Helping the Municipality of Bergen op Zoom with their transition towards experimental governance

Year: 2020

Client: Bergen op Zoom Municipality

Partners: DRIFT

The Art of Participation

The municipality of Bergen op Zoom, like other municipalities in the Netherlands, is working on the National Strategy on Spatial Planning and the Environment (‘Omgevingsvisie’): a long-term strategic vision for the entire physical environment. The strategy brings coherence between all areas of the physical environment: between space, water, environment, nature, landscape, traffic and transport, infrastructure and cultural heritage, etc. The challenges cities are facing are multifaceted and complex. The government cannot cope with such a major change on its own and desperately needs citizens to collaborate.


Participation is not an easy process - neither for the municipality nor for citizens. It is quite a challenge, especially in creating a strategy that must bring so many domains together. By means of citizen panels, public consultation evenings, digital forums, and many other methods for public participation, policymakers try to involve citizens as well as possible. But how inclusive are these practices?


With the establishment of Studio Stadslab, Bergen op Zoom is committed to developing new forms of cooperation and participation. Studio Stadslab works in an innovative way with civil servants, designers, city makers, and local stakeholders on current issues and so-called 'wicked problems' throughout the city. Studio Stadslab is a free space for co-creation, new forms of collaboration, and especially for new voices and diversity. Together with a number of local designers and artists, the lab has started a number of experiments, in order to learn by doing.


Humankind and DRIFT supported this process by:

  • Offering and communicating a framework for experimental governance;

  • Consulting the different artists to zoom out, reflect, and reframe the wicked problems to optimize the input for the artistic interventions;

  • Assisting the artists with creative concepting by offering different perspectives from a city making point of view;

  • Creating a presentation connecting the strategic level of the NOVI to the experimental program to grow a common understanding with other sectors of the municipality;

  • Assisting change makers/front runners in the organization with soft skills to help them face the challenges of urban change.