Fate guides the creative, drags the passive. I review drafts of city development strategies.

I don’t just develop city development strategies. Mayors also let me review their projects. I’ve done two recently. The idea is that I find their imperfections, the authorities correct them and the strategy becomes better – for residents, business and the environment. Before one of the reviews, I had an interesting conversation with the mayor of a small town. At one point it went something like this:

– The Central Statistical Office forecasted that the number of inhabitants of our city will decrease by 15% by 2034. Therefore, there is no point in allocating and developing land for new factories and housing estates, extending bus lines, expanding the community center, schools, sewage treatment plants… etc. Instead, the city must be prepared for inevitable shrinkage, natural decrease and further brain drain, and to increase of social, financial, technical problems, etc. etc. We need to meet the most urgent expectations of residents, protect what we have, as well as to renovate and optimize infrastructure and services, rather than expand them, because there will be neither enough demand nor money for them. In other words, our strategy should be reasonably defensive. Is that right?

– Well… not really.

– How is that?

– The Central Statistical Office’s forecast for the future of your city is not an inevitable fate. You, as a local self-government, including your units and companies, have influence on this future. With one *alone* investment in the preparation of investment areas, you will probably just waste money. But, if at the same time you manage to nail reconstruction of railway line (which once connected you with the region), take over the dilapidated technical college from the district and reform it, reach an agreement with neighbouring communes regarding buses, build several municipal blocks with the money obtained, build a decent kindergarten and nursery, make professional promotion and finally make this city green, the chances of attracting a large external investor will increase significantly. And then the migration balance may not be so bad, and there may be more good jobs and money in the budget. Especially if, at the same time, your strategy includes other, external development factors and wisely combines them with what the city has.

– Maybe so, but it’s a big risk to include all this in the strategy. There is no guarantee that it will work like that! And even if, it will only be in a few or a dozen years. Moreover, in the surveys, residents wanted other things – mainly the repair of roads, sidewalks, sports fields, better health care, senior clubs, entertainment and the fight against smog.

– One by one, I said. Firstly, managing the development of a city is not chemistry, where if you add the right ingredients in the right conditions, the result will be 100% what was planned. There are always risks here. The point is to minimize them and make the expected effect worth it. Secondly, when it comes to years, strategies are not for a year or even for a term of office, but for a few or a dozen years exactly. As for the residents, their expectations are extremely important, but they did not elect the authorities to shine only with reflected light. The city authorities are also responsible for recognizing and using opportunities for its development, creating accurate, creative and even innovative, strategies and then implementing them effectively. Creating in participatory way, but still CREATING such strategies, not just writing down requests, adding that they will be met and calling it a strategy.

– Yes. This is the answer I was hoping to hear from you. Would you take a look at our project…? Apart from the general concept, there are a lot of other things to check: activities, indicators, implementation system, and compliance with regulations…

I did it of course, and we discussed my comments thoroughly and collectively before most of them were used. I like this job, especially when I work with creative people who care!