The climate crisis is forcing governments around the globe to reassess and change direction. Vienna, the capital of Austria, is no exception. The city – famous for its baroque streetscapes and imperial palaces – aims to be climate-neutral by 2040 and is therefore prioritizing climate and sustainability projects. Since 2022, the Vienna Climate Team has been actively engaging residents in a collaborative and inclusive effort to shape a sustainable climate future together. Let’s explore what their participation project has achieved to this day!
It takes a team to win a game
The Vienna Climate Team project operates on a principle that encapsulates the urgency and inclusivity of its mission: “The climate crisis affects everyone. To combat it, everyone is needed.”
The project’s name, ‘Vienna Climate Team’, itself is a play on words, embodying the ethos of the project: it implies the city and its residents, teaming up as partners. Vienna recognized that its residents are the experts of their districts, with the best knowledge of the needs and requirements of their neighborhood.
Through this work, the Vienna Climate Team is contributing towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs):
- 11 – “Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient, and sustainable”,
- 13 – “Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts”, and
- 16 – “Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels”.
Phase-by-phase breakdown of the project’s first year
- Platform launch and ideation
In spring 2022, the project kicked off its pilot year in the districts of Margareten, Simmering, and Ottakring. The start of the pilot also marked the launch of the City of Vienna’s CitizenLab engagement platform. This platform invites Vienna residents to propose their ideas, cast votes, and engage in many other activities. The call for ideas was publicized via the platform itself, through direct mail postcards, and on social media. Throughout the first phase of the Vienna Climate Team project, more than 1,100 ideas were enthusiastically submitted.
The platform shows the stages of the participation process in each phase. It provides visibility into the current status of the project, what strides have been made, what lies ahead, and how the residents of Vienna can continue to contribute.
Top ideas were selected according to evaluation criteria and then developed into 102 project outlines in a multi-stage process, in collaboration with the City of Vienna’s experts and the community’s idea providers. In the end, a jury of randomly selected residents chose 19 projects for implementation. Most of the ideas were collected via the online platform.
- Evaluation of the ideas and development into projects
Following the idea submission phase, the focus turned to idea evaluation. During this phase, experts from the City of Vienna examined whether the proposed ideas were both effective and feasible. Afterward, those who submitted the ideas – in collaboration with experts – refined them into tangible climate projects with widespread benefits during project workshops.
- Selection by a community jury
In each district, a representative community jury, chosen by lot, then decided which ideas should be implemented.
The implementation phase is currently underway. The City of Vienna is developing the selected projects over a span of two years. Each district was allocated approximately €20 per inhabitant for implementation.
The CitizenLab platform was instrumental during the idea submission process and in evaluating through project reports. All phases and information were easily traceable and accessible via the platform. Of course, the City also provided continuous updates about the project on the platform.
A blended approach to involve as many residents as possible in Vienna’s climate future
With its participatory project, Vienna aims to strengthen social justice and democracy on its path toward systemic climate protection. To ensure that all of Vienna’s social groups can participate in this significant endeavor, Vienna, is combining online and offline engagement.
Online: engagement platform and multi-channel awareness campaign
When it comes to digital engagement, Vienna’s residents are encouraged via different channels to participate on the CitizenLab participation platform. The effort invested in maintaining the (online) community pays off – with initiatives like the City of Vienna’s participation podcast, a dedicated newsletter, and an Instagram channel, among others, awareness about the project is widespread.
Offline: 50+ in-person activation and participation opportunities
Vienna is equally dedicated to offline engagement, offering a wide range of in-person activation and participation opportunities to maximize the reach of the project.
During the idea submission phase, over 50 events were organized, such as climate workshops, cooking classes, climate walks on various practical topics, etc. To support the work of so-called ‘multipliers’ – individuals and organizations in the districts organizing engagement opportunities – the team developed what they call a “Climate Team Box,” a playful yet educational guide for idea generation.
In addition to online submissions, Viennese residents could also submit their ideas to the City using paper idea cards, which were then uploaded to the platform by the engagement team.
Beyond these activation formats in the first phase, the City organized co-creation workshops with experts and idea submitters, and a jury of randomly selected community members played a crucial role in the subsequent phases.
What’s happening now?
While the 19 selected projects from the first project cycle are now in the implementation phase, the second cycle of the Vienna Climate Team is in full swing. Residents of the Mariahilf, Währing, and Floridsdorf districts contributed a whopping 1,365 climate action ideas, demonstrating residents’ continued enthusiasm and commitment.
Just like in the previous cycle, the submitted ideas are currently being evaluated for feasibility and will be further developed with the help of City experts.
Towards the end of 2023, a representative, randomly selected community jury will once again decide which ideas have the best potential to have an impact and decide which projects the City of Vienna should implement.
Vienna Climate Team: a model of innovative participation
The responsible city councilor, Jürgen Czernohorszky, along with his department, MA 20 – Energy Planning, were nominated for the Innovation in Politics Award for this project. Most recently, they were the proud recipients of the Austrian Administration Prize 2023.
City Councilor Jürgen Czernohorszky said in an official press release that “the Climate Team does not stop – as is often the case with participation processes – at the search for ideas or the awarding of the best idea. What is special about the Vienna Climate Team, is that we want to bring the ideas to life together with the people who came up with them. We do not only promote the participation of residents in projects that are important to them but also strengthen the trust of the Viennese in their administration.”
“In the pilot year already, we were able to reach many people who had never participated in engagement projects before. With the co-creation workshops, we have developed a new format in which residents can work on a project together with experts from the city for the first time”, project manager Wencke Hertzsch said in the same press release.
Inspiration: a powerful tool
Vienna’s Climate Team stands as a beacon for cities aiming to address the climate crisis, demonstrating an effective approach towards increased democracy, enhanced climate protection, and stronger social unity. The project provides valuable insights on how community members and governments can co-create solutions to complex challenges like climate change.
Yet, Vienna is not just a source of inspiration. It’s also a keen learner, drawing inspiration from innovative global practices like Lisbon’s Green Corridor, Paris’s green school roofs, or Amsterdam’s worm hotels.
How are you tackling climate change?
The Vienna Climate Team project has not only resulted in numerous innovative ideas for climate protection but has also shown how community engagement can play a crucial role in shaping a climate strategy. With the right platform and resources, residents can become active contributors to the creation of a more sustainable city.
If Vienna’s case inspired you to initiate your own journey with online engagement, or at least got you curious about what it can do for you, we’re here to help. Reach out and our engagement experts are happy to think along how you can engage your community members and make strides toward a more sustainable and inclusive future.
For more information on the project, you can also contact Vienna’s engagement team: City of Vienna, MA 20 – Energy Planning, Department Vienna Climate Team firstname.lastname@example.org