Bochum, located in Germany’s Ruhr Valley, faces not only global competition but also competition from the many larger cities in the area. The chances for success in such an environment can be improved by setting up a comprehensive and holistic strategic approach. With 2030 – Die Bochum Strategie Bochum has developed an excellent strategy which focusses on five key points: environment, science, modern city management, talent, quality of life, and culture.  

“Cities in Germany are confronted with major challenges. The pressure to change is substantial. The increasing digitalization of the economy and society, the continuing weakness of municipal budgets, demographic change, the increasing drifting apart of society, but also the influx of people seeking protection; these are issues that have a direct impact at the local level and require appropriate municipal solutions.”

Taken from Bochum Strategie 2030

Guiding principles of Bochum’s strategy to tackle these significant challenges are Knowledge – Change – Togetherness: Knowledge as a resource for the future. Change as a forward-looking approach to structural change and Togetherness as the base for social cohesion.

Bochum’s strategic approach

Bochum’s strategy reaches out until 2030. I talked with Ulf Dannehl (Advisor to the Mayor) and Dr. Lars Tata (Strategy Manager) to obtain insights into the development, implementation, and success of Bochum’s strategy as strategic city development is a crucial element for staying competitive in a globalized world.

Which process did you use to develop the strategy?

Mayor Thomas Eiskirch was the driving force behind the strategy development process, to point the Bochum in a positive direction. One crucial element in developing the strategy was a broad-base inclusion of Bochum’s citizens using a citizen conference. People were selected randomly to take part in the conference to represent all citizens equally.

Bürgerkonferenz am 11.02.2017 im RuhrCongress in Bochum. +++ Foto: Lutz Leitmann/Stadt Bochum, Referat für Kommunikation
Bürgerkonferenz am 11.02.2017 im RuhrCongress in Bochum. +++ Foto: Lutz Leitmann/Stadt Bochum, Referat für Kommunikation

Which feedback did 2030 – Die Bochum Strategie get internally and externally?

Citizens and employees agreed that the City wants to make Bochum fit for the future and aim for out of the box thinking in an adequate way. However, it is not that easy to communicate the inevitably abstract derivation of the strategy.

As communication is crucial to the success of the strategy internally as well as externally, concrete examples of measurements were used to emphasize the importance of developing a comprehensive strategic stance. Internal and external communication has proven to be a vital task to make the strategy a success.

For communication and information purposes, the City set up a conference for over 450 of its employees as well. Further, a market for ideas in the City Hall which lasted more than one week was established to demonstrate openness to the suggestions of the employees.

What is necessary to keep in mind is that strategy development and implementation is not a sprint but takes perseverance. It is also a process related to aspects such as change management, which solely have to do with the strategy itself.


+++ Foto: Lutz Leitmann/Stadt Bochum, Referat für Kommunikation

Which measures did you so far implement in Bochum?

There are several projects in process. Some have already been completed, and some are in various phases of implementation. For example:

  • An agency for voluntary work as a source for information to people interested in voluntary engagement and as a point of contact for organizations and associations has been successfully implemented.
  • A bureau for family work to align the City’s action with the needs of families was set up.
  • More trees are planted than those required just to replace those which were removed or died. (City-Tree-Concept).
  • For each donated bench, there is a bench paid for by the City. Five hundred are already built (1000 benches program).

The City has recognized the importance of being agile when fast actions are required. During the Coronavirus crisis, Bochum managed to quickly establish a hotline and a diagnosis center to support local doctors.

Which is the biggest challenge to the implementation of the strategy?

For us, complexity is the biggest challenge, but no problem cannot be solved. Even financial restrictions due to the budgetary framework do not hinder the implementation of the strategy when issues are appropriately prioritized.

If there are any conflicts among objectives, they need to be discussed. But this challenge can be tackled successfully if all relevant parties show the readiness to compromise.

Which challenges are relevant for Bochum in the long term?

Megatrends also have an impact on Bochum. The actions towards competitiveness and demographic change will be crucial for the success of the City. Bochum needs to acquire and keep bright minds.

In the past, Bochum was characterized by a unidirectional industrial focus. Bochum’s economy in the future can rely on a broader industry basis with science functioning as the amplifier.

The location of Bochum is another long-lasting challenge. With many other large cities around it a lot, there is a lot of competition in the Ruhr area to attract the best people and firms. Bochum constantly needs to improve its soft locational factors.

Die Kneipenmeile "Bermudadreieck" in Bochum, aufgenmommen am 07.06.2013. +++ Foto: Lutz Leitmann / Stadt Bochum, Presseamt
Die Kneipenmeile “Bermudadreieck” in Bochum, aufgenmommen am 07.06.2013. +++ Foto: Lutz Leitmann / Stadt Bochum, Presseamt

Which diplomatic relationships with other cities does Bochum maintain?

Bochum has five sister cities: Sheffield (United Kingdom), Oviedo (Spain), Donetsk (Ukraine), Nordhausen (Germany), and Tsukuba (Japan). Quite recently, Bochum established a partnership with the Japanese City of Tsukuba. The partnership aims to co-operate in science and knowledge-based fields of the economy.

Find more about city strategies: Have a look at our talks with officials from Helsinki and Eindhoven to find out more about city strategies in the face of global competition.