COVID-19 Response Webinars


Since cities around the world had started to develop different strategies and ideas to respond to the challenges that the current COVID-19 Pandemic brings, a large number of Webinars have taken place. These virtual events have allowed interesting discussions, peer-to-peer learning and ideas to be shared. The following table offers a selection of the most interesting ones Bürogemeinschaft Gauly & Volgmann (bgh.) has had the opportunity to listen and know about. We share it and update it regularly with the idea of support cities to navigate the large offer of Webinars available to them online by different organisations.

 OrganisationTitle of the WebinarTopicRegionDurationLink
London School of Economics and Political ScienceLSE-Responding to a Pandemic: the view from Latin AmericaGeneral ResponseSouth America01:46:34
Transformative Urban Mobility Initiative (GIZ)/NUMOBicycling is Essential: How Bicycle Shops Are Staying Open Under Stay at Home OrdersCyclingNorth America01:01:53
Transformative Urban Mobility InitiativeResilience and Transportation: Lessons from India in responding to COVID-19Public TransportAsia-India 01:14:16
Transformative Urban Mobility InitiativeLessons from Rio de Janerio while responding to COVID-19Urban Mobility South America 00:39:07
UN-HabitatCOVID-19 and Urban MobilityUrban Mobility Global 02:39:00
The Chartered Institute of Logistics and TransportCoronavirus and the future of Transport Planning: Fireside ChatPublic TransportGlobal 01:31:30
Rails to Rails ConservancyClosing Streets to Create Space for Walking and Biking During COVID-19 Full WebinarWalking and CyclingNorth America01:27:02
Eno Center for TransportationWhat COVID 19 Stimulus Packages Promise for InfrastructureUrban TransportationNorth America 00:33:32
Eno Center for TransportationHow Disruptions to Our Transportation System Can Impact Food SupplyUrban TransportationNorth America00:38:17
ITDP:The Institute for TRansportation and Development PolicyUrbanlogue S02E01: Public Transport SOP's to ensure the health and safety of crew and passengersPublic TransportAsia-India01:34:06
Urban Cycling InstitutePCCAMS Webinar - Tactical Urbanism with Claire Pascoe (Planning the Cycling City Amsterdam (PCCAMS) is a 3 week summer school offered by the University of Amsterdam.)Tactical UrbanismGlobal00:57:20
Global NGO AllianceAlliance Live Session: COVID-19, Safer Roads, and Urban PlanningSafer Roads and Urban PlanningGlobal 01:01:08
Global NGO AllianceAlliance Live Session 2 - What COVID19 is teaching us about sustainable mobilitySustainable Mobility Global 01:03:02
Global NGO AllianceLive Session 4: Inequalities during the COVID-19 CrisisInequality Global 00:57:17
Global NGO AllianceAlliance Live Session 3 - Health Systems and COVID-19Public HealthGlobal 01:04:40
Transformative Urban Mobility Initiative (GIZ)/NUMOCombating COVID 19 The Shenzhen Bus Group’s experiencePublic TransportAsia00:59:11
Transformative Urban Mobility Initiative (GIZ)/NUMOTactical Urbanism as COVID 19 ResponseTactical UrbanismAmerica 01:00:58
Transformative Urban Mobility Initiative (GIZ)/NUMOLessons from India in responding to COVID-19Public TransportAsia01:14:16
United Cities and Local Governments (UCLG)#BeyondTheOutbreak Live Learning - Building the Community ( playlist)Community BuildingGlobal00:05:07
United Cities and Local Governments (UCLG)1st Moderated roundtable: Local government finances and COVID-19 – key challenges and solutionLocal financesGlobal00:56:39
United Cities and Local Governments (UCLG)2nd Moderated roundtable: Imagining the tomorrow #BeyondTheOutbreakPost Covid- 19 measures Global 00:54:56
United Cities and Local Governments (UCLG)How to support migrant communities, leverage their socio-economic contribution to the emergency?MigrationGlobal00:40:59
