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Experimenting with new types of grants in deprived areas which are not eligible for social funding anymore

Further develop the area-based policy for deprived neighbourhoods by applying innovative elements in territorial sense, involving new types of local stakeholders and experimenting with new empowering methods
Lille / France
Size of city: 
1 068 000 inhabitants


Léa Retournard and Valentin Mousain (
Project Coordinators
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Lille aimed to transfer the Grant element of the Lisbon good practice, improving its own system, applied in the framework of the French urban policy. The introduced innovations refer on the one hand to the territorial choice, and, on the other, on the way how the grants are applied.

Instead of the most disadvantaged priority districts, the new Lille approach focuses on some active monitoring district (former priority districts which have lost this status due to improvement of indicator values) which are isolated, far from any priority districts. Such areas, as the municipalities of Lomme and Haubourdin, experienced a cut of tax benefits from the national state and from other institutions or agencies. Thus it has proven to be difficult to maintain the dynamic without coordination and support from the municipality.

Many diagnosis showed that the usual forms of call for proposals are very competitive, almost excluding the needed cooperation of stakeholders. Lisbon’s call for proposal system requires at least two entities to respond which enhance cooperation in neighborhoods. But call for proposals might not be the best tool to that purpose as it focuses on money issues, while many initiatives need other types of support such as loan of premises or equipment, skill sponsorship… As a consequence, Lille was looking for other methods to offer institutional help to the stakeholders through design thinking.

Solutions offered by the good practice

As a former major textile manufacturing centre, despite its success in economic restructuring, the Lille area has failed to balance the ongoing decline of manufacturing employment. Inequality within Lille Metropolis is greater than in any other major French cities, except for Marseille. Wide neighbourhoods suffer from severe long-term unemployment, urban decay, population decline, poor health conditions and welfare dependency.

Lille Metropole’s existing grant system is framed by the national urban policy, implemented through “City contracts”. Based on political decisions for six years at inter-municipality scale, the city contract is implemented through annual calls for proposals. Non-profit organizations, such as public institutions and NGOs, are invited to submit proposals for projects concerning the identified priorities.

Sustainable and integrated urban approach

French urban policy is area-based. The priority districts are defined by the national state on the basis of inhabitants’ low-income criteria (concentration of populations having resources lower than 60% of the national median reference income). There are 21 priority districts in the Metropole gathering 18% of the Metropole population. It’s the largest proportion among France’s big cities.

Furthermore, 20 areas in Lille Metropole are active monitoring districts which do not fit with the new priority districts’ criteria (the low-income rate or the concentration of population) anymore and are part of a less subsidized transition phase. Active monitoring neighbourhoods are no longer eligible for tax benefits and specific aids owed to priority districts. For example they are not qualified for national aids of the urban policy annual call for proposal.

Lille decided to focus on active monitoring districts which are isolated, far from any priority districts – in such areas it is difficult to maintain the dynamic without coordination and support from the municipality. As pilot the municipalities of Lomme and Haubourdin have been selected.

Participatory approach

Participation has always been one of the pillars of the “politique de la ville” policy. It is identified as one of the main conditions to secure the implementation of the city contract. It is a major challenge for Lille Metropole to increase the interest for civic participation, community life and endogenous development.

What difference has it made

The main ambition of Lille Metropole was to transfer the Grant system element of the Lisbon Good Practice. A new experimental Grant (Call for project) was aimed for, based on the Lisbon experience, finding new stakeholders to be involved, mobilizing more private investments in the priority neighbourhoods and to share new social innovation experiences. Lisbon’s good practice is seen as an inspiration to improve the Lille local grant system on the following points:

-              Encourage cooperation between a various range of stakeholders in the neighbourhood (requiring responses by at least 2 different organizations)

-              Attract new partners in the neighbourhoods, to draw more partners from the private sector, groups of inhabitants, other NGO’s…

-              Promote a more participatory development, by enabling informal groups of inhabitants to participate in the projects

-              Foster projects that can reach financial sustainability

Lille Metropole was chosen to be the World Design Capital in 2020, allowing for a year-long city promotion programme to showcase the accomplishments of cities that are effectively leveraging design to improve the lives of their citizens. Within this framework a labelled design service contractor could be involved as URBACT expertise.

In the course of work it became clear that the traditional system of ‘call for proposals’ has to be modified. To enhance the cooperation of the stakeholders the innovation of Lisbon’s call for proposal is applied (at least two entities have to respond which enhances cooperation in neighbourhoods). In order to strengthen qualitative elements, need for other types of support than money, such as loan of premises or equipment, skill sponsorship, other methods are experimented to offer institutional help to the stakeholders through design thinking.

Instead of simple call for proposals the question is raised: what does your area need? A kind of project factory is organized (the intervention of Francois Jegou), through organizing local workshops, listening to people’s ideas.

Recently the workshops are going on. ComUnityLab gave a starting point, now a new dynamics has been created which will last for 2 more years. Then the method will be distributed to other areas of MEL with precise conditions, how many organizations have to be included.

Transferring the practice

Lille was one of the seven European cities (besides Bari Italy, Aalborg Denmark, Sofia Bulgaria, Ostrava Czech Republic, Lublin Poland, The Hague Netherlands) of the Com.Unity.Lab Transfer Network, led by Lisbon, to transfer the URBACT Good Practice of Lisbon on the integrated toolbox for deprived neighbourhoods.

Equipped by URBACT with a toolkit, the cities could learn from the good practice and also from each other.