The Research Training Group: Team of Foundation, Universities, Doctoral Students and Municipalities
The Research Training Group is developed and conducted by six professors from the RWTH Aachen University, the University of Stuttgart and the University of Potsdam for the Robert Bosch Foundation. With their know-how in the fields of architecture, landscape architecture, urban, regional, spatial and environmental planning, spatial sciences, political/administrative sciences and social sciences, they are available to supervise the dissertations and to provide knowledge to the municipalities.
Science meets medium-sized town: Innovation on three levels
The Research Training Group pursues an innovative approach and links three levels:
1) Agent approach: Doctoral students work embedded in a field of practice, thereby gaining access to practical and insider knowledge as well as to local networks of actors and acting themselves as agents for the future topics of the Research Training Group in the municipalities. The municipalities are researched from the inside out and thus receive impulses for renewal and further development. Networking, knowledge transfer and project development are closely interlinked. The agent approach is being developed jointly with the Robert Bosch Stiftung as a new standard and can be used for other medium-sized cities.
2) Linking future topics and participatory processes: The Research Training Group offers the opportunity to closely link essential pillars of content for sustainable medium-sized cities with participative, integrative approaches as different levels of "participation". The four-year college enables relatively quick feedback between concepts, implementation and evaluation. This iterative approach is an essential basis for planning, communication and coordination innovations. This supports doctoral students in reflexively linking academic competencies with the requirements of urban planning and administration.
3) "Mittelstadt" as a cultural achievement: The Kolleg pursues a qualitative approach and understands change in planning and administration as a cultural achievement. Appreciation, product and organisational development are closely intertwined. Synergies of these three levels can only be developed in an interdisciplinary environment in close dialogue with practice.
Initiating change: The entanglement of contents and processes leads to approaches for concrete innovation and transformation concerns of medium-sized cities.
The Research Training Group pursues a qualitative approach in order to research, test, reflect and also rethink change and thus stabilisation and sustainable development in medium-sized cities. The Research Training Group focuses on the specific resources of medium-sized cities and pursues a development perspective from within. The goal is a qualitative growth towards new experiencable qualities in the cities, which are spread and effective in the space through new forms of "participation" and "city making".
Cities are places of special quality of life, of identification and home, of local democracy and participation, but also of commitment for and in the community. These are firmly rooted in the "common goods" that cities develop and offer their citizens: Living and working, open space, infrastructure, mobility. These fields of action of urban development are subject to major trends and drivers: demographic change, changes in lifestyles, economic structural change, digital transformation, energy revolution, climate adaptation. These developments require not only the design of themes and spaces, but also new processes and forms of organisation and coordination.
On this basis, the aim of the college is to point out development perspectives for concrete innovation and transformation concerns of the municipalities and to bring about (planning/administrative) cultural change. Three possible approaches are in the focus:
Change via places and spaces, change via institutions and governance, change via processes and dialogues.
In cooperation with local authorities, doctoral students will examine transformation processes, identify and concretize transformation tasks, and observe governance structures, planning and communication cultures. The participation and shaping of pressing questions of the future should be stimulated, tested and reflected on locally. With the "transformative research" approach, doctoral students become agents on the ground who link their empirical research with concrete spatial, structural and planning impulses on the ground.
Under discussion: medium-sized cities and graduates among and with each other
Within the framework of the Research Training Group, a Germany-wide medium-sized city network is founded. The participating municipalities have the opportunity to exchange their concerns, solutions and experiences at networking meetings and medium-sized city conferences.
The doctoral students of the college should benefit from exchange and cooperation among each other. Among other things, joint events, peer-to-peer procedures and topic tandems support the cooperation.
The cooperation between the local authorities and the doctoral candidates also facilitates the exchange of knowledge between research and practice. The doctoral students work in tandems in one or two medium-sized towns on site and have direct contact with the administration, public institutions or civil society organisations.