Rolf Mienkus from the project „Die nachhaltige Mierendorff-Insel 2030“
Rolf Mienkus has developed his vision of Die nachhaltige Mierendorff-Insel 2030 (The sustainable Mierendorff-island 2030) since 2013 and pushes its implementation with lots of commitment. At first as a volunteer and initiator of the company network “Verantwortungspartner-Region Berlin-Mierendorff-Insel“ (Bertelsmann-Stiftung) (Responsible partners-Berlin Mitte region-Mierendorff-island, Bertelsmann Foundation), and from 2017 as the managing director of the “inselprojekt.berlin UG” (island project), founded in 2015. Currently the company focusses on the implementation of projects such as Deine Flotte 2020 – Neue Mobilität Berlin (Your Fleet 2020 – New Mobility Berlin), Stadtquartier 4.1 (Urban Quarter 4.1). and Distribut-e – grüne Kiezlieferketten für die Stadt von morgen. (Distribut-e – Green Neighbourhood Delivery Chains for the City of Tomorrow).
Mr Mienkus, the project „Nachhaltige Mierendorff-Insel 2030“ (insel-projekt.berlin) follows a “bottom-up approach”. What role plays the involvement of citizens in the development of the City of Tomorrow?
Citizen involvement is essential for the development of the City of Tomorrow. Since the local government reorganisation of 2001, Berlin consists of twelve “cities”, but only now builds up the necessary administrative resources. In order to build a sustainable future, it needs the supporting expertise and commitment of the citizens in the individual districts. In addition, the continuously growing number of enterprises should write sustainability into their DNA. And their employees, who are also citizens of Berlin, should be involved in moving our city into the right direction.
The aim of the Mierendorff-Insel project is to become a lighthouse project for an interconnected economic, ecologic and social urban development. What does this mean in practical terms? And where do you see the challenges?
The Mierendorff-Insel, with its location characteristics and its central position in the capital, offers an ideal place to carry out sustainability projects in a concentrated and concerted manner. Since 2013, we have been working to strengthen the resilience of our neighbourhood by focusing on sustainability. Even if more and more people recognise the importance of preserving life for future generations, we still have a long way to go. Reaching out to everyone and bringing them along requires a lot of idealism and appropriate resources, which we are always able to acquire thanks to our strong network. Our work would be easier, if the State of Berlin would define the Mierendorf-Insel as a transdisciplinary experimental space for sustainable urban development and and would generate the participation of all senate administrations.
In projects like „KiezFreund“ (neighbourhood friend) or campaign weeks on the topic of New Mobility in the Mierendorff neighbourhood and at Klausener Platz, the project has tested new concepts for contemporary forms of mobility, such as car sharing or delivery services with cargo bicycles. What were the key results?
According to the research of our project “Neue Mobilität Berlin”, almost one third of Berlin car owners only have a low objective and subjective dependence on their own car. To help them take the step towards more environmentally friendly transport, we run city-wide trial campaigns like “Deine Flotte 2020” (your fleet 2020) or participate in local, cargo-bike-based logistics projects such as “Distribute-e” or “Stadtquartier 4.1”. The mobility and transport alternatives made available through these projects make the mobility transition a tangible experience. They ensure that more and more people rethink their mobility behaviour or abolish their own car. Convincing local businesses of neighbourhood-based delivery traffic with CO2-neutral vehicles is already working well in research mode and “only” needs to be established as a standard practice.
Which do you think are the crucial points for the creation of a sustainable and smart infrastructure in the neighbourhood? What are the chances?
For several years now, we have been doing pioneering work here, which is slowly beginning to bear fruit. The awareness for sustainable living and business management has grown significantly. The degree of internal and external networking increases from year to year. Our approach of making complex processes comprehensible – or, as in the case of mobility, “tangible” – proves to be an enabler time and again. Only when people physically engage with the subject matter does a personal relationship develop with what is otherwise often perceived as merely academic. In the coming years we will carry out more actions in public space again. And we will also create visible “lighthouses” in the neighbourhood infrastructure, that can provide starting points for further sustainability projects.
Are there any best practices that guide you in your work as a managing director of the Insel-Projekt?
Of course, I am observing many projects and tendencies in the sustainability movement in Berlin, in Germany and internationally. Sometimes I also look with some envy to other cities that are progressing faster. But there aren’t many ambitious, holistic concepts like “Die nachhaltige Mierendorff-Insel 2030”. Even though we are are learning from the experiences and insights of other projects, we are often also entering new territory. Therefore, transdisciplinary networking with the other drivers of sustainable urban development is important to me, in order to also be smart in the sense of efficiency. You don’t have to make all mistakes yourself when others have already made them – and can and want to report back about them.
This year, the pandemic has led a significantly higher number of Berliners to use their bicycles than ever before. Under which conditions could this trend last well beyond Covid-19 – away from the car, towards bike, public transport and more sustainability?
Half of all Berlin households do not own their own car, but 75 percent do own private bicycles. In my opinion, one of the most important tasks of our city is to provide an adequate network of cycle paths. When the pop-up cycle paths that were promoted during the pandemic prove anything, it’s that there is a need for them. And also that the necessary administrative action can be taken much more quickly than was previously the case. However, after decades of car-focused transport, we should not go to the exact opposite extreme. As long as a multi-tool like the car exists, only enthusiasts will plan all trips with a (cargo) bike. We need a contemporary mix of car, scooter and bike sharing as well as public transport to dissuade the other half of Berliners from owning their own cars and thus to achieve the mobility turnaround that we all want.
Which projects are supported by „Die nachhaltige Mierendorff-Insel 2030“? Asked differently: Who can come to you and participate?
Our focus lies on entrepreneurial action, so that basically everyone can come to us who is looking to take a stand for more sustainability in the economy of the Mierendorff island. If we discover a connection point with our topics, a joint project can be developed. Or we can connect the person with one of our many partners – here or in other parts of Berlin.
What does the city of the future look like to you?
My wish would be for a city that develops in a representative manner and not according to the loudest particular interests. The necessary framework for that would require more direct links between all stakeholders, but especially between society and the administration.
Could you please finish the following sentence: “Berlin is smart because...”
... it is the sustainable economy stronghold + the capital of sharing mobility. (vdo)