POINT (10.203921 56.162939)


    Kick-off meeting in September (London). Transnational meeting in November (Amarante).
    Transnational meetings in April (Gdansk), September (Aarhus) and November (Dun Laoghaire).
    Final event in March (Eindhoven).

    Municipality of Athienou
    2, Archbishop Makarios III Ave.
    7600 Athienou Cyprus


    Municipality of Santiago de Compostela


    Municipality of Udine (Italy)


    For any enquires into Tech Revolution, email:

    Keep following our social media channels as we develop Tech Revolution 2.0 as part of the second wave of URBACT ||| Programme. 

    Follow our Twitter: @Tech_RevEu
    Follow our Linkedin:




    Av. Movimento das Forças Armadas

    2700-595 Amadora



    +351 21 436 9000

    Ext. 1801


    City of Rome

    Department of European Funds and Innovation

    Via Palazzo di Città, 1 - 10121 Turin (Italy)



    Câmara Municipal de Lisboa

    Departamento de Desenvolvimento Local

    Edifício Municipal, Campo Grande nº25, 6ºE | 1749 -099 Lisboa



    Laura González Méndez. Project coordinator.

    Gijón City Council


    Municipality of Piraeus


    City of Ljubljana

    Mestni trg 1

    1000 Ljubljana, Slovenia


    Project Coordinator Martin Neubert

    +49 371 355 7029



    Riga NGO House


    City of Antwarp
    Grote Markt 1 - 2000 Antwarpen

    Manchester City Council
    Manchester M2 5RT

    City of Rotterdam
    Coolsingel 40, 3011 AD Rotterdam

    City Council Bielefeld
    Bürger Service Center
    Phone +49 521 510


    City of Eindhoven
    Stadhuisplein 1, 5611 EM Eindhoven

    In times when personal sacrifices are much needed to tackle burning societal issues, fostering and enabling collaboration at local level of public administration is of the utmost importance. The partners of this Action Planning network had the opportunity to reflect upon social design, a process to think over alongside local stakeholders how to co-design their social public services towards a more collaborative service. This means to create an urban strategy that somehow engages volunteers to improve communities and public services, reducing costs at the same time.

    People powered public services
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  • SIBdev

    Lead Partner : Heerlen - Netherlands
    • Aarhus - Denmark
    • Baia Mare - Romania
    • Fundão - Portugal
    • Kecskemét - Hungary
    • Pordenone - Italy
    • Võru County - Estonia
    • Zaragoza - Spain


    • Phase I Kick-off event in Heerlen
    • Lead Partner & Lead Expert City Visits
    • Phase I Final Event in Fundao
    • Phase II Activation Meeting Online
    • Masterclasses 1-6 - Online & Physical
    • Transnational Meetings Sept 2021 - April 2022 in Voru, Pordenone, Zaragoza, Aarhus, Kecskemét, Baia Mare
    • Phase II Final Meeting in Heerlen

    Integrated Action Plan

    Võru County Integrated Action Plan

    Read more here !

    Võru County - Estonia
    Integrated Action Plan Baia Mare

    Read more here

    Baia Mare - Romania
    Kecskemét Integrated Action Plan

    Read more here

    Kecskemét - Hungary
    Pordenone Integrated Action Plan

    Rea more here

    Pordenone - Italy
    Fundão - Portugal
    Aarhus Integrated Action Plan

    Read more here !

    Aarhus - Denmark
    Zaragoza Integrated Action Plan

    Read more here !

    Zaragoza - Spain
    Heerlen Integrated Action Plan

    Read more here !

    Heerlen - Netherlands

    The goal of this Action Planning Network was to explore how social impact bonds can be used to improve public service delivery in areas such as employment, ageing, and immigration. Often, the delivery of services is hindered by fragmented and siloed agencies and budgets, financial and political short-termism, and an aversion to risk and difficulty creating change. The social impact bond is a promising model that ameliorates these issues by increasing collaboration, prevention, and innovation.

    Boosting social impact - Investing in society with Social Impact Bond development
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  • 23 Action Planning Networks ready for Phase 2!

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    On 7 May, URBACT's Monitoring Committee has officially approved all Action Planning Networks to proceed to Phase 2.



    The main objective of Action Planning Networks is to bring together between 7 and 10 cities across Europe to exchange their experience in a particular thematic urban development challenge and to share their ideas about possible solutions, during a period of over 2 years. The Phase 1 (from late June 2019 to February 2020) focused on the development of baseline studies, city profiles and the production of the Application Form for Phase 2.

    Following the Monitoring Committee's approval of the networks, cities are now ready to focus on the exchange and learning activities using a range of learning tools and approaches in line with the URBACT Method. Every partner city will consolidate an URBACT Local Group, which will co-design Integrated Action Plans for future implementation. The Phase 2 also presents a novelty for the projects, from now on cities are encouraged to undertake pilot actions (Small Scale Actions), to experiment with new ideas for projects gained from other network exchanges and in line with the cities’ network topic.

    As a consequence of the Covid-19 pandemic, the URBACT Secretariat will follow up with a series of adapted activities to support these networks and their partners, including the delivery of trainings using online formats and a 3 months extension of the network life-cycle, meaning that projects will run until August 2022. Thus, networks will respect the following calendar:


    • Activation Stage (May - December 2020): putting together an Integrated Action Plan roadmap
    • Planning Actions (December 2020 - December 2021): drafting the Integrated Action Plan
    • Planning Implementation (December 2021 - June 2022): finalising the Integrated Action Plan
    • Integrated Action Plans Finale (June - August 2022): sharing knowledge


    You can find all approved networks in the table below, the Lead Partner city is indicated is bold. To find out more about each one of the projects, check the network's webpages.
    Congratulations to the 23 approved projects!





