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June 16-18 | 2021

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How to better mobilise?

Ever felt the need to win people for your cause?

One of the most common challenges of changemakers worldwide is winning people for their causes and getting them to actively support their projects.

Sofa Session #1 dealt with exactly this issue. Here are a few takeaways of three outstanding CityChangers who chose not to take the easy road: Erion Veliaj (Mayor of Tirana), Maria Vassilakou (Former Vice Mayor of Vienna) and Jennifer Keesmaat (Former Chief Urban Planner of Toronto).

Spend 1 hour a day with school children! 🤸

If you want to promote sustainability in a city where cars are still seen as a symbol of wealth and freedom, you need strong allies. Erion has chosen to focus on a group of people that can neither vote, nor do they pay taxes. To him, children are the purest of allies you can find to promote sustainability. Why? Because kids are honest, they express what they feel and if something is right, they just say it. He calls them “rebels” and “radical changemakers”, and he wants one of those allies in every household. Because people are suspicious of politicians, but you can’t be suspicious of your own child, right? That’s why Erion is winning kids in his town with car-free days, bicycle pop up academies and tree planting activities. His (seemingly simple) advice to win their hearts and minds: listen to them!

Mayor Erion Veliaj spends one entire hour every day with a school class. It’s his “holy hour” and he does not let any other priorities compromise it. That is how he is creating a connection for children to the governance of the city. “This hour does not cost you anything, but it will create a bond between you and the next generation, so you’ll better understand their needs.”

Ask your allies to show active support! 📢

Maria Vassilakou was confronted with a whole range of tough projects in the course of her career. Making one of Europe’s largest shopping streets (more or less) car-free certainly topped that tough projects list. “Sometimes it’s clear that you’ll face fierce opposition. But if you really believe in it and you have a positive vision of how it will all look like, you have to do whatever it takes. Just don’t give up!”

Machiavelli once said, “Whoever wants to change things will face fierce opposition from the people who fear disadvantages but will have almost no support from the people who might benefit from it.” Therefore, Maria Vassilakou’s advice for all the CityChangers out there is: Address the people who are in favour and ask them to actively support you! This support will help you to cope with strong opposition.

Help people understand why change matters! 🌳

Last but not least, Jennifer Keesmaat spoke about her experience as a Chief City Planner of Toronto. The King Street Pilot project was where she realised that “a lot of people just cannot see the future, so we got to help them see it”. Jennifer is convinced that only when people understand why change is essential, they can open their hearts and minds to a vision of a fundamentally different kind of future.

Crowd contribution

The speakers were truly impressive, but still, crowd knowledge is key. This is why we asked our CityChangers who joined the live session to add a few thoughts on what’s particularly important to them when mobilising for change. Have a look at the word cloud image below.

👂 Listen to your citizens (include children),
❤️ be passionate about your vision &
💪 never give up!

What else amazed us, was the fact that people from all over the world joined Sofa Session #1. To be more precise, our attendees came from 99 different countries. But see for yourself:

Speakers of Sofa Session #1:

Erion Veliaj | Maria Vassilakou | Jennifer Keesmaat

Miriam Staley (Host)

Got interested but missed the live event? 

No worries, you can watch the recording here:

For more information about upcoming Sofa Sessions, click here

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