United Cities and Local Governments (UCLG)How to reach local communities regardless of their legal status, living or work condition?MigrationGlobal 00:37:26
United Cities and Local Governments (UCLG)1st roundtable Addressing informalities in the midst of the COVID-19 outbreak and beyondInformalitiesGlobal 00:42:56
United Cities and Local Governments (UCLG)2nd Moderated roundtable Addressing informalities in the midst of the COVID-19 outbreak and beyondInformalitiesGlobal 01:13:33
United Cities and Local Governments (UCLG)1st Moderated roundtable: Local Action and Challenges Impact of the crisis and initial measuresCovid-19 ImpactGlobal00:54:29
ICLEI GlobalRecovering from Pandemic: Transforming cities through subnational leadership (Apr 29, 2020)Cities‘ LeadershipGlobal01:09:21
ICLEI GlobalCity Resilience Stories Webinar Series - COVID-19: Coping, Learning & Building Urban ResilienceUrban resilienceGlobal 00:59:32
University College of London -The Bartlett Development Planning UnitThe COVID-19 “Crisis” in Contested Cities and Divided SocietiesPost Covid-19 citiesGlobal South 01:03:01
World BankCities at Risk - How Can we Manage Impact of the Coronavirus on Urban Areas?Covid-19 Impact managementGlobal 00:29:33
World BankSupporting Companies and Preserving Jobs Through the PandemicCovid-19 Impact managementGlobal 00:30:40
World BankFragility and Conflict: On the Front Lines of the Fight Against PovertyConflict Global 01:12:12
World BankHow Can we Sustain Jobs and Provide a Safety Net for those Most in Need?Covid-19 Impact management (jobs)Global 00:28:46
World BankResponding to Coronavirus: How can we Strengthen Global Healthcare to Handle the Pandemic?Health careGlobal00:40:20
Interamerican Development BankWaze for Cities Presents: Incorporating Waze traffic data into COVID-19 impact monitoringTools for Covid-19 impact monitoringAmerica01:03:33
UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction UNDRR COVID-19 Webinar 3: Resilience of Local GovernmentsIntegration of public health and disaster risk management Global01:18:55
Rails-to-Trails ConservancyClosing Streets to Create Space for Walking and Biking During COVID-19 Full WebinarTransportationAmerica 01:27:02
GIZ/TUMI/ NUMO AllianceResilience & Transportation: Lessons from Latin America's Response to COVID-19TransportationSouth America 00:59:56
Toronto Region/ Urban Land Institute TorontoRichard Florida: How can Toronto re-open after the COVID-19 pandemic?Reopening/Post Covid-19 measuresNorth America 00:47:41
Boston Metropolitan Area Planning CouncilResponding to Food Insecurity During the COVID 19 CrisisFood AccessNorth America 01:04:01
UnescoUNESCO learning cities' response to COVID-19 - Health and well-beingPublic HealthGlobal/Europe/UK/Latin America01:22:27
UnescoUNESCO learning cities' response to COVID-19 - Distance educationEducationGlobal/Asia 01:09:05
OECDCOVID-19 and cultural and creative sectors. Impact, policy responses and opportunitiesEconomy Global 02:03:22
OECDThe world changed by COVID-19. Policy, economy, societyImpact of Covid-19Global 02:09:27
OECDCOVID-19 and museums. Impact, innovations and planning for post-crisis.Post Covid-19 measuresGlobal 01:30:53
GIZ/TUMI/ NUMO AllianceResilience and Transportation: International best practices of funding instruments after Covid-19Public TransportationGlobal 01:31:46
NUMO and SAE's Mobility Data Collaborative.Micromobility & Your City: Leveraging Mobility Data to Achieve Policy OutcomesPublic TransportationGlobal 01:02:05
UNDRR, WHO, UCLG and ICLECOVID-19: Responding, Re-opening and Recovery Towards Resilience of CitiesEconomyGlobal 01:32:55
ICLEI/FAOCities and Covid-19 - food access for vulnerable communities in practiceFood AccessGlobal01:21:34
ICLEIShaping a resilient post-COVID-19 urban era with nature and effective planning in AfricaResilient citiesAfrica01:02:59
