Digital Environment for collaborative Alliances to Regenerate urban Ecosystems in middle-sized cities

Edited on 09/01/2024

Project proposal by

  • Institution : Municipality of Ravenna
  • City : Ravenna
  • Country : Italy
  • Type of region : More developed
  • Population : 157 422

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DARE proposed a new holistic approach for an urban regeneration process in the Darsena District in the City of Ravenna (Italy), based on new alliances among public, private, for-profit and non-profit sectors, and residents.


The innovative methodology was developed thanks to digital tools and collaborative culture. The DARE partners collected, managed and made data and information available with the help of an innovative digital infrastructure, to support decision-making, storytelling and promotion. It promoted both digital and collaborative cultures among citizens and activated innovative projects using digital and participatory tools. In this way, the project helped build a new narrative for the district, focusing on its stories and values, evolution and complexity, opportunities and projects, and made it available on a public portal (www.darsenaravenna.it).


DARE enabled different actors to take an active role in the regeneration process, including inhabitants, investors, local stakeholders, decision- and policy-makers. The project team designed a new approach and indicators to assess the quality of life at district level, to measure the success of the regeneration process. DARE therefore set-up, tested and delivered a methodology to use data, and create digital tools, in support of an integrated and participatory approach to urban regeneration. Taking a long-term perspective, the DARE process aims to increase the attractiveness of the Darsena District, to encourage investments, and enhance business and community opportunities. 


What SOLUTIONS did the Urban Innovative Action project offer?


DARE designed and tested digital and collaborative solutions to support a regeneration process, namely:  


1. A digital platform able to collect, organise, share information, data and collaborative tools, and a virtual space for citizens’ participation, storytelling, quality of life assessment;  

2. New ways to enhance residents’ and decision-makers’ digital skills, and a new profile of urban change makers: the digital/process facilitator;  

3. Methods to make urban data more accessible and understandable for a wider public, rethinking digital visualisation and using it in storytelling;  

4. A participatory path to design a regeneration Darsena Tactic and make it feasible, involving residents, stakeholders, innovators, experts, real-estate owners; 

5. Several co-designed actions to address and increase the quality of life in the district, relating to different aspects (identity, attractiveness, creativity, health, safety and security, inclusion, crowdfunding) and supporting the long-term regeneration process. 


What DIFFERENCE has it made at local level?


DARE contributed to shifting the Darsena District from an abandoned dockland area to an attractive and innovative urban ecosystem, where regeneration is tangible, within a connected urban environment. Collaboration has increased at all levels, and is promising from the long-term perspective. Within the project’s duration the following were observed: 

 i) increased engagement within the collaborative paths: 45 events and 41 collaborative meetings; 39 new project proposals collected;  


ii) increased interest by citizens and economic players in the Darsena’s evolution: +3 200 participants to public events and a match-making event (Real Estate Forum);  


iii) collaborative network, including over 100 public and private actors, aiming to match their projects with local strategies/designed projects;  


iv) one shared regeneration tactic and four main implementation actions designed and started-up;  


v) increased and integrated public and private investments in Darsena (over 20m euros); and  


vi) new data management system established. 


What PARTICIPATORY APPROACHES have been put in place for the project?

DARE tested 3 different participatory paths: 
1. Collaborative design of the regeneration in 3 steps aimed to i) DEVELOP collaborative and participated project proposals, ii) share the KNOWLEDGE about the proposals and DISCUSS; iii) express citizens’ preferences (DECIDE). The design of the DARSENA regeneration TACTIC was supported by digital space for collaboration and debate and the RADAR Real Estate Forum, involving investors, estate advisors, industries and SMEs, R&D and public administrations. The project also created a crowdfunding platform that hosted campaigns to promote and finance the Darsena District’s projects.  

2. Collective Storytelling to build the neighbourhood identity and foster citizen participation. DARE promoted a collective narration through: i) Made in Ravenna digital tool to showcase creative industries; ii) a widespread collection of family pictures and videos and historic stories to nourish a digitalised archive, public events and exhibitions; iii) Discover Darsena, a photo contest on the District's sites and spaces; iv) PodDARE Live: a podcast series with teenagers telling Darsena’s stories. 

3. Quality of Life (QoL) and data gathering. DARE promoted the creation of a shared monitoring system to assess the neighbourhood quality of life: inhabitants and key players contributed to the identification of QoL priorities and indicators to assess the district’s lifestyle. 


How does the project tackle different aspects with an INTEGRATED APPROACH?

The overall aim of the DARE project was to foster a digital-based urban regeneration process, connecting public strategies and policies, business opportunities and citizen’s needs through the creation of a new digital environment. This was achieved through an integrated, multi-sectoral and citizen-centred approach to design the new Darsena District, involving a broad range of stakeholders, following the participation and co-creation principle. This allowed the project team to engage with different urban policy areas and to include local actors in multidisciplinary and participatory governance structures and design paths.


Darsena residents and Ravenna citizens, SMEs and businesses, local organisations/associations, and cultural and creative industries participated in the shaping of the Darsena Tactic, as part of the participatory process carried out to co-define the main strategy to be implemented in the district.  
Managing data from various fields or supporting initiatives in Darsena that connect aspects of infrastructure, urban planning, public space, environment, social inclusion and economic development required an integrated approach from the municipality, bringing together its departments from various sectors and building a participatory governance structure. Applying the cross-sectoral approach is a way to combine competences leading to stronger institutional learning, governance change and innovation through cooperation, and it facilitated the project’s overall integrated approach.  


Why should other European cities use the solution the project explored?

DARE can share with other cities: i) methodologies and technical details for building a digital collaboration platform; ii) a methodology for building a positive perception of a neighbourhood, aiming to increase the attractiveness of the area; iii) a range of digital tools helpful in the regeneration processes; iv) a methodology for digital facilitation and support to collaborative paths; v) a regeneration toolbox; vi) a methodology for quality of life assessment at district level; vii) lessons learned in urban data management; and viii) experiences in collaborative crowdfunding, collaborative podcasting and other community-created actions.