Vienna (Austria)


Local Agenda 21 Vienna Plus


Vienna is the capital of the Federal Republic of Austria. It has a population of 1.8 million inhabitants. Through a sustainable, ecological and social engagement of the city the number of inhabitants is rising every year and may reach a population of 2.0 million inhabitants till the year 2030. The fast growth of Vienna is also combined with a lot of conflicts inside of the city. The LA21 Vienna offers citizens new possibilities to design their districts in a sense of a better life quality, being prepared for the future and to co-decide smaller or bigger changes. Since 2002 the LA21 Vienna aims to promote the sustainable urban development. Many parts of the city have changed visually and characteristically together with citizens. A lot of places where redesigned, networks where created, streets boosted, social places established, walk and bicycle mobility improved and the city changed into a greener space. A lot of positive changes happened which shows that it’s worth to develop new conceptions and processes in other districts, too.

Local & regional area : The City of Vienna

Vienna is the capital of the Federal Republic of Austria. Located in the center of Europe, at MapofVienna_LA21the eastern edge of the Alps and the Danube River, Vienna is a for centuries grown metropolis with a population of 1.8 million inhabitants and is furthermore the most densely inhabited municipality in Austria. On an area of 415 km², the city is divided into 23 districts and consists approximately 50% of green areas which are particularly under conservation.

Over 46% of the inhabitants have a migration background. Because of its location, attrativity and economic strength, the number of inhabitants may rise to 2.0 million people until 2030. This fact leads to a need for more space in the city, urban enlargement, affordable apartments, smart infrastructures, improvements in public transport and the preservation of nature, buildings and live quality. Also the coping of rising conflicts in the old core like house densification, increased rents, crowding and cultural diversity will be a topic for the next decades.

Vienna is engaged to act ecological, social and to look into a sustainable future. With framework concepts like "Smart City Vienna", "STEP 2025"), a masterplan for participation as well as a mobility concept, Vienna tries to include its citizenship in the sustainable approaches. For this reason the city belongs to one of the most worth living metropolises in Europe.

Presentation of overall project orientations

Because of that challenge the Local Agenda 21 Vienna aims to promote the sustainable urban development. The projects deal with a wide range of topics which can be summarized in four categories:

  • Preserving and improving public spaces through the social and creative effort of inhabitants for their districts. These project shall increase the attractivity of public areas, enhance the participation in the planning process and intervene with bad design solutions. Also the creation of new activities for the own neighborhood is an aim such as revitalization of old places, recovery of urban space; establish attractive non-commercial areas;
  • Increasing cohabitation of younger and elder citizens through creation of spaces and projects for exchange, communication and cooperation among generations. Relationships shall be improved through generation-wide projects;
  • Enhancing the intercultural dialog through the participation of all ethnic groups in agenda projects and society. Common events, discussions and projects shall create exchanges and synergies among different cultures. Learning and having trust in each other and a future-related discourse for diversity, migration and integration shall result;
  • Changing towards a sustainable mobility through the establishment of barrier-free accessibilities to public transport, improvements of walk and bicycle paths or finding alternative mobility concepts such as bicycle groups, roads and public transport connections.

Local motivations behind the A21 approach

Since 1990 and the end of Cold War in Europe the municipality of Vienna has grown LA21plus_Logo_Landstrasse_110816continuously. It has become to one of Europe's economic centers and will rise to 2.0 million inhabitants during the next years. Vienna becomes bigger, younger, more crowded, more diverse and will have more conflict potential for its citizenship.

To cope this change, it is necessary to include Vienna's experts (the citizens) into decisions, giving them a voice and to empower everyone into this working process. It is also important to hand them over some responsibility for their local areas.

LA21 Vienna tries to implement sustainability from bottom-to-top. It offers citizens new possibilities to design their districts in a sense of a better life quality, being prepared for the future and to co-decide smaller or bigger changes.

