11.–12.06.2025 #polismobility

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The grand vision of desirable mobility for all and how to achieve it

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Community Creates Mobility sees mobility as a common good and wants to democratize innovation processes in mobility.

Marek Knopp and Georg Frauwallner

© Marek Knopp © Georg Frauwallner

Planning, decision-making and innovation in the field of mobility are very much oriented toward finding quick solutions to acute problems rather than designing mobility to work best for society and its needs. An ecosystem called Community Creates Mobility sees mobility as a commons and wants to democratize innovation processes in mobility. A great vision - but does it really work, and if so, how?

Why movement is needed now

In times of change due to health and climate crises, our society faces major challenges. No organization, association or city can manage to develop solutions for all alone in today's dynamic and fast-moving world. For these to succeed, there needs to be a strong shared understanding, a push for greater collaboration, and a shared vision for the future of mobility.

Over the past few years, the Corona pandemic has brought increased attention to new directions and opportunities. Awareness has arisen: Mobility can be lived differently. The Zukunftsinstitut (Institute for the Future), among others, also writes that mobility is a fundamental right. Mobility can also be understood as a common good, i.e., as something that is designed, managed and used by everyone for everyone. To this end, innovation processes are to be democratized and new ways and collaborations are to be created away from competitive thinking. But why all this and how can it work?

Mobility is neutral, isn't it?

Mobility for all has the claim and the great challenge of taking into account needs of the most diverse groups of the population. This diversity is rarely reflected in the mobility services offered. One reason for this can be found, among others, in the gender-specific composition of planning groups. To illustrate this in more detail, the average proportion of women in the European transport sector is 22%. The share of female passengers in public transport is around 60% - a considerable difference between developers on the one hand and users on the other.

Traditional mobility surveys are often very rudimentary in design and hardly cover, for example, the trip purposes of women. The more one knows about movement patterns, the better decisions can be made and the more likely it is that needs-based solutions will be found. Data play a considerable, if not the decisive, role in this. Numerous mobility surveys are not representative of the entire population due to the lack of knowledge of diverse movement patterns and reveal comparatively more about male movement patterns. Male needs are thus often erroneously elevated to the status quo of society. One also speaks of the "male default" that is taken as the basis for decisions. This is because one plans for what one knows. What is needed is more knowledge and understanding about diverse movement patterns.

Awareness of life realities

While men tend to travel simple distances by car, women increasingly travel intermodally and cover more and more complex route chains. This suggests that women travel differently and have different mobility requirements. In particular, people who do the care work in the population are more likely to cover trip chains than simple commuting distances. This means, for example, that women make several more stops on the way home from work - be it at the supermarket, the child's sports club or the care facility.

In a changing world, it is increasingly important to capture the diversity of movement patterns in order to continue working with them. In order to capture these, however, participation processes would also need to be designed in a way that allows for inclusion. For companies, but also for communities and cities, this can mean breaking new ground and being surprised by the creativity of others.

© Chiara de Eccher

The mobility revolution needs us all

Transport accounts for around 30% of total greenhouse gas emissions in the EU and is the sector whose emissions are still rising. Sustainable mobility must be the comfortable and safe choice, the requirements to achieve this are diverse and do not only differ between genders. Appropriate framework conditions are needed to exploit the full potential and achieve climate targets.

Mobility is not just a common good. Mobility is also a habit. A change in our personal mobility patterns is usually associated with a new stage in life, such as a new job or place of residence. If a company or a city offers mobility solutions that meet the needs of its employees or residents, the switch to sustainable mobility options can be made easier and more attractive. At the same time, new target groups can be addressed.

To achieve this, it is important to include the perspectives of diverse parties: not only the diverse perspectives of users, but also other perspectives outside of one's own field of expertise.

Together to the goal

In the joint movement Community Creates Mobility, pioneers of mobility have united with partners such as Austrian Federal Railways since spring 2019 to position impulses for new mobility concepts. An open network and innovation ecosystem with the goal of holistically rethinking and redesigning the mobility of the future. Mobility is seen as a common good that needs to be constantly shaped - for everyone and with everyone. The aim is to jointly achieve a holistic understanding of a desirable future of mobility. The community now comprises more than 500 organizations from industry and start-ups, the public sector, academia, civil society and many other committed mobility thinkers from the DACH region.

Central components of the fields of activity are, on the one hand, so-called Mobility Learning Journeys, in which an understanding of the respective perspectives on concrete current mobility topics is to be created. The focus here is on getting to know the various perspectives, opinions and experiences by means of an open, appreciative and unbureaucratic exchange as well as the generation of ideas, strengthened cooperation, finding overlaps and discussions at eye level.

