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There is not one thought in our head that is 100% ours. To make a great project you need to know what can actually be done. Twin City Lab features dozens of projects for inspiration. You need more? In this article, we will share our methods of research.


Short summary

  • Use special signs -search operators – and filter results with search engine settings.
  • Search in different languages
  • Use project databases for more specialized research
  • Use the word of mouth, your contact network might share an idea you were looking for

Googling like a pro with search operators and advanced search

For the Twin City Lab team research started from the ground up. We googled all sorts of words used to define twinning cities alike projects: sister cities, twin cities, city partnerships, etc. Some of the most inspiring results are featured in the Toolbox section. After you checked it and got inspired by some topic, you might want to specify your search. You might be looking for existing twinning city projects in a certain country or city, or a project of a certain topic – environment, education, inclusion, business, or healthcare. If you simply combine the results, it might happen so that only the first five results will be matching your initial request. The next ones will be meaning something different. The third result for the “twinning city project healthcare” request has nothing to do with the twinning city concept. 

To make sure that your search results match your request at its best, use search operators.

“..” operator
If you put a word in a quotation mark, google will show only results where this word is present in the same form. If you don’t put “healthcare” in quotation marks, Google will show you extra web-pages with words like health, care, healthy, and all derivatives. Adding extra words will only leave the web-pages, were the same words are mentioned in the same order

and operator
adding it between the searched words will oblige google to show you only web-pages where both words or their derivatives are present.

– operator
Put a hyphen before the unnecessary word to discard results, that are out of your research. 

Use multiple operators in one request:

Check the full list of google operators here. In case you forget the operators go to the Advanced search option under settings. All the search refining options are available there,

These tools are valid only when using Google Search. If you use other search engines like Yahoo, Bing, or your local search engine, check their search operators in the support section or settings.  

Ville Jumelée, Stedenband and Städtepartnerschaften

Add these words to your search request when looking for twinning projects in France, Netherlands, and Germany. After the twinning activity is over, organizers rarely put any effort to writing about its outcomes. Many great projects stay little or not known due to lack of publicity. Here in Twin City Lab, we see highlighting them as one of our main goals. However, a lot of them are not even searchable in English, if the organizer’s mother tongue is different. If you need a country-specific project, making a research request in the local language might provide you with a broader range of options. Note, that words determining specific terms might differ from plain translation. For example, the Russian word for “Twinning cities” – “goroda pobratimy” could be translated as “Sworn Brother cities”.

Language … isn’t a hiding place. It is a finding place.

Jeanette Winterson

Research project databases

Council of European Municipalities and Regions (CEMR) reported in 2006 that, there were more than 17 000 twinning city couples only in Europe. Even if you do have a theme or country to narrow your search, it is still very time-consuming to look through all potential sites using search engines. Try looking for specific web-pages, which gather information on projects of your interest. It might be a web-page with events happening in a certain city, region, or country. Check sites specialized in civil society, environmental or other activities. If you don’t know such web-pages, you can find a suitable project in our toolbox and look for sites that feature it.

Tip: Some web-pages don’t show their projects if you use the in-built search option. I wanted to know more about “the covenant of mayors twinning” project. After I’ve put “twinning” in the search window on their page, I got two results. I knew, that they had a promising twinning city project in the past. To find it, I used the colon “site:” to look for pages, that are saved in the internet cash but hidden from the local search on the web-page. Add “site:www.yoursite.***” to your search word to see all the pages where this word was ever mentioned. This method will also help if a site doesn’t have in-built search tool. 

Photo by Windows on Unsplash

Ask your network

Word of mouth is still one of the most effective ways of marketing. While commercial companies use this technique to promote their goods in social networks, NGOs and municipalities rarely reserve any budget for social media campaigns. Instead of searching for projects among Facebook groups or Instagram, public accounts you can spread your request among subscribers, friends, and professional acquaintances. Don’t hesitate to use messengers and seemingly conservative e-mails. Correspondence with our BarCamp participants brought us We Will Roll You and some other projects yet to be featured.


Use this research guide, get inspired, and make your own twinning city projects. We will be honored to feature it in our Toolbox! 

Cover picture credits: Photo by National Cancer Institute on Unsplash