Globalization has many negative effects. One of them is that the number of the inhabitants of small and medium-sized towns in the developed world is steadily decreasing. Global competition has impacted Hungary as well, and – with the exception of some big cities – nearly all settlements feel the consequences of this. It is reflected, among other things, in the emigration of the young people and in the decline in interest in smaller cities. Our research team has conducted research in the context of the small- and medium-sized city members of the Association of Pannonian Cities (Keszthely, Kőszeg, Nagykanizsa, Pápa, Tata, Zalaegerszeg). The research focused on the success factors of cities, and on elements that can make them attractive for young people and to help them survive in a fierce and competitive environment.
Research focused on three key areas:
- on the cooperation between cities;
- on the development of city’s identity; and
- on and efforts to keep young people in the city.
The first research concentrated on the cooperation between different settlements.
Metropolises, cities, and villages long ago recognized the benefits of partnerships and they cooperate with each other in different ways around the world. Research analysed what kinds of cooperation exist and what are the essential factors for successful cooperation. Town-twinning relations – as the first typical type of cooperation between cities – was also covered in the analyses since the experiences and lessons learned are important for building a future city network. Project relationships were also studied. These are considered to be the most common type of cooperation today. Generally, however, with few exceptions, the cooperation between cities does not really have a developed culture in Hungary since potential partner cities often see each other as rivals. Cities seem to have a lot of cooperating partners; but there are only a few long-term partnerships based on a mature strategy.
Besides theoretical research, common problems and challenges were also a focus of inquiry. It was found that the group of cities studied could provide an excellent base to revitalize their association for future cooperation efforts. Based on this finding, common strategies were determined to realize joint projects in the future.
The other focus of research is city identity. By strengthening a city’s identity among its inhabitants, their connection to the city grows. Making a city attractive for youth in the 21st century requires leadership. This can help in the retention of young people in the city and persuade them to return to their hometown.