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URBACT Summer University: a retrospective

20 September 2016
The URBACT Summer University was presented as a unique learning journey aiming at building the skills and capacities of urban professionals within the URBACT Programme. And according to the feedback from the REFILL participants, we can safely say that the Summer University met its ambitions!
URBACT Summer University
The three-day programme was packed with inspirational talks, tips and tricks, policy labs, network activities and field visits. These field visits often coincided with our REFILL theme of temporary use. A brief retrospective:
Emma (Ghent, BE) attended the policy lab on 'liveable neighbourhoods' together with Katerina (Ostrava, CZ), Miruna (Cluj-Napoca, RO) and Georgiana (Cluj-Napoca, RO). The lab focussed on the physical and functional regeneration of neighbourhoods for a liveable city. On their field visit they went to the Fenix Food Factory, a temporary food market in an old harbour warehouse on the Rotterdam peninsula, called Katendrecht. 
"The Katendrecht area has recently seen the regeneration of many of its old, empty and derelict buildings and warehouses with new creative businesses and artists. 
The Fenix Food Factory has played an important role as placemaker for the development of the area. The factory houses locally sourced and produced food, it is a market hall where you can meet and greet people and eat fresh products. It is the place to be in Rotterdam - at least till 2018."
Maija (Helsinki, FI) and Natalia (Poznań, PL) participated in the policy lab on 'urban sustainability transitions in energy, food and water systems' where they worked on connecting people-based, technology-based and nature-based solutions in the city. They visited the urban farm Uit Je Eigen Stad.
"The farm is situated in an old warehouse near to a harbour and as a concept, it is somewhat similar to what we saw in our site visit to Het Lokaal during our last transnational meeting in Amersfoort. In addition they had quite many greenhouses, a closed cycle water management system and and mushroom farm in a container."
Martina (Ostrava, CZ), Nicholas (Athens, GR) and Marcelline (Brussels – LE-team, BE) were part of the policy lab focussing on community cohesion and diversity in the city and fighting inequalities in urban areas. Her group visited the community center FREEHOUSE, situated in west part of Rotterdam in the district called Afrikaanderwijk.
"FREEHOUSE has a very important role in this district as the most of the inhabitants are migrants and come mainly from African countries. It sees cultural production, events etc. as a mean how to connect and integrate people in this district. Besides the community center, FREEHOUSE also works in the neighborhood supporting new startups and developing the local market place where the people living in Afrikaanderwijk can meet and buy, but also sell their products. Personally, I was impressed how the FREEHOUSE is able to map all important stakeholders and use networking as a key element of this district development."
Agnieszka (Poznań, PL) attended the policy lab on collaborative entrepreneurship and new business models in European cities. She visited the Impact Hub Rotterdam, run in tenement house rented from the City and located 10-15 minutes from Rotterdam Central Station.
"I had the opportunity to visit a place that operates in a similar way to the REFILL project: locally and globally simultanously. The Impact Hub is run by a couple of committed entrepreneurs and entrepreneurial member-hosts. Collaborative space is dedicated to social-oriented entrepreneurs, start-ups, sustainable business & companies, freelancers. The Hub connect talents, knowledge and resources to build a strong community of social entrepreneurs to tackle the world’s most pressing social, cultural and environmental challenges. I found it a promising idea for vacant buildings profiles also in our cities, and an interesting combination of entrepreneurial skills and social orientation."
Ariana (Ghent, BE) joined the policy lab ‘jobs & sklills in urban economies' that tried to find answers to the question how to support people and skills to foster economic growth and resilience.
"We visited RDM, the hotspot for innovation in the port. Situated In the former shipyard where they used to produce submarines. Now it hosts a range of state of the art companies ranging from start-ups, SMEs and global players in the maritime and offshore sectors. What really struck me was that they linked this innovation hub to an educational campus where senior secondary vocational education and higher professional education programmes can learn in real-life settings close to their future employers. 
The whole project is a marvelous example of adaptive reuse of the old dry docks. We saw some small start ups that might have occurred in temporary use projects like Makerspaces as well."
This Summer University was clearly an inspiring experience. Thanks a lot to URBACT and all participants, and see you next time!