Neighborhood Management in Berlin

Berlin, May 2015




Berlin acquires their reunification after dealt with rigorous political processes. The city was separated physically, politically, and culturally due to the strict border and travel implementation in the East-West Berlin era.

The East Berlin economy protectionism left out much problem after the reunification. Berlin was facing economic difficulties, in jobs opportunity, neighborhood deterioration, and children education quality, and segregation.

The economic crisis and the social milieu has an indirect relationship to each other. The mass unemployment and social polarization that occurred in Berlin 1999 was affected by deindustrialization and job losses in Berlin economy vital sector[1]. Hence, the beautiful residential building changes dramatically into ghettos and deteriorated building. The upper class and lower class family are distinct obviously by secure categorized from which the neighborhood they are original.

After the fall of Berlin wall, those ethnic minorities had new opportunities to move into the suburbs, but then they were marginalized and concentrated in suburbs[2]. Moreover, the situation was worsening off since their children did not have enough education opportunities due to limited language ability. Afterwards, the Berlin Council held urban evaluation and questioning why their neighborhood deteriorated.

In 1996, the Berlin Senate commissioned a “Report on Socially Oriented Urban Develop­ment in Berlin”, to analyse the demo­graphic, social and economic alterations to Berlin‘s urban neighbourhoods. The final report was presented in 1998. The results showed that in particular in the inner-city areas, with many tenement buildings dating back to the 19th century, there were signs of social polarisation[3]

The initiative that was adapted from particular European cities, e.g., Glasgow was taken regarding this issue. Hence, ‘Social Stadt’ or Social Integrative City was launched in 1999 which relied on neighborhood management as the heart of the strategy[4]. In fact, Berlin became the latecomer to apply neighborhood management at the time.


The Berlin Senate claimed on their official publication that this program aim at strengthening the neighborhood networks and communication. They tend to have a sort of intimate partnership between Kiez[5] officer and the neighborhood itself.

The primary goal of the Neighborhood Councils is to give the boroughs a “voice” and provide a platform for discussion and consultation as well as to enable them to participate in the decision making process on the allocation of the program funds availed to the respective area of the Socially Integrative City program. Involvement of residents and actors from across the entire community, representing the greatest possible spectrum, is crucial for the program to reflect the diversity of the population living in those areas and pursue a need-based approach[6]

Nevertheless, the author has a different impression about its primary goal after visiting one of neighborhood management office in Wedding. The neighborhood manager revealed that the Berlin Senate is always demanding reduction of jobless number every year, which means the main agenda of this program still related to the economy[7]. It seems that they are assuming that by solving economy problems the rest of social issues could follow be tackled. A statement on quatier fund document emphasized the main agendas of this program.

Berlin just could not afford gigantic construction and development projects. Against the background of tightening budgets, it was important to pool the available resources. To break the vicious circle of poverty, isolation, unemployment, and complete loss of prospects, a new, integrative strategy was required which was suited to the specific local needs of the neighbourhoods[8].

The Semi- Bottom up Approach in Diminishing Poverty

The Senate report state is following the neighborhood management function as a set of new urban development strategies regarding the current Berlin needs. European Union, Federal government, and the city is allocated the fund and Federal budget each year for this programs. Those sets of funding which mostly contributing by EU indicate that this program are a well design top-down initiative. The Berlin Senate design the specific indicators for each ‘kiez’ which has to achieve by the contracted neighborhood managers.

By complementing with strategic policy, the ‘quartier fund’ is being set in 5 gradual phase. The first phase was used for short terms activities e.g. initial discusiion. Afterwards, it was used for setting up project in neighborhood council, support project implementation in larger scope, and the forth for construction, and the final phase is for modelling the project into another area

They design a ‘quatier fund’ for each Kiez in Berlin trough promoting a striking brand, ‘one million for kiez’. The funding is not merely granted to the neighborhood. In these case, it was used as a tool for stimulating neighborhood activity and communication. Thus, the neighborhood has the way to participate in the discussion forum, talking about the idea and then creating the proposal. The neighborhood elect the respective neighborhood council that is consisting of local figures in resident, business, institution representatives[9]. Typically, the neighborhood council would approve a plan that addressing the neighborhood problems.

The neighborhood managers that is hired by the city works facilitate communication between resident to the council and the city (See figure 3). They place to responsible to; 1) monitor Berlin Senate agenda for this program in the 17 chosen area, 2) promote local networks, and 3) stimulate communication networks.

The approved projects apply to the diverse type of approach e.g. urban culture, employment training, social infrastructure, and integration of social, ethnic groups. The projects of social infrastructure for school improvement, playground, and senior facilities has placed as the most applied type. On the other hand, the employment training, and social integration come up in the second priority. The resident appeals physical and concrete infrastructure for their needs, but then it necessary to question how effective it is.

brosur neighborhod management berlin

Interesting lesson learnt:

  1. Criticism on Gentrification: The local livability improvement naturally generate the land value and rent cost which is sometimes it does not follow with the income improvement. Hence, prior resident face the difficulties to afford new rent cost, and choose to move out to another neighborhood. Eventually, a conception of ‘Who gain, and who pain’ has out on a limb, since it does not tackle the job scarcity issue. However, the Senate claims that particular area has improved their resilience.
  2. Trilingual approach: Since Berlin citizen has diverse background, and some of them could not able to speak deutsche, the neighborhood meeting need to use three type of language i.e., Turkish, Arabs, and German. Sometimes, in particular area they use Vietnamese, and English.
  3. Police involvement: In Neuköln, the area that stigmatized with high crime rate, the policeman involve in neighborhood meeting to reduce and prevent crime activities.
  4. Contract profesional company: The city always contract a proefessional planning company for three yeears each phase each district to assist the neighborhood management

[1] S. Kratke, “Berlin’s Regional Economy in the 1990S: Structural Adjustment or ‘Open-Ended’ Structural Break?,” European Urban and Regional Studies 6, no. 4 (October 1, 1999): 1, doi:10.1177/096977649900600408.

[2] Louis Back et al., Der Quartiersfonds: ein Berliner Modell der Bürgerbeteiligung = The neighbourhood fund ([Berlin]: Kulturbuch-Verl., 2004).

[3] Ibid.

[4] Dagmar Buchholz, “Neighborhood Management in Berlin: Information on the Program” Socially Integrative City,” accessed January 21, 2015,

[5] Kiez is the terms for German’s city neighborhood unit

[6] Gesine Schulze, “Neighborhood Councils within the Neighborhood Management Process: Hand out at the 3. Congress of Berlin’s Neighborhood Councils on 20. March 2010,” 5, accessed January 21, 2015,

[7] “UM Stuedent 10th Intake Site Visit: Leopodplatz Neighborhood Management Office,” February 4, 2015.

[8] Back et al., Der Quartiersfonds, 9.

[9] Schulze, “Neighborhood Councils within the Neighborhood Management Process.”

Achmad Faris Saffan Sunarya

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