Interview: The Sustainable City Collaborator Roman Mendle – Expertise and advocacy for urban transition partnerships

Published April 2018
Roman Mendle © ICLEI

ICLEI acts as “cooperation architect” for sustainable cities: you recently launched the Urban Transitions Alliance with 11 cities from the U.S., Europe and China. Which building blocks do urban transition partnerships require to be successful?

Urban transitions are the continuous process of change that cities are subject to, but that they can also steer towards normative goals such as urban sustainability and quality of life. One key building block is connecting community actors with multiple departments and utilities, civil society, researchers, other knowledge owners, entrepreneurs, etc. Co-defining a joint vision – serving as a compass of shared values – is a second major building block. A third one: identifying potential to leverage opportunities in the interest of all. A more comprehensive concept than a business case.

As CEOs of cities, mayors are a key focus of your advocacy efforts for sustainable cities. Which incentive mechanisms are effective at turning mayors into pioneering citymakers?

Mayors are actually very different from CEOs. They are advocating for and keepers of their constituency’s wellbeing for present and future generations. Citizens cannot be compared to employees or users. Cities are homes, not enterprises. there are many things we can support pioneering mayors: from making their voices heard to supporting them in financing and implementing ambitious local campaigns.

When speaking about sus- tainable cities in China and Europe, are we talking about the same when we say the same?

Despite many differences – paradigms, operational frameworks, circumstances – I would like to stress that we share fundamental values. the global sustainability agenda is an example. The laws of nature, scientific facts, basic human needs and environmental realities are the same everywhere. Collaboration will only be difficult if we allow ourselves to deviate from these shared realities in our thinking by buying into stereotypes or creating assumptions before we try to understand the actual meaning behind the words we both say.

If you could suggest one type of project for CITYMAKERS China – Germany, what would that be?

An advanced capacity development program for experienced practitioners in Sino-German relations that further breaks down stereotypes, develops active listening skills and opens minds for other ways of thinking about or looking at urban realities.

Roman Serdar Mendle is a sustainability scientist and China expert who is the Smart Cities Program Manager at ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability. His team enables the 1,500 cities in the ICLEI network to navigate the smart cities space by applying a critical sustainability lens, creating collaboration and knowledge exchange opportunities for cities across the globe. The ICLEI China office, for which Roman serves as a liaison person, was established and registered in 2018 in Beijing.

roman.mendle@iclei.de / www.iclei.org
ICLEI in China: eastasia.iclei.org/about/iclei-china.html ICLEI, iclei-china@iclei.org

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