    Research, technological development and innovation


    Leiria (PT)
    - Longford (IE)
    - Madrid (ES)
    - Mechelen (BE)
    - Michalovce (SK)
    - Parma (IT)
    - Pella (EL)
    - Unione della Romagna Faentina (IT)
    - Szabolcs 05 Regional Development Association of Municipalities (HU)

    Security and safety are two common goods and fundamental components of European democracy. This network intends to analyse strategies and concepts of urban design and planning, which could contribute to prevent segregation and anti-social behaviour. Additionally, this network wishes to co-create an integrated approach towards urban security focusing on improving citizens’ quality of life and the city’s smart, sustainable and inclusive growth towards a good living environment.

    Find your Greatness

    Alba Iulia (RO)
    - Bragança (PT)
    - Candelaria (ES)
    - Perugia (IT)
    - Wroclaw (PL)
    - Võru (EE)
    - Limerick (IE)
    - Budafok-Tétény 22nd district of Budapest (HU)

    The challenge is to build on the cities' opportunities. The partners of the project need to identify locally a strength, which was built as a sustainable mechanism generating urban development. The goal of this network is to explore and enhance the potential of the city, combining strategic marketing approach with innovative smart city tools.

    Access to and use of ICT

    (previously DI4C)

    Messina (IT)
    - Botosani (RO)
    - Oulu (FI)
    - Portalegre (PT)
    - Roquetas de Mar (ES)
    - Saint- Quentin (FR)
    - Trikala (EL)
    - Ventspils Digital Centre (LV)

    This network aims to set up an acceleration mechanism to enable cities to catch up the digitalisation opportunities in hard & soft infrastructure. Remove all the obstacles encountered by mid-sized cities in their digital journey: lack of strategic & global vision lack of technical and engineering capacities difficulties in incorporating the digital innovation. Municipalities need to guaranty the uptake of digital innovation by the local stakeholders: citizen and entrepreneurs.


    Fundão (PT)
    - Dodoni (EL)
    - Jelgava (LV)
    - Nevers Agglomeration (FR)
    - Razlog (BG)
    - Ånge (SE)
    - Kežmarok (SK)
    - Åbo Akademi University (FI)

    The objective is to encourage the creation of a network of European cities committed to the design of digitalization plans based on Internet of Things (IoT) solutions to increase the quality of life in small and medium sized EU cities, guiding us through a new age of digital transformation.

    Competitiveness of SMEs


    Amarante (PT)
    - Balbriggan (IE)
    - Pori (FI)
    - Pärnu (EE)
    - Grosseto (IT)
    - Gabrovo (BG)
    - Heerlen (NL)
    - Kočevje (SI)
    - Medina del Campo

    - Saldus (LV)

    This network aim to produce 10 different and unique robust economic development strategies, targeting their own genuine niches, and generating urban innovation ecosystems. City partners will focus on deepening the understanding of their own local economic strengths and establish strategic methods to revitalise their economy, adapt their city to the next economy and to future economic changes, establishing methodological bases for generate resilient cities.

    Tourism Friendly Cities

    Genoa (IT)
    - Braga (PT)
    - Rovaniemi (FI)
    - Venice (IT)
    - Utrecht (NL)
    - Krakow (PL)
    - Cáceres (ES)
    - Druskininkai (LT)
    - Dún Laoghaire Rathdown (IE)
    - Dubrovnik Development Agency (HR)

    This network aims to explore how tourism can be sustainable in medium-sized cities, reducing the negative impact on neighbourhoods and areas interested by different types of tourism to reach this ambitious aim, the project will create integrated and inclusive strategies which can keep a balance between the needs of the local community, in terms of quality of life and of services available, and the promotion of sustainable urban development at environmental, social and economic level.

    Low carbon economy in all sectors

    Urb-En Pact

    Clermont Auvergne Metropole (FR)
    - Bialystok Association of the Functional Area (PL)
    - CIM Alto Minho (PT)
    - Rouen Normandie Metropole (FR)
    - Elefsina (EL)
    - Galati (RO)
    - Palma di Montechiaro (IT)
    - Tampere EcoFellows (FI)

    Local authorities embrace the ambitious goal to become a zero-net energy territory within the next 30 years. Thus, the aim is to define the local action plans to become zero-net (ZNE) territory by producing and delivering local, renewable and regulated sources of energy by the implementation of an energy loop which gathers all the stakeholders of this circular economy, especially the consumers included in this fair trade business in and around the metropolitan area.

    Zero Carbon Cities
    (previously ZCC)

    Manchester (UK)
    - Bistrita (RO)
    - Zadar (HR)
    - Modena (IT)
    - Frankfurt am Main (DE)
    - Tartu (EE)
    - Vilvoorde (BE)

    The network will support capacity building of cities to establish science-based carbon reduction targets and their Sustainable Energy Action Plans (SEAPs) aligned to Paris Agreement on Climate Change. Working with 7cities to adopt different approaches to carbon budgeting and science-based targets, the network will undertake a programme of capacity building in order to support their local activities and integrated action plan and influence Covenant of Mayors' signatory cities.

