The Municipality of Varde found their vision: At one with nature


November 3rd the new vision of the Municipality of Varde was officially approved by the City Council. The vision places nature at the heart of the municipality’s plans for the future, and is a result of a 7 months journey through the natural and cultural landscapes of the municipality in search of its authentic strengths and potentials.

Mayor Erik Buhl welcomes citizens at the vision forum

The vision in short
“We live an active life in the open and are at one with nature every day. Outdoor living creates health, learning and quality of life. The active learning in our outdoor schools is world class. Business finds inspiration in nature for product development and marketing and the active outdoor living supports entrepreneurship within the fields of leisure, tourism and events. The coastline, the gastronomy and the active associational and cultural life generate experiences all year round.”

Drawing on the unique natural qualities of the municipality and the citizens’ drive for outdoor activities, business making, and active living, the vision has – so to speak – grown naturally from the identity and dreams of the municipality and its citizens.

An ending and a new beginning
The approval of the vision by the city council marks the end of a thorough process of dialogical interaction between citizens, the municipal organisation and the team of communications specialists, anthropologists and branding experts from Stagis. The methods we use when helping complex organisations – such as municipalities – to sharpen, develop and strengthen their organisational identity, culture and brand is based on simple but demanding principles. These are:

1)   Generate extensive empirical knowledge
2)   Conduct thorough analysis
3)   Consult the citizens
4)   Consult the citizens again
5)   Advise the City Council

Generating knowledge
The process began back in April with an extensive ethnographic mapping of the municipality in order to identify its key authentic strengths. On basis of observations and interviews with city council members, employees in the municipal organisation and a range of citizens we collected a large amount of personal stories of the municipalities and gathered a range of oral, visual and historical data about the municipality.

Conducting thorough analysis
Back at the office we sorted through and analysed the ethnographic material and thereby identified the following 5 element as the primary strengths of the Municipality of Varde:

  • The North sea and the rough and beautiful nature
  • Coastal tourism
  • Community, voluntarism and an active associational life
  • Health and well-being
  • Peace of mind and inner peace.

On basis of the analysis we developed three distinct future scenarios, each of which drew on different configurations of the municipality’s authentic strengths. The scenarios had the following working titles:

  • Active Nature
  • Our Health
  • The Coop-Movement 2.0


Group discussion during the future journey at the strategy seminar

Consulting the citizens #1: Travelling to the future
Following this we invited 90 key stakeholders from different corners of the municipality to join us for a half-day strategy seminar. Among the participants were representatives of youth, business, tourism, agriculture, local communities, associations, politicians, etc. The seminar was designed as a journey into different potential futures of the municipality represented by the three scenarios. The participants was invited to venture into the scenarios in order to investigate their potentials, their effects and in order to develop ideas for events, projects and other initiatives within the frame of the given scenarios. During and after the seminar we collected feedback from the participants in oral and written form. Afterwards the ideas, comments and questions of participants were used to refine and develop the three scenarios further.

Engaged citizens working on their future

Consulting the citizens # 2: Vision forum
At the end of August the time had come to invite all of the citizens to evaluate the three scenarios and partake in defining and formulating the final future vision of the municipality. To that end, we designed an interactive event in the shape of a vision forum, in which the participating citizens were presented to the three scenarios by local citizens.

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Locals present the scenario “active nature” at the vision forum in August 

Following the presentation the participants were guided through group exercises, panel discussions, open dialogue and a‘vote-with-your-feet-session’. During the event the citizens where prompted to send ideas, comments and questions to a SMS-system. This resulted in 325 qualitative comments and questions about the pros and cons of the different scenarios.

An uniquely designed SMS-system was used to keep track of the many comments from the 300 citizens at the vision forum

Along with other kinds of output from the participants (discussions, drawings and text), the text messages served as valuable information for the next phase of the process in which the City Council had to formulate the exact wording of the vision and choose concrete objectives for its implementation.

Advising the City Council
The last part of the process consisted of a range of workshops with the City Council and with managers of the municipal organisation of Varde. On basis of the input and opinions of citizens and the ideas developed during the strategy seminar and vision forum the vision was carefully formulated, discussed and reformulated until it stood up to the ambitions and expectations of politicians and managers. Likewise, the best and most promising ideas in relation to the vision were picked out for further development and description.

However, while the official approval of the vision by the City Council marks the end of one journey (i.e. searching for the vision) it also marks the beginning of another journey (i.e. implementing and bringing the vision to life). In the years and months to come, and in close collaboration with citizens, business and voluntary associations of the municipality, the City Council and municipal organisation of Varde will pull up their sleeves and start crafting their future with inspiration in the dictum:

Varde – at one with nature

Read more about Stagis’ extensive experience with helping municipalities develop their identity, vision and brand: The Kolding Case / Municipality Branding14 Conference

Den 3 november vedtog byrådet i Varde Kommune en ny vision for kommunens fremtid. Visionen, der bærer overskriften “Varde – i ét med naturen”, er udviklet af Stagis på baggrund af 7 måneders analyse og borgerinvolvering. Processen blev igangsat med en etnografisk kortlægning af kommunens autentiske styrker og stedbundne potentialer. De identificerede styrker udgjorde grundlaget for udviklingen af en række potentielle fremtidsscenarier for Varde Kommune. I workshops og seminarer har borgerne prioriteret, vurdereret og udviklet ideer indenfor disse scenarier, og på baggrund heraf blev den endelige vision formuleret. Visionen er således vokset naturligt ud af de kvaliteter, livssyn og værdier, der præger kommunens borgere og virksomheder. Dette lover godt for de kommende måneder og års indsats for at bringe visionen til live i et samarbejde mellem borgere, virksomheder, foreninger og den kommunale organisation. Stagis glæder sig til at følge implementeringen af den nye vision og se den skabe værdi og stolthed for borgere og virksomheder i kommunen.