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Combining horizontal and vertical integration

15 February 2015

There are many different interpretations and meanings attached to the integrated approach. These include balancing environmental quality, social cohesion and economic compeitiveness, bringing together all relevant departments to address a challenge, complementing ‘hard’ investments with ‘soft’ investments, and combining European Social Fund with European Regional Development Fund. URBACT II has pioneered integrated approaches to policy challenges as diverse as Roma inclusion and the regeneration of historic city centres. Maybe it is better to acknowledge that there are many integrated approaches, each adapted to specific policy aims. To compound the confusion, the word integration is often used in policy debates alongside holistic approaches and joined-up government to describe a process in which people with different professional backgrounds from different parts of government at all levels are engaged together in a common task. Not to mention the specific use of the term integration in relation to migrants.

Combining horizontal and vertical integration

Within European urban policy discussions, integration has often been taken to mean the coordination of different policy interventions targeted on a specific area or place. The integrated approach challenges the typical sectorial delivery of policies and programmes by departments. According to Burgers and Vranken (2004), “the complexity of the city’s problems obliges policy-makers to tackle different urban problems simultaneously and in a coordinated way.” This multi-faceted character of urban policy brings together initiatives regarding the built environment with cultural, social, economic, and environmental interventions. To be truly effective integrated approaches should be implemented through a bottom-up  approach to participation as recommended in the Leipzig Charter for sustainable cities.

This coordination needs to operate on both the horizontal and the vertical dimension. Horizontal integration is about organising and coordinating the policy fields in a specific area and normally refers to all the actors operating at that level, even if some of them may be the delivery function of a national (or regional) ministry—for example the local office of the job centre. Vertical integration is about bringing policies from different levels of government together for the people and places concerned. For our purposes the vertical dimension focuses on the relationship between the policies from the national level, the regional level at which ERDF is normally managed and with the  municipalities at city level.  The final step is to the specific neighbourhoods where the problems are being tackled.

In developing integrated approaches it is important to maintain a balance between ‘hard’ investments such as new housing units, commercial developments or transportation, and ‘soft’ investments such as animation, business support, training and cultural activities.

The boundaries that operate for each level within the vertical chain rarely conform to the identity, economy or society of neighbourhoods, cities and regions. Usually it is best to address problems at the right level and scale which may not conform to the existing boundaries. As Albert Einstein said, “You can never solve a problem on the level on which it was created.” If he had been a specialist in urban policy instead of physics, he might have gone on to argue that normally you have to look for solutions at either a higher spatial level than the level at which problems appear in the neighbourhood or sometimes go down to the street. Several area based regeneration efforts have failed to achieve good results on the labour market because of concentrating all investments in strictly defined small areas rather than recognising that the labour market that estate residents depend on is much larger than their estate. Trying to create a self-contained economy in a small part of a city is an enterprise doomed to failure.  

Horizontal integration

Horizontal integration is about organising and coordinating the policy fields in a specific area. For URBACT, it is reflected in the creation of a local support group of actors who know about the challenge being addressed either because they work on that question through their department, agency or business or because they experience the problem as citizens or as users of a service. Recognising the problem in all its complexity and then attempting to bring together all the relevant actors is a first step in almost any integrated approach.

Although URBACT started out focusing on area-based approaches to specific areas of cities through the URBACT programmes, it now extends its approach to other problems in urban development including topics as wide-ranging as Roma integration, early school leaving and city science parks. In each area there are specific groups of actors. These actors are clearly different for science park development than for Roma integration.

Without concerted efforts and incentives to bring the policy ‘silos’ together, the departments might retreat back into their own professional domains. Central governments often exacerbate departmentalism by passing funding and policies down through a vertical delivery system so that at local level one department or one agency ‘owns’ the funding. This happens in nearly all of the policy fields. The Structural Funds are also culpable through having a separate ‘regional fund’ and a ‘social fund’ which operate independently of each other and are managed by different managing authorities often at different levels of government. It is much harder to achieve policy coordination when funds are operated independently in this way.

However, despite institutional barriers, the problems can be overcome. Duisburg, the lead partner of the URBACT RegGov network, through its local support group has put together an integrated local action plan for the district of Hochemmerich-Mitte. It illustrates how very different interests can be brought together to address the problems of a single neighbourhood.

