Designing growth for the municipality of Kolding

Developing a new vision

More people moved away from the municipality than to it, building plots took ages to sell and the citizens ranked the municipality the least attractive in the region to live in. The challenges were clear in early 2012 when we started working with Kolding Kommune. We developed a unique vision for the municipality to drive growth in the area by building on authentic local strengths and potentials. Kolding Kommune now has a vision about designing life and increasing population for four years in a row is just one of the ways the new focus is driving growth in the area.

Identity mapping

To develop a meaningful vision for Kolding, we started by exploring what Kolding is today. Through anthropological fieldwork in the area we identified authentic strengths and potentials about the area and the municipality to build upon in a new vision. The thorough analysis of the culture and structural characteristic of Kolding guided the process and set the direction for scenarios for the future of Kolding.

Understanding the identity, strengths and potentials of an entire city and area requires a strong focus. We employ a framework we developed to identify authentic strengths in three key areas: We look at the historic aspects, the reflexive aspects and the expressive aspects of the area. Using this as a lens we dived deep into the local culture, expressions, and structural characteristics and try to understand what sets this area apart from others. Through participatory observations and interview with residents, local business owners, groups of volunteers and other representatives from the area we spent weeks in Kolding.

The analysis of the authentic strengths was something that really resonated — it really felt true for Kolding Jørn Pedersen
Mayor, Kolding Kommune

We identified five key authentic strengths and potentials in Kolding Kommune. Each based both on being true for Kolding and the people living in the municipality and something that sets Kolding apart from other cities and areas in Denmark.

 

  1. Design. There is a strong presence of design in the city and a rich history for design. Not only through Designskolen Kolding but also through a shared history and focus on design.
  2. Education & knowledge. Kolding has s strong presence of educational offers compared to it size. It’s unusual for a city the size of Kolding and a strength for the entire area.
  3. Entrepreneurship & entrepreneurial spirit. There is plenty of businesses in Kolding but unlike other cities in the region, it’s mostly smaller companies — a result of an entrepreneurial spirit in the city.
  4. Volunteering. Kolding Municipality have in many years been the municipality that had the heights budget for local volunteering and sports clubs. The idea of volunteering runs deep in the culture.
  5. Culture & attractions. There is a rich theater and music scene in Kolding and other offers specifically for families with children and older residents.

Having the five authentic strengths to build on, not only ensures the visions is unique for Kolding, but also that it resonates with businesses, politicians and residents in the area.

Scenarios for the future

Building on the five authentic strengths identified in the previous step of the project, we developed three scenarios for future of Kolding. Building scenarios based on strengths makes the decision about the future of the area more concrete and tangible. The authentic strengths about design in Kolding was both unique and runs deep in the area. We therefore developed three different scenarios with this strengths combined with three other strengths:

  1. Design + Education & knowledge
  2. Design + Entrepreneurship & entrepreneurial spirit
  3. Design + Volunteering

The scenarios for the future of Kolding was used as the foundation for discussions for the direction of the new vision. Based on data from the mapping of authentic strengths each scenarios was richly described. In an event for the municipality and local thought leaders, the scenarios was discussed and unpacked.

We designed a series of activities and games to be used at the event for though leaders to facilitate the discussion on the scenarios.

Discussion about potential implications of a scenario is guide with a game we developed that let participant take a trip around the future Kolding. Using a gamified discussion activity not only made the discussions more concrete but also increased engagement. Another activity to support the unpacking and discussion of scenarios was having participants give a talk as the future mayor of Kolding.

Having ways to talk about the future of the area in tangible ways created a clear picture of consequences and opportunities in each strategic direction. By making consequences and opportunities clear we facilitated a much more informed decision about what a new vision could mean for Kolding Kommune.

Vision symposium

A vision for an area with almost 90.000 residents can not —and should not— be decided by the local politicians alone. As part of the process to develop a new vision, Kolding Kommune and Stagis invited 600 local residents to join the discussion and evaluate visions for Kolding Kommune.

A new vision for Kolding would have an impact on the local residents and business. As such, it was important to ensure everybody in the area had an opportunity to influence the decision about the new vision. The process was designed around participation of the people in the area and we made sure they had a real impact on the decision about the new vision.

Event for 600 local residents

Deciding on a new vision is no small task and requires deep discussions and we therefore involved the local community by inviting them to an event. More than 600 local residents and representatives for business, sport organizations, and interest groups showed up to discuss the future of Kolding.

The authentic strengths formed the basis for discussions and presentations. Each of the scenarios for Kolding was presented and the participants had ample time to discuss the impact they could see for each and the opportunities they felt the strongest for.

I’m really glad we decided to work with Stagis and not just go with a local agency. I’m glad we stuck with our authentic strengths and use design thinking throughout the process. I don’t think we could have gotten to the result we did with other agencies. Jørn Pedersen
Mayor, Kolding Kommune

We designed the event so that everybody could join the discussion. Throughout the presentations at the event, participants could join the discussion and pose question through text messages.

Through narratives and props, the possible directions for Kolding came to life for the participants. Participants were invited to talk about what the visions would mean in their everyday life in the area and make descriptions, consequences and opportunities for the strategic directions even richer. 

We designed a process where all participants at the event was invited to evaluated the strategic directions on a number of parameters. The evaluations formed the basis for the final decision about the vision by the city council.

Together we design the possibilities for a better life, through entrepreneurship, social development, education, and knowledge. Vision for Kolding (abridged)

Communication

We developed a communication strategy for Kolding based on highlighting the authentic strengths and the vision about design. When the vision builds on the existing potentials and strengths for the area it becomes meaningful to use when communicating in the area and to the rest of Denmark.

The fact that we can identify with the vision — our visions is forming our identity — the way we think and the way we present ourself to others —makes it strong. Thomas Boe
By og Udvikling, Kolding Kommune

Communication about the process

The process to develop the new visions was also used to create a focus on Kolding and the development in Kolding. Not only did we work to inform the local citizens about the process through press work, we also worked to create regional and national focus. Several aspects of the process created natural starting points for working with local and national press about the development happening i Kolding.

The fieldwork where local politicians emerged themselves in the local community with us was a good starting point that we used to generate stories in national and regional newspapers. The scale of the event for local residents and business was also the basis for national and regional news stories as well as several other key activities in the process.

Vision implications

The vision of Kolding is designing life — to use design methods to improve life through entrepreneurship, social development and education. Doing so builds on authentic strengths for the area and sets a direction for the development of the municipality and the area.

As part of the process to develop a new vision, we facilitated a number of workshops for employees and management in the municipality to identify areas to implement the vision. We developed ten projects that would work as beacons for the new vision — ten projects that requires a longterm focus. In combination with this, the workshops with employees and managements identified a range of smaller projects across all existing work areas in the municipality. Based on these projects, the vision had implications from the very beginning and a several long-term areas to focus on.

The new vision have had a huge impact on the way we are organized in Kolding Kommune Ulrik Jungersen
Designchef, Kolding Kommune

Based on the vision, Kolding established a design department in the municipality that works to implement the vision and the development across the municipality. Thousands of employees in the municipality have been trained in design methods, design methods have been used to improve the service in the municipality.

Kolding have seen an increasing population size since the introduction of the new vision and building plots are selling faster than ever. That’s just two of the indication of how Kolding benefited from a new focus based on the strengths and potentials found in the area.