City Visitations as Instruments of Urban Network Learning: The Case of the 2011 Flemish City Visitations

  • Herwig ReynaertEmail author
  • Arno Korsten
  • Tom Verhelst
Part of the Palgrave Studies in Sub-National Governance book series (PSSNG)


A city visitation is an independent assessment of a city’s performance and the quality of its primary processes, products, and services. It is performed by a temporary, external expert visitation committee, aiming to promote public accountability and learning and improvement. This chapter discusses the city visitations that were made to the Flemish regional capitals in 2011 as instruments of urban network learning. These 2011 city visitations were introduced by the Flemish government to evaluate the policy agreement it had signed with the Flemish regional capitals in order to manage the City Fund, an important element of Flemish urban policy. The visitation procedure involved self-assessment papers and a preparatory meeting with local stakeholders in each city, followed by on-site visits in which the visitation committee met with the city’s political and administrative officers. These visits addressed several topics of urban policy: overall performance and governance, both internally and externally in relation to local stakeholders, civil society, and other government levels; the planned social outcomes and strategic goals laid down in the policy agreements; contemporary social challenges, operationalised by two policy themes of choice; and the value of the City Fund in general. The visitation committee was chaired by academic experts and comprised a group of local government consultants and thematic experts chosen per city. The city visitations proved to be useful instruments to foster urban network learning at three levels. At the micro-level, cities learned about their own internal and external governance through the exchange of views, best practices, and policy recommendations in the visitation reports. At the meso-level, the visitations painted a picture of contemporary urban governance and its challenges in Flanders, whilst the regional capitals learned how to address important policy issues collectively. At the macro-level, finally, the procedure provided valuable insights into the way in which the different government levels interact.


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Ghent UniversityGhentBelgium
  2. 2.Maastricht UniversityMaastrichtThe Netherlands

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