Interview with Jennifer Neumann who coordinates the international campaign “Shaping the Future – Building the City of Tomorrow” on behalf of the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF).
What do you like about the current campaign?
I think that the topic “sustainable urban development” is very exciting, diverse and tangible. Because everybody has an idea of what urban planning is. That's because we all live in a city, town or location that we perceive and experience in a specific way and that we also make demands on. Urban development is a field that everyone engages with. It's a subject that's fun and open to people's own ideas. Regarding the campaign, I particularly like the fact that it involves cooperation with many different parties, which is very rewarding for me. I get a lot of input and ideas from different people who are always contributing different points of view. This is something that enriches my work as well as my personality. Cooperation with the networks is simply great but the most important thing is that the projects and the campaign in general are being well received and encountering positive responses in other countries. And I really can't complain as this has always been the case up to now!
What's important to you?
It's very important to me that those involved in the networks are able to not only identify with their own projects and networks but also with the BMBF's entire “Building the City of Tomorrow” campaign. Good relations between the networks already began to establish themselves at the kick-off event in Berlin in February 2017. These initial steps constituted the foundation and continued during our delegation trips and events in Vietnam, Malaysia, the USA and India. That's why I think that the results are very positive after the first year of tour campaign: The networks have adapted very well to their new ambassadorial role for the BMBF's “Building the City of Tomorrow” campaign and are benefiting from synergies and collaboration potentials.
What do you want to achieve?
From the start, it was important to me that the 10 networks would not only connect with partners in other countries but would also do so with each other. Such networking means that it is possible to utilise synergy effects between the 10 networks and their projects in the different countries. It was therefore my greatest desire for something like a “network of networks” to be created and we've already made great progress in this regard. There are several networks that are already combining their approaches to create new joint projects. Such a result is, of course, also a great success for me!
What are the special challenges that you are facing?
As the coordinator, I am, on the one hand, responsible for coordinating the campaign and its urban development projects in general. But, on the other, it is also very important to manage the engagement of the networks on a personal level. More than 50 different experts from the fields of research and development, universities, business and administration are collaborating within the networks and working towards one major goal: to find innovative solutions for sustainable urban development. They all have their own way of looking at things, their own needs and perhaps also their own challenges to face and conflicts to deal with. Many networks, for example, are coordinating three to four simultaneous projects and are therefore stretched for time. That's why everyone needs to be well prepared and quickly recognise the informational requirements that visitors to the international trade-fair stands may have and then satisfy these needs with the corresponding information: Which of the many innovations and technologies are being offered by the 10 different networks within the campaign, with whom would it be best for the interested trade-fair visitor to exchange ideas? That can be very exhausting during a long day at the fair but I also enjoy helping the participants and keeping them happy.
What are your hopes for 2018?
I'm hoping that – once the campaign has drawn to an end – the networks will have established many new contacts and build up relations with potential cooperation partners. I addition to this, I would, of course, also be very happy if the network projects were to produce follow-up activities – independent of the campaign. For the campaign, I finally hope that the good contacts and relationships remain in place beyond the official period of activity.
About Jennifer Neumann:
Jennifer Neumann is responsible for international research marketing and the development and implementation of campaigns with the DLR Project Management Agency. On behalf of the Federal Ministry of Education and Research she manages the current international BMBF-campaign focusing on the future of smart, sustainable and energy-efficient cities. Before taking up her current position, she has been working with the Senior Expert Service (SES) and the Institute for Technology and Resources Management in the Tropics and Subtropics (ITT). She achieved her diploma in Regional Science of Latin America at the University of Cologne with main focus on Political Science.