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 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.

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

Preliminary Agenda



Our focus: the local level

Despite all 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 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 prospective 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

To explore promising practices together and develop solutions adaptable to local contexts in order to strengthen social cohesion in diversity. That the participants will leave this conference with new insights, findings, international contacts, knowledge and motivation – ideally also first steps towards collaborations – to improve life in your communities.

Our method: interact, experience and find solutions

A variety of formats will give the participants the possibility to both experience and test ways to facilitate encounters and 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 of encounter
  • A relaxed atmosphere provides an ideal setting for networking and exchange based on mutual appreciation and respect
  • Our main conference topics

    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 to participate?

    Connecting activities & community events

    Organising community events or getting people together for engaging activities is a common suggestion for improving social cohesion. What kinds of activities and events have shown 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 places have to look and feel like for diverse people to feel welcome and meet each other?

    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 prejudices and hate to understanding and connectedness?

    Inclusive youth participation

    Young people need to be involved in decision making. But often enough only more privileged young people are invited to participate which reinforces existing inequalities. How can youth participation be organised to include young people with all sorts of backgrounds?