Duisburg was also chosen as one of the EU 50 urban good practice case studies and the case focuses on the Marxloh neighbourhood regeneration


Transforming the Hochemmerich-Mitte neighbourhood of Duisburg

People from migrant backgrounds make up 50% of the 13,000 people who live in the URBACT RegGov target area Hochemmerich-Mitte, on the bank of the Rhine in Duisburg. It suffered industrial decline in the 90s and now has high unemployment, a weak economy, under-used housing and public space of poor quality. Many children from migrant families do not do well in school and parallel communities have developed.

Hochemmerich-Mitte has been deteriorating. Despite the waterfront location, recent improvements to the market square, a large number of small shop-owners and a good balance of young and old, the area dropped 25 places on the Duisburg social impact ranking in the period 2007 to 2009 to 87th out of 108.

As part of the activities developed within the RegGov network, a Local Action Plan was elaborated for the target area. A key strategy has been to involve a diverse range of local actors that builds on existing civic engagement work related to is the existing citizens’ forum in Rheinhausen. These local organisations include migrant organisations such as the Turkish Mosque association, real estate owners and companies, an association of local family-owned retailers, the Citizen Forum Rheinhausen, schools, and religious welfare associations.

This process allowed to build an integrated Local Action Plan focusing on:

  • The built environment—strengthening the central area through housing and re-organisation of streets and car parking;
  • The local economy and labour market—these are given a high priority as a driver for renewal in the whole neighbourhood. Also creating better structures for cooperation between local entrepreneurs, housing companies, and migrant micro-entrepreneurs;
  • Social issues—strengthening the intercultural competences and professional integration of young migrants with the ESF programme ‘XENOS—Integration and Diversity’. Migrant associations will be encouraged to professionalise and a round table will be established to ensure long-term exchange between migrant and other agencies. The aim is more effective mutual collaboration;
  • Using arts, culture and sport to improve social infrastructure, social networks, intercultural behaviours, social cohesion and the state of education.

Vertical integration occurred when all levels from the neighbourhood team, the city to the region were able to communicate and work together for commonly agreed aims and methods. This allowed a flow of information from the grassroots to policy-makers, and a counter-flow of political and financial support to actors at the grassroots and helped integrated plans and actions to be coherent. Through this two way bridge of knowledge and resources, successful experiments can become standard policy and make lasting change. Through operating a strong chain of vertical governance the Land of North Rhine-Westphalia has been able to support improvements in eighty neighbourhoods showing that with regional level support neighbourhood revitalisation efforts can be rolled out at huge scale.

For North Rhine-Westphalia a key working principle is each level of actor doing what they do best:

  • The 80 neighbourhood teams were responsible for the preparation of Integrated Local Action Plans, applying for funding and the implementation of the plan. Typically a first step was to establish an integrated neighbourhood management team. Some are managed as a branch office of the municipality, others by neighbourhood-based organisations which are themselves the result of local initiatives. Private housing companies, retail companies and foundations all contribute. But participation by citizens is the key;
  • The 55 municipalities that hosted these neighbourhoods were responsible for overseeing implementation and that linkages between the neighbourhood plan and the needs of the city were picked up;
  • The state government (of NRW) advised the municipalities on funding matters and authorised payments, it also facilitates exchange between the neighbourhoods and cities;
  • The federal state ministry controlled the programme and commissioned evaluations and also facilitated exchange at federal level and with Austrian partners;
  • The EU level provides funding through the ESF and ERDF operational programmes.

Careful coordination through the vertical dimension is important to avoid the risk of solving the problem in one area at the expense of neighbouring areas. It is relatively easy to clear up problems in one neighbourhood such as drug dealing or prostitution. However, often the problem simply moves elsewhere in the city which is a form of zero sum game. Similarly, a neighbourhood might be gentrified and appear to have fewer problems because the original residents were shunted further out into the suburbs and face even greater difficulties to access work and opportunities. Iván Tosics in the NODUS final report argues that the gap between included and excluded risks widening when the physical regeneration promotes gentrified new housing development and shiny commercial building for the new service economy. All too often, the promised trickle-down does not reach neighbouring inner-city areas. The NODUS network argues for coordination at a higher geographical scale to try to ensure that regeneration does not displace poor neighbourhoods or their populations. Without coordination combined with sensitive urban policies, the problems will pop up elsewhere.

Cities across Europe are deliberately practising integrated approaches to address their most difficult problems. This requires new capacities and new ways of working with other organisations and a more participative approach to working with citizens. URBACT works with cities to pioneer new approaches to integration and participation as a way of building lasting change and ensuring that European funds are spent to best effect.

 Jack Burgers & Jan Vranken (eds.), 2004 How to Make a Successful Urban Development Programme,.