Governance for Sustainable and Just Cities — Looking back at the “Berlin” Arena

Sophia Silverton
Blog on Sustainable Just Cities
3 min readApr 1, 2021


Over 60 city-makers gathered in a virtual “Berlin” in March to learn, discuss, and dance to the tune of ‘Governance for Sustainable and Just Cities’. Here, ‘governance’ refers to all the formal and informal political processes (involving communities, civil society, public, and private actors) that aim to enable and direct collective action.

What an ambitious and engaging two days it was!

Things got off to an electric start in conversation with BürgerEnergie Berlin about citizens’ involvement in the city’s energy provision. The virtual plenary was then whisked away to the city streets, where members of Changing Cities shared their journey advocating for equitable public space and mobility.

Opening presentation on governance by Philipp Späth, and interview with Boris Gotchev, from BürgerEnergie Berlin
Interview with Denis Petri and Isabell Eberlein from Changing Cities

Accompanied shortly after by founders of Berlin’s new Donut Economics initiative in a Q&A session, these examples helped to kick off the next days’ discussions about similar experiences or challenges that participants had faced in their own work.

In a series of small-group conversations, participants related collectively to the Berlin examples. They also reflected on a deck of six ‘Enabling Governance Arrangements’, provided by the University of Freiburg. These arrangements are actor constellations and institutional settings that have been identified as being supportive of initiatives for sustainable and just cities. As more general patterns that are grounded in real-world examples, their themes were also present in the Berlin initiatives, and naturally resonated with participants.

Jakob Kramer and the University of Freiburg team present the Enabling Governance Arrangements

To push the governance topic further, day two stepped up to the challenge of learning between cities. Curious to learn more about the merits and difficulties of translocal learning? Check out the presentation, below:

Sophia Silverton presents on learning between cities

To illustrate this topic, Donut for Berlin shared their story as an emerging initiative that is actively learning from Donut economics projects in other cities like Amsterdam. Meanwhile, others talked in groups about how they best learn from other places, and what kinds of support is needed for this type of learning.

Listening session with Nicole Hartmann and Georg Georg Wagener-Lohse from Donut for Berlin

To wrap up the two days, Georg Wagener-Lohse from Donut for Berlin shared his reflections on the Arena:

Final reflections on the “Berlin” Arena

Then, in one final group effort, everyone donned their creative and concrete ‘thinking caps’ to brainstorm specific actions that could be taken to improve governance for sustainable and just cities.

These ideas, along with insights from group discussions throughout the Arena, will feed into the exciting next stage of UrbanA: creating an agenda for sustainable and just cities.

Thanks to all the participants for your positive energy, and deep and productive conversations! Stay tuned for a more in-depth analysis of the “Berlin” Arena contributions in an upcoming blog post.

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