The City of Ghent is working towards a ‘City of People’

The City of Ghent initiates a co-creation process to look for innovative solutions to the complex social challenges of the city's future.

The City of Ghent is making resources available for a co-creation process to look for innovative solutions to the complex social challenges of the city's future. Participation and co-creation (by and with residents, associations, businesses, knowledge institutions and so on) play a key role. An initial pilot project focusing on ‘increasing social participation in care’ will start at the beginning of 2018. On Thursday 7 December 2017, the city’s mayor and councillors earmarked 250,000 euros for this process, and presented this to the city council.

Ghent currently has almost 260,000 residents. In addition, there are 74,000 students and 95,000 ‘Ghent users’ (such as people who work in Ghent but do not live there). The numbers keep growing every year, which results in many ideas as well as many challenges for the future of the city.

Under the name ‘City of People’, the City of Ghent, along with Ghent's residents and other stakeholders – citizens, government, businesses, citizens’ organisations and knowledge institutions – is looking for innovative solutions to meet these challenges.

This is not (always) about the biggest technological innovations, but about ideas that offer concrete solutions to complex social challenges. The participation and co-creation that are characteristic of Ghent will be central. The City of Ghent aims to utilise and scale up the innovative ideas that citizens, businesses and knowledge and research institutions come up with.

The City of Ghent, Digipolis and Ghent's Public Centre for Social Welfare have joined forces with Ghent University for an exploratory study into the design of this co-creation process. Ghent University has provided the City of Ghent with a partner that places high value on social engagement and wants to take academia outside the campus walls. At the start of 2018, all the important city stakeholders will be brought together in this ‘City of People’ project, to launch the first pilot project into ‘increasing social participation in care’. In this co-creation project, people from Ghent will also be asked about other challenges for the future, and projects will be started with all city partners and stakeholders in response to these challenges.

More social participation in care

Welfare and healthcare face a great number of challenges that will be difficult to resolve without help from the wider community. For example, an ageing population means a growing demand for care, so there is a risk of professional help becoming unaffordable. But the outcome does not necessarily have to be negative.

The City of Ghent and the Public Centre for Social Welfare are putting great effort into ‘neighbourhood and neighbourly care’. We also notice that the care that is offered by family, friends, neighbours, etc., is often particularly appreciated. Yet people find that there are lots of obstacles that prevent them from asking for help or offering help. This is why we need to think hard about our approach and the alternatives.

The City of Ghent therefore intends to mobilise its stakeholders, for example through innovative technology and social innovation, to offer a better framework and support for people who need care, care providers, informal carers and volunteers. In the pilot project, attempts will be made to find a better match between supply and demand when it comes to care, as well as increasing social capital and the active participation of people from Ghent who are receiving care.