    Environmental protection and resource efficiency


    Barcelona Metropolitan Area (ES)
    - Porto Metropolitan Area (PT)
    - Krakow Metropole Association (PL)
    - Paris Metropolitan Area (FR)
    - Gdansk-Gdynia-Sopot Metropolitan Area (PL)
    - Amsterdam Region (NL)
    - Transport for Greater Manchester (UK)
    - Thessaloniki Major Development Agency (EL)

    The overall goal is to rethink, transform and integrate mobility infrastructure aiming at reconnecting people, neighbourhoods, cities and natural spaces. The project will develop planning strategies, processes, instruments and partnerships, fostering public transport and active mobility, reducing externalities and unlocking opportunities of urban regeneration with the objectives of structuring the territory, and achieving a more sustainable, equitable and attractive metropolis.


    Utrecht (NL)
    - Riga (LV)
    - Oeste CIM (PT)
    - Copenhagen (DK)
    - Granada (ES)
    - Munich (DE)
    - Kavala (EL)
    - Prato (IT)
    - Nigrad (SI)

    URGE (circUlaR buildinG citiEs) aims to design integrated urban policies on circularity in the building sector – a major consumer of raw materials – as there is a gap in knowledge on this topic. The result is an in-depth understanding of this theme and a first plan for a tailor-made methodology that allows the circular dimension to be widely integrated in the large construction tasks the URGE partnership is facing. URGE thus accelerates the transition towards a circular economy.

    Healthy Cities

    Vic (ES)
    - Anyksciai (LT)
    - Bradford (UK)
    - Alphen aan den Rijn (NL)
    - Falerna (IT)
    - Farkadona (EL)
    - Loulé (PT)
    - Pärnu (EE)
    - Malta Planning Authority (MT)

    This network aims to deepen the relationship between health and the urban environment, planning actions that focus on improving the population’s health, while developing a rigorous health impact assessment methodology around it. Urban Planning can become a health generator on many grounds, and this network of cities reflects the multiplicity of possible approaches to tackle the issue: green areas, mobility, social cohesion or promotion of sports are some examples.


    Mula (ES)
    - Belene (BG)
    - Cesena (IT)
    - Malbork (PL)
    - Roskilde (DK)
    - Heraklion (EL)
    - Šibenik (HR)
    - Ukmergè (LT)


    The ultimate goal is to represent a moment of change, improving the urban environment of cities involved, developing heritage-led urban regeneration. It will enhance the potential of heritage in small and medium cities developing strategies for economic and social cohesion, inclusion and sustainable urban development. This network fosters the transnational exchange of experiences to test an innovative policy framework, combining a sound integrated approach with a real transformation purpose.


    Resourceful Cities
    (previously UrbReC)

    The Hague (NL)
    - Bucharest 3rd district (RO)
    - Ciudad Real (ES)
    - Mechelen (BE)
    - Cáceres (ES)
    - Patras (EL)
    - Oslo (NO)
    - Opole (PL)
    - Vila Nova Famalicão (PT)
    - Zagreb (HR)


    This network seeks to develop the next generation of urban resource centers to promote the positive economic, environmental and social impacts for the circular economy. They facilitate waste prevention, reuse, repair and recycling. The centers also work as connection points for citizens, new businesses, researchers and the public sector to co-create new ways to close resource loops at the local level.

    (previously Rurban Food)

    Coimbra Region (PT)
    - Alba Iulia (RO)
    - Córdoba (ES)
    - Larissa (EL)
    - Szécsény (HU)
    - Bassa Romagna Union (IT)
    - Tartu Tartumaa Arendusselts (EE)
    - BSC Kranj and Gorenjska (SI)

    Recent experience suggests that it is necessary to promote a transition towards regional food systems. This network encourage the creation of a network of European cities committed to the design of food plans that extend from the urban and periurban areas through a corridor that facilitates urban-rural re-connection. This approach enhances production and consumption environments founded on a base of economic, social and environmental sustainability, integrated into development policies.


    Hegyvidék 12th district of Budapest (HU)
    - Espoo (FI)
    - Limerick (IE)
    - Messina (IT)
    - Breda (NL)
    - Poznań (PL)
    - Santa Pola (ES)
    - Suceava (RO)
    - Tartu (EE)

    As a response to the various health risks related to rapid urbanization and the densification of cities, this network project promotes health-responsive planning and management of urban green infrastructure with an overall aim to bring health and wellbeing benefits for citizens across Europe. The network applies a holistic approach that addresses the main functions provided by urban green infrastructure that deliver health and social benefits.

    Sustainable transport


    Bielefeld (DE)
    - Arad (RO)
    - Badalona (ES)
    - Nazaré (PT)
    - Turku (FI)
    - Guía de Isora (ES)
    - Panevèžys (LT)
    - Saint-Germain-en-Laye (FR)
    - Sérres (EL)
    - Valga (EE)

    This network improves quantity and quality of attractive public spaces in urban areas. For this, it tackles the main public space use being transportation in 3 aspects: improving user experience and adding space to pedestrian networks and (semi) pedestrianised places, upscaling intermodal hubs to urban centres of mixed use as well as reducing and optimising parking in public space. The project takes a user-centric approach by users assessing and creating future use and design of public space.

