7th International Mayors’ Conference NOW

“Space for Encounter – Overcoming Division”

Vienna, Austria 16 – 18 February 2020

We can all observe that tensions and growing divisions are endangering living together peacefully in our societies. Hate speech, social media filter bubbles, incitement to antagonise each other based on cultural, social, economic and religious differences have become everyday phenomena.

This is why finding ways to bring people together is more important than ever. At “Space for Encounter – Overcoming Division” Mayors, young citizens from all walks of life, community workers, innovative NGOs, renowned researchers and practitioners, social entrepreneurs and urban planners from the Middle East to Northern Europe will came together to work on how social cohesion and participation of young people in wide-reaching decisions can be achieved at the local level.

Conference Article



Promising Practices



Our Focus: The Local Level

Despite of all our differences, regions, towns and villages are the living spaces we all share. Municipalities and local initiatives are key players in promoting social cohesion and counteracting divisions. They can provide spaces where people in all their diversity can come together for meaningful and real encounters. These include the entire social and socioeconomic infrastructure, public spaces, joint actions for the common good, cultural and sporting events, neighbourhood and street festivals, as well as enabling digital and personal dialogue.

Our Conviction: Involve Young People

Young people and their future lives are directly affected by decisions made today about how we choose to live together. Integrating their knowledge, insights and concerns is vital to shaping the future.

Our Aim: Improve Our Communities

By exploring promising practices together and developing solutions adaptable to local contexts we intend to strengthen social cohesion in diversity. The objective was that the participants leave this conference with new insights, findings, international contacts, knowledge and motivation – ideally also with the first steps towards collaborations – to improve life in their communities.

Our Method: interact, experience and find solutions

A variety of formats gave the participants the possibility of both experiencing and testing ways to facilitate encounters and lead to the participation of all parties involved

  • Inspiring speakers introduce new perspectives and showcase solutions
  • Promising practices provide tangible examples and encourage replication in other local contexts
  • Interactive workshops allow for hands-on learning and serve as laboratories for formats for encounters
  • A relaxed atmosphere provides an ideal setting for networking and exchange based on mutual appreciation and respect
  • Five main topics, all of them ways to overcome division and bring people together locally, were present throughout the conference. The letters and colours associated with these topics are meant to guide participants through the conference.

    Joint Local Engagement for the Common Good

    Sharing a common goal and working towards it collectively can help create a sense of community between very different people. How can community engagement be organised to be both effective and welcoming to everyone participating?

    Connecting Activities & Community Events

    Organising community events or getting people together for engaging activities is a frequently heard suggestion to improve social cohesion. Which activities and events have proven to be particularly successful in enabling exchange and connection?

    Community Spaces Where Diverse People Meet

    The design of (public) spaces influences the way people spend time there and the kind of interactions that can occur. What do they have to look and feel like for diverse people to feel welcome and interact?

    Formats Overcoming Conflicts & Division

    In many cases conflict and division between different groups run so deep, that almost every encounter is shaped by prejudice or even hate. What kind of formats can help to move people from prejudice and hate towards understanding, acceptance and connectedness?

    Inclusive Youth Participation

    Young people need to be involved in making decisions. However mainly more privileged young people are invited to participate, which reinforces the existing inequalities. How can youth participation be designed to include young people from all kinds of backgrounds?