From A(thens) to Z(wolle)? The City Expedition to Zwolle started with a question, are Athens and Zwolle similar? The answer came quick and easy: yes, there definitely is a connection! The expedition was all about co-creating and community building, two pillars that both cities have built on.

In Zwolle, City Makers and the municipality work closely together. Initiatiefrijk Zwolle is an initiative from the municipality that supports and interacts with City Makers in Zwolle. An example of this fruitful co-operation are the 5 brugwachtershuisjes (bridge guard houses) where guards sit to control the bridge. Gooitske Zijlstra, an important City Maker in Zwolle, and Anne Marth Kuilder now make use of these houses by opening them for local initiatives and activities. They named this project ‘What are you waiting for?’, which references the guards waiting all day for boats to pass.

Club Cele is a dynamic platform for cultural understanding and public programmes within a societal context – the link between Zwolle, Athens and many other European cities became apparent. Mink de Vries discussed how Zwolle’s history has contributed to the rich sense of community and co-creation that characterises the city today. For example The Modern Devotion of the 14th century and the important influence of figures such as Johannes Cele and Thomas a Kempis, who were the first to provide education to people from the lower classes. This way of modern thinking and the increased levels of education caused growth in the city of Zwolle. A rich and diverse community started to grow and both civil society and the government worked together to keep this community together.

Amalia Zepou, Vice-Mayor of Athens, sees a lot of parallels with her city. She has a platform where different community activities throughout the city are mapped. The municipality of Athens supports these initiatives through the adaptation of a new role; that of a facilitator. In order to give more space to City Makers, the role of the municipality has to change. This new relationship and co-operation began during the economic crisis. It has now enriched and expanded into something bigger. Vice-Mayor of Zwolle Jan Brink agreed with this refreshing way of thinking and agreed that the municipality has an important role of bringing all kinds of people together.

Many City Makers were tweeting away with the hashtag #CityMakers. This is an overview of what they shared with the world:

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