What is special about the strategy Gemeinsam Digital: Berlin?

A strategy by, with and for the city

By Anne Kruse and Niklas Kossow

If you’ve been following CityLAB Berlin over the past few years, you can’t have missed out on one point: our team was commissioned by the Berlin Senate Chancellery to work on Berlin’s new Smart City strategy! We were not alone in this: many of you joined us in developing the strategy through the participation process we organized with Politics for Tomorrow – in fact more than 2,000 Berliners were involved in total. The strategy has since been completed and was officially adopted by the Berlin Senate at its first reading on January 20, 2022. Since the strategy has been a joint effort, we’re now working together to implement it, too. But what exactly does it consist of? We’ve taken apart the 50-page strategy paper for you and present five special features of Gemeinsam Digital: Berlin (GD:B for short).

1: GD:B is not a specialized strategy but an enabler for Berlin’s existing goals.

In developing GD:B, we looked at Berlin’s existing strategies. We took a particularly close look at the Berlin Strategy 3.0 – which combines numerous strategies specific to Berlin. Together with experts in the area of smart city and digitalization, we looked for smart approaches to implement Berlin’s urban strategy goals more quickly. As a result, GD:B doesn’t set its own targets for climate protection, for example, but picks up on existing political targets and analyzes how these can be achieved more quickly using technologies, new methods or digital approaches.

2: GD:B was developed with the involvement of the entire urban community and is aligned with Berlin’s needs.

From the very beginning, we pursued the goal of developing the details of the strategy together with the entire urban community. We worked with five groups in particular. Initially these were Berlin residents – especially so-called silent groups – the administration, organized civil society, the business community and academia. In the second phase, we also set up a Municipal Committee and an Administration Forum. In doing this we wanted to make sure that the diversity of Berlin was fully represented. For more about our approach to participation, see here.

3: A multitude of actors from the urban community are involved in jointly implementing GD:B.

We didn’t just develop the strategy together with the entire urban community: we want to get lots of actors involved in implementing it, too. The Berlin administration has a key role to play here: it is responsible for a lot of the measures and will take care of implementing them. The aim here is to initiate a shift in culture towards more cross-departmental and cross-level collaboration. Unlike many other strategies, however, GD:B doesn’t make the administration solely responsible for everything. Other actors such as those from civil society and the business world can implement measures at their own initiative, too. All stakeholders come together regularly to see if certain projects really are contributing to achieving the strategy’s goals. Likewise, the idea is for everyone to learn from the experience and also receive methodological support from a support team, for example. We at CityLAB Berlin are part of this team.  

4: GD:B already includes governance, a participatory implementation concept, measures and a system for success monitoring. 

Unlike many other strategies, this one doesn’t just describe the broader values and goals of the strategy. The text itself contains an approach to governance, a participatory implementation concept, initial measures and an approach to monitoring success. The measures will initially serve to lay the foundations for the digitalization of Berlin providing ways of testing the strategy’s methods. In the course of implementation, we will be testing whether the planned procedure works – and we will adapt it if necessary. Since GD:B is an amalgamation of the Smart City Strategy and the Digital Strategy for Berlin, we also draw on the approaches used by the former Digital Strategy. From the outset, we have been guided by principles of humble governance. This means that we always establish a general consensus before subsequently offering individual actors a great deal of freedom to make their own decisions during implementation. The most important thing is that all measures must be based on a common set of values: the city is to be geared towards the public benefit, sustainable, cooperative and resilient.

A brief summary of the values of the Smart City Strategy that have been incorporated in the strategy Gemeinsam Digital: Berlin.

5: GD:B is a learning strategy that is renewed on a regular basis.

We’ve learned from the past and we’re aware that strategies quickly become obsolete if they fail to adapt to new developments. For this reason, GD:B is a learning strategy. At regular intervals, we work with all the actors involved to review what is working well and what has to be changed. This means that learning experiences are gathered once a year and the strategy is adapted if necessary.

On this basis, we now want to go ahead with implementation – with your involvement. The Chief Digital Officer of the state is officially responsible for implementing the strategy. The first pilot projects have already been launched and further measures are being developed in a participatory manner: in consultation with experts and with the involvement of the public. There are regular calls for participation on the website Gemeinsam Digital: Berlin. These give you the opportunity to submit new ideas for measures on the ideas platform, the “Arena of Ideas”. Now that the strategy has been officially adopted, you can find the entire text of Gemeinsam Digital: Berlin here. 

Will you join us? We look forward to taking the next steps with you: after all, the digital and sustainable transformation of Berlin can only succeed if we all work together!