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The Community as a Partner

Stubbekøbing is in an economically challenging situation due to several negative developments in the city. Project 4850 and their plans for the transformation of the Stubbekøbing business harbor present a unique opportunity to create a positive development in the city. Our research indicates that citizens and especially the strong community life can be important resources in a cultural urban transformation in Stubbekøbing harbor.   
With their vision for the harbor, Project 4850 has managed to change citizens' attitudes from concern and dissatisfaction to more positive ones. We suggest that citizens should consider the progress of the project as an opportunity for increased influence and ownership in the city's development. A successful realization of the project could act as a springboard for Stubbekøbing in a more positive direction. However, this requires cooperation and organization of the town's associations at a higher level in interaction with, but not dependent on, Guldborgsund Municipality, as the town is not a top priority for the municipality. 


Our study is based on interviews with citizens and relevant actors involved in the city's development. Through these interviews, we gained insight into the dynamics of association life, the ongoing processes of the project and different perspectives on Stubbekøbing's development.

How We Did It


When transforming an old commercial port, it is important to assess how citizens are involved and given the opportunity to influence the development. Sherry Arnstein's model "Ladder of Citizen Participation" presents different levels for how this can be done.

Arnstein points out that real citizen participation implies that citizens have the power to influence the decision-making process. Failure to distribute power between citizens and urban developers is seen as empty ritual and can lead to citizen powerlessness and frustration with current urban development projects.

Arnstein's model consists of eight steps on a ladder, where the lower levels are non-involvement or token involvement, while the upper levels give citizens a higher degree of influence in decision-making processes. 

We have assessed that the citizen involvement that has so far taken place through project 4850 in Stubbekøbing has been more limited and symbolic in nature. However, there is some untapped potential in terms of engaging in actual partnerships or delegating decision-making power to citizens.

What Kind of Involvement?

In our study, we are inspired by the ABCD approach to identify Stubbekøbing's associations and institutions, with a focus on combining existing resources to promote positive change.

Liv i Stubbekøbing, acts as an umbrella organization and coordinator for the town's associations. The association engages in promoting activities and handles communication with the municipality. IDAs Venner supports the ferry route, the Motorcycle Museum has Northern Europe's largest collection of vintage motorcycles, and Stubbekøbing Library and Museum are key cultural players in the town. These associations are valuable resources and potentially influence the development of the town. 

Our empowerment analysis indicates that the extensive activity in the association life in Stubbekøbing has promoted horizontal empowerment by mobilizing citizens in different networks where information and interests are shared. Despite the town's economic challenges - as seen in the worn-out urban spaces and empty buildings - community life and horizontal empowerment are strong. 

Through its work as an umbrella organization and facilitator of communication between citizens, associations and the municipality, the association Liv i Stubbekøbing also contributes to vertical empowerment. Our empirical findings show that many board members in the association are newcomers, which indicates that the town is supplied with resources from outside, thus strengthening the local community. The strengths of associations are also seen in the fact that they have previously been effective in mobilizing against the closure of key institutions in the city.  

Several citizens express a strong desire to be directly involved in the future transformation of Stubbekøbing harbor. Our research indicates that associations want an agenda-changing involvement where they can help shape the overall direction of project 4850. However, a possible way forward could also be increased self-determination over parts of the project.  

While it is difficult to conclude the success of citizen involvement so far, our analysis indicates that the project has the support of citizens, despite the level of perceived involvement.

Capacities and Resources in the Community


The study has shown us that the momentum that Project 4850 can potentially create in Stubbekøbing opens up the possibility of an anchoring in the local community where citizens actively participate. 

A concrete approach could be to open up for local joint ownership of some of the premises in the project area. This can create a mutual reinforcement between the privately run initiative 4850 and the associations in Stubbekøbing, which also promotes the overall quality of the transformation of the harbor. The hope is that this can initiate a general movement in Stubbekøbing, where a common ownership of the urban space might counteract the defeatist zeitgeist that seems to be spreading due to systematic pressures that Stubbekøbing, like other smaller towns, is experiencing.


The premises that citizens can acquire through joint ownership could be rented out to local associations such as the sailing clubs, Ida's Friends and other interested citizen groups. In addition, premises could be facilitated for Fiskebrættet, which would contribute to more life around the restaurant life at the harbor and at the same time provide a more civic alternative to what Project 4850 has planned.


In addition, the premises could support the city's museum and tourist information, which is currently threatened with closure following the withdrawal of support from the municipality-funded Business Lolland Falster. The museum and tourist information, run by local volunteers, enjoy broad support from the local community. The closure of these institutions can be attributed to a lack of support from Business Lolland-Falster. By establishing a community ownership of the town, we hope to preserve and strengthen these important cultural and tourism activities.

Cultural Port Development through Shared Ownership

The analysis was prepared by:


The Community as a Partner

Creative Placemaking


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