CoP of City Deals

— Ministry of the Interior and Kingdom Relations (BZK)


When it comes to realizing large-scale social and economic transitions, there are no shortcuts. Without sustained cooperation, it’s probably impossible.

Year: 2018 - NOW
Client: Ministry of the Interior and Kingdom Relations.
Field: government

Together with:
Suzanne Potjer (program).
Hamid Sallali (design)

Enter City Deals: collaborative practices of working towards brave new worlds, initiated by alinences of city governments, ministries, and private and public organisations. Each 'deal’ addresses bold urban challenges: climate adaptation, circular construction, cyber crime resilience, or securing democratic values in ‘smart cities’, to name just a few. What’s more, City Deals have to move, at lightspeed, from experimental innovation into lasting structural change – all within a four-year turnaround.

That’s why the City Deals program needed a solid support structure. Our assignment  – to develop a ‘Community of Practice’ – provided a foundation for this: a space to find better solutions. Not only for these vast problems, but also for how to work together to solve them.

First and foremost, that meant building and maintaining a community: an ongoing program with meetups, excursions and thematic workshops – whatever it took to strengthen social ties, and to figure out what needed to be learned to do it better. That also meant bringing relevant inspiration and expertise from the outside in: from philosophy, design, urban planning and beyond. All towards developing the craft and practice of City Deals, navigating the complexity of social transition together, across multiple levels of policy.


And all the while, it was also essential that this learning wasn’t lost along the way – that the process didn’t lose steam, and that new lessons became part of future practice. To track these meetings of minds, you had to publish – and publish fast. We decided that we couldn’t afford to wait, that it had to be put down on paper, as it happened. Borrowing from DIY culture, we churned out materials halfway between conventional reports and independent zines – quick, bold, accessible magazines with engaging and communicative design. Altogether giving substance to new ideas, a unifying voice and a visual identity – and a concrete way of constantly improving the City Deal method.

Ultimately, the CoP is an ongoing experiment in building communities, bringing people together, improving social impact, and sharing the results. For what comes of that, the sky’s the limit – but the learning is there in bold for whoever, and whatever, comes next.