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May 16, 2014

SEiSMiC Focus Group Stage Wraps Up

SEiSMiC Focus Group Stage Wraps Up

The SEiSMiC project's first stage, comprising the organisation of focus groups on urban challenges and the potential for joint work to address them, wrapped up this month, laying the groundwork for the formation of national working groups in SEiSMiC's 10 countries.

SEiSMiC has introduced a new concept of joint work between people of a wide range of ages, disciplines and cultures. Because of the project's innovative nature, it started with an exploratory activity in order to see how people in each country could become involved. The focus groups were intended to establish the basic details of each national network, including:

  • the stakeholder mix required at local level
  • the mix of disciplines based on the experts involved
  • the mix of generations (teenagers, adults, elderly people) and genders
  • the expected outcome of network activities

As expected, the process was different in each country. In Turkey, three cities were identified for the formation of networks, and based on feedback so far the most eager project participants will be from the smallest city. People in small cities aren't involved in other networking activities and EU projects and are therefore more eager to take part in SEiSMiC, explained Turkish network organiser Tuzin Baycan, professor of Urban and Regional Planning at Istanbul Technical University.

In Austria, it's just the opposite, according to national network organiser Johannes Riegler of the Austrian Institute of Technology (AIT). People in Vienna are the most open to networking, precisely because it's part of their ordinary practice. The AIT's overtures in the regional capital of Klagenfurt (which has a population of 90,000) were more difficult because people aren't used to mixing on a national, much less international, level.

In some countries, the network coordinators managed to piece together a diverse network from their own existing contacts (e.g. in the Czech Republic), while in others, a different approach was used. In the Netherlands, for instance, a market research firm was contracted to fill the network spaces for regular members who will lend a citizens' perspective to complement the various professional viewpoints.

Country organisers are now planning their inaugural national networking meetings. These meetings will help establish network operation principles, opportunities for mutual work and a plan of action. The first of these country meetings will take place on May 30 in the Czech Republic.