From 17 until 21 April , local government representatives of ten cities and towns taking part in the “Local Development” Programme attended a study visit to the Norwegian towns of Trondheim and Levanger. Topics of individual meetings included development strategies, energy efficiency, and including residents in decision-making processes and volunteering efforts.
On day one, Polish local government representatives met the Mayor of Trondheim Rita Ottervik, in office for the past twenty years. Its population just under 200,000, Trondheim is a major commercial centre and fishing port. The local student population reaches 40,000, most attending the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Norway’s largest institution of higher learning in terms of the number of students.
On day two, study visit participants were introduced to the process of developing urban strategies and co-operating with local residents pursuant to the “Trondheimsløftet” philosophy”. Senior Advisor on Strategy and Communication to Trondheim Hans Petter Wollebæk explained that the name itself carries several meanings, including activities designed to elevate the city to a higher level – as well as a promise and agreement that only through collaborating with local residents can such goals be achieved, said goals primarily including a more green city; the development of an individual strategy of circular economy; diversity; building robust relations; and sharing knowledge and technological equity with the rest of the world. All these objectives tie in with Sustainable Development Goals. Mr. Wollebæk believes that if truly intending to making them reality, Trondheim should go beyond delivering services to residents – it should foster collaboration, and make local residents part of the implementation process.
Advisor at the Dialogue Centre Thomas Ngari Wanjohi spoke of the migrants integration strategy. Trondheim faced a number of refugee waves in its past: Norway took in multiple refugees from Bosnia in the years 1994-95 in the wake of the war in the Balkans, and Syrian refugees in 2015. Primarily refugee-centred, the Norwegian integration policy fosters activities intended to make refugees part of the Norwegian society. Conversely, economic migrants are not a major migrant policy theme or focus for integration activities undertaken by Norwegian institutions responsible for associated areas. As a body introducing general assumptions for foreigner-related state policy, the government is the first link in the integration activity chain. Such institutions as the Directorate for Immigration and/or Directorate for Integration and Diversity then engage in a follow-up process of implementing said policy in practice. Yet it is actually the municipalities who shoulder the greatest burden of work associated with taking in refugees. Local governments are responsible for resolving practical issues tying in with refugees or asylum-seekers starting new lives in an entirely new setting.
Trondheim attaches great importance to volunteer work-based co-operation. The city was awarded the European Volunteering Capital title in 2023, having taken over from Gdańsk.
Trondheim is also home to Brattørkaia – the northernmost energy-plus building. This office building 18,580 m2 in area operates just like any other, with a single fundamental difference: it generates more energy than it can use. Energy surplus is provided to neighbouring buildings, buses, and electric vehicles, and fed into the nearby ferry transportation system via a local energy micro-grid.
Another endeavour – the +CityxChange (Positive City Exchange) – is a smart city project funded i.a. from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 Framework Programme for Research and Innovation, as part of the Smart Cities and Communities path, with the Norwegian University of Science and Technology as the consortium leader joined by the cities of Trondheim and Limerick, Ireland. As part of the Programme, cities engage in activities designed to make them leaders of intelligent energy-plus solutions. Study visit participants were also introduced to good management and strategy practices, the considerably smaller (population: below 20,000) town of Levanger sitting mostly on agricultural land referenced as the case study.
A visit to the Falstad Centre for peace and human rights was organised as well. The Falstad Centre Foundation was formed in August 2000 as a national centre for education and documenting War World II history, international humanitarian law, and human rights. The institution is also home to a vast museum collection developed after the first museum in Falstad had been established in 1985.
The study visit was joined by representatives of the following cities and towns: Ostrów Wielkopolski, Zabrze, Włocławek, Przemyśl, Stalowa Wola, Jasło, Żary, Kędzierzyn-Koźle, Konin and Tarnów.
Study visits are organised as part of the “Local Development” Programme delivered by the Ministry of Development Funds and Regional Policy, and financed under the 3rd edition of the Norwegian and European Economic Area grants.