Guus Beumer presenteert de plannen in de Kazerne
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In an interview with Councillor Mary-Ann Schreurs and Director Guus Beumer of Het Nieuwe Instituut earlier this week, e52 dug deeper into the city’s search for a “new local society”. Read on to find out more about this aim, its intentions and its background in the City of Eindhoven’s own words.

(source: City of Eindhoven press release)

On 1 June, Het Nieuwe Instituut and the city of Eindhoven launched a multiyear cultural programme for 2015–2017 focusing on the changing relationship between government and citizens. The national institute and local authority are partnering out of a shared belief in the need for a multidisciplinary vision of urban development. The Eindhoven city council views the changing social contract between government and citizens as partly a cultural issue. And Het Nieuwe Instituut values local field-testing of research into the changing, increasingly interlocking design disciplines it represents.

The smart city meets the participatory society

Linda Vlassenrood of Het Nieuwe Instituut and the International New Town Institute will act as programme manager. Eindhoven’s culture alderman Mary-Ann Schreurs and Het Nieuwe Instituut director Guus Beumer will be responsible for its content.

Proud city

Eindhoven aims to be many things – a smart, healthy, caring, innovative and, above all, adaptive city. Thanks to its rapid rebirth after the withdrawal of industry in the 1990s, it’s an ambitious, proud place. Like many Dutch cities, Eindhoven faces change on several fronts: the welfare state is making way for the participatory society, and state power is shifting to the cities, which, with more than 60 per cent of the population, are the premier sites of innovation and economic power.

These transitions call for administrative reform: essentially, democracy must be reinvented.

After all, government increasingly shares its duties with business, research institutions, and most of all citizens. Eindhoven profiles itself as a technology, design and knowledge hub. New technologies with a high social impact – the smart city, the Internet of Things, learning algorithms, robotics – are everywhere. Yet society lacks the understanding or vocabulary to truly fathom the implications of such advances for urban, social and political life. For example, how can technology be used to solve problems in society?

Participatory society

Eindhoven’s twofold ambition to be a smart city in a participatory society poses an exciting range of conflicts and yet-to-be-named benefits. Het Nieuwe Instituut will facilitate the search for these benefits and pose a fundamental question that is simple in essence yet complex in practice: why, how, and with whom will Eindhoven’s citizens contribute to building a smart city? The institute will marshal its national and international network, partner with local parties, and bring relevant actors together in order to open and guide a conversation and generate the knowledge needed. Het Nieuwe Instituut will also gather information and salient viewpoints and present them to the public in an interactive manner. Scholars, thinkers, designers, administrators and citizens will therefore be able to work together to create the shared knowledge Eindhoven needs.

Three Questions

Het Nieuwe Instituut and the city of Eindhoven’s partnership in 2015–2017 will focus on three questions and their ethical implications.

  1. How can the social contract between government and citizens be redesigned in line with the idea of a participatory society? We will look at the position of the government as well as that of citizens vis-à-vis each other in considering this question.
  2. How will the new social contract affect the urban infrastructure and vice versa? To answer this question, we will look at Eindhoven’s smart city practices, in which IT and technology define a new spatial reality alongside the tangible public domain. This question directly relates to Eindhoven’s transformational practices in areas such as health, mobility, energy, education, water and light and links them with concepts such as co-creation, open data and design thinking.
  3. How can the changing relationship between government, business and citizens play out productively in a participatory society? What will be the place of citizen initiatives alongside the classical top-down model, and which new hybrid forms of government and self-organisation will they give rise to?