URBACT launches successful e-University on implementation and funding of city action plans

New capacity-building focus will help cities plan – and fund – cross-cutting local actions to improve residents’ lives.

 

The URBACT e-University on implementation and resourcing gathered more than 500 urban project leaders from 40 countries on 1-3 February 2022. Sally Kneeshaw, URBACT Programme Expert and e-University moderator, shows how URBACT’s latest capacity-building event will help local plans for better cities leave the drawing board and become reality.

 

URBACT’s first ever e-University on ‘Implementation and Resourcing’ was a pretty intense few days of learning and exchange, delivering support for cites in URBACT networks to implement solutions to urban challenges.

URBACT Experts ran dynamic workshops on all main steps, from developing a funding strategy to writing a winning bid. Featuring EU funding success stories, sessions included project costing, securing partnerships and support – and a talk on innovative governance for local group sustainability.

Speakers included Maria Giovanna Zamburlini from the Municipality of Schaerbeek (BE), who shared experiences in developing a strategic approach to different types of funding across the organisation. 

Other learnings came from the team in Ampelokipi-Menemeni, Greece, tasked with implementing a local Action Plan to tackle early school leaving, developed as part of the Stay Tuned network. They described how their citizen-led, agile methodology had enabled them to adapt interventions supporting educational and social inclusion.

Participants also made hundreds of new connections using the event’s speed-networking function, and exchanged thousands of messages via an online chat.

#eUniversity2022: Inspiration, Implementation, Prepare, Knowledge

When we asked participants “What is your main take-away from the e-Uni in one word?”, the main responses were “inspiration”, “implementation”, “prepare”, and “knowledge”.

We also set up ‘Meet the Funder’ opportunities, with Horizon Europe, the European Urban Initiative, Cohesion Policy Funds and Cross-Border Cooperation programmes. And the event finished with 20 national sessions for cities to meet peers in their own countries, facilitated by National URBACT Points.

This e-University was only open to partners in 25 ongoing URBACT and ASTON city networks. But the URBACT Toolbox will be updated with a new series of funding and resourcing tools.

New training and tools for cities to access EU funding

The impetus to initiate this new support for cities to implement and fund their Integrated Action Plans was based on the results of a study of URBACT networks one year after their completion. The study, published in 2021, showed that while 88% of cities’ Integrated Action Plans had been approved by a local authority, and 80% were being implemented, only 17% had been fully actioned. As for financing these planned urban solutions, 72% of respondents had secured some funding, but only 12% had full funding – and 16% had not yet secured any funding.

Our new capacity-building support reflects cities’ main hurdles to funding, revealed by the study:

  • insufficient political support;
  • a shift in local priorities;
  • challenges in aligning the evolving funding environment, in particular EU funding;
  • insufficient capacity and skills;
  • lack of know-how on accessing relevant EU funding and capacity to apply for European funding, particularly for small cities.

Although these findings are generally positive, they made us realise we needed to create more support to make sure no Integrated Action Plans stay on the shelf, but are resourced and operationalised to drive change in cities. This illustrates one of the reasons why URBACT is such a great programme. It responds to cities’ changing needs, acting on the data, and evolving the offer. URBACT is always innovating, trying out new ideas, producing new tools and events to make sure cities are in the best position to succeed.

Exceeding expectations

The e-University team, led by Clémentine Gravier, URBACT Capacity-Building Officer, were really gratified to see participants’ high levels of engagement, enthusiasm and clear intention to apply for funds, including EU funds.

 In terms of numbers, the e-University exceeded our expectations!

  • Fourty countries were represented, across Europe and Africa;
  • We had a 94% turnout rate;
  • The peak number on board – 356 people connected on Day 1;
  • In terms of interaction, we had 317 speed networking moments – a record for us – and an amazing 3 000 chat messages and photos in the event gallery;
  • And just one CAT-astrophe – literally when one expert’s cat crashed her computer and delayed the start of a ‘Deep Dive’ session.

URBACT is of course happy with the positive feedback after this event. But really the proof will be in the pudding – in two years’ time when we follow up to see the success rate of cities in implementing well-resourced Plans. 

URBACT is no doubt a fantastic generator of the X Factor – mentioned by Marion Cugnet, Fundraising Expert, as the final key ingredient in winning projects. So now it’s over to partners in the last leg of planning to do their magic, apply the logic, and make it happen for their cities.

 

Interested in taking part in the URBACT City Festival – on 14-16 June 2022, in Greater Paris, France? Registration opens in March.

 

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Submitted by Sally Kneeshaw on 10/02/2022
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Sally Kneeshaw

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