Vienna Charter (Vienna Charter)

Published on: 07/05/2013

There were 4 project phases among which 2 provided online participation:

1.     Collecting of topics (online and offline): 19 March to 1 April 2012;
and Analysis and presentation of topic clusters by the advisory committee: 13 April 2012

2.     Charter talks: 13 April to 14 October 2012

3.     Online discussion: 28 September to 14 October 2012

4.     Project conclusion and presentation of the Vienna Charter 27 November 2012

The Vienna Charter has been written in an open process, where the people of Vienna would determine the contents of the Vienna Charter text. Furthermore, this also needed certain rules in order to ensure the success of the process. As there are certain corner stones that are not open for discussion there have to be fundamental principles and clear rules that guide participants while interacting with others. Thus, the core document was based on fundamental and inalienable core elements of international legal norms and the Austrian Constitution, and was elaborated by a group of experts between May and September 2011. This core document laid its focus on democracy and the rule of law, human and fundamental rights, women’s and children’s rights, and its content cannot and shall not be called into question by any participant.

Next, there was established an advisory committee which should safeguard the key principles of the Vienna Charter: Transparency, openness, and credibility. Moreover, this advisory board had the duty to ensure that only the opinions and wishes of the Viennese would be reflected in all project phases. In order to accomplish this mission the advisory committee reflected the wide range of partner organisations and had various different backgrounds. In addition to this task it acted as an arbitration panel to resolve disputes. Subsequent, all organisations in Vienna were invited to become partners of the Vienna Charter and received an invitation letter from the Mayor and the Deputy Mayor.

After the launch of the Vienna Charter project, the citizens of Vienna first had the chance to hand in their topics that they expect important for good neighbourly relations. This suggestion process was scheduled to be either online or by phone. The online part was carried out by neu&kühn who were also moderating 24/7 the online forum on the website and ensured that all users respect the rules of the netiquette. Participants had the chance to define how the Viennese want to shape their neighbourly relations in Vienna.

Summing up, there were 2,649 comments, of which 1,848 topic suggestions were published. After the first phase the advisory committee organised the postings into three topic clusters with subtopics and presented these topics for discussion in the Charter talks.

Secondly, Charter talks were organised either by partner organisations and/or individuals. Anyone who wanted to organise a Charter talk could register it online or by phone at the Charter hotline. Organisers could then decide who to invite to the talks and the main topic for the discussion. 651 Charter talks were held in all districts of Vienna.

Thirdly, there was final online discussion on the website which was moderated by neu&kühn. Results of the Charter talks held were summarised and put online to enable further discussions.

Last but not least, the outcome of the Vienna Charter project was presented. Some 10,000 Viennese participated and were actively involved in developing the Vienna Charter online or offline. The project results were astonishing as the vast majority of the contributions and wishes overlapped strongly in several key issues. Those ideas were then assembled into the “Vienna Charter”, which was presented to the public as the result in a press conference on 27 November 2012.

Charta talks are continuing.

Source: Charta Vienna

Policy Context

The Vienna Charter is part of the Vienna coalition agreement of 2010 between the Social Democratic Party of Austria and the Green Party. In this settlement there is to be found a resolution towards implementing more projects in a participatory way. Thus there were carried out the “Vienna Charter” and the “Schwedenplatz” projects in 2012. The aim behind the participation projects is to include the public in shaping their own future.

The aim of the Vienna Charter was to establish a framework of soft rules and guidelines which shall lead towards ensuring the same high quality of living in Vienna like it is to be found today. All inhabitants of Vienna have to face new challenges as it is nowadays and in the near future similarly the case in other large cities in Europe. It is a fact that society becomes more heterogeneous due to growing internationalisation and a growing demographic, social, technological and economic change. Thus it is important how the members of a society deal with this phenomenon, how they interact with each other in everyday life. This is why the City of Vienna launched the Vienna Charter project. The Vienna Charter is an initiative that is unique in Europe. It will provide the framework for good neighbourly relations; moreover it actively promotes the dialogue between the citizens and builds solidarity.

Description of target users and groups

The target groups of the project Vienna Charter were primarily all inhabitants of Vienna and particularly those who are interested in sharing their ideas.

Technology solution

neu&kühn used Wordpress blog software for the online platform and adapted it with own plug-ins to enable comments and re-comments.

Technology choice: Open source software

Main results, benefits and impacts

Knowing that the city of Vienna will grow in future the city government of Vienna decided to ask its inhabitants how they expect their future living together. The response towards active participation was great.

Summing up, there were 2,649 comments, of which 1,848 topic suggestions were published. 765 postings were not published. The majority of these contained requests addressed to the political administrative levels and were forwarded to the competent departments. 36 comments were positive or negative feedback concerning the Vienna Charter in general. The suggestions received a total of 45,633 “likes”.

Providing more details:

  • 325 partner organisations took part,
  • 651 Charter talks in all districts of Vienna,
  • 8,500 participants invested more than
  • 12,500 hours in good neighbourly relations, and more than
  • 47,000 online contributions and likes were submitted

The outcome of the Vienna Charter is more than the sum of its parts – it is much more than just a simple text. It is what happened during the talks and is still happening: People have begun to approach each other or grown closer in Vienna; they have discussed together concrete initiatives and decided on steps for the future. To ensure full transparency the offline Charter group-talks results as well as the online discussions are stored online on the website

The UNHABITAT intergovernmental organisation honoured Vienna as the city with the highest quality of life. Especially mentioned was the project Vienna Charter which was also carried out by the city of Vienna together with neu&kühn and helped to get a better understanding of the city inhabitants’ wishes and perceptions.


Return on investment

Return on investment: Not applicable / Not available

Lessons learnt

Especially for this project Vienna Charter it was necessary to involve all different social groups, children and pensioners, Viennese born people as well as those immigrated in order to achieve a representative contribution and well accepted guidelines. This means that all sub-groups such children, adults and pensioners, or in their roles as school-children, students or employees have to be addressed to get representative results. These are our lessons learnt:

  1. There has been enormous public interest at the beginning of the first online phase in March 2012 and neu&kühn had to deal with up to 100 brought in topics per day. This level could not be upheld in the final two-week online discussion in September/October. We assume that many participants believed that they had participated sufficiently in March or in the Charta talk, thus they saw no need to do so in the final online discussion. Maybe the extensive offline part (Charta talks) overfulfilled its task and answered most of the open questions.
  2. It was very important to employ an independent moderation team. Especially as the Vienna Charter project involved partially delicate issues such as living together in a multicultural city, and the different perceptions of members of different generations may otherwise have led to conflicts. Each brought in comment was first checked regarding its compliance with all rules and the neu&kühn netiquette before it was published on the website
  3. It is necessary to include much more the youth. Regrettably, they hardly can be reached with the herein used offline and online measures.
Scope: Local (city or municipality)