    Thriving Streets

    Parma (IT)
    - Antwerp (BE)
    - Igoumenitsa (EL)
    - Klaipèda (LT)
    - Nova Gorica (SI)
    - Oradea (RO)
    - Santo Tirso (PT)
    - Radom (PL)
    - Southwark London Borough (UK)
    - Debrecen Economic Development Centre (HU)

    This is a network that addresses the bottlenecks in sustainable urban mobility. The project will focus on the economic and social benefits of sustainable mobility, rather than on the widely demonstrated environmental effects. The network argues that working with local amenities and social networks at neighbourhood level could unlock the hidden demand for active mobility in cities, and thus act as enabler of behaviour change towards more resilient and liveable neighbourhoods.

    Employment protection and resource efficiency


    Heerlen (NL)
    - Aarhus (DK)
    - Baia Mare (RO)
    - Fundão (PT)
    - Kecskemét (HU)
    - Pordenone (IT)
    - Zaragoza (ES)
    - Võru Development Centre (EE)

    This network aims to explore how social impact bonds can be used to improve public service delivery in areas such as employment, ageing, and immigration. Often, the delivery of services is hindered by fragmented and siloed agencies and budgets, financial and political shorttermism, and an aversion to risk and difficulty creating change. The social impact bond is a promising model that ameliorates these issues by increasing collaboration, prevention, and innovation.

    Social inclusion and poverty


    Ghent (BE)
    - Braga (PT)
    - Glasgow (UK)
    - Thessaloniki (EL)
    - Liège (BE)
    - Odense (DK)
    - Poznań (PL)
    - Toulouse Metropole (FR)
    - Timisoara Department of Social Assistance (RO)

    This project aims to eradicate homelessness through innovative housing solutions at city level. It will exchange knowledge on how to gather accurate data and make the conceptual shift from the symptomatic management to the actual ending of homelessness, with Housing First and Housing Led as guidance model. This network will guide the partner cities towards integrated local action plans linked to the long-term strategic goal of Functional Zero (no structural homelessness).


    Agen (FR)
    - Bistrita (RO)
    - Cento (IT)
    - Dinslaken (DE)
    - Hradec Králové (CZ)
    - Santa Maria da Feira (PT)
    - Saint-Quentin (FR)
    - Tartu (EE)

    The aim of this network is to rethink the place of the citizens in the local governance by finding a balance between representative democracy and participatory democracy. This network of European small and medium-sized cities, with the same expectations and similar challenges, will notably take into account, to do this, new digital tools while integrating the issue of citizens away or not comfortable with digital tools.


    Amsterdam (NL)
    - Dublin (IE)
    - Lisbon (PT)
    - Riga (LV)
    - Sofia (BG)
    - Tallinn (EE)
    - Vilnius (LT)
    - London Greater Authority (UK)

    This network addresses the importance of inclusive cultural policies. A challenge all cities in this project face is that culture does not enrich or empower all people equally. We need to gain a better understanding of our communities in order to engage all citizens in our cities. We have identified four topics to work on that will enable us to gain that understanding and support us in reaching all population groups in the participating cities from the west, east and south of Europe.


    Umeå (SE)
    - Frankfurt am Main (DE)
    - Panevèžys (LT)
    - Trikala (EL)
    - La Rochelle (FR)
    - Barcelona Activa SA (ES)
    - Celje JZ Socio (SI)

    Creating conditions for gender equality through a holistic understanding of how gender inequality is created in the specific place. This network creates an exchange on challenges faced by cities with an understanding of gender inequality that is globally understood but locally contextualised.

    Education, skills and lifelong learning


    Milan (IT)
    - Bratislava (SK)
    - Budaörs (HU)
    - Guimarães (PT)
    - Molina de Segura (ES)
    - Nantes Metropole (FR)
    - Rijeka (HR)
    - Kekava (LV)
    - Sofia (BG)
    -Vratsa (BG)

    Through intensive capacity building of local actors, the network will increase collaboration among municipalities, businesses and the civic society in order to promote sustainable, inclusive & innovative urban change. The project aims at increasing the role and added value of companies’ CSR activities at local level, towards urban regeneration and social innovation, with a special emphasis on education, in order to better address emerging and unmet local needs.




    Interested in finding more about the approved networks and what they will do? Watch the URBACT Method video and check out the Action Planning Network's infographic!

    From urbact
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  • Social Impact Bonds: the secret tool for effective public services?

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    In times of financial constraints, total government expenditures on public services are decreasing, while citizens expect more and more effective services. Social Impact Bonds may be the tool for providing funds and overcoming short-term focus, fragmentation of services and lack of innovation.


    Total government expenditure in the EU-28 decreased from 50% of GDP to 45.8% between 2009 and 2017. Similarly, local government spending fell from 12% of GDP to 11% between 2009 and 2015. Still, demands on services have remained intense, and spending on social protection as a proportion of total expenditure increased from 38.8% to 41.2% and spending on health increased from 14.7% to 15.3% in the same period. Cities provide many of those services, -and doing so while running on tight budgets causes significant strain.

    Besides shrinking budgets, providing effective services fail because they are often split between different departments, and a holistic approach is lacking. Cities are pressured to allocate resources to solving crisis-point situations instead of spending on prevention. In such a context, decision-makers opt for the business-as-usual approach without risking relatively unknown interventions that have a severe upfront cost.

