Novi Sad BiodiverCity

Novi Sad BiodiverCity

Danica Lacarac
Other Organisations
Novi Sad City Library


"Novi Sad – BiodiverCity" (“Novi Sad – biodiverzitetski grad”) is a partnership project between The National Green Roof Association, Serbia, and Novi Sad City Library, implemented in collaboration with the organization Public Libraries 2030 based in Brussels (Belgium), Matica Srpska Gallery, Novi Sad and the University Library "Svetozar Marković", Belgrade.

Citizens engaged throughout this process had the opportunity to be informed and discuss about topics in the field of ecology, which are important for the overall quality of life and health, as well as to participate in the development of urban nature.

The main objectives of the process were:

1. to encourage the active participation of citizens on the issues of protection of the urban natural environment and development of sustainable cities

2. to create and open a two-way communication between citizens and authorities

1. ACTIVE PARTICIPATION: The quality of life in the city is experienced by its inhabitants. Only if the needs of those using a space are harmonized with the characteristics of such space, it is possible to talk about integral development.

Citizens are still very poorly involved in the planning process of the city of Novi Sad, and they describe the process itself as insufficiently clear and insufficiently transparent.

Citizens describe the procedures as unclear and, from their point of view, understanding the complexity of the process itself is extremely difficult for them. As we could hear throughout the activities, the citizens’ view is that communication with decision-makers is challenging, and that their ability to influence decision-making processes is negligible and therefore meaningless. Our project’s activities, especially the urban mapping workshops, aimed to actively involve citizens in the process of analyzing the space that surrounds them, as well as considering the potential and direction of its further development.

2. TWO-WAY COMMUNICATION: On the one hand, both the preliminary analysis to the citizen engagement process and results from the citizen engagement process showed that acceptance of the status quo by citizens is frequent: they explained that it is extremely difficult -or even impossible, to influence changes regarding the quality of life in the city. On the other hand, especially during the past five years, new groups of citizens were formed to fight for the protection of nature.

Some of them reported thatsome actions also resulted in positive changes, for example, transformation of an undeveloped space into a dog park or protection of the greenery between apartment blocks, etc. Such examples represented a motivation to engage in further activities. However, what is common to many citizens engaged is that forms of engagement happened when the space was already very endangered. For example, they came to realize that the law allows for the reduction of green surfaces when it was already too late to react.

What we see as a necessity is the active involvement of citizens in the planning process, as a first step for the city urbanists toward considering the current needs of its inhabitants.

Participation Spectrum

When and Where

Start Year
End Year
Other Country

Policy Context

Policy Stage
Context of activity
Specific Topic
Urban Biodiversity and Citizen engagement


Communities or representatives involved
Direct users
- participants in the preliminary study: 281
- participants in the panel discussion entitled "Urban Biodiversity/Health Context" (11th July, 2021, DYC): 13 –
-participants in the panel discussion entitled "Urban Biodiversity/Bee Context" (18th August, 2021, Heritage Collection Department): 27
-- participants in the "Centre" urban mapping workshop (13th September 2021, DYC): 13
- participants in the "Detelinara" urban mapping workshop (18th November 2021, DYC): 7
- participants in the ”Liman" urban mapping workshop (25th November 2021, DYC): 10
- participants in the "Novo naselje" urban mapping workshop (08th December 2021, DYC): 10
- participants and visitors of the final promotion of the project (26th September 2021, the Danube
Park): 60
- 6 institutions (Ministry of Construction, Transport, and Infrastructure of the Republic of Serbia,
Institute of Public Health of Vojvodina, Faculty of Natural Sciences, University of Novi Sad, Faculty
of Biology, University of Belgrade, Institute of Urbanism Novi Sad, PUC "Gradsko Zelenilo", Novi
- 4 associations ("Jovan Živanović" Beekeeping Society, Organisation for Nature and Animal
Conservation OSNA, Society for the Bird Protection and Study Society of Serbia, "Miroslav Mika Antić" Scout Detachment)
How were the Participants selected?
Through what means citizens knew about the call for participation?
As a starting point, in May 2021, we published a survey in printed and electronic form.
The idea was to determine the topics that were important to citizens, to find out how familiar they are with the topic of urban biodiversity, and if they were willing to join us. This research showed that citizens were interested in living conditions in their community and would like to be actively involved in solving problems. Out of 281 completed surveys, 101 shared contact information, which meant that close to 36% of surveyed citizens wanted to join the initiative. From the collected addresses, we formed a mailing list.
Besides citizens, representatives from the Ministry of Construction, Transport and the infrastructure of the Republic of Serbia, Institute of Public Health of Vojvodina, Faculty of Natural Sciences, University of Novi Sad, Faculty of Biology, University of Belgrade, Institute of Urbanism Novi Sad, and PUC "Gradsko Zelenilo", Novi Sad were invited and joined the project as panelists and participants of the debates which followed.
We communicated throughout the project website, partners websites, and social media. Also, invitations were sent via local television programs.


