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Intro to the whole model

The complicated system of cities and regions needs management on various levels. To name but a few, economy, the social sector and personnel are all managed in one way or another. Managing tasks individually and sectorally, however, is most often inefficient and leads to increased workload and weak results. Re-organising and integrating existing practices, plans and strategies under one management system will systemize the work, boost the efficiency and provide a multitude of positive outcomes. It will direct all available resources towards the goals defined and secure the transparency and democracy of decision-making. In the integrated management system (IMS), the effort lost in running several parallel management systems can be turned into sustainability.

The IMS consists of five major steps repeated in annual cycles. Although the system follows an annual cycle, full revision will be required only every 3-5 years unless evaluation of achievements and results at the end of an annual cycle suggest reconsideration.

The cycle begins with a baseline review, in which the current state of sustainability factors in the city is mapped. As the next step, targets are set for the priorities identified as a result of the baseline review. Political commitment is needed throughout the cycle but becomes most crucial when the outcome of the target setting, i.e., the strategic programme, is being approved by the City Council.

Completing the preparatory steps carefully will notably diminish the risk of hardships during the implementation. After the three preparatory steps of the cycle, the implementation of the priority actions decided earlier takes place. The actions taken are to be monitored during their implementation in order to gather information on the functionality of the system. During the last step of the system, evaluation and reporting, the collected information is evaluated and used for reporting the successes and possible draw-backs of the process. It provides the basis for a city council decision on how to continue in the next annual cycle.

Two cross-cutting elements need to be kept in mind throughout the steps of the cycle: involvement and communication as well as organisational setup. From the very beginning of the cycle, it is important to carefully plan who are involved in the process and what they can contribute. Getting as many relevant actors activated as possible will make the effort a common interest and is thereby more likely to succeed. A well-functioning organisational setup of the management system will exert decisive impact on the success of the undertaking. Strong organisational management is needed to keep the extensive entity of a city and the great number of stakeholders together and in a common course towards a more sustainable urban area.

An important assumption is that it may not be possible to achieve everything in the beginning. The model is better described as a journey with one step following the other, where cities and regions have different starting points. An important road map for this journey is outlined with the Aalborg Commitments in 2004, regarded as a thematic framework of the system.