Series of URBACT thematic reports "Cities of Tomorrow: Action Today"

Series of URBACT thematic reports "Cities of Tomorrow: Action Today" consisting from 7 publications is the most substantial output of URBACT II Capitalisation process. Reports are covering the following topics: integrated and sustainable urban development, shrinking cities: challenges and opportunities, more jobs: better cities, supporting young people through social innovation, against divided cities in Europe, motivating mobility mindsets, and building energy efficiency in European cities.

Background

In October 2011, the European Commission published a far-reaching and quite visionary report called Cities of Tomorrow – Challenges, visions, ways forward (European Commission, DG Regional Policy 2011). The economic and financial crisis had clearly intensified many urban problems and exposed the limits of existing policies. In particular, the limits of sectoral policies in seeking to preserve the polycentric, balanced, socially inclusive and culturally sensitive European model of urban development had become clear. An integrated, cross-sectoral and territorial approach, based on two decades of European experience on urban policy distilled into the urban acquis, was called for. In this context, the aim of the report was to examine the possible impact of a series of major trends on different types of European cities in the coming years. The report identifies four main threats to the European urban development model, as the diagram below shows: demographic decline, threats to economic development and competitiveness, growing social polarisation and the depletion of natural resources.

These threats are global rather than urban and they are serious enough to put in question whether Europe will be able to maintain its relatively balanced and socially inclusive urban structure in the face of the megacities of the East and Latin America and the more ‘disposable’ cities of the USA. In response to the threats, Cities of Tomorrow presents an attractive vision of the opportunities and potential of European cities. It also insists on the crucial role that cities themselves can play in finding solutions and thereby contributing to the goals of the Europe 2020 strategy.

 

However, the Cities of Tomorrow report leaves open most of the questions about what cities can do to put their potential into practice. This is the task taken up by six ‘workstreams’ launched by URBACT at the beginning of 2012. Each workstream deals with a theme which corresponds with one of the threats identified by Cities of Tomorrow and, over the period of a year, has brought together evidence from URBACT projects but also from a wide range of stakeholders from all around Europe

Abstracts

Report "From Crisis to Choice: Re-Imagining the Future in Shrinking Cities"

This report calls for a new realism with regard to urban regeneration in cities affected by shrinkage. Drawing on a wide range of case studies and building on the most up-to-date debates about the causes and consequences of urban shrinkage, the URBACT workstream “Shrinking Cities: Challenges and Opportunities” focuses on the development of sustainable strategy options for shrinking cities. We examine the generic aspects of developing realistic perspectives on strategic choices for shrinking cities and identify actions, process requirements and good practice in re-imaging a sustainable future. While we emphasise the importance of regional policies and development frameworks, we argue that shrinking cities should not rely on national or European institutions to arrest the shrinkage process. Developing a realistic forward strategy must come from within the shrinking city, because meaningful and deep collaboration between public agencies, businesses and citizens has been found to make all the difference between the success and failure of strategies designed to change a city’s fortunes. These processes need to be based on an acceptance that socio-economic development is an inherently evolutionary and cyclical process of change. Sustainable choices for shrinking cities are therefore unlikely to demonstrate a linear and predictable progression from the status quo to a better future.

 

Report "More Jobs: Better Cities - A Framework for City Action on Jobs"

This report from the URBACT Workstream "More Jobs: Better Cities" provides a framework for city action on jobs, which aims to help cities support and grow more and better jobs for the recovery. It is aimed at practitioners and policy-makers at the city level, as well as those at national and international levels, concerned with urban employment and skills policy and practice. It asserts that cities need to address three broad sets of issues – jobs and the economy, people and the labour market, and the connections between them (such as governance, intelligence and capacity) – to achieve economic recovery, growth and resilience. It examines each of these in turn and includes examples from a wide range of cities, projects and organisations. It sets out a whole system approach, a strategic, coherent, systematic and integrated means of creating more and better jobs. This is a new approach for new times, which can secure better outcomes from city actions. It can be used as a tool to review and develop existing approaches, stimulating a rethinking of city action and providing advice and guidance to policy-makers and practitioners.