    In the meantime, the idea of ‘socially responsible’ or ‘impact investment’ is emerging amidst a low interest rate environment. The trend of investing in the social environment has become a way for investors to give back to the community. Very often, companies are trying to expand their social responsibility. As a result, a growing number of investors are looking for forms of impact investments as a way to stand up for their beliefs and also make a profit.

    The relatively new tool for bringing together the investor and the public sector is the Social Impact Bond (SIB). It is a contract whereby the public authority or governing authority pays for better social outcomes in certain areas and passes the savings achieved to investors. Unlike a bond, the repayment and the return on investment are contingent upon the achievement of desired social outcomes. If a project meets the pre-agreed results, i.e. an improved social outcome that generates a cost-saving, the government (this can be local or national) pays the investors. If a project does not achieve its contracted results, the investors lose their money, and the government pays nothing.

    1. Figure: Social Impact Bonds’ theory of change. Source: University of Oxford, Government Outcomes Lab - An Intro to SIB.

    A Social Impact Bond may have many beneficial effects for cities, as Government Outcomes Lab states in its Evidence Report titled ‘Building the tools for public services to secure better outcomes’. It encourages collaboration by building on cross-sector expertise and bringing together multiple commissioners and multiple providers. It unlocks future savings by investing more up-front, enabling cities to focus on prevention and early intervention services that might otherwise not get funded. A SIB may inspire innovation by allowing new interventions and more flexibility. It also levels the field for involving voluntary, community and social enterprise organisations. Last but not least, a SIB can improve performance management and provides a better quality of evidence.

    Many critics are contesting these benefits, saying that a SIB does not encourage genuine innovation. Investors will be looking for low-risk models that have been proven to deliver, as they want their money back. Moreover, a SIB is expensive to develop and leads to the financialization of the public sector, which is – for many - incompatible with the public service ethos.

    With evidence on both sides, Social Impact Bonds need more experimentation and evaluation. And despite these circumstances of austerity, some cities try to use the momentum to shift their approach towards this new tool. That is why 10 cities joined their forces in URBACT SIBdev Network to jointly explore how Social Impact Bonds, can improve public service delivery. The tool and the URBACT methodology, namely coproduction through multi-stakeholder local support groups and the development of local action plans fit perfectly.

    The network will examine service delivery concerning employment, ageing and immigration. Employment is an obvious choice since SIB is particularly well-suited to it, as demonstrated by the fact that it is the most common type of SIB worldwide. Ageing is the most massive pressure on social spending in Europe and affects a growing number of people, while immigration is the primary concern at the EU level (according to Eurobarometer).

    Is SIB going to be the new secret tool for providing adequate public services? Maybe it will be, maybe not. But it certainly is a promising new form of commissioning social services. If you are interested in Finance and/or Social Services, follow URBACT SIBdev Network to learn about how SIB might work for you!

    1. Photo: Harrie Lambrichts

    From urbact
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  • Five ways to promote an integrated approach in your city

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    Lessons from the URBACT City Lab #3 focused on the principle of integration.

    Disadvantaged neighbourhoods

    Integration is a weasel word. Hard to pin down, it means different things to different people. The 3rd URBACT City Lab brought city practitioners and policy

    makers together in Warsaw to explore this tricky principle. What does it mean for cities and what do we mean by an integrated approach to sustainable urban development?

    The Lab findings will feed into the German EU presidency’s refresh of the Leipzig Charter in 2020.
    So, what did we learn?

    Here are five headlines.

    1. Re-state our values and find new ways to measure success

    The world now looks very different to 2007, when the Leipzig Charter appeared. Since then we’ve witnessed a global financial crisis, the digital revolution and increasing globalisation. We’ve also seen the rise of populism and the fragmentation of trust between the public and politicians. Many European cities struggle with widening inequalities.

    Going forward into the 2020s, do we expect our cities to adopt a ‘business as usual’ approach or, instead, are we at a fork in the road? New economic thinkers like Kate Raworth are creating an alternative economic framework that challenges the old assumptions. Her "Doughnut Economics" approach bounds our economic activity within the scope of the environment, raising questions that every city should consider.

    Kate sets out seven ways to think like a 21st century economist. The first is to change the goal. Across Europe cities including Stockholm (SE), Amsterdam (NL) and Berlin (DE) are exploring these new ideas, looking to reshape our idea of successful integrated cities.

    2. Become bilingual and free range

    Lab participants spoke about the factors driving mistrust between citizens and government. They include the use of official language which alienates people as well as the impersonalisation of services through the use of technology. The net effect is a barrier between the people and the services which their taxes fund.

    Cities are exploring ways to address these challenges. In a previous URBACT network, the Mayor of Amersfoort (NL) encouraged City Hall staff to get out from behind their desks in order to engage directly with citizens. He spoke about free range civil servants, who are comfortable out in the community. In fact they are part of the community; parents, neighbours and citizens like everyone else. But this requires a shift in mindset for some municipal officials, which requires support and encouragement.

    The city of Łodz (PL) has embraced this concept in its regeneration approach to a 6.5 hectare site characterised by residential buildings constructed in the late 19th century. As part of this sensitive work, the city recruited and trained a large team of local mediators, literally go-betweens linking the neighbourhood with the municipality. This element of their good practice is one of the components being transferred to cities in the Urban Regeneration Mix network, includes Zagreb (HR), Braga (PT) and Toulouse (FR). Too often, city authorities outsource this engagement activity to third parties, and in doing so, miss the opportunity to build capacity and experience in house.

