of the familiar rituals of conversation? At times, this required some effort, but the results were worth it: People who already knew each other well from work, even were in the same team, said how surprising and enriching such conversations were and how the experience would influence their working relationship as well. The same went for members of the same club or people who always went to the same park: "We never talk like this," they said. The most fascinating Charter talks occurred where borders of some kind were crossed: Where a football cage in the yard got teenagers and adults talking, where women from the tenants advisory committee and Muslim women started talking in a municipal housing project, or where people with different political, religious, or other beliefs began communicating with each other. All the emotions, all the things that were set in motion in these conversations, can be guessed at when the participants talk about them, but they could never be fully captured in a protocol or summary.

 8. What were the most successful outputs and why was the initiative effective?
There was a continuous monitoring done on several levels: The “advisory board”, meetings of the moderators of Charter talks, a group of representatives of main partner organisations and on the political level by a group of members of the Vienna city council. Since everything was online in a transparent manner (all results of charter talks, including a short with description of the group) it was possible to see for everyone in Vienna, that the participants represented a true cross-section of Vienna's population: children, young people, senior citizens, blue and white collar workers, entrepreneurs, non-working persons as well as people with different mother tongues and countries of origin, people with special needs, people with different religious beliefs, worldviews and political opinions, and people with different sexual orientations. Data was collected concerning the participants of the charter talks concerning the number and gender of participants of each charter talk. Parallel to this internal monitoring, an external survey was done by the Austrian Academy of sciences, Institute of Technology Assessment.

 9. What were the main obstacles encountered and how were they overcome?
Two questions were discussed intently during the preparation. The first one was the duration of the process. Media and communication experts recommended a short and intense process of no more than a few months or even just a few weeks. They argued that the attention of the public and the media could not be maintained for any longer. Potential partner organisations who work directly with people and had experience with group processes, on the other hand, considered it necessary for the group phase to last at least one year. Finally, a compromise was found in an eight-month process. The second question was how to structure the topics under discussion, i.e., which aspects of living together in a city to address. One suggestion was to choose topics based on experience and/or surveys. This idea was discarded, as any pre-selection of topics would have run counter to the idea that it should be the people of Vienna who determined the content of the Charter. Therefore, it was decided to introduce an initial online phase during which everyone could suggest topics.

D. Impact and Sustainability

 10. What were the key benefits resulting from this initiative?
On one hand, there is the text of the Vienna charter as a result. No single text could reflect all the ideas, suggestions and results of all the discussion groups involved in this process. Therefore, all group results are still available online and can serve as a source of inspiration. They provide a glimpse into the serious in-depth debates of the Charter talks, and reflect the energy and creativity with which the people of Vienna want to shape their neighbourly relations. The result of the process is much more than just a text. It is what happened during the talks and is still happening: People have begun to approach each other or grown closer, they have discussed concrete initiatives and decided on steps for the future. And the process is still going on. A few examples of results of group discussions with long-term effects: • Adults were irritated by the noise in the yard, adolescents by the neighbours shouting at them: The adults and teenagers got together and agreed on a few concrete points: The teenagers will keep the noise down after 8 PM and tell others to do so as well. The adults will no longer shout at them from their balconies. If they have something to say to the teenagers, they will go down to the courtyard - and organize a house party with all the neighbours. • In one residential building, there were frequent problems between people with special needs in an assisted living project and their neighbours. They decided to get to know each other better. • In one building, the boys agreed to let the girls play in the football cage as well - even if that is sometimes difficult. • Taxi drivers in training will spend some time with tram and bus drivers on their routes to experience road traffic from their perspective. • A group of women from the tenants advisory committee and Muslim women from Turkey and Arab countries got together and talked for the first time - about what bothers them about each other, but also about how they live and what they think. After the Charter talk was over, they stayed and sat there drinking tea. Since then, they have already joined together in several initiatives. The Charter talk bridged the gap that previously existed between them. • The tenants of a municipal housing project decided to get together regularly in an informal atmosphere to improve the communication in the building. • People living next to a mosque and representatives of the mosque discussed their problems with each other in a Charter talk. They agreed to organize regular talks between contact persons chosen by each group and to organize a party together. • In youth centres, in retirement homes, and in municipal housing projects… In numerous discussions everyone agreed that simply saying hello when you meet someone improves the atmosphere. And so they decided to greet each other in future.

 11. Did the initiative improve integrity and/or accountability in public service? (If applicable)
Long term effects are described in 10.). Transferablity: The Vienna Charter process got national and international attention and recognition. It was awarded the “Prix territoria Europe” in Paris and a Best Practice Certificate EPSA (European Institute of Public Administration), both in November 2013. The project leaders were invited to present it at international conferences (World bank conference for mayors of South-East Europe, Conference “Danube Region”, university of Leipzig and others). As a result, several cities and regions are interested in implementing it and because of the demand, the city of Vienna is offering “charter workshops” (as in Sofia for 10 Bulgarian cities) to assist and transfer experiences and know how. “Evaluation Summary Notes” of the EPSA award referring to “Transferability and Learning Capacity” say: “It is for sure that this project has (potential) value and lessons to teach other entities. It has the potential for successful replication in other contexts. Moreover it stimulates a learning, innovation and self-improvement culture within the entity. This is basically the idea and a methodology, which may be transferred freely to every city and village all over the world. The findings and the approach of learning can be transferred to other communities and organisations.”

 12. Were special measures put in place to ensure that the initiative benefits women and girls and improves the situation of the poorest and most vulnerable? (If applicable)
Diversity is a phenomenon of big cities which may cause small and serious problems. The chart is an attempt to anticipate and maybe overcome the problems, at least some of them, by stimulating and organizing public discussions and dialogue. Participation method: Besides of the topic “Living together”, the method of participation found was unique: The Combination of online participation tools with offline methods (charter talks face to face). The special thing about this project was that the Viennese themselves have chosen the topics and participated actively to the development of the Charter in discussions. This case is something different that goes beyond what currently exists, and needs some courage on part of a public administration and a government, since it is an open process. But it paid off and the results proved that it works if a clear framework is provided. A new form of cooperation between City and civil society: The City cannot and should not act merely alone, if it comes to central questions of society. We all share a responsibility for our future. All organisations and persons in the city were invited and nobody excluded (no political party, no religion or atheist group, no special interest group …). The Charter project crossed all mental barriers and borders in an inclusive approach (but on the stable grounds of the “Core document”, that is on the common grounds of human rights, democracy, rule of law).

Contact Information

Institution Name:   Municipal Department 17 – Integration and Diversity
Institution Type:   Government Department  
Contact Person:   Ursula Struppe
Title:   Dr.  
Telephone/ Fax:   +43 4000 81511
Institution's / Project's Website:  
E-mail:   christian.loibnegger@extern.wien.gv.at  
Address:   Fiedrich-Schmidt-Platz 3
Postal Code:   1080
City:   Vienna
State/Province:  
Country:  

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