How a citizens’ initiative creates a city for all

Last weekend, I joined the German JCI Senator Conference in Braunschweig. I received the senator’s honour in 2020, which is given to JCI members that contributed a lot to the organisation. JCI stands for Junior Chamber International, an international organisation, that aims to empower young citizens to create positive change in their communities.

The conference included many great activities. I joined a guided bike tour, which was so inspiring that I needed to share it with you 😊.

The Braunschweig Ring Track

If you could create a city you would love to live in – how would it look like? Hans Fechtel and his companions had a vision for their city: A city with lots of green space and opportunities for people who contribute to the wellbeing of all citizens.

Hans Fechtel, our tour guide (in the back right), and our small group of five in front of the district heating power plant along the Ring Track

In 1980, a group of citizens, many of them engineers, formed a group called the Braunschweig Forum. The group aimed to contribute to a citizen-friendly planning and development of the city of Braunschweig. They did so by maintaining a dialogue with – and resistance against – the city’s administration and politicians.

One of their great achievements is the transformation of the former industrial railway ring system into a lush, green space that offers a smooth route for walkers, runners and bikers: the Braunschweig Ring Track. It took them over 20 years of constant voluntary work. Along the way, playgrounds, cafes, housing, cultural centres, co-working spaces and community gardens were build and created on the site of former industrial spaces and buildings. Hans Fechtel, an engineer himself, and our guide on this magnificent tour, was obviously passionate about this project he had been pushing forward for so long.

Hans Fechtel shows us the map of the green ring around the city, that is partly build on the former industrial railway ring system.

Keep it fun!

When I asked him, how he managed to persist for so many years – that for sure had not always been easy – he said: “You need to maintain the fun part. In my case, it’s doing guided tours.”

Win the heart of a journalist

Hans Fechtel told us that they had been very lucky that a journalist of the local newspaper fell in love with the project, which resulted in continuous publicity during all these years.

Be persistent and stay in touch

The project isn’t done yet. Creating and building a city for all requires ongoing action. The Ring track needs maintenance, further improvements and constant attention. Politicians and politics change. The Ring Track is a site, that attracts many investors. The members of the Braunschweig Forum stay vigilant and have established regular meetings with citizens and politicians to ensure that the Braunschweig remains a city for its citizens.

“Fresh in heart, free in striving, strong in will, faithful in action” says the inscription on a school’s facade. I guess, this is what it takes to push ones life dreams forward.
I really enjoyed this worthwhile and refreshing bike tour!

Acknowledgements

As a member of JCI, I am grateful for benefiting from countless inspiring events, such as lectures, trainings, political exchange, and cultural events. All this is only made possible by the voluntary work of numerous dedicated members.

Therefore, I want to thank the Association of JCI Senators in Germany for inviting me as a first-timer and thank you to Max Tuijtel and his team for organising this wonderful event! Thank you to Michaela Partheimüller, Senate Chairwoman Germany, for giving me a warm welcome to the Association and who motivated me to join the conference. And last but not least, thank you to Herbert Ewers, Immediate Past Senate Chairman Germany, for driving all the way from Lübeck to Frankfurt to personally hand over my senator certificate.

Participants at the conference came from all over Germany, Switzerland and the UK. The photo shows the delegates from my JCI chapter Frankfurt.
I had many good talks! E.g. with my new acquaintance Jade, a member from Hong Kong. As the only Asian participants at the conference, we instantly felt we had some similarities 😊.

What inspires you? Please share it in the comment!

Links: https://second.wiki/wiki/ringgleis

By Shau Chung Shin

I am a designer, businesswoman and founder of HAHAHA Global and Gesund in MeinerStadt. I develop solutions and products that encourage an open and positive approach to taboos. In doing so, I contribute to a healthier and more peaceful world.

2 comments

  1. Cooler Bericht Shau Chung, danke für die festgehaltenen Erinnerungen an eine rundum gelungene Konferenz!

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