“Dear ambassadors of a better world”: this was how Austria’s First Lady Doris Schmidauer welcomed the 220 participants of the 7th International Mayors’ Conference NOW, which took place in Vienna from 17 to 18 February 2020. Participants from 30 countries, from the Middle East to northern Europe, including mayors, young citizens from all walks of life, community workers, innovative NGOs, well-known researchers and practitioners, social entrepreneurs and urban planners gathered in Vienna for two days. Their discussions focused on what it means to live in a better world where communities deal successfully with tensions, build spaces for encounters and interaction as well as strengthen their senses of belonging and social cohesion.

“The world in which we live has become a very strange place. Many of our achievements are under threat.”

André Heller, co-founder of Act.Now

One of the conference’s key messages was to create an impact by initiating local action. To this end, the 7th NOW Conference presented first-hand knowledge of current research findings, practical tools and innovative projects, with the aim of enabling participants to spring into action when they returned home. The conference’s programme included ten “sparkling inputs” with encouraging narratives from outstanding speakers, 20 best practices that highlighted tangible solutions for overcoming local division, as well as 24 workshops that promoted hands-on learning and served as laboratories for both experiencing and testing ways to facilitate encounters and interaction.

This article revisits the different aspects of the conference in order to look more closely at the theories that were presented, the best practices that have inspired us, and the key ideas of which we made mental notes. Inclusiveness, the acceptance of diversity and social cohesion are shaped at the levels of neighbourhoods, towns, cities and regions and we invite our readers to use the conference’s key learnings to actively participate in shaping their own communities. Everybody can be a “change maker”.

Download PDF

Return to Overview