ICLEIBuilding sustainable African cities during and after a pandemic: Lessons from past & present crisesSustainable CitiesAfrica01:29:17
NUMOResilience & Transportation: Lessons from China's & Bangladesh's Responses to COVID-19Urban MobilityAsia03:32:00
NUMOResilience and Transportation: How risky is it to use public transport?Public TransportLatin America01:28:41
ICLEIFood, Climate and Covid-19: Stories from our CitiesFood AccessAfrica01:36:23
ICLEIApplying the principles of resilience building and DRR for the unexpectedResilient citiesGlobal01:00:38
Learntech AcceleratorLEA Webinar 19: Tales from teachers – how has or could technology help in this current crisis?EducationGlobal01:10:49
CoMOSSAfricaLessons from past & present crisesResilient citiesAfrica01:29:17
CoMOSSAfricaAdaptation finance: A core component of post-COVID-19 economic recoveryEconomic RecoveryAfrica01:24:55
UNDRRExamining the Impact of COVID-19 on the SDGsSustainable Development GoalsGlobal 01:07:57
UNDRRBusiness continuity in the era of Covid-19EconomyGlobal 01:29:26
UNDRRResilience of Local Governments ( integrated public health and Disaster Risk Management)Resilient citiesGlobal01:18:55
LSEEmergency Governance Initiative COVID-19Problem Solving Global00:30:00
The German Association for Housing, Urban and Spatial Development and the German Federal Ministry of the Interior, Building and CommunityEurope's Cities Fit for Future Kick-off SessionIntegrated Urban DevelopmentEurope02:35:04
The German Association for Housing, Urban and Spatial Development and the German Federal Ministry of the Interior, Building and CommunityEurope's Cities Fit for Future - Productive CityIntegrated Urban DevelopmentEurope01:56:15
The German Association for Housing, Urban and Spatial Development and the German Federal Ministry of the Interior, Building and CommunityEurope's Cities Fit for Future - Green CityIntegrated Urban DevelopmentEurope02:11:33
The German Association for Housing, Urban and Spatial Development and the German Federal Ministry of the Interior, Building and CommunityEurope's Cities Fit for Future - Just CityIntegrated Urban DevelopmentEurope02:04:59
The German Association for Housing, Urban and Spatial Development and the German Federal Ministry of the Interior, Building and CommunityEurope's Cities Fit for Future -Final SessionIntegrated Urban DevelopmentEurope02:38:20
ICLEI AfricaSharing COVID-19 experiences from top leaders in South Africa’s Western Cape and global expertsCovid-19 Impact managementAfrica01:32:02
TUMI'How to transform a city with walking and cycling for & after Covid 19'Public TransportationEurope01:29:49
London School of Economics and Political ScienceRegional growth, local development and EuroscepticismRegional Developmpent and integrationEurope01:01:33
NUMO Lessons from Africa's Response to Covid-19Resilience and TransportationAfrica54:01:00
TUMITemporary Bike Lanes in Bogota, ColombiaTransportationSouth America00:09:29
London School of Economics and Political ScienceA Stronger Role for Urban Agriculture in Times of Crisis and BeyondUrban AgricultureGlobal01:00:50
London School of Economics and Political ScienceLSE -Now or Never: Crafting the Global COVID-19 ResponseGeneral ResponseGlobal01:21:25
London School of Economics and Political ScienceThe Great Reversal in the Time of COVID-19 General ResponseGlobal01:29:07
London School of Economics and Political ScienceGovernment Assistance to Struggling Businesses in the COVID-19 Crisis EconomyGlobal01:30:29
London School of Economics and Political ScienceLSE-COVID-19 and its Impact on Euro Atlantic SecuritySecurityEurope01:31:05
London School of Economics and Political ScienceLSE-Europe in the Time of Coronavirus: responding to the political and economic challenges of COVID-19EconomyEurope01:24:01

