The “Long term development strategy for Sofia and the region” is an initiative of Sofia Municipality. Its goal is to achieve a shared idea about the future of Sofia and the steps necessary to get there.
The Vision is being shaped by facilitating involvement and stimulating informed decision making. The former means involving all interest groups from the very beginning in the decision making process: public administration, NGOs, investors, researchers, experts, entrepreneurs and citizens. The latter means structuring the decision making process on data analysis that covers all aspects of city life. The end result is to be a shared idea of a common future of the city, which has been developed through an informed dialogue and a resilient system of interaction.
The creation of “Vision Sofia” follows the guidelines, described in a methodology, which was developed through a series of public discussions and was approved by the Sofia’s Municipal Council at the end of February 2017. Work is coordinated by the Vision team, which is comprised by professionals in the field of Architecture, Mobility, PR, Urban planning, Sociology and economy, Ecology and Law. The work process is administered by Sofproect, Sofia’s municipal urban planning institute and is under the supervision of the city’s chief architect.
The Vision team also coordinates the work of experts who summarise all existing data, draw conclusions and advise on the need of further research. In order to achieve maximum involvement and an informed discussion, the Vision team develops online and offline platforms for interaction between public administration, NGOs, investors, researchers, experts, entrepreneurs and citizens. The platforms facilitate the collection of further information about the current state of Sofia and ideas about its development. The team encourages all interest groups to share ideas and to take concrete actions.
The creation of the Vision started in May 2017 and is planned to last for two years. The process passes through a number of consecutive steps. Data gathering, research and analysis, as well as surveys lead to targeted information campaigns and public debates, which on their side influence the formation of the Vision’s targets that at the end get checked against the will for commitment of as many people as possible in order to define a sustainable and shared Vision. The result is to function as a basis for lasting interaction and a guideline for Sofia’s strategic development.
Visions and long-term strategies for the holistic development of cities and regions have been or are being created at many places around the world. One of the first tasks of our team was to study the international experience. Examples from от Barcelona, Berlin, Boston, Vienna, Tel Aviv, Goteborg, Copenhagen, London, Brno, Rotterdam, Stockholm, Sao Paulo, Helsinki were studied in depth. Further more direct contact was established with the teams that had worked, or are still working, in Boston, Vienna, Tel Aviv, Barcelona and Copenhagen. This contact and the overall research helped us make a number of conclusions:
- The creation of a vision, especially if it is meant to be as widely shared as possible, demands time. In some cities this process last for an year, in others – three.
- It is of great importance to include all stakeholders from the very beginning and not only when gathering support for the final result. Each stakeholder group requires a different involvement approach.
- If we want the process of the vision’s creation, as well as the end result to be comprehended and shared we need to be using and disseminating comprehensible and easily accessible information that is relevant to the city’s future.
- Decision making should not be based solely on the authority of experts but on the interpretations that those experts give to data
These conclusions helped formulating the methodology, used for creating Vision Sofia. The preparatory work for the Vision started in December 2016, while the actual activities – in September 2017. Sofia City Council extended the deadline for finalising the Vision to June 2019.