    3. Harness the power of public spending

    Making Spend Matter is an URBACT Transfer network focused on mobilising the significant power of public spending to achieve local impact. The starting point is recognising the significant scale of public budgets, and their importance to local economies. The approach, which started in Preston (UK) has involved getting a better snapshot of what is spent, where and with whom.

    During this initial phase, the city saw the proportion of its public spend with Preston based suppliers increase from 5% to 18%, and the proportion spent with regional based suppliers increase from 39% to 79%. The model starts with a local spend analysis, and seven other cities are currently transferring the approach through this network. By definition, the approach requires public partners to collaborate, through the mobilisation of anchor institutions across all sectors. This is integration in action!

    4. Revisit approaches to tackling poverty

    Although welfare models are complex and varied across Europe, there’s a general consensus that they are failing. At the same time, we see that investment in physical revitalisation can often lead to gentrification and the displacement of the most vulnerable.

    Many city authorities are looking at new and innovative ways to address this. One example is Aarhus (DK) which is successfully personalising budgets designed to support people back to work. Another is Barcelona (ES), which has an Urban Innovative Actions project, B-MINCOM aimed at breaking cycles of deprivation in Besos, one of the city’s poorest neighbourhoods. There, average household income is around 50% of the city rate.

    The approach provides a guaranteed minimum income level to 1,000 households on a trial basis. It combines the income guarantee with an active programme of employment support and enterprise development. As the pilot concludes in autumn 2019, it will have important lessons to share across Europe.

    5. Embrace the integrated approach!

    The Leipzig Charter was one of the earliest documents to promote an integrated approach to urban development. Almost 13 years later, many still struggle to understand what this means in practice. Many barriers stand in the way - including the departmental silos we find in City Hall.

    In response to this, URBACT has recently conducted detailed research exploring integrated working in practice. This identifies examples from cities working this way across Europe, and sets out practical tips to follow. Stories from Strasbourg (FR), Cluj-Napoca (RO) and Antwerp (BE) provide guidance and inspiration.

    A key message is that this isn’t as hard as it sounds, and city practitioners can break things into manageable chunks to help take them forward. The watchword is letting go of perfection. Perhaps that’s the first stage to adopting a more integrated approach.

    More learning from URBACT City Labs:

    More on Integrated approaches:


    The key principles of the original Leipzig Charter provided the focus for each URBACT City Lab.

    Explore the related outputs on Participation, Sustainability, Integration and Balanced Territorial Development.

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  • Tuning up the instruments of social change

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    Cities in Europe are using music and performing arts education for social change, inclusion and cohesion.

    Culture & Heritage

    Sandra Rainero, network Expert for URBACT ONSTAGE Transfer Network, shares the experiences of l’Hospitalet de Llobregat (ES), Grigny (FR), Adelfia (IT) and Aarhus (DK).

    Nothing touched the heart of the people of l’Hospitalet de Llobregat (ES) more than the Opening Ceremony (the Toc d’Inici) of the Spring Festival and the music of the Banda Provençana. During the festival, the band showcased the traditions and popular Catalan culture of the city. Today, its French horn player is 18-year old Wang Wei,* a Chinese national who arrived in L’Hospitalet at the age of 9, enrolled in the neighbourhood school and joined the Tandem programs of the Municipal Music School and Arts Centre (EMMCA).

    Surely music schools are the most exclusive education system there is?

    Conservatories and schools are attended mainly by those who have either a good enough social and cultural background to afford it, or budding talents that get to the spotlight thanks to heavy discipline, solfege, vocalising and exhausting practice. However, one performing arts schools has gone a long way to undermine such stereotypes opening its doors to today’s diverse and complex society: the EMMCA in L’Hospitalet (ES), now sharing its Good Practice within the URBACT ONSTAGE Transfer Network.

    Urbanity and education: a multifaceted and complex relationship

    Typically, cities have a subsidiary role in a formal education system, so when they govern education programmes – regardless of their level, groups or topic – they make a strong political statement. It's even more so when we add in cultural education. As American sociologist Christian Smith would argue, cultural systems are the result of human capacities to shape the meanings and structures of social existence together.

    This is why the cities of the URBACT ONSTAGE Transfer Network use music and performing arts education to equip citizens with the so-called “cultural and artistic capability”. They view access to culture as a fundamental right for citizens.

    Living on the margins but playing for its heart

    People of L’Hospitalet (pop. 250,000 c.) and Grigny (pop. 28,500 c.) are those living at the margins, on the fringes of the largest metropolitan areas in Spain and France, namely Barcelona and Paris. Until not so long ago they were both little suburban towns. Life in Gellerup (pop. 340,000 c) seems a world apart from the thriving city of Aarhus, yet it was named the European Capital of Culture in 2017.

    As migrants make up for about one-third of the residents (90% in Gellerup), over time these three municipalities have structured public music schools where the egalitarian approach has replaced the elitist one. While teaching music, these schools offer opportunities and different ways to empower those who often fall between the cracks of our society, because of their cultural, ethnic, national background or other forms of diversities and vulnerabilities.

    Conservatory Director Edgar Solmi recalls that it was the Department of Grand Paris South that came to the Grigny conservatoire a few years back, right after the violence in the social housing district of La Grande Borne (Big Border) and asked for musical help to appease the inflammatory social unrest. The Conservatory therefore plays an important part in the municipality’s strategy with Grigny being named City of Peace to change its story, and to offer its citizens better opportunities.

