Interview with the President of Poznań – a lecturer in CDV

Since March 20019 the Mayor of Poznań has been giving classes for Urban Management students at Collegium Da Vinci.

Since March 20019 the Mayor of Poznań has been giving classes for  Urban Management students at Collegium Da Vinci.

As he admitted himself, acting as an academic lecturer, instructing students in English, had been a completely new experience for him. However he found it very inspiring and surprisingly close to his everyday work as a regional civil servant, politician and also entrepreneur in the past.

Be encouraged to read an interview with the Mayor of Poznań, in which he describes how his classes with Urban Management students look like.

From students’ perspective it is completely understandable that classes in the field of city planning, given by the Mayor of Poznań are extremely important and enriching. How does it look from your perspective?

For me  it is also a very interesting experience. Classes with students constituted a perfect occasion to present them how the city planning is carried out, how the decisions in this field are made and what factors influence them. During the whole semester we went outside the university building many times – we visited architectural studios and  city areas, where substantial investments are planned in the near future. Students had the opportunity to see how a given area – e.g. Stara Rzeźnia (The Old Slaughterhouse) –  looks like now and how it will look like in the future. They were able to learn in practice the planning process as well as implementation phase for both private and city investments. That is the knowledge they would not be able to read from course books. What is extremely valuable for me is the feedback I have been receiving from students. As they are an international team, they have many helpful observations concerning Poznań and they are eager to share experience from their home countries. I perceive Urban Management studies also in terms of great promotion of the city of Poznań.  In this way we obtain Poznań ambassadors from abroad, which may bring profit to the city, taking into account personal and business contacts of these students.

Each of the modules conducted by yourself include the point : „the Mayor’s experience”. What aspects are most interesting to young people? What do they ask about most frequently concerning your experience as a Mayor?

Students most often asked how in practice the decisions concerning city issues are made. I asked them then to “wear my shoes” for a moment. This helped them to understand how far is the idea about mythical power of the Mayor from reality. I pointed numerous conditions and implications, which have to be taken into account during decision process. Let’s take for example City Council powers but also, extremely important and very often difficult to acquire, social consent to suggested solutions. Not all the changes, which, in our opinion, are positive or required, are accepted or liked by the city inhabitants, especially if they concern parking issues or traffic organisation in the city. I made an effort to make students aware of the fact, how important in this context is the relevant communication concerning city authorities actions, including first of all cooperation with media.

Each of your modules  emphasizes communication with city inhabitants (social participation in planning,  expectations of city residents, consensus, gaining social acceptance). Why is it so important to plant in UM students the way of thinking, which includes the key role of communication with stakeholders?

Communication with city residents is – in fact – the most important element because it is city inhabitants who should benefit from the investments carried out by the city authorities. The city, also as an urbanistic structure, is for people and should be adapted to their needs. Dialog is always necessary. Social consultations, which accompany investments, engage various communities, which is meant to lead to optimal solutions for everybody. This, of course, is not easy, sometimes it is even impossible because points of view of particular stakeholders are totally different. Sometimes it happens that building one street evokes such extreme emptions that parties are not able to come up with satisfactory compromise. Consultations cannot last for ever – in a certain moment the decision has to be made. Some kind of balance has to be found based on expert knowledge, numbers, indicators and the social voice at the same time.

What else would you like to pass on those young people, future urbanists in the cities where we will live?

I want to urge students that, no matter what their function will be, the most important thing is to serve city residents – all residents – no matter what age or social status. It is all about making life in the city better for people – that’s the main goal to be served by all our actions, including investment planning. Since I took over the office of the Mayor, I have changed my optics accordingly. I understood that from the point of view of city residents much more important are investments that directly influence their everyday life. They might be less spectacular then a stadium or an aqua park, however they are exactly the investments that the residents expect – they want to have a park, a playground, a kindergarten, a school or a nursery in a close neighbourhood, they want to use efficient public transport and walk smooth pavements. Sometimes very simple things – such as turning off traffic lights in the city centre or building above-ground pedestrian crossing replacing the previous underpass – can significantly improve the comfort of living in the city. As city authorities we are obliged to notice such needs and satisfy them not only by means of implementing relevant infrastructure but also by providing desirable services. It is worth looking into solutions introduced in other cities and make use of their experience.

Is it important to study Urban Management in the international, cross-cultural team, meaning both students and lecturers – practitioners?  How can this influence the students’ professional future in the reality of ever-changing needs of European cities?

Both Polish and European cities are becoming more and more multicultural, which of course makes the needs of the residents change dynamically. The diagnosis of those needs is very important in city management and city development planning. Therefore, training young people for future urbanists, architects and city officials, we should seriously consider this changing social, cultural and economic environment. Engaging practitioners from various countries is necessary – the experience of the CEO of a German car producer is completely different from the experience of a Scandinavian developer or the one of the Mayor of the Polish city. The possibility to use knowledge and competences from various professionals and sources teaches student how to look at a given problem from a broad perspective. At the job market there is a shortage of such professionals, equipped with a wide spectrum of competences in the fields of transport, urbanism, architecture and social issues. Urban Management studies are crucial in filling this gap and therefore it is the direction worth to choose.

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