Our task is the support of citizens: introducing their ideas for change and improvement of the district, developing projects from their ideas and implementing it together with the municipal and district politics.

Our principles are:

  • broad participation and openness to subjects;
  • long-term and durable processes;
  • new relations among citizens, politicians, administration and civil society;
  • gender mainstream and diversity.

Conduct of procedure

Step 1: 1998 – 2002 Pilot project in Alsergrund

In June 1998, a pilot project of Local Agenda 21 started in Vienna's 9th district (Alsergrund) with campaigns in public space and an "Activating Urban Assessment". First agenda groups were founded to implement first projects like the redesign of Thurnerstiege. A special issue regarding Local Agenda 21 Vienna at that time was the implementation of a steering group where citizens and politicians discussed and decided together for the sustainable development of the district.

Step 2: 2002 – 2009 Local Agenda 21

The success of the pilot led to the LA21 Vienna approach on city level. Vienna's municipal districts, who wanted to engage themselves for sustainable development, received a co-financing of 50% of the city budget and invested the other 50% of their own budget. A steering group and an agenda office was implemented in each participating district as point for interested citizens. In 2003 the districs of Margareten, Neubau, Alsergrund, Rudolfsheim-Fünfhaus) and Donaustadt started as the first regular agenda districts. The districts of Wieden, Josefstadt and Liesing were gradually added.

Step 3: 2009 – today LA21 Plus

Since 2009 our approach has got the name LA21 Plus. The new concept, established on current urban development issues and the previous agenda projects, is set in the four subjects:

  • preserving and improving public spaces;
  • increasing cohabitation of young and elder people;
  • enhancing the intercultural dialog;
  • chancing towards a sustainable mobility.

Furthermore we try to reach more people through the implementation of new methods like Wisdom Councils or E-Participation. Currently the districts of Landstraße, Wieden, Josefstadt, Alsergrund, Favoriten, Donaustadtand and Liesing are taking part in LA21 Plus Vienna and every year a new district can participate.

Beside that there also exists and important structural item, the Agenda forum: Agenda forums offer a space for discussion on agenda-relevant subjects for sustainable urban development. Citizens from different groups can get linked together and have the possibility to exchange their experiences or get new ideas.

Step 4: 2015 and the future – The Grätzloase (“district oasis”)

From March 2015 we will start with the introduction of a new additional project.  This new project has a Vienna-wide citizen participation approach and is not focussed on separate districts. The “Grätzloase” is a new short-term participation form to reach more people. It concentrates itself on activities in public spaces in the whole municipality (i.e. urban gardening, street furniture, parklets) etc.) and gives people the opportunity to realize their temporal actions. The chosen projects will be supported with organizational and financial aid. With “Grätzloase” all citizens get the opportunity to realize their own, creative ideas for public spaces.

Working structures set up for the planning and implementation

Association level

The association Local Agenda 21 is located at the interface between municipality and districts. It is the central coordination point for all agenda processes in Vienna. The management board consists of representatives of all parties which are represented in the municipal council. It decides process strategy and makes financial and content-wise decisions. The head office is responsible for coordination and quality management of LA-21 processes.

District level

On the district level one agenda offices exists in every agenda district. This office is the contact point for citizens who wants to engage themselves for their district and it is managed by an interdisciplinary team.  The office also supports the agenda groups by the implementation of their ideas and is pivot between citizenship and politics. Additionally, there is a steering group in every district.

Support level

To enhance the sustainable development of Vienna, the competition "ELLA" was initiated in 2013. This was the possibility for all inhabitants of Vienna to design their city in a sustainable way even if they haven't lived in an agenda district. Projects of engaged citizens could submit in two categories. These projects had to serve for public welfare and should be placed on community, district or municipal level.

In 2015, we will support vienna-wide activities in public spaces, that will lead to new attention on these rare spaces.  The people of Vienna shall become conscious of the role and importance of non-consuming spaces with high living qualities.

