Case Study: Forum Zukunft - Mapping local sustainability actors in Bonn

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June 28, 2019

The Forum Zukunft - Lokale Agenda Bonn (“Forum Future - Local Agenda Bonn”) is a discussion forum hosted by the Federal City of Bonn which aims to provide a platform for citizen networking and exchange around the local implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals. It comprises around 40 local initiatives and organisations, all of them committed to sustainability and equality in Bonn and around the world. In June 2019, the City of Bonn organised a Markt der Möglichkeiten (“Market of Opportunities”) to bring all the actors and initiatives together and provide a platform to exchange and connect with the broader community of the Bonn region. 

Impression from the event. Picture: Jo Hempel.

Mapping the network to foster joint action

The Unity Effect team conducted a social network mapping of the different organisations and actors of the Forum which was on display during the event. The main focus was on showcasing the areas of activities and how each actor relates to both the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in general and the sustainability strategy of the Federal City of Bonn in particular. The responses of representatives were extremely positive - with a high willingness and desire to be part of the map, to identify overlaps and connect to one another intentionally. 

Network visualisation of organisations and their main fields of action

Subsequently, we evaluated the responses in a report, analysing the opportunities for joint action which lie within the network beyond the one-off event. Selected insights were that: 

  • We can observe the formation of patterns. Organisations that are working in the field of “climate & mobility”, for example, usually also work in “education, equality and global justice”. 
  • Organisations are very diverse in terms of background, history and size, yet all share the values of participation and justice. 
  • Certain actors can serve as bridges between otherwise loosely connected topics (e.g. demographics and climate & energy) or geographical areas.  
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These insights can support the Federal City of Bonn and local actors to take strategic action. This could include forming groups around thematic areas, who come together for joint projects and funding; bringing together experts on specific topics to exchange knowledge; and sharing relevant information strategically across the network. Furthermore, it can form a foundation to report on impact, as the network visualisation links the actions of local actors to specific Sustainable Development Goals.  

You can access both the network map and the report (in German) on the City of Bonn’s website, by clicking on “Netzwerk-Visualisierung Forum Zukunft”: 

How can we embed sustainability into the way we collaborate? 

A central outcome of the live mapping and report was to deepen the understanding of the local sustainability ecosystem as a whole, while also providing information about the individual initiatives and feature the inspiring work that is already done on the ground. 

This is particularly important for civil society actors who often work on a voluntary basis and face challenges with lack of time, energy and resources, competition for funding and sometimes internal challenges such inefficiencies in teamwork. The value of network visualisation is that it provides a different perspective and strategy to collaborate. Seeing your own organisation embedded in a bigger ecosystem makes it more likely to identify with a shared cause, think in synergies and foster collaboration, and at the same time it provides each actor with a platform to present themselves to the public. 

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