A manifesto as common ground

Another essential part of the community is the Mobility Manifesto. This was developed jointly in a collaborative approach and represents a common direction for all stakeholders. The focus here is on the approach of wanting to develop mobility for our future holistically and in a socially responsible manner.

All in all, it is about the common sense on the future of mobility and the shaping of a desirable future image of mobility that is to be strived for. The manifesto is intended to create a basis so that established organizations, start-ups, public companies, science as well as civil society groups and citizens can work together to make mobility as a common good accessible to all in the best possible way. This means that mobility is understood holistically and includes different forms of mobility such as walking or data mobility.

The goal is to create a social movement with sufficient momentum to initiate a public debate and highlight open issues. In terms of climate protection, it is particularly important that the polluters bear the costs - in connection with mobility - so that they are no longer passed on to the general public (polluter pays principle). Another central point is a rethinking of mobility as a purely competitive scenario towards a mobility ideology in the sense of mobility as a common good.

Together, central points for a desirable future were recorded in a document, summarized and continuously worked on. So far, the Mobility Manifesto covers five topics, which should make it possible to think about mobility from a new perspective and to shape the future. With the basic principle that mobility is a social mandate for the general public, five crucial areas emerge: Physical Space & Infrastructure, Focus on Needs, Cost & Necessity, Sustainability & Future Protection, and Mobility Ecosystem.

Democratization of innovation processes

At the same time, Community Creates Mobility has docked onto the European research project RiConfigure. This project is concerned with the involvement of civil society actors in innovation processes and sees this as a democratization of innovation. This perspective makes it possible to get a differentiated view of the participants and to identify blind spots.

In innovation research, this involvement of actors from science, the public sector, business, and also civil society and the arts is understood as "quadruple helix innovation." In mobility innovation, little attention is and has been paid to the "fourth helix", i.e. those groups of people, associations and interested parties who do not participate in innovation for institutional or entrepreneurial reasons, but who will process and ultimately use it.

Five essential insights

Durch die Zusammenarbeit und Vernetzung mit europäischen Projektpartnern konnten Erkenntnisse über die Gestaltung solcher Innovationsprozesse weiter ausgearbeitet werden.

Der Weg ist das Ziel: Die Mobilität der Zukunft gemeinsam zu gestalten ist ein ständiger Aushandlungsprozess, der Ausdauer erfordert. Vor allem wenn es um die Gestaltung geht, ist es ein Marathon und kein Sprint.

Ein sicherer Anker: Von Anfang an wurde Community Creates Mobility von den Österreichischen Bundesbahnen und ihrer Verankerung dort sehr unterstützt. Dies war vor allem wegen der Herausforderung der unterschiedlichen Arbeitsgeschwindigkeiten und -stile der VertreterInnen verschiedener Institutionen und Organisationen sinnvoll.

Freiräume schaffen und nutzen: Innovation liegt vor allem in der Freiheit der Formate, im Ausprobieren und in der Zusammenführung unterschiedlicher Perspektiven und Blickwinkel auf Mobilität. Insbesondere die flexible Planung und das schnelle Reagieren auf aktuelle Themen und konkrete Fragestellungen zählen zu den Erfolgsfaktoren.

Türen offen halten: Offene Ökosysteme suchen aktiv und kontinuierlich nach neuen Akteuren. Der bewusste Blick und die Einbeziehung kleinerer und manchmal auch weniger bekannter Akteure kann dazu beitragen, die Mobilität der Zukunft für alle zu gestalten.

Was wirklich zählt: Die Frage nach dem "Warum" ist eine wesentliche Frage. Im Mittelpunkt von "Gemeinschaft schafft Mobilität" stehen Nachhaltigkeit sowie Fairness, Chancengleichheit und Gleichberechtigung. Themen, die vor lauter Businessplänen und Vorgaben oft nicht mehr bedacht werden. Als Basis sind es schließlich wir Menschen, die Mobilitätsbedürfnisse haben. Und nicht Excel-Tabellen.

Dies ist eine Reise in die Zukunft, die noch lange nicht zu Ende ist. Für eine wünschenswerte Zukunft der Mobilität brauchen wir Pioniere, wir brauchen Mut und wir brauchen Ausdauer. Für und durch uns alle.

Claudia Falkinger

is co-founder of the inclusive mobility consultancy "Punkt vor Strich" as well as the "Women in Mobility" hub in Austria and university lecturer on the topics of innovation, entrepreneurship and user experience.

Anna Gerhardus

is a research associate at the Institute for Advanced Studies in Vienna with a focus on participatory innovation processes in the field of mobility, especially in interdisciplinary European research projects.