The City of the Future

Phase III: Empowering Citizens, Transforming Cities! (BEST)

What is the vision of the City of the Future and how can it be achieved? Ideas for a sustainable and environmentally just city are to be explored in a process of visioning (phase I), planning (phase II) and experimenting (phase III). A core element of the research project "Dresden – the City of the Future" is the participation of citizens. They are to be empowered to develop own visions of their city and design transition experiments to implement these visions. Through this research, new insights are to be gained on political planning and the governance of transition processes. This is to contribute to the research of the research area of „Transformative Capacities“.

Visioning (phase I)
During the first phase (2015-2016), the citizens of Dresden developed a vision of "Dresden – the City of the Future", which comprises more than 70 individual visions. They were created during a series of workshops ("Visioning") with 24 workshops.

Planning (phase II)
During the second phase (2017-2018), citizens drafted 95 project ideas and 24 concepts of transition experiments. These were developed during a series of workshops ("Planning") with 30 workshops.

Experimenting (phase III)
During the third phase (2019 – 2022), ten transition experiments were implemented through a transdisciplinary process of co-production and co-evaluation with an interdisciplinary research team. The findings and lessons learned are recorded on the online platform “WerkStadtKoffer” (German only).

Research questions

Overarching research question

  • How can participatory governance approaches initiate, accelerate and stabilise urban transitions to sustainability?

Specific research questions

  • Which participatory governance approaches and policy instruments can enable urban transitions towards sustainability?
  • What are the potentials and the challenges of participatory governance approaches, based upon civil society engagement?
  • How can political-administrative structures, practices and cultures be redesigned to integrate the horizontal themes of sustainability and participation in specialised departments and enable transformative change?
  • How to create intermediary structures and actors to translate and mediate between the different languages of local politics and administration, civil society, the business community and academia?
  • How do transition experiments impact and possibly transform domains such as entrepreneurship, urban agriculture, mobility, recycling or food consumption?

Research design

The transition experiments are developed and implemented through a process of co-creation. Citizens (civil society and the business community), the City of Dresden, the Leibniz Institute of Ecological Urban and Regional Development and the Technische Universität Dresden - Laboratory of Knowledge Architecture (WA), the Chair of Business Management, esp. Sustainability Management and Environmental Accounting, the Institute of Waste Management and Circular Economy and the Chair of Traffic and Transportation Psychology - form an inter- and transdisciplinary research team:

Sustainable ways of doing, thinking and organising have been explored through the following transition experiments:

  • Week of the Good Life
  • Material Mediation Dresden
  • Sustainability Venture! City of the Future for one Day
  • District Funds and Councils for Sustainable and Active Neighbourhoods
  • Edible Public Urban Green Spaces - Tended by Citizens
  • Edible City District Plauen
  • The Food Bin
  • Schools as Living Spaces created together
  • Future Work Spaces
  • Citizen Laboratory

For further information, you are welcome to visit the project website.


Baatz, A., Ehnert, F., Reiß, K., 2024. Sites for sustainability transitions: the interplay of urban experiments and socio-spatial configurations in transforming habits. Urban Transform 6, 3.

Baatz, A., 2024. Transforming practices through social learning: change and stability, collectivity and materiality. Environmental Education Research 1–19.

Baatz, A., Ehnert, F., 2023. Reframing places, communities and identities: social learning in urban experimentation. Sustainability: Science, Practice and Policy 19, 2207369.

Ehnert, F., Neumann, M., Artmann, M., Baatz, A., Reiß, K., 2022. Transdisziplinär und transformativ forschen: Werkzeuge für die Forschungspraxis. Landeshauptstadt Dresden: Wissenschaft.

Ehnert, F., 2023. Bridging the old and the new in sustainability transitions: The role of transition intermediaries in facilitating urban experimentation. Journal of Cleaner Production 417, 138084.

Ehnert, Franziska: Review of research into urban experimentation in the fields of sustainability transitions and environmental governance In: European Planning Studies (Online First) (Online First 2022)

Neumann, M., Ehnert, F., 2024. Knowledge re-integration in real-world laboratories to transform cities and communities: report on workshop designs. RIO 10, e124018.

Neumann, Marie; Ehnert, Franziska (2022):  5 Fragen an … das Reallabor "Zukunftsstadt Dresden 2030+" Netzwerk "Reallabore der Nachhaltigkeit". Blog "Möglichkeitsfenster: Auf dem Weg zu inklusiven Reallaboren"

Reiß, K., Seifert, T.L., Artmann, M., 2024. Initiating, innovating and accelerating edible cities. A case study based on two transition experiments in the city of Dresden (Germany). Urban Ecosyst.

Reiß, K., Artmann, M., 2023. The role of spatial and relative proximity while transforming towards an edible city – The case of the City of the Future Dresden (Germany). Environmental Innovation and Societal Transitions 49, 100778.

The Leibniz Institute of Ecological Urban and Regional Development is jointly funded by the federal government and the federal states.

FS Sachsen

This measure is co-financed by tax funds on the basis of the budget approved by the Saxon State Parliament.