The Urban Agenda of Rotterdam

From Beyond Social

In the context of the programme agenda stad and the city deals, the administration of Rotterdam has produced an unofficial 'Urban Agenda' of Rotterdam. Although not officially recognised this Agenda offers a good insight in the different context specific policy issues and how the city administration would like to deal with it.

The Urban Agenda of Rotterdam

Slide of Mathijs Ruijven, Chief Urban Planner of Rotterdam

Download the dutch version of the Urban Agenda: Pamflet-Agenda-Rotterdam.pdf

The Next Economy

English translation of the Urban Agenda (intro only):

Dutch cities are growing and changing, due to a number of global technological innovations as well as various social and socio-economic developments. The Netherlands are thus currently in a process of ‘resetting’, on a number of levels. In order to help this process develop in a constructive direction, there is an ongoing effort on a national level to formulate an urban agenda. Rotterdam wishes to play a positive, proactive role in the dialogue on this agenda.

The present document thus constitutes Rotterdam's contribution to this process. We particularly wish to emphasise our sense of the urgency in addressing urban challenges, Rotterdam's open attitude in this process, and a number of specific topics which we feel are particularly relevant. We will be actively seeking out collaborative partnerships on these topics in the near future on a local, regional and national level.

We will be forming coalitions focusing on specific shared interests in order to arrive at a number of concrete and well-considered measures: the city deals. Because for our cities to remain strong in the long term, we must act now.

The Urban Agenda

In te context op our community of practice 'line 23' we observed some connections between the DNA of the districts in which we are working, the main objectives of our partners and the specific items of the Urban Agenda.

  1. Bospolder-Tussendijke / M4H (Delfshaven): the learning and innovative city
  2. De Beverwaard (IJsselmonde): the compact, healthy and green city
  3. Afrikaanderwijk (Feijenoord): the safe and inclusieve city

Seizing opportunities

The economy is changing, and big cities are once again in demand. This is a unique opportunity for Rotterdam and the region! Rotterdam has much going for it: the economy is growing, the image is very positive, the level of education of Rotterdam's citizens has been increasing sharply in recent years, and after several years of crisis the level of unemployment is once again decreasing. The population is also growing. In 2014 Rotterdam counted 6,700 new citizens, a trend which is expected to continue.

However, social and economic changes are going fast, sometimes perhaps even too fast. Now is the time to act boldly. Though no one can predict the future, the direction is clear: we are now in a period of transition that presents us with urgent challenges.

The economy is here the leading principle. Economic growth is necessary for a dynamic and prosperous city. The challenge for Rotterdam is thus to make the best possible use of the ongoing economic transition, and to create the necessary conditions for this transition in the city and the region. We do this under the motto: Rotterdam, a 21st-century ‘making city’

Economy in transition

What does this transition entail? The impact of technological innovations such as 3D printing, robotisation, digitisation, etc., is transforming industry on a global scale, leading to what is being called a third industrial revolution or a ‘next economy’. Strong sectors such as the port and industry must adapt to new developments in order to continue playing a leading role on the global stage. There are many opportunities to be found at the boundaries between existing clusters.

An important characteristic of the economic transition is a strong emphasis on innovation and knowledge-intensive products. The city and the region must provide the socio-economic climate in which these sectors can grow. Another aspect of this transition is that production is increasingly taking place at much shorter distances from consumers. This requires favourable conditions for creative industries in urban areas, from physical space to regulations that allow for experimentation.

The transition also affects the labour market. Professions are changing and thus require (future) workers to develop new skills and competencies. The labour force as well as educational institutions must be prepared for this.

The city as a motor of the economy

In the ‘next economy’, cities increasingly provide the necessary conditions for economic growth. Cities are melting pots of people and ideas, where innovations can evolve more quickly. This is why startups are increasingly concentrated in urban areas. Cities compete globally to attract the best and brightest, but also collaborate in order to be stronger together.

The attractiveness of a city is thus crucial to its positioning. We wish to facilitate the growth and vitality of the population through increased metropolitan density, good living conditions, the right combination of facilities and infrastructure, and the best possible accessibility in combination with improved air quality. A compact city where people can work, play and live healthy lives.

Social inclusion

Both entrepreneurs and residents, particularly professionals with a mid-level or higher education who are the vanguard and ‘strong shoulders’ of the city, play a crucial role in the process of economic transition. What’s important is to capitalise on the reservoir of talent and entrepreneurial skills, which are so valuable for the city and all its residents.

We also observe an increased emphasis on personal responsibility. Labour contracts are increasingly temporary, flexible and part-time. Social care and healthcare are increasingly based on the idea of self-sufficiency. The ‘sharing’ economy is growing. Citizens come together to develop new initiatives. By making it interesting for citizens with mid-level and high incomes to live in the city, we are also creating a strong foundation for incorporating these changes.

However, we cannot help but notice that these economic and social developments can also play a role in increasing economic inequality. Thus we must also remain mindful of our fellow citizens who are unable to adapt to these changes. How can we prevent an increase in socio-economic inequality in the city, and which steps will be needed in the future to promote social inclusion?


The challenge for the Rotterdam region is continue to become more adaptable, in order to anticipate and make the best possible use of the many ongoing developments. An important characteristic of Rotterdam is its demonstrated ability to quickly recover from disasters or unexpected events, and even to emerge from these challenges stronger than it was before. It is no coincidence that Rotterdam's motto is ‘sterker door strijd’: stronger through struggle. Rotterdam can take care of itself, has proven to be resilient, and is always ready for the future.

It's important to carefully consider how best to deal with changes and unexpected events, also in terms of public policy, which is why Rotterdam is working on formulating a Resilience Strategy.

Participation in the Rockefeller Foundation’s international 100 Resilient Cities programme also helps Rotterdam to develop strategies for resilience, including social resilience.


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