Integrated policies in the oldest European Union Member States have proven effective for the development of deprived urban areas. Yet, good practices and their development, implementation and funding are still rarely known at a wider European level. Crucial factors for success of such policies include cooperation and building a relationship of trust between cities and their Managing Authorities. For three years, the URBACT RegGov project enabled nine cities to put these ideas into practice to develop new integrated strategies for sustainable urban development at a neighbourhood level. RegGov received the Fast Track label and was supported by the European Commission.
10 recommendations to implement effective multi-level governance for the integrated development of deprived neighbourhoods:
- Local projects should be integrated into city-wide strategies
The experience of RegGov network cities confirmed the contribution that Local Support Groups make to developing projects in deprived neighbourhoods. However, in order to have political and strategic support, the Local Action Plans need to take into account interdependence with other neighbourhoods and must be integrated into the overall city policies.
- Integrated urban development: area-based and cross-sector approaches
There should be a continuous linked between all stakeholders across several scales of intervention (e.g., neighbourhood, municipality, region, state). Public, private and civic actors have to agree upon strategic cross-sector priority areas to be funded and to be implemented in three areas (social, economic and environmental). It is essential to have local communities and the media support this strategy.
- Motivating and involving inhabitants: short-term success as part of a long-term vision
Within an integrated perspective, a long-term view has to be developed, but it must be complemented by the principle of small steps and small successes. This motivates residents and fosters their willingness to participate in further activities in their neighbourhood. This can be supported at the managing authority level with a two-step decision-making procedure: first, by submitting short proposals and receiving a positive response on funding opportunities, before subsequently investing large amounts of time and workload into applications.
- Creating a regional network of cities working together
The creation of networks between programme areas in cities and regions as learning communities has a clear added value for capacity-building within the local programmes and strategies in the individual cities. At the same time, the continual transfer of information creates an open climate of cooperation based on mutual trust, stretching from the neighbourhood level right up to the Managing Authority.
- Coalition building: cooperation as a working principle
Successful and efficient implementation of urban renewal projects requires cooperation between Managing Authorities and cities as well as regional networks of cities. The Managing Authorities need a good and up-to-date knowledge and understanding of projects at city level to optimise the use of public funding.
- Physical and infrastructure investments linked to socially integrative actions
The participative and socially integrative work and the involvement of the residents are persuasive factors and have to be communicated to the Managing Authorities, so that they can also be adapted to other funding programmes. This kind of involvement of residents should be obligatory and included for structural funds projects with a certain amount of funding in the different programmes.
- A monitoring system at all involved levels
Monitoring systems are useful as an early warning system for other neighbourhoods facing similar problems. In the Operational Programmes they can also serve as control stations to monitor aspects such as long-term urban development policy and sustainability.
- Special funding programmes: a chance for social innovation input in mainstream policy
Building up trust and forming stable neighbourhood structures is a long-term and complex process. The integrated approach in short-duration projects is not the only universal truth. The right time and the right topic must also be identified, and the specific integrated approach for the local context must be chosen. As long as the integrated approach relies only on additional funds, they remain ephemeral. Instead of “phasing out”, solutions should be found for retaining sustainable neighbourhood management structures for a longer period (from single time-limited projects to mainstreaming).
- Optimising the performance of operational programmes
More knowledge about funding programmes should be provided, and more possibilities should be offered for cross-financing in the Local Action Plans, e.g. between ERDF and ESF. There should be a tight coherence between Operational Programmes at national and regional levels. Managing Authorities should consult municipalities to get informed about their experiences before setting up the rules at the upper levels.
- European urban agenda: a strong role for cities
The EU 2020 strategy foresees a coordinated strategic approach. Of key importance, not only for deprived urban neighbourhoods, will be the identification of aspects related to cohesion policy that can be tackled mainly at local level. A stronger role for cities in implementing cohesion policy and strengthening the urban dimension will be required. But this cannot be done by the cities on their own. From a governance perspective, the additional value of a broad platform of stakeholders, both public and private, who are involved at all relevant levels and bundle their findings and experiences, is too often underestimated. This, however, is crucially important, not only at the city level, but also for programmatic enhancements at all levels.
The learning process during the RegGov project will enable cities to optimise the funding opportunities provided by the 2014-2020 operational programme.