The decision model and governance mechanisms

Steering group

The steering group is the main controlling panel at the district level. Citizens, politicians and representatives of the LA21 association discuss here about the implementation of new agenda groups and the planning and development of projects.

Transfer group

The transfer group is consisted of representatives of the urban business groups of the municipality of Vienna. It ensures a networking with the administration and does the preliminary work for the impulse platform.

Mobilization & Monitoring

The first step into a new agenda process is the mobilization step. The agenda office sends a call to all people in the district to send their ideas for a sustainable district development. It uses different methods like workshops, activities in public spaces, neighborhood interviews or neighborhood day.LA21_Organigramm_german

Afterwards the agenda team supports the providers of ideas to specify their suggestions and to reach more interested district citizens. If there are enough people, who want to work with a topic, an agenda group is born. This group is supported in the preparation and implementation of their project by experts. In the steering group the project is monitored and supported with resources from the district.

The challenges in the implementation and / or renewal of the LA21

LA21 Vienna is a district-oriented approach. Every of Vienna's 23 districts can decide, if it wants to be a part of the process. This decision is linked to financial and administrational resources. For this reason it is important to show the politicians how necessary citizen participation is in an urban setting.

Furthermore the maintenance and advantages of these qualitative processes is necessary to show to the politics and administration again and again. Every LA21 process is sponsored for four to six years. After that period a new conception of the participation process has to be created to guarantee the sustainable development.

Another challenge is the participation of all groups of Vienna's citizens. Often only interested people, out of the educated class, are the ones who take part into the process. It is hard to reach all diverse groups of people with the offer of LA21 Vienna. Because it's our task, we permanently try to get close to all social and ethnical groups and have to develop new techniques and methods.

The last point is the very long duration of the LA21 projects. We always have to arbitrate among citizenship, district politicians, administration and municipality, and it is time-consuming to get from the idea to the implementation. It is not always easy to make transparently this process and to make it understandable for the engaging groups. The maintenance of motivation and effort of citizens is also a challenge.

Lessons learned in the development of sustainable communities (challenges, issues regarding this)

Local Agenda 21 Vienna has changed an amount of districts visually and characteristically together with citizens since 2002. The agenda process connects people in their neighborhood and creates a convivial environment. The inhabitants of the participating districts develop a higher place attachment and also politics recognizes a positive change in their district. For this reason it is worth to develop new conceptions and processes and to advertise new districts.

Until today, the agenda was implemented in 10 districts, of which 3 are finished and 7 still participate. A lot of places where redesigned, networks where created, streets boosted, social places established, walk and bicycle mobility improved and the city turned greener.

A critical point might be, that through the district approach not all citizens of Vienna can be reached. There are also short-term participation methods necessary to improve participation in general. Furthermore it is important to get hold of more people in Vienna. That’s why the new program "Grätzloase", which will start in March of 2015, was invented. It is a great chance for citizens all over the city to implement their ideas about public space. People can hand in their temporary activities in public space and will get support for turning their ideas into reality.


For each participation progress a proper structure and organisation is needed. The structure gives the possibility for the people to implement their ideas, planned step by step. You also have to appreciate the work and autonomy of the groups to ensure a successful process. Even patience and transparency are related to this.

Agenda groups will work in its best way if the participating people are affected personally and their personal environment is changed.  Therefore it is good to enhance this relation and use of a project for the individual. Ideas will implement themselves, if they were created out of people's own motivation.

How to cite this text ?

PAASCH, S. (2015). « Local Agenda 21 Vienna Plus ». In GAGNON, C. (Éd) et E., ARTH (en collab. avec). Guide québécois pour des Agendas 21e siècle locaux : applications territoriales de développement durable viable, [En ligne] (day / month / year).

For more information

Official Website local agenda 21 Vienna

Public space project “Grätzloase”

Youtube Local Agenda



Dernière modification: 25 février 2015

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