Tools for Coronavirus Response

Source: Infographia

Since cities around the world had started to develop different strategies and ideas to respond to the challenges that the current COVID-19 Pandemic brings, a large number of tools have been put available online for cities to share their knowledge, inform themselves, map and track the virus. The following table offers a selection of the most interesting tools Bürogemeinschaft Gauly & Volgmann (bgh.) has found online. We share it and update it regularly with the idea of support cities to navigate the large offer of tools available to them online by different organisations.

 OrganisationTitleType of toolTopicLink
GoogleMobility DataViewer DataViewerMobility
TUMICOVID Mobility Works (collecting, synethsizing and sharing mobility responses to the COVID-19 pandemic and recovery.)Platform (collecting, synethsizing and sharing mobility responses to the COVID-19 pandemic and recovery)Mobility
NUMO New Mobility Atlas Allows to view changes to the shared, dockless micromobility landscape in cities around the worldData viewer
UCLGCovid-19 Service PointBank of ideasExchange Platform
C40 Knowledge Hub Exchange PlatformGeneral response
ICLEIHow three urban food gardens are contributing towards social cohesion in South AfricaBank of IdeasRecovery
The GuardianNews'A new normal': how coronavirus will transform transport in Britain's citiesArticle
URBACTComplete Set o Tools and resources for Integrated & Participative Working ToolkitGeneral response
PlanetizenPlanetizen-Covid -19Analysis and articles General response
URBACTURBACT city responses to Covid 19Map of ideasExchange Platform
City of SingaporeSingapore App ( Covid tracker)App
European Committee of the RegionLive updates COVID-19. European cities respond to the coronavirus crisisBank of Ideas of European CitiesGeneral response
London School of Economics and Political ScienceBlogBlogPlanning
Living Cities -LSEReflections on COVID-19 and Public Space Use in Kuwait: The Potential of a New ‘Normal’BlogPublic Space
 European Union’s Horizon 2020-LSEThe Post-Coronavirus MetropolisBlogGeneral response
World Resources InstituteBiking Provides a Critical Lifeline During the Coronavirus CrisisBlogMobility
World BankUrban Density Is Not an Enemy in the Coronavirus Fight: Evidence from ChinaBlogGeneral response
IIEDDealing with COVID-19 in the towns and cities of the global SouthBlogGeneral response
London School of Economics and Political ScienceBrazil’s urban inequalities will exacerbate the impacts of Covid-19BlogSocial inequality
BrookingsHow our cities can reopen after rhe COVID-19 pandemic:A ten-point preparedness plan for our communitiesBlog/GuidelineEconomy
The GuardianNewsCity leaders aim to shape green recovery from coronavirus crisisArticle
European UnionThe EU's Assembly of Regional and Local RepresentativesCOVID- 19 Action PlanGeneral response
National League of Cities The Partnership for Healthy CitiesCOVID-19: LOCAL ACTION TRACKER ( Only US )Best practices
Urban FootprintCOVID-19: Mapping and Measuring Community Impact with UrbanFootprintCOVID-19: Mapping and Measuring Community Impact with UrbanFootprint case counting
London School of Economics and Political ScienceCOVID-19 MONITORS OF RELEVANCE TO URBAN AND REGIONAL GOVERNANCEData Analytics Note/Newslater/knowledge hubGeneral response
Euro CitiesCovid NewsEuropean cities respond to the coronavirus crisis. Bank of ideasExchange Platform
Living Cities Living Cities BlogIdeas and Resources for How Cities Can Attack the COVID-19 Crisis ( US) General response
Smart Cities WorldSmart Cities WorldInformation Hub about the strategies cities are deploying globally to tackle the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemicGeneral response
BrookingsBrookings Coronavirus response Knowledge hub Exchange Platform
Metropolis Covid-19 Service PointBank of IdeasGeneral response
The GuardianNewsLarge areas of London to be made car-free as lockdown easedArticle
London School of Economics and Political ScienceLSE-EventsList of Online Public Events with experts related to the responce to Corona VirusEvents
C40Mayours Task ForceMayors Task Force General response
Eno Centre for TransportationCOVID-19 NEWS & RESOURCESNews & Resources HubMobility
Brookings/Richard Florida/Steven PedigoCity Talks: Richard Florida on the future of cities after the CoronavirusPodcastGeneral response
London School of Economics and Political ScienceLSE- What does gender have to do with pandemics?PodcastGender
London School of Economics and Political ScienceLSE- COVID-19 and DeglobalisationPodcastGeneral response
London School of Economics and Political ScienceLSE-Assessing the Economic Impact of COVID-19PodcastEconomy
London School of Economics and Political ScienceLSE-Transboundary Crisis Management in Europe in the Wake of COVID-19PodcastGeneral response
London School of Economics and Political ScienceLSE-Data–driven Responses to COVID–19: opportunities and limitationsPodcastGeneral response
The Economist and UNOPSThe future of public spending: responses to covid-19 ( information to increase City'S ability of governments to source what they need—quickly, efficiently and responsibly)ReportFunding and resources
National Association of City Transportation Officials ( Nacto) (84 North American cities) + Bloomberg PhilanthropiesStreets for Pandemic Response and Recovery GuideMobility
European ComissionEGCN 100% Renewable ToolkitToolkitRenewable energy
TUMI ( and others)TUMITwitter HandleMobility
City of Tbilisi, GeorgiaTbilisi-Georgia Website to raise awareness on CoronaWebsiteGood practice
City of Bogota, ColombiaBogota-Colombia Website that compiles all relevant information about the response to Corona in the city: WebsiteGood practice
New York UniversityTHE CORONAVIRUS AND THE CITIESWorking PaperGeneral response
European UnionThe EU's Assembly of Regional and Local RepresentativesMap of EU initiativesGeneral response
C40C40 Mayors’ Agenda for a Green and Just RecoveryPolicy Brief Recovery
C40A green, just and job-rich COVID-19 recovery: How cities can rapidly boost good, local employmentImplementation GuideRecovery
C40Priorities for mayors for a green post-COVID recovery: global perspectivesArticleRecovery
C40Housing and COVID-19: How cities are supporting tenants, homeowners and homeless peopleImplementation GuideHousing
NUMOLeveraging Data to Achieve Policy Outcomes.Mobility Data ToolMobility
NUMOMoMobility Card Game (English)Card Game Mobility
Various NGOsShared Mobility Principles for Livable CitiesPolicy Brief ( Principles)Mobility
ICLEIICLEI Africa supports local and subnational governments during COVID-19Bank of IdeasGeneral response
ICLEIICLEI Europe supports local and subnational governments during COVID-19Bank of IdeasGeneral response
World BankAnnual Private Participation in Infrastructure Database Global Report, 2019Data Economy
ICLEISustainability and Local Governments in the Context of the COVID-19 PandemicBlog Recovery
LSEEmergency Governance Initiative COVID-19Policy Brief General response
South African GovernmentCOVID-19 Corona Virus South African Resource PortalWebsiteGeneral response
Gauteng City-Region ObservatoryResponding to the COVID-19 pandemic in GautengData and InformationGeneral response
NUMORELEASE: Passenger Distancing Not Sole Factor in Preventing Spread of COVID-19 on Public Transportation, Research FindsStudy release Public Transport
#COVID19 transmission risks and infection rates in public transport Twitter ThreadPublic Transport
TUMIUrban transport: How to save costs and how to generate revenuesTwitter ThreadPublic Transport
C40Smart Cities Activator2020 COVID-19 MITIGATION ROADMAP (US)( Free Registration)General response
London School of Economics and Political ScienceShaping the Post-COVID WorldKnowledge hubGeneral response
London School of Economics and Political ScienceThe Covid-19 response: Governance Challenges and Innovations by Cities and Regions
Policy Brief
General response
London School of Economics and Political ScienceA Stronger Role for Urban Agriculture in Times of Crisis and BeyondBlog
Urban Agriculture

Introducing our new Blog


Searching on the internet about urban development can be a nerve-racking experience. Frequently, the results end up in shiny best practice case studies or distract the reader with the latest ranking of the most polluted, the densest, the most expensive cities or the most liveable ones. Others might end up with checklists of the ten commandments to “make our cities friendlier for cyclists”, “better adapted for climate change” or “best prepared for the 21st century”.

Urban planning enjoys (or maybe suffers from) a particular characteristic. It is a field that is known and experienced – in one or the other – by a large portion of the world’s population. More than half of the world’s population (specifically 55.27% in 2019) spend most of their lives living in cities. Hence, urban planning can be compared to other disciplines such as law or politics; fields that we all deal with in one way or another. The way every person experiences these fields depends not only on the place we live at but is also influenced by our lifestyle, preferences, job, age, gender, health, financial conditions, and sometimes, even religion and physical appearance.

There are different approaches to urban issues. This section of our website is dedicated to reflections upon our own observations and to present opinions that are the results of our office team’s double profile as everyday residents and as urban planners, with an academic and professional education in the field, and also in additional disciplines such as architecture, public administration and law.

Our objective is not to provide answers. We won’t reveal the hidden truth that hasn’t been discovered yet. Instead, we aim at providing informed and concise reflections to bring urban development closer to any reader interested.

Experiencing a host city for the first time

Moving to a new city can be a life-changing experience. In some cases, it could be compared with how brown bears must feel at the beach or colorful amazonic parrots in the Sahara Desert. We humans face enormous challenges when finding ourselves living in a different city than the one we were born or settled for a long time. Tips and advice for all brave individuals experiencing it can be as multi-faceted as the reasons why people move to a different city. Let’s construct two hypotheses that influence the experience of moving to a new city:

  • Firstly, moving to a new city is better when it is the consequence of a voluntary decision for a change in personal life or as a family decision. In comparison, moving to another city as a last resource due to an insecure or non-viable situation that pushes people to abandon their home cities and frequently their countries, entails a completely different set of “arrival experiences”.
  • Secondly, the experience is presumably better when there is a clear plan on how one will spend his/her time productively, studying or working for example, than when there is not certain plan on how life will look like in the new place.

Many scholars and policy-makers have conceptualized groups of cities such as “destination cities” or “host cities”, “arrival cities”, “refugee cities” or “sanctuary cities” due to the large migration they received or are receiving presently. But in general terms, any city can be a destination or a welcoming city. The way its administrations, businesses and residents act as hosts can make the way a new-comer experiences a city for the first time either a nightmare or an enriching and inspiring experience.

Are you a longtime resident of your city? Do you consider yourself a local or a fully adapted and integrated long-term migrant? Or do you perceive yourself, on the other hand, as temporary or permanent “guest” in a new city? Regardless of your answer, you might possibly be interested in the following  examples which we use to reflect on the framework in host cities and to understand the challenges newcomers likely face in any city.

Arrival City: “Cedrizuela” – The case of Bogota, Colombia

A group of Venezuelans, in Cedritos, Bogota/ Source: El Tiempo:

Unlike other South American countries, Colombian cities did not receive large migration waves from Western European countries (as occurred in Chile, Argentina and Brazil), Middle Eastern countries (as occurred in Brazil or Venezuela) or Asian countries (as occurred in Peru). However, Bogota – the capital of Colombia – has been for decades been the main host city for internally displaced population from the rural areas, escaping the long-lasting armed conflict with the FARC guerilla and paramilitary groups. Then, since 2014, it has become the new home of 442,362[1] Venezuelans, Colombia’s neighbor with which it shares the longest border.

It is not the focus of this blog post to examine the complicated political, economic and humanitarian crisis in Venezuela. Although, being very complex, the origin of the Venezuelan refugee situation is crisis caused by years of political control of an autocratic regime. For Bogota, the role as arrival city for international newcomers is new.

An interesting phenomenon in Bogota – experienced similarly by many other cities in the world – is the concentration of a large number of Venezuelan migrants in specific  neighborhoods and transforming it in various ways. One example is the change of the commerce in neighborhoods such as “Cedritos”. “Cedritos” is a traditional middle-income neighborhood in north Bogota that has recently been informally acquired the name “Cedrizuela” (a mix of the original name and “Venezuela”). The new neighbors had arrived, and with them, more and more traditional Venezuelan restaurants and products can be found. Similar experiences that resulted in widely known nicknames are “Chinatown” in central London or “Little Italy” in New York City.

“Chinatown” in central London / Source: Wikimedia Commons

These “hubs” become a chance for newcomers to feel welcomed in a new city. Likewise, they are a chance to stimulate the local economy. The new commerce establishments can become meeting points not only for migrants exclusively, but more so encourage interaction with the local population, who can enjoy the new culinary and cultural offer. There is, however, also a different side of this phenomena: the potential resistance from locals and an iso

Cedritos in Bogota/ Source: Wikimedia Commons

lation of the newcomers in a “bubble” that instead of allowing the new spaces of integration and exchange becomes the single enclave for newcomers who prefer not to experience the rest of the city or enjoy the ease of familiarity and comfort.