Methodology description
By the type of methodology used, activities can be divided into three groups:

TYPE: group activity / took place offline
TIME: These meetings took place during the summer months (one on July 11th and one on August 18th)
PARTICIPANTS: For each panel discussion, we selected and invited three panelists (experts in the field of health care, climatology, biology, architecture, urbanism and City authority representatives) who made short presentations, which were followed by a discussion with citizens, members of non-governmental organizations, activists, and members of the media. FORM: Presentations by experts lasted 15 minutes each (45 minutes in total) and the discussion afterward lasted for another hour and a half.
GOAL: The main goal was to create an environment for open communication between these two usually divided groups – representatives of the City administration and citizens, as well as experts, creating a space for collective debate, presenting different views, making suggestions, asking questions, and inter-sectoral networking.

TYPE: group activity / took place offline
TIME: Urban mapping workshops were organized as follows: one in September, two in November and the last one in December.
PARTICIPANTS: citizens, interested and living in a specific district
FORM: Workshops lasting two hours. The first part of the workshop lasted 60 minutes where each participant presented a specific open and/or unbuilt and/or green space they were asked to select. In the second part of the workshop,- the group works- participants were divided into groups to analyze three selected locations further. We used physical mapsand flip charts to collect the ideas brought up by citizens.
GOAL: Focusing on chosen districts, the idea was to get a real-time overview of how much citizens are involved with nature. And also lsoto explore how people and nature can be brought closer together within the city development process. The main goal was to gather the inputs directly from the citizens, so we could use the collected data to influence city authorities.

TYPE: group activity / took place offline
TIME: The walk took place in December and lasted for half an hour.
PARTICIPANTS: citizens and project team
FORM: a walking tour in Danube Park / During the walk, participants were asked to share how they experience different park zones, how they feel while walking, and what they notice in the surrounding and what communicates to them about the park planning, its integration and maintenance.
GOAL: the main goal was to inspire participants to get in closer contact with the space that surrounds them.


Main Outcomes and Lasting Achievement
The whole project process can be described as opening a space for dialogue. What we see as a main value of the whole process was that the citizens finally had a chance to talk with the experts and city authorities on a respectful, inclusive, and welcoming ground, and express their own experiences, concerns, and issues regarding the quality of everyday life.
Specific outcomes by phases were:
1. The output from the first introductory event was a list and info of the citizens who wanted to be engaged in the project activities.
2. The panel's outcome was a detailed list, co-drafted by citizens and panelists together, of shortcomings causing the issue of nature to be often overlooked, as well as encouraging signs that indicated the possibility that we won't have to wait a long time for these topics to become integral parts in the context of the development and the future of the cities.
3. WORKSHOPS OUTCOMES were:- New ideas on how to upgrade a selected location which identified as the most important regarding its ecosystem services from the perspective of citizens.
- Citizens' ideas on delivering a new green area in the city, following a vision defined and co-created with citizens during the project.
How were the outcome taken up within the process they were carried out?
Outcomes were summarized in the form of reports and delivered to representatives of the Department of Urbanism of the City of Novi Sad.


Reason for such challenges and solutions
1. Both the topic and the process were new but acknowledged as important by participants, as they stated in the survey which we conducted after each event.
2. Involved citizens were the ones who already care about nature and looking for a way to be even more engaged and expand their impact. They were very interested to learn how the biodiversity loss impacts the quality of life in the city.
3. The relationship between citizens and authorities, and the culture of communication needs to be redefined. Activities showed that even though the communication between the citizens and authorities is poor, it can and needs to be changed, upgraded, and redefined. The workshop format is one of the examples of how, in an efficient and simple manner, citizens can be involved in the planning process.
Lessons Learn
1. Throughout the process, we have realized that citizens and representatives of city administrations had completely different starting points when it comes to urban biodiversity. City representatives are dealing with rigid systems and structures, where the main issue is a question of maintenance of the existing nature in the city. They find it extremely difficult to deal with other concerns, especially considering the different requests they are receiving from citizens on a daily basis. On the other hand, citizens who participated were interested in having more nature within the city and were determined to understand on how to integrate it even more than it is now.
2. This process also proved that the lack of communication comes mainly from the lack of trust.
Authorities are stopping this process highlighting that asking citizens for opinions will bring confusion since they are not educated enough, and citizens have been convinced many times that authorities stand for the interest of investors before everyone else, even if that affects the quality of life in the city. What brings positive thoughts is the fact that representatives who were
invited to participate in the activities have answered positively and brought value to the process itself. Still, besides their participation, there was no further exchange with local authorities about this project.
1. In terms of decision making, deliberative and co-creation approaches might open completely new perspectives, so the focus should be on the process itself, not the end result only.
2. It is simple to organize a process in which citizens are truly engaged within the topics they care about. No matter how many of them, what really matters is the quality of the engagement and new results/ideas/concepts that are gained. Keep it simple and clear.
3. When talking to citizens, be specific and clear and choose your questions wisely. It is of high importance to define three key questions before the engagement starts.