    The city of Aarhus has been investing an important amount of financial resources for the regeneration of Gellerup, building public spaces and moving a large Department of the City Administration to this part of the city. The focus of the activities of the Musikskole in this district are part of a wider policy and city strategy.

    The EMMCA’s activities started in 2005, but the school moved to its own headquarters about ten years later as part of the urban regeneration project for the Gornal district, known as a difficult neighbourhood home to a large Roma community, initially shunned by L’Hospitalet residents. The educational objective of this urban policy came before the actual school building and it took time and incessant networking with the social fabric of the city to get its value recognised.

    Musical atonement for the school’s ‘original sin’

    The Greek etymon of school, skholḗ means “place of rest”, a respite from the body’s toils and a place to exercise the mind. Over the last millennium, this artificial separation between the body and the mind has persisted, making it hard for students who do not comply (because of their diversity, background, learning or behavioural issues) to succeed and meet educational standards. So, human expressions and arts that entail the simultaneous use of body and mind, such as music or performing arts, remain the Cinderella subjects of “regular” schools - or exclusive to specialised (and often even more exclusive) education.

    The wager that the EMMCA took up when it started its Tandem programme in public primary schools meant including music, dance or theatre into the curriculum, but also to teaching them at the same level and valuing them as much as other subjects.

    If math and English can be taught in a group-class, why not music?” The educational objective does not refer to achieving a standard artistic performance level (although this happens quite often anyway) but rather the well-being and the feeling of safety in the group that fosters the ability to learn.

    In Aarhus, the experience of the Musikskole has also revealed its limitations. After years of “incursions” in regular classes by music teachers, musical education remained a world apart from ‘real life’ for its students because regular teachers were unable to give continuity to music classes.

    As financial resources dwindle, the focus has recently shifted to providing other teachers with skills to continue the musical activities. The new approach is to combine music-teaching with social skill building, to embed the aesthetic didactics (songs, activities and methods) into the school’s daily routines. The project of online animations with traditional Danish songs also goes in this direction.

    For many years now, musician Andrea Gargiulo of MusicaInGioco has been working with children with disabilities and behavioural issues in Adelfia and other municipalities in the Puglia Region. He has codified practice and multidisciplinary techniques into a methodological approach called "reticular didactics" that the Italian Ministry of Education has recognised.

    I worked with Suleyman,* a deaf boy who was also unable to speak because in his country, Albania, he had spent a lot of time in the orphanage without receiving adequate care” Gargiulo recalls, “but though he could not speak, he could sing! He managed to develop his own self-regulation and managed to be even in tune, and to improvise jazz on the piano, resting his hand on the sound box.”

    Another strength of the inclusive approach to music education is that they draw and adapt from non-formal, experiential and inductive education approaches. As the experience of EMMCA and the Adelfia tell us, these methods are more flexible and inclusive because they drift away from the mistake-and-performance-evaluation paradigm. They aim at personal and social empowerment, rather than achievement, therefore they have a profound social and therapeutic value.

    A slow but inevitable recognition

    EMMCA’s music lessons have made of Wang Wei an important element of the city’s musical life, and all along they have helped him go through education, learn the local language and become an active citizen, applauded by the local community in the parades.

    When Suleyman’s adoptive mother saw him singing and playing for the first time, she broke into tears of joy. She was convinced that her son could never be a musician, and instead she saw him doing it with incredible simplicity and talent.

    Neuroscience and evidence-based research carried out on L’Hospitalet and Adelfia’s cases indicate that music and dance have positive effects on the brain, activate neural connections and logical abilities, improving social, behavioural and mathematical skills. However, the introduction of music and performing arts in the general education system by local actors (like the Tandem programs of the EMMCA and Music’n’play) have not happened overnight and are not always welcome by the system. Their actual implementation has shown how difficult it remains to change the formal education system.

    One of the enduring issues related to performing arts education relates to its costs for the local administration, especially when a rights-based, democratic approach to culture is promoted.

    The Catalan Government, in the case of EMMCA, the Department of Grand Paris South for Grigny and the Puglia Region for Music’n’Play all support these initiatives, with the help of private donors. Territorial and vertical alignment of integrated policy and good practice remain therefore paramount for their sustainability. The dialogue we see happening during the ONSTAGE Transfer Network about cultural, education and social policy is encouraging for these schools to set their plans for social change in motion.

    *fictional name of a real person


    In the October 2019 highlight on education you will also find the following articles:

    All articles will be published on Thursdays! Keep your eyes peeled and check the URBACT education page.

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    Kick-off meeting

    Thirteen years ago, the EMMCA was founded in L'Hospitalet as a new model of music school that uses music as a tool for inclusion and social change. The ONSTAGE Transfer network follows the Good Practices, which has an innovative methodology engaging civic society. Making a difference from traditional music schools, the project gives equal opportunities to all inhabitants of L’Hospitalet to access music courses, involves primary schools and creates a space for social cohesion, tackling local issues such as exclusion, youth unemployment and school dropout.

    Music schools for social change
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  • Let the music play!

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    Sandra Rainero shares her passion for the ONSTAGE Transfer Network where communities let arts and culture bring them together. Music to our ears...


