Micro-participation in Enschede neighborhoods

Shame Hertzdahl

How can we stimulate participation at the smallest scale level , learning from examples at home and abroad, and start with that? That is the question for this challenge, in line with the 'Good governance' program of the Municipality of Enschede. In that program, the 'interaction' between residents and the municipality is central in the development of the city. This involves various forms of strengthening participation in districts and neighborhoods. The neighborhood budget (or on a larger scale 'initiative power') is a good example of this. We are curious what kind of interventions are conceivable on an even smaller scale, within a radius of a few hundred meters around your house.

Over this one challenge

Shame Hertzdahl


Cool block is an example of 'micro participation' in Enschede's partner city Palo Alto. That example prompted this question, which we have offered to address within the Honors Program at the University of Twente in the first semester of 20/21.

Introducing the challenge

The Result

After the kick-off of the challenge on October 1, 2020, we spoke weekly with the international team of 5 students about the problem definition and possibilities for research. The challenge involved investigating whether the method in Palo Alto (cool blocks) or other alternatives of micro-participation are suitable for the municipality of Enschede to promote the involvement / participation of residents / communities around all kinds of tasks. What are critical success factors in this respect?

The students first formed a picture of the municipality of Enschede (composition and objectives), the national and municipal participation policy, but also of the culture in the Netherlands. They then researched and interviewed a number of networks. From Palo Alto to a professional in the Twekkelerveld district in Enschede. The students indicated that cool blocks in Enschede cannot be implemented 1 on 1. For example, there is no national institute in the Netherlands that facilitates this. The focus on sustainability in Palo Alto and the willingness to participate are also different in Enschede. The reason for this lies in our population composition as well as a different culture (Americans do not know our welfare state, they participate). The students found 3 critical success factors for a microparticipation project:

Motivation — Leadership — Trust

The weekly discussions and the final conclusion are very valuable for the municipality of Enschede. In 2021 we will continue with our vision on Participation. A program such as cool blocks could be introduced. By a national initiative or by the municipality. Furthermore, the challenge provides us with clarity about two, in our view, important preconditions: motivation and trust. We include these insights in our policy development and our way of working in a community-oriented way. We will focus more on residents and networks. Nationally, the legislation on participation and the right to challenge will also give us a boost, it is expected. But everything stands or falls with our residents and how we, as a municipality, will fulfill our role in this in an appropriate and supportive way.

Participating in this challenge is highly recommended. Not only did we gain substantive new insights. Working with students was also fun, inspiring and enriching.

See below the end result of team 3:


Solution : Cool blocks, appoint a block leader, organize regular meetings with the block, via elementary school blocks.

Issues :

  • How can we encourage more people to get involved in the project?
  • How can we ensure that tangible and relevant issues of the neighborhood are addressed?
  • How can we ensure that the block leader has the skills to direct the neighborhood?
  • Which part of the municipality will manage the cool blocks system?