Guiding principles in transformation processes - IOER develops process design using the case of the Lusatia region

The phase-out of fossil fuels requires a transformation process in various regions of Europe, which has a deep impact on the lives of local people. Guiding principles can help to shape the future of these regions in a targeted manner and to take the local population along on this path. But how can a suitable model for an entire region be developed that is accepted by a majority? Using the example of the coal phase-out in Lusatia, researchers of the Leibniz Institute of Ecological Urban and Regional Development (IOER) have developed a suitable process design. They have published their results in the journal "Extractive Industries and Society".

in front hiking signs, in the background an industrial plant

Tourism instead of coal mining? – Lusatia is looking for ways into the future. (Photo: H. Hensel/IOER-Media)

Since 2018, Lusatia has been in the process of creating guiding principles (a leitbild) for the region. It is intended to provide the region with orientation for the coal phase-out and the associated process of structural change. The project "Transformation Process in the Lusatia Region" of the IOER, which is conducted at the Interdisciplinary Centre for Ecological and Revitalizing Urban Transformation (IZS) in Görlitz, accompanies the structural change and the associated process of creating a leitbild in Lusatia scientifically.

Among other things, the project team has investigated how the process of developing a leitbild for the region should be designed, which regional challenges need to be overcome and how the local population could be involved in the process. The result is a process design that the researchers present in the international journal “Extractive Industries and Society”.

"Lusatia is a very heterogeneous region. There are not only spatial differences, for example between the touristically well developed Spreewald and the still active coal mining areas with a strong economic focus on open-cast mining and coal-fired power plants. The interests of the local players and the population, as well as the expectations of guidings principles for the region, are also very different," explains Dr Sebastian Heer, one of the first authors of the study. This heterogeneity makes it difficult to develop a uniform regional identity in the course of the process of creating guiding principles.

In view of the various requirements and expectations of "Lusatian guiding principles", the project team proposes to think the mission statement functionally and to split the process of its development into different sub-elements. The starting point in each case should be the impact or effect that the (parts of) guiding principles are intended to achieve. The second step would be to define the target groups required to achieve this impact and to determine the communication and participation formats with which they can be reached and integrated into the process of developing the guiding principles. At the end, the results of the process would have to be presented in a way that is suitable for the target groups. “This could be, for example, the formulation of funding priorities for federal and state policy. But also economic strategies for the whole of Lusatia or different sub-regions are conceivable, or a 'citizens' mission statement' that reflects the ideas of the local people," says Dr Sebastian Heer.

For its investigation, the project team under the direction of Prof Dr Robert Knippschild intensively accompanied the process of developing guiding principles in the course of participatory observations and a series of scientific expert discussions with important regional actors from the state governments of Saxony and Brandenburg, the "Future Workshop Lusatia", but also with civil society actors. A qualitative content analysis of the collected data followed. "It became clear that most of our interview partners are very aware of how important it is to achieve broad acceptance among the population for the upcoming transformation process and the changes associated with it. Now it is important to keep this in mind and to orientate the daily work accordingly," says Dr Sebastian Heer.

Original publication:
Heer, Sebastian; Wirth, Peter; Knippschild, Robert; Matern, Antje: Guiding principles in transformation processes of coal phase-out. The German case of Lusatia. In: The Extractive Industries and Society (Online First)

The international journal The Extractive Industries and Society is published by Elsevier. According to the publisher, it is the the one journal devoted to disseminating in-depth analysis of the socio-economic and environmental impacts of mining and oil and gas production on societies, both past and present. The journal operates a double anonymized review process.

Contact at the Leibniz Institute of Ecological Urban and Regional Development (IOER)
Prof Dr Robert Knippschild (project management), e-mail: R.Knippschild[im]
Dr Sebastian Heer, e-mail: S.Heer[im]