 

 

Report "Supporting Urban Youth Through Social Innovation: Stronger Together"

This report examines how cities can promote social innovation to address chronic social challenges. Although our specific focus is young people, the conditions identified for promoting social innovation have wider relevance. This URBACT Workstream "Supporting Young People Through Social Innovation" envisages a pivotal role for municipalities, as the form of democratic government closest to citizens. We see an opportunity for them to reinvent their role to become catalysts and innovation brokers. The keys to this are participative leadership and a willingness to take risks. Despite the crisis, public sector resources remain a considerable proportion of GDP. As the status quo looks increasingly untenable, there is an opportunity to optimise those resources. By mobilising all stakeholders we can improve service design and delivery and achieve better results together.

 

 

 

 

Report "Against Divided Cities in Europe"

This report was produced by the URBACT Workstream "Against Divided cities in Europe". The aim of the group is to help European cities to rethink existing policies concerning spatial and social segregation in urban areas. The paper intends to provide an overview of the concept of urban segregation and related public policies that have been studied and explored within URBACT. The objective is also to bring forward some of the most interesting practices from URBACT partner cities working on integrated sustainable development, which have implemented innovative policies against segregation. On the basis of these practices, and taking the results of academic research into account, different alternatives for horizontal policies and area-based interventions are explored, and the links between these are discussed at length. The paper ends with recommendations for cities how to deal with segregated and deprived areas. In addition to the choices cities can take by themselves, those aspects are raised which cities cannot determine directly: influencing national and regional policies through lobbying and campaigning for appropriate planning and implementation frameworks. Finally, the novelties of the upcoming Cohesion Policy and Structural Funds regulations are mentioned, showing their potentials for the cities to fight segregation in their urban areas.

 

Report "How Cities Can Motivate Mobility Mindsets"

This paper from the URBACT Workstream "Motivating Mobility Mindsets" focuses on the ways in which cities can facilitate the transition to a new urban mobility, which is more fundamentally linked to the quality of space, to a new mindset, and is built on integration between policy priorities and multi-stakeholder buy-in. New mobility solutions for the Cities of Tomorrow will have to be found through a ‘do-more-with-less’ strategy. By optimising the use of existing infrastructure and building on tried and tested solutions, cities can develop local policies that provide sound mobility choices. Above all, encouraging change in the way citizens and businesses move around requires the ability to motivate mindsets in planners, professionals and inhabitants alike, to adopt innovations that can make the city greener, cleaner and more liveable. Governance for sustainable mobility must be underpinned by a well developed notion and a shared understanding of what mobility means. This must put the human dimension at the heart of strategy – a change which can result in rescaling infrastructure and investment. This concept of mobility mindsets provides the best basis for developing strategies and informing decisions about investment in cities.

 

 

Report "Building Energy Efficiency in European Cities"

Cities can lead in the reduction of CO2 emissions and the fight against climate change. Buildings are the largest energy-consuming sector in the EU, and offer the largest cost-effective opportunity for savings. Relative to almost all other investments, energy efficiency retrofit – installing newer energy efficiency technologies in older buildings – cost-effectively creates more distributed jobs and enhances economic activity, reduces costs for businesses and households of all income levels, reduces emissions and improves energy security. However, considerable intensification in the delivery of ambitious whole-building energy efficiency upgrade programmes is needed.

The gaps between consumers’ actual investments in energy efficiency and those that appear to be in the consumer’s own interest demand new approaches to finance which incentivise energy efficiency upgrading. Far too many European households are living in fuel poverty; tackling this is not solely about saving money or reducing the impact of climate change, but has implications for health, child poverty, and educational achievement. As the European building stock is highly diverse, particularly in historic and traditional buildings, there are no ‘one-size-fits-all’ solutions.

Integrated urban strategies provide the means to tackle the various challenges faced by cities. These strategies must link together the social, environmental and economic policy dimensions, connect the various levels of responsible governance, and involve the key stakeholders in the implementation of an energy efficiency policy for each municipal building stock. The scale and extent of the radical changes required are not yet generally appreciated.

 

Report "Cities of Tomorrow – Action Today. URBACT II Capitalisation. Key messages"

This report highlights some of the main points previous six reports make – with a particular focus on those that are relevant for cities concerned with supporting integrated sustainable urban development in the next round of EU programmes.