Strengthening the social cohesion in a neighbourhood in Switzerland

  • Posted on: 22 August 2017
  • By: Barbara Kieser

Short summary

The city of Rorschach participated in a federal programme with the aim of creating attractive public spaces and strengthening the social cohesion in one neighbourhood. The creation of a neighbourhood office and a neighbourhood meeting point as well as the transformation of two streets into encounter zones proved very successful. The residents of the neighbourhood developed a sense of affiliation, ownership and solidarity.


The programme “projets urbains” (“urban projects”) was implemented by the federal council in order to foster the social integration and to raise the quality of life in various neighbourhoods in Switzerland. In the city of Rorschach, the aim of the project was the creation of attractive public spaces and the strengthening of the social cohesion in one neighbourhood by deepening the participation of the residents. The federal council supported the project financially.

Transformational Measures and Activities

In a first step, the residents of the neighbourhood were asked to present their wishes and needs for their neighbourhood. The project team quickly realised that they needed to be present in the neighbourhood on a more regular basis to ensure a successful cooperation. They opened a “neighbourhood office” where residents could get information, ask questions and get involved. In the meantime, the office is organising regular and popular events like the yearly neighbourhood party, a streetsoccer event or a “language café”.

The residents also wished for a neighbourhood meeting point. The meeting point is a room that can be used freely by all residents. It is the residents who decide what should happen and it is them who organise the events, for example cultural events, a supervised lunch break for children, a dancing class, a flea market, cooking evenings, a theatre club or games evenings.

Furthermore, two streets were transformed to encounter zones where pedestrians have the right of way before all other traffic participants. Parking spaces were abolished, trees were planted and benches installed. Where there used to be a lot of traffic, there is now an urban playground for children.

After the official project phase ended in 2015, the neighbourhood founded an association to continue with the work. The residents developed a name (“Löwenquartier”) for their previously unnamed neighbourhood.


The neighbourhood developed a feeling of affiliation and solidarity. Neighbours that didn’t know each other before became friends. Especially migrants with a foreign mother tongue became more involved and integrated. Residents became involved in their neighbourhood and had the chance to develop and implement own ideas. The feedback was overwhelmingly positive.

The city of Rorschach valued the success of the project by raising the employment percentage of the responsible person in the municipality from 70 % to 100 %. Therefore, the continuation of the project is secured even though the federal contribution is finished.

Challenges, Opportunities and Transferability

It is a challenge to keep the residents involved over a long period of time. It is therefore crucial to have regular tangible results to keep people interested. It was also a challenge to get migrants involved, yet in Rorschach it worked because many of the activities addressed them directly, for example the language café or cooking evenings, where especially migrant women could teach other residents. While the participatory approach offers many advantages, it is crucial to define the rules and limitations of the participation process in advance to avoid disappointment.

It was an opportunity for the municipality to get in closer touch with the citizens, especially with migrants that are usually harder to reach.

The project is in principal transferable to other neighbourhoods, yet the success of this project was, among others, based on the financial support of the federal government.

In Depth

Description of the programme “projet urbains” (German, French, Italian):

Description of the project in Rorschach (German, French, Italian):

A summary of the results of the project (only in German):