In Rotterdam, the aim of the Open4Citizens pilot is to support the self-management of public parks utilizing open data and by strengthening the collaboration between the Municipality and civic initiatives. This theme instantiates the transformation towards participatory city governance and involvement of active citizenship in city planning and organisation. The sphere of a public park offers an opportunity to embrace multiple aspects of potential citizen engagement, as even one single park permits coexistence of heterogeneous types of shared citizen initiatives. This provides an opportunity to study, compare, and stimulate a variety of citizen initiatives within one case study theme. Specific topics found in a public park include provision of space for shared social activities (such as gardening, social meetings, events, and leisure activities), health-related initiatives (such as improvement of air-quality, or sports, healthy lifestyle and outdoor activities), cultural and cross-cultural initiatives (such as festivals and cultural integration), heritage initiatives (such as promoting and spreading awareness of the history of the city), or stimulating engagement of citizens in city developments (such as area redevelopment plans). The overlap of aforementioned topics and introduction of new ones originating from citizens’ needs provides additional opportunities for innovative solutions.
The Municipality of Rotterdam has embraced the “Right to Challenge” as part of their transformed governance structure aiming to enhance a participation society. The Right to Challenge (www.righttochallenge.nl) is a shared initiative of Dutch local municipalities aimed at encouraging citizens to challenge their municipalities. This initiative was initially focused on topics related to citizen health and well-being, but is currently being extended to a multitude of domains of interest where citizen activism takes place. In keeping with the spirit of the Right to Challenge, we focus on the self-management of public parks. Questions already expressed by involved parties relate to better articulation of the social and financial value of social engagement in initiatives around public parks in order to be able to challenge the public administration. What are the costs of green maintenance of a park, how do you put the available resources as efficiently as possible, which business models are available? But also, how can more volunteers be involved in the park initiatives, how to improve communications and to keep it self-sustaining?
In the context of this theme, various green initiatives join forces in a new initiative called ‘green care ribbon’ (De Groene Connectie). The ‘green ribbon’ aims to elaborate upon existing initiatives by connecting the parks and green initiatives, and to transform them into a green belt around the city, while extending the collaboration with institutions dealing with care and well-being.
The project partners in Rotterdam: