In towns, growth and decline are often to be observed at close quarters. In a large number of large and small municipalities, districts exist where building-related, economic and social problems come together. In order to counter the threat of a downward spiral in these kinds of disadvantaged districts, in 1999, central and local governments launched an urban development programme, "The Social City". In 2012, this developed into "The Social City – neighbourhood-level investments".
The focus is on an integrative approach: the programme finances investments in buildings and apartments, living environments and the infrastructure at district level. These are complemented by and dovetail with measures in other areas of politics, for example, funding for education and employment, integration, health and the local economy. Accordingly, the Social City programme specifically targets cooperation between different departments and the pooling of resources in specific social environments.
The joint objective is to stabilize and upgrade all aspects of these districts and thus to improve residents’ quality of life, to encourage them to socialize and integrate with one another. An additional aim is to extend cooperation with third parties in the district, for example, by getting companies and foundations more involved, but also by promoting voluntary work.
The joint basis on which the responsible parties become involved in such activities is the integrated development concept for the relevant urban district. Moreover, residents are included and involved in planning and implementing such measures at an early stage. A district management team coordinates and assists with the various processes locally.
Nationwide projects are financed, particularly in the areas covered by the Social City programme, with resources from the European Social Fund (ESF) and from the Federal Ministry. These projects are aimed at improving the qualifications and the social situation of residents and thus at enhancing a sense of belonging in these districts. A wide range of different measures to improve education and the level of training, to bolster employment and to strengthen the local economy are promoted by BIWAQ.