Demographic change, the road ahead to sustainable cities, the transition to renewable energy – just some of the challenges faced by municipal planners. Whether they work in the public sector or work for engineering consultants, planners are often confronted by diverging interests in the planning process. Ultimately, dealing with conflicting interests is part of their job. Also, citizen involvement is increasingly considered an important part of successful municipal planning. As a result, in cooperation with the German Association of Consulting Engineers (VBI), the Steinbeis Transfer Institute for Social Aspects and Law, which belongs to Steinbeis University Berlin, has developed a training course that culminates in certification as a specialist mediator for large groups and planning process in the public domain.
The energy revolution is also placing enormous pressure on the energy industry to change – by adapting internal processes on account of cost pressures, or by introducing measures to change the infrastructure as required by regulators. This fuels conflict, not just within companies but also with customers. As a result, there has been a sharp increase in dealing with citizen involvement processes and conflicts that may arise during public construction and planning projects. In many communities, efforts are already being made to engender a new culture of involvement, with special events and innovative active participation models such as online debates to call on local residents to play a part in planning.
The training to become a specialist mediator in large groups and planning processes in the public domain is targeted mainly at planning engineers who also consult, project planning managers, regional managers, people working for the planning authorities, and people working in the energy industry. The first course finished in November 2014 and the next one starts in March 2015 in Leipzig.
Collaboration between German companies and their counterparts in China has been intensifying for years, especially within Germany itself. Many projects are jeopardized by a lack of understanding of cultural differences, resulting in spiraling costs due to German workers being unprepared or ill-prepared for the “Chinese challenge.” Founded last year, the Steinbeis Transfer Institute for East Asian Management and Culture is currently working on the development of a master’s degree on Management Sinology. The training aims to pull together business administration, sinology, and regional and cultural studies to provide course participants with the best possible preparation for collaborative projects with Chinese companies.
As a first step, the institute is developing a new training program called “Fit for China!” which is aimed at current and up-and-coming managers who would like to prepare specifically for time in China or collaboration with Chinese firms. A three-part program, “Fit for China!” aims to allow participants to discover and understand China and plan activities in the country. The objective is to develop skills for China that allow students to independently master the challenges of doing business in China, putting them in the position to contemplate their own actions within the context of Chinese culture.
The skills training is not restricted to intercultural differences, however. It also tackles specialist topics from a Chinese perspective, for example, innovation management in China, sourcing and the key issues of partnerships. The institute was successful in attracting experts from industry to contribute to the program by sharing their experiences in China. The language skills are being taught by the Confucius Institute in Hamburg who is a partner of the program.
There is also an intercultural workshop for teams spanning both nationalities. This revolves primarily around the issue of effective communication. The overall training program is open to members of the general public and can also be arranged as an in-house program for companies.