Heerlen

Digital transition

WESH – We.Service.Heerlen

And not only because we want to be innovative in the field of digital information. We also want to be a pleasant city to live in, with active inhabitants and a vibrant economy. In this project, we want residents to think along with us and work together, to make our public space more attractive. We reward them with a digital currency that is spent in our Heerlen economy. This will benefit our city, its inhabitants and its entrepreneurs.

Charles M.J.P. Claessens, Alderman for Public Maintenance, Mobility, Sustainability & Environment
The project in numbers
44%
of those entitled to vote only found their way to the polling station during the last elections in Heerlen.
15%
of the total retail offering in Heerlen is vacant. In other words, one in every 6.7 shops is empty.
EUR 2,621,734.12
Total ERDF budget granted
Challenge addressed

The City of Heerlen and in a wider perspective the region Parkstad Limburg (Heerlen finds itself the centre of this urban agglomeration) faces a number of challenges. These challenges are all the effect of a declining population. First, all the maintenance of the public space is under pressure. Due to the demolishing of buildings the total area of public space is growing while the budget needed to maintain the public space isn’t necessarily growing as well. The maintenance of the public space is no longer at the desired level due to the limited financial resources available. This results in a street view that many citizens find unpleasant, based on citizens' surveys.
The municipality of Heerlen also has to contend with a low level of civic involvement. The socio-economic structure of the area is one where people are used to work for a single state-driven company all their lives. Furthermore, the Netherlands are characterized by a string welfare state. Combine these two together and you’ve got a population which is not used to being involved in local policymaking or civic involvement. But the role of the local government changes more and more and that change asks for more civic involvement. Heerlen therefore wants to make a strong case for increasing the citizen's involvement. 
Furthermore, Heerlen has high vacancy rates in the field of retail. This is particularly evident in the three main shopping centers in Heerlen. Numerous shops are vacant and the downward spiral does not seem to stop. How will the city of Heerlen keep its commercial zones attractive for inhabitants and visitors? 

Solution proposed

A new digital platform is created by applying Blockchain technology. With this platform, citizens can perform tasks for the municipality of Heerlen with a rewarding system. This digital platform contains 3 main features: a mobile application for citizens (to find tasks and commit to a task), a web application for entrepreneurs (to receive payments) and a municipal dashboard to upload and control tasks. These tasks for instance are maintaining a small piece of the urban space. The reward takes the form of a local digital currency, so that it can only be issued within the local economy of the municipality of Heerlen. It is important to note that although the idea originated from the perspective of the public space (while tasks that first mainly focus on maintenance), the concept should be applicable to several other domains (safety, prevention or care).

Partnership
  • Municipality of Heerlen
  • CoTown - SME
  • Statistics Netherlands - national public authority
  • Brightlands Smart Services Campus (BSSC) - business support organisation
  • City centre organisation Heerlen Mijn Stad - NGO
  • Buurtorganisatie GMS - NGO
  • Association of Netherlands Municipalities Realisation - sectoral agency
Expected results

The whole project depends on its adoption by the citizens of Heerlen. They must be prepared to carry out the tasks, which the city offers them. Within the duration of the project, we will monitor whether the platform will add the intended value. As a consequence of the project, citizen involvement and participation will increase. There will be a greater sense of belonging and they feel more involved and appreciated in their own environment.
Another result will be an increase in the turnover of retailers, which will then create more economic dynamism in the municipality of Heerlen. It may also be the case that the quality of the task carried out is perhaps higher. After all, if you have the opportunity to do something about your local environment, you will always make sure that it is done in a proper way.

Main milestones

December 2019:  Testing technical applications, the app for citizens, web application for entrepreneurs and the municipal dashboard

February 2020:  Establish the WESH-Crowd, accumulate the early adopters, both citizen and entrepreneurs and use them as an intervention board.
May 2020: Creating 40 tasks for citizens and organize the launch event in city center
March 2021: Apply voting system in order to better meet the wishes of the citizens. 
June 2021: Results of the Social Cohesion and Wellbeing Survey, does the project actually deliver the despised increase in Social Cohesion and Wellbeing.
May 2022: Policy recommendations based on WESH project observations of the Smart Public Service Lab.
August 2022: Project finished with a press conference on project results and knowledge sharing at different levels.

The project in numbers
44%
of those entitled to vote only found their way to the polling station during the last elections in Heerlen.
15%
of the total retail offering in Heerlen is vacant. In other words, one in every 6.7 shops is empty.
EUR 2,621,734.12
Total ERDF budget granted
Contact of the project
Pieter Bonnema
Project manager
Harald Wouters
UIA Expert

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