Working Groups: Facts and Strategies

Finland Helsinki urban planners workshop

Helsinki: Informal working group, city planning

Question to our WhatsApp Forum:

I have been so long away from Penang, and my stay was just those couple of weeks, that I have huge zones of ignorance about how transport policy is made in Penang. But if I take several pretty high performing examples of cities and metropolitan areas with whom I have worked pretty closely over the years – say Bremen, Lyon, Helsinki and Adelaide – I can report that the pattern is, among other things, to organize “working groups” with pretty high levels of expertise in the key fields of public policy to help guide and coordinate government and other key actors: For example, walking, cycling, transit, school and work transport, space and land use, universal access, parking, speed, road architecture, economic instruments, vulnerable populations and areas, security,,  public health impacts, enforcement, etc., etc.

And in each case, the strength of the working group is not only pretty high levels of competence at the local government level in their area of responsibility, but also, and perhaps even more important, the strong continuing working links with the key organizations of civil society that are engaged in that particular sector of the overall sustainable transport and sustainable city challenge. Intensity of involvement, collaboration, and continuity are the keys to success.

So now my question:

Is this how it works in Penang today? And if so, what are these groups or “working parties”?  Their zones of expertise? And how do they work?

I understand that you have one for cycling. Can someone explain to us how that works? By way of first example?

Kind thanks, and forgive my ignorance.

Eric Britton

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About the author:

Eric Britton
9, rue Gabillot, 69003 Lyon France

Bio: Educated as an international development economist, Eric Britton is an American political scientist, teacher and sustainability activist who has worked on missions and advisory assignments on all continents. Professor of Sustainable Development, Economy and Democracy at the Institut Supérieur de Gestion (Paris), he is also MD of EcoPlan Association, an independent advisory network providing strategic counsel for government and business on policy and decision issues involving complex systems, social-technical change, civil society and sustainable development. Founding editor of World Streets: The Politics of Transport in Cities | See Britton online at and @ericbritton

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