Valiant efforts working alongside the general public

Mon, 25. Nov. 2019
Lorenz Kurtz (Planval) and Toni von Grünigen (Municipal Council) presented the project at the Alpkäsemarkt in Saanen. (Summit Media)

Zukunft Saanen – zäme für ünsi Gmei (The Future of Saanen – together for our municipality) is a project run by the municipality of Saanen to receive suggestions, wants and needs of the public. Mayor Toni von Grünigen (TvG) and project leader Lorenz Kurtz (LK) explain how the public can get involved.

Toni von Grünigen, how did "The Future of Saanen" come about?
We, the local council, have long been thinking about developing the community while working alongside the general public. When our administrative director, Armando Chissalé, got to know Lorenz Kurtz from the office for community, urban and regional development, Planval, we really got on board with the project. 

How did this idea come into being?
As the local council, we’re in constant communication with individuals who stand up for their interests. However, we lacked the participation of the general public, which is what this project sets out to achieve.

What’s the goal of "The Future of Saanen"?
Different project groups and the community will work together to launch and implement a series of projects. This means that we won’t rely on a written strategy, but rather on concrete projects. 

Can you give an example?
Based on feedback, there seems to be a need for adolescents and young adults to have more opportunities to go out. As part of  "The Future of Saanen", these young people will be able to set up a project to meet their needs.

Who generates the ideas for the projects?
The general public.

What will happen at the first public event on 30 November?
To recognise people’s real needs, we’ve gathered various concerns from the general public at the Alpkäsemarkt (market for Alpine cheese), the Gstaad trade show and also verbally and in writing. We’ll present these to the public on 30 November. In addition, we want to work with the participants to determine which six to eight topics the "The Future of Saanen" project will focus on. This event is intended for the general public. Anyone can participate, but you don’t actually have to say anything or make any statements. We’ve chosen a very simple procedure, allowing everyone to get involved without being singled out.

What’s next?
In March, we’ll work alongside certain committed individuals to develop goals for the chosen topics. Then, we’ll determine how to develop, launch and implement projects. Also, we’ll work out how the community will support the projects in the right context. The municipal assembly is scheduled to take place in autumn 2020. Then, the projects will be developed and implemented.

Is this like a continuation of the dissolved Gstaad 2020+?
No, because there’s a big difference: Gstaad 2020+ involved presidents or delegates from the individual organisations, such as the trade association, agricultural association etc.  They represented the interests of their organisation. "The Future of Saanen" is about ensuring that the population stands up for their own interests. Everyone can participate. The Kontaktgremium Volkswirtschaft (contact panel for political economy) is more like the dissolved Gstaad 2020+.

Can people take part if they aren’t registered in Saanen?
Yes, exactly. This was the aim of our presence at the Alpkäsemarkt. People who care about the Saanenland put their thoughts and wishes down in writing. 
LK: We’ve received lots of praise for our courage to open up to guests and friends of the region. People have emphasised that this hasn’t been the case everywhere.

How many topic groups exist at the moment?
There are 18, which is too many and stops us from going into greater details. So, we’re aiming for about six to eight groups.

In a community like Saanen, the development process is very complex. What’s the experience of Planval?
We’ve been representing regional, community and urban development for 50 years. At “The Future of Saanen”, we’re taking an approach that focuses on the needs of individuals. It’s a proven method. Currently, in Plaffeien, we're working through a similar process. We’re also supporting a community in the Zurich Oberland. Nevertheless, Saanen is a diverse and complex community. We find this very exciting.

Are the working groups only supported during the project development and implementation phases?
No, we'll be on board right up to the very end. However, I think it's important that we, Planval, don't dictate the planning. People in the project group will develop their own core ideas – we’ll support these until they come to fruition. However, for some projects, we might not be the right partner. Therefore, specialists help will be required.

What’s the budget?
For the first phase and up to the autumn of 2020, the budget is CHF 65,000, managed by the local council.
LK: In the autumn, the public will decide on the second stage of "The Future of Saanen" – as well as on the budget. As mentioned, the Municipal Assembly then has the opportunity to approve or reject the budget.

How much time does someone need to invest to get involved?
The first development phase up to the spring of 2020 will require about six to eight hours. If people then get involved in implementing a project, of course, it will take longer. It will be pretty hard forming six to eight project groups.
TvG: We’ll always support the groups through this process! Of course, it makes sense that some issues like public transport planning, are implemented directly by the local administration, because they’re already experienced in such areas and also have the right support network. In some cases, it won’t be possible to set up permanent commissions. In others, specialist help will be required. Each project will be implemented according its individual needs.

So, if people give their time to the groups, is this free and unpaid?
No. Temporary commissions receive remuneration according to regulations.

Which topics have been mentioned the most?
Public transport, affordable housing, affordable living for the elderly, the hiking and mountain biking network, nightlife options for young adults.

What are your hopes for the start-up event on 30 November?
The event is open to everyone. We hope that as many people as possible will take the two to three hours required to help us find the right topics.

Based on AvS/Blanca Burri
Translated by Justine Hewson

For more information and options to participate see




Saanen population includes foreigners who participate in the development of Gstaad and Saanen as tax payers. Will this be open to those who do not speak German? Will there be an Internet website or platform to look at the suggestions and participate in French, as the other official language of the Canton of Bern, or English?
Thank you for your comment. The community of Saanen has decided that the project language is German. This has a particular effect on the content of the website. These will only be published in German. Aware of the importance of the foreign population of Saanen, the active participation of non-German speakers in public events is guaranteed. Accordingly, this will also be the case next Saturday. The moderation will be in German, but we are happy to translate individually into French or English. I hope that we were able to answer your questions. We look forward to your participation on Saturday. Best regards Florian Jakob (Project cooperation at Zukunft Saanen)

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