The challenge for Bogota’s administration, its citizens, its private sector (especially the commerce) and, of course, the new Venezuelan residents, is to approach these changes as a chance to find more commonalities among locals and newcomers, to create new – joint – experiences, to recognize and enhance the common interests, and to give less importance to the differences. Most new shops owned or operated by Venezuelans in Cedritos are food services. Food has proved to be a low-barrier and “easy-to-reach” way to unite inhabitants and win over each other’s hearts.   Could food do it again?


Arrival City: The case of Leipzig, Germany

Wave-Gothic treffen/ Source: Wikimedia Commons

Leipzig has an astonishing history, from being an important medieval trade city to become an often cited example of a shrinking city facing the challenges of a declining population. After stabilization in the late 1990s and early 2000s, the city has witnessed constantly growing population figures since 2010, placing it among the fast growing cities in Germany in recent years. During this last decades, Leipzig has welcomed new residents. Most of them were Germans from other parts of the country, of course. An increasing number, however, are international newcomers from a plethora of countries – most of them from within the European Union. 

There are plenty of reasons why people decide to move to Leipzig. Some might move for their academic education, others might move here for a new job. Some might even enjoy the quality of life and amenities such as inner-city green areas or the 14 lakes that surround the city. Being more affordable than other large European cities, and boasting cultural events, such as the Buchmesse or the Wave – Gothic Treffen, it is interesting to reflect on the cultural offer the city has for its international residents. Is the German language a barrier to enjoying the events? What about the means of transportation to the venues and around the city?


Buchmesse, Leipzig /Source: Wikimedia Commons

Cultural events have the potential to raise interest in different types of individuals. The challenge of Leipzig as a host city for internationals goes further than offering language courses and work opportunities, it also encompassed the offer of activities and events for people’s free time.

There are interesting initiatives just as Leipzig Glocal, that focus on targeted information for internationals residing in Leipzig. The platform also organizes events such as Job Fairs and publishes all sorts of cultural events. There are other institutions such as Werk 2, that can be of interest to newcomers. It is possible to find concerts of international artists, an offer of workshops and clubs. However, most of the information is in German; thus, making the access more challenging for the non-German public. Luckily, the variety of events covers different languages. Last year’s exhibition in Halle 14, called “Forgotten Enlightenments” in the Spinnerei mapped the significance of the Islamic Heritage and tackled populism and nationalism threatening diversity[2]. With an artistic perspective, the exhibition allowed newcomers also recognize the importance the local society gives to not accepting hate speech or xenophobic remarks without creating spaces for debate and counter arguments.

A low level of German language knowledge can make life a little harder for guests and newly arriving residents. A challenge most people will face is using the public transport system. However, improvements have been made: the ticket machines can be used in different languages and at some inner-city tram stations, information is also given in English. Nevertheless, the length of the names of some stations requires abbreviations in some cases, making it a little harder for non-German speakers to find their way. An efficient, affordable and friendly alternative to public transport is the bicycle. The multiple green areas of Leipzig can be easily accessed by bike, offering plenty of outdoor experiences.

Source: Wikimedia Commons

Now, what can a city administration and the society do to improve the experience of newcomers? And what can newcomers do to improve their own experience?  Out of these two very different cases, Bogota and Leipzig, I will try to conclude some ideas.  As the case of Bogota shows, familiarity is an asset. Giving chances and promoting businesses offering products and especially food from other places has proven to not only to help migrants to lessen home sickness, but to proudly show and share their traditions and to find spaces to meet the locals. These can be enhanced by the positive impact in the neighborhood economy that the opening of new businesses can bring.

The case of Leipzig provides an additional approach through its rich cultural offer. The experience of a city goes way beyond understanding the language, finding a job or a school. It happens also in people’s free time. Offering cultural activities that can raise interests in different cultures, topics and languages can highlight the face of the city that is open to diversity, debate and a high quality of life.

As for the  newcomers wanting to  improve their own experiences, these cases show that with some openness, entrepreneurial spirit, and disposition for spending the free time engaging in the variety of activities cities offer, can be a good addition to the much needed language learning and job finding steps.


Author: Diana Maria Ramirez Daza



[2] Based on the description of the art exhibition, published at: