Sustainable district development through civic engagement

A considerable proportion of the harmful CO2 emissions that occur nowadays are produced in built-up urban areas. That is why the DoNaPart research project (short for “Dortmund sustainable participation” in German) is focusing on citizens’ lifestyles, an area which has particularly high potential for climate protection. By trialling and investigating various approaches based on empowerment and participation, DoNaPart is making a significant contribution to climate protection and to increasing the quality of life in the Westerfilde and Bodelschwingh districts of Dortmund.

The DoNaPart project – “psychological and communal empowerment through participation in sustainable urban reconstruction”, coordinated by Prof. Marcel Hunecke at Dortmund University of Applied Sciences, – aims to promote climate-friendly, sustainable behaviour and the economical use of resources by means of practical projects. The DoNaPart project is being run in collaboration with the Wuppertal Institute, the Research Institute for Regional and Urban Development and the project entitled “North of the city of Dortmund”, and is investigating the extent to which performative participatory approaches and projects can make a concrete contribution to climate protection and sustainable urban reconstruction. To this end, DoNaPart targets the residents of the Bodelschwingh and Westerfilde districts with campaigns and initiatives such as a cabinet for exchanging books and other items, a free radio network, a public bicycle repair shop and an energy saving competition.

Engine for progress:

  • Sustainability as a participatory project leads to quality of life and empowerment
  • Acceptance of climate-related measures
  • Research in the neighbourhood’s “real-world laboratory”
  • Recommendations for action for municipalities, policy makers and civil society

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Photo: Project DoNaPart

The DoNaPart project takes part in local events in the project area to present its ideas, as seen here at the summer fair in the Westerfilde district of Dortmund. Citizens are invited to participate: how about a delivery bike for the neighbourhood?

Encouraging more climate protection

The main goal of these initiatives is to increase the individual responsibility and empowerment of citizens and local stakeholders in order to achieve a sustainable impact. A temporary project office was set up in the neighbourhood, where the project team is present twice a week. The local residents were involved in a range of activities, such as bicycle flea markets and planting initiatives in the Bürgergarten public park. In implementing these measures, the particular challenge is to go beyond passive acceptance on the part of the residents and instead activate personal commitments to sustainable development. Using a multi-stage procedure, the project team evaluates the processes used to involve citizens in these initiatives in terms of their success and their compatibility for different target groups.

Approaches to increase civic engagement

The project relies on interdisciplinary and innovative approaches to address the district’s residents. Amongst other things, the “bus shelter for one day” initiative was implemented in response to the lack of covered bus shelters in the district. In collaboration with a local nursery school, children were trained as “power saving detectives”. An exchange cupboard was set up in the entrance hall of the project office. Overall, it is hoped that the hands-on activities will take on a longer-term perspective and promote a sense of community. A total of 12 initiatives were implemented in the fields of energy, mobility and consumption.

Photo: Project DoNaPart

“We hope that DoNaPart will empower citizens to participate in shaping their own neighbourhood in order to improve local quality of life through community action.”

Florian Keppler, North of the city of Dortmund project

Partners and sponsors

  • Federal Ministry of Education and Research