Vienna, September 2005
From the participants’ point of view, The RAISE project began on a September day in Vienna, when our group of citizens from all across the EU came together for the first time. Dinner that evening was a rather awkward affair, with 30 plus people (including organisers, facilitators and others) trying to size each other up, communicating in English with varying levels of proficiency, and generally wondering what we had let ourselves in for.
The first day consisted of ice-breaking exercises, an explanation of the overall process, and sessions in which we expressed our understandings of sustainability and our hopes and visions for our home cities. On the second day, the focus was on presentations about urban governance, both from local policy makers describing the specific experience of Vienna, and more generally looking at research projects in the City of Tomorrow programme.
This did not always go smoothly. At first we were unclear over what was expected of us, and some of the presentations seemed very technocratic and confusing, a feeling which was expressed forcefully by some.
Looking back, it’s hard to remember how strange and awkward the initial meeting felt at first, not helped by the presence of two guys with a microphone and camera capturing what we said. We were unclear about what was expected of us and confused by some of the ideas which were being presented. But by the end of the second day, squeezing onto trams in the torrential rain, and singing national songs in a Viennese bierkeller, the pattern had been set for future meetings.