A vision is the overall image of what the community wants to be at some point in the future. The vision highlights what is unique about the city, and its identity. Defining a vision is an important step in creating a point on the horizon upon which actors in a city can focus. The vision also functions to unite people and their interests.

  1. The vision has a synergetic character (building on the existing values/assets of the city and generating added value)
  2. It requires participation, consultation, sharing, fine-tuning, consolidation, implementation and reviewing
  3. The vision may lead to a shorter version, i.e. a slogan, which can be the basis for a marketing strategy.


A vision is an output, and visioning is a process. UN-Habitat, in the document “Visioning as Participatory Planning Tool”[1], defines visioning as follows:

“Visioning is a process by which a community envisions the future it wants, and plans how to achieve it. It brings people together to develop a shared image of what they want their community to become”.

The visioning process is a good opportunity to engage stakeholders in a stimulating, participatory event. Once again, the stakeholder analysis is important for this sub phase, as a tool it ensures that all vulnerable groups, the poor and women and children are included in this exercise.


[1] UN-Habitat, 2012: 19.

The CDS team will set up the vision process and conduct a visioning exercise. The staff will work with the thematic groups and in larger forum on different visions.

After working through the different views of the vision, the team will compile a final vision and work with key stakeholders to gain support for and consensus on the focus and themes of the vision.

The section ‘Example for developing a vision’ below provides an example of a visioning exercise conducted during a strategic development process in Arnhem (the Netherlands).


Questions to ask in the formulation:

  1. What unique combination of factors should be highlighted?
  2. What are the main values, beliefs, ideas and impressions that people have of the city (key words)?
  3. Which are the target markets of the community?
  4. What are the long term and the short-term goals?

See Tool 13 on Brainstorming.


Visions should be:


A dream that is beyond what you think is possible; take it beyond your present reality.

Capitalise on core assets:

Builds on your city’s core assets, on history, citizens, strengths, unique capabilities, resources, and assets.


Provide a picture of what your city looks like in the future.


Use language that inspires. Provoke emotion and excitement. Create enthusiasm and pose a challenge.


Give a larger sense of purpose.


Output of this sub-phase: a city vision agreed upon by the local government and all key stakeholders.

Developing the vision during the strategic development process (case of Arnhem, the Netherlands)

Arnhem is a city in the east of the Netherlands. In the 1990’s it was suffering from problems of economic decline. It had, however, real local and regional potential, positioned at key crossroads to Germany. The national government of the Netherlands also considered its location strategic. The local government decided to organise a highly participatory strategic planning process.

The principles of the local government that governed the process were ‘participation in preparation and partnership in implementation’. These principles became a driving force behind the process, with a key influence on how the government staff planned and managed the interaction with inhabitants.

The city was interested to create, during the preparation of the strategy, an understanding of the benefits of programme on the part offor the citizens and, in implementation, a coordinated effort between parties, with commitment of manpower and resources. Namely, they focused on building long term partnerships. Developing trust and building relations wereas central to their approach.


The city organised a visioning process with the following steps:

  1. Brief profile of the city: a rapid appraisal of the issues faced in the city, written up and widely distributed.
  2. Consultations, an inventory of / discussion on views of the community and businesses. This involved a series of round table discussions, followed by 4 public debates. All events were lively and highly interactive, with a chance for to all to get involved.
  3. Formulation of four scenarios: the development of four distinct views of the potential future of the city.
  4. Consultations on and discussion of scenarios: feedback on the scenarios took different forms. The citizens were asked to comment in a suggestion box. The city installed an exhibition showing a graphic representation of the four scenarios in an empty hotel (Hotel 2015), and citizens were asked to come and look, work with interactive presentations and to comment.
  5. Concept vision: the development of a concept vision
  6. Consultations: followed by final feedback on the vision, prior to making the final choice.

The city concluded that the visioning process was instrumental in gaining ownership and commitment to the process internally in government and from key stakeholders. Taking the time in preparation of the vision implied that relationships were well formed when it came to implementation.

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