Transition towards urban sustainability through socially integrative cities in the EU and in China


1. Purpose(s)

The CoC platform is an enabling infrastructure for community building. It supports existing ones, and attempts to offer customized services for citizens, urban authorities’ representatives, real estate developers, private business owners, public service providers, etc.

The purpose of the CoC online platform is to enable the collection, integration, and analysis of data of transformative knowledge that represents fundamental issues emerging in new and existing urban environments with reference to the governance of urban planning and urban growth processes.

The technical tools (see list in box 1) are built-in on the platform in order to encourage engagement of community members, saving the data and information that are created in the process of stakeholders’ engagement.

Innovative methodologies (see list in box 2)  are also used by community leaders in order to stimulate the circulation of ideas and keep the community engaged.

Key Words: Engagement, communities, stakeholders, sharing knowledge, open discourse online, analyze, decision makers

2. Relevance and Impact

  • The CoC platform enables new connections between a variety of local and global stakeholders that foster innovation, cooperation and creativity. These new connections supported the decision-making ability of stakeholders and enabled feedback on the various activities within the ULL’s. During the project the platform was used to support joint summer school of European and Chinese students, online workshops for Chinese citizens and Knowledge Cafe at the Tianjin ULL. In these the CoC is used mostly to preserve knowledge and enable further discussion after the official event has ended. 

  • On the municipal level the CoC as a concept can help to engage citizens, support them and their needs and enable the decision makers to make smarter decisions. During the project we learned from a Tel Aviv case study and tried to understand their key success factors in the implementation of the DigiTel. During the project, a number of activities were created inspired by Tel Aviv, and stakeholders from China and Europe have expressed interest in this type of platform in their cities but the CoC has not been tested at the municipal level and on a large scale in the project.

  • The platform enables the collection, integration, and analysis of data of transformative knowledge, supporting the solution of fundamental issues concerning the governance of urban planning and growth processes.

3. Strenghts

Online communities have become part of the daily routine and are used to consult, study, and explore new topics with a variety of interest groups and people with whom there are common aims.

These communities that are formed around different interests, common identities or needs, enable everyone to express, explore, study and develop ideas both at the personal and professional level, locally and globally and across sectors and cultures.

In addition to creating online communities for connecting a group of people who share some common interest, an online community can also serve as a supportive framework for specific and unforeseen activities. For example: global companies wanting to connect workers from all over the world, etc., during the lock-down at the outbreak of the Coronavirus.

Operating successfully a community requires a lot of focus and investment - especially when it comes to a new community. In the following sections there are some hints for a successful and wise CoC implementation.

4. Weaknesses

Traffic: When setting up a new platform there is a difficulty in involving the people in the first stage of the community and in securing their involvement on an ongoing basis.

Technical issues: When working in multiple countries and on several platforms, unexpected technical problems can arise, e.g., the Chinese Firewall may prevent the launching of the platform so that alternative solutions must be developed.

Plan: To face the challenge of unforeseen problems, there must be a work plan including alternative schedules. In addition, some preliminary research may also help to summarize all options – pondering their advantages and disadvantages, and finding which one is deemed to be the best one.

Technical team: It is most important to engage a reliable technical team that commands the necessary technical capabilities.

Cross-cultural differences: Beyond the differences in time zones and working days between different countries, it is also important to take into account conversation topics, content and issues that some people from different cultures may consider not worthy or inappropriate to discuss. The community manager must be sensitive and fully aware of these issues, and it could also be necessary to delete some contents occasionally.

5. Good practice examples

One of the best examples of digital transportation that is reflected in an online community platform is the Tel Aviv (map) case study of the DigiTel Residents Club.

The DigiTel Residents Club is a personalized web and mobile communication platform which provides residents with individually tailored, location-specific information and services. The platform facilitates a direct and holistic connection between the city and residents.

This smart application for online public participation brings value to both the residents and the municipality (a win-win smart solution). The residents share their personal data voluntarily to get services and benefits in return. The online platform can support an existing community and sometimes even to establish new little communities of interests under the umbrella of the main one.

The benefits of the application as mentioned in Tel Aviv municipality website are the following:

DigiTel Resident Card Advantages and Benefits

  • Discounts at Tel-Aviv’s numerous culture, sports, arts and recreation facilities.

  • Live updates about what's happening in the city, adapted to the personal interests: culture, music and/or art events, health and lifestyle, sports, children’s activities and much more.

  • Live updates about what is going on in the vicinity of one’s address and announcements about community events and the blocking and restoration and construction of streets/areas.

During the Covid-19 pandemics the municipality needed to provide targeted added value to the residents in order to face the crisis-specific problems. Therefore, Tel Aviv has used the family features on the platform, e.g., in the section where residents can report scooters blocking the sidewalk, they could also report on necessary aid for elderly people. Tel Aviv also tried to embrace the innovation and startup community to help them to solve coronavirus issues. One of these applications is Tribio that was adapted by the department of education in Tel Aviv: They could activate 1,000 volunteers that use the app and try to help others. Another activity was an international virtual Hackathon that lasted for 72 hours and invited solutions to support SMEs in Tel Aviv during this tough time. All solutions became accessible for use by any country that participated in the Hackathon, and all startups got the chance to make connections and get feedback from experts from all over the world.

This example has presented the impacts that online communities may have on the residents and on the decision makers in case they know how to use it in a win-win way.

6. Further helpful study material

7. References

Anthopoulos, L., Fitsilis, P., 2010. From Online to Ubiquitous Cities: The Technical Transformation of Virtual Communities, in: Sideridis, A.B., Patrikakis, C.Z. (Eds.), Next Generation Society. Technological and Legal Issues. Springer Berlin Heidelberg, Berlin, Heidelberg, pp. 360–372.

Pasher, E., Pross, G., Kushnir, U., Neeman, Y., 2017. Tel Aviv: A Renaissance Revival in the Making, in: Formica, P. (Ed.), Entrepreneurial Renaissance: Cities Striving Towards an Era of Rebirth and Revival, Innovation, Technology, and Knowledge Management. Springer International Publishing : Imprint: Springer, Cham.

Pasher, E., Ronen, T., 2011. The complete guide to knowledge management: a strategic plan to leverage your company’s intellectual capital. John Wiley, Hoboken, N.J.

Perry, B., Patel, Z., Bretzer, Y.N., Polk, M., 2018. Organising for Co-Production: Local Interaction Platforms for Urban Sustainability. Polit. Gov. 6, 189–198.

8. Author(s) of the article

Wu Zhiqiang, Cao Buyang, Otthein Herzog, Edna Pasher, and Lee Sharir