    Disadvantaged neighbourhoods

    Imagine to be at the RCDE Stadium on a late-spring afternoon in Barcelona. Almost 10.000 people have queued for some time to be there. The players are on the field, there are over 5000 of them. Amongst them, Nyah, a 15 year - old from Bolivia, is ready to play … but don’t be fooled … there’s no referee whistling the kick-off tonight. The crowd has gathered for a musical performance in celebration of the 25th anniversary of the Catalan Association of Music Schools. Nyah has been playing the bassoon for six years, an instrument she discovered at the Ramon y Cajal primary school, then at the Escola Municipal de Música Centre de les Arts (EMMCA).

    Based in L’Hospitalet de Llobregat, the city where it was founded in 2005 as a municipal service for the arts, the school is the result of a clear integrated cultural, educational and social policy for the city. It represents the long-standing vision of the municipality about the transformational power of music and performing arts in the lives of people and the making of the city itself. You may say they are dreamers, but they are not the only ones: this is tuning-up for the URBACT ONSTAGE Transfer Network (TN) performance.

    It's a kind of... music school

    With a population of over one-quarter million, the highest rate of population density in Europe and almost 30% of its residents with a migrant background, L’Hospitalet faces several challenges and divides, in social, economic and physical terms. The main North-South train line cuts the city into two big blocks and many of the 12 neighborhoods are ethnically segregated with high poverty rates.

    In 2004, people were in the street, picketing the city hall and requesting a public music school. “They had in mind the traditional music school, like the Conservatory,” recalls Nuria Sempere, Director of the EMMCA, “but if we had to create a municipal service for music education, it had to be a unique model, one that is open and innovative.” So, when the school opened in May 2005, the city council was not only cutting the ribbon for a new Performing Arts Center, but it also inaugurated a steadfast policy of citizens’ participation in the realm of cultural and artistic expressions.

    Performing arts as a tool for inclusion

    The municipal music school or, as the EMMCA team eagerly refers to, the arts public service, has a multi-dimensional field of action that uses performing arts as a tool for inclusion and social change. It has developed an innovative methodology, engaging civil society and ensuring equal opportunities for all L’Hospitalet citizens to access its courses. It offers group classes to all residents in its main building, it carries out curricular performing arts activities in primary schools, it lends instruments to its students, and grants special prices to those who cannot afford to pay full fees.

    The EMMCA has the ambition to be a mirror of the diversity of the city, to represent – in cultural terms - the social and human fabric that makes it. The Symphony Orchestra of the EMMCA is like many others in terms of performance skills, but it is the only one with 29% of performers with a migrant background, the same rate of people from non-EU origin living in the whole city. It relies on proximity of space and people: the city becomes a playhouse in neighborhoods where the gigs build community and sometimes audiences become the next performers.

    Children's academic results improve

    Students attending the EMMCA’s activities “make music "rather than “know or learn music." The hands-on teaching techniques, adapted from established methods of non-formal education in the cultural field, are always in group sessions. Musical and performing capabilities support basic competences, endowing students with life skills rather than “exclusive” technical skills.

    Out of the 59 primary schools in the city, the EMMCA has chosen to provide performing arts lessons in 12 public primary schools categorized as “High Complexity Schools”, because of the high percentage of students coming from low-income households, most of them with refugee or migrant backgrounds - or other forms of disadvantage.

    Creating a curricular program of performing arts in public schools has not been easy. “There’s a social issue here, we argued with the regional education board” states the EMMCA director, “we told them: these schools have lower school attainment scores, we are losing these kids. As a public administration we should do something …and they said, ‘Go ahead!’” A strenuous process of adaptation to the school’s environment and regulations has been necessary to run these programs.

    And indeed, an impact assessment demonstrates that EMMCA has made a big difference. According to the 2015-2016 data, students involved in the EMMCA program had better results in 7th grade exams than those in similar schools not participating in the programs. Higher scores were recorded in most statutory subjects, and especially maths.

    From Catalonia to Europe with (Gipsy) swing.

    Thirteen years, over 50.000 participants and a lot of Manouche Jazz later, the EMMCA is now embarking on the URBACT adventure to share its policy and cohesion accomplishments, and to pick other cities’ brains for improving its services. Says Nuria Sempere with a confident tone, “It is the first time that we have the opportunity to use EU funds not to increase our activities or users, but to think, exchange and learn... to improve our public service by means of cooperation with other cities in Europe.

    Six other cities are now involved in the URBACT TN ONSTAGE. Adelfias' Music’n’play and Valongo’s living library are also URBACT good practice cities, both leveraging arts and culture for community building and equal opportunities, and enjoyment of cultural and artistic practice. "We are the smallest city in the transfer network” says Maria Cesaria Giordano, Councilor of the Municipality of Adelfia, “and that is why we want to grow and improve our social practices by observing larger municipalities like L'Hospitalet."

    Three cities are small and medium-sized municipalities located – like L’Hospitalet – at the outskirts of larger metropolitan areas: Adelfia (pop. 17.200 c. in the metropolitan area of Bari in Italy), Grigny (pop. 27.000 Essonne on the Parisian belt) and Valongo (pop. 95.400 c., in the metropolitan area surrounding Porto, Portugal). These cities, each with distinguishing characters, share the challenge of economic disparities, migration and ethnic diversity, ageing, and fewer employment opportunities. All factors leading to segregated communities.

    We, from the periphery of large cities, deal with the issue of identity everyday” passionately maintains Josè Manuel Ribeiro, president of the city council of Valongo, “culture can help us counteract loss of identity, and create our identity as a city.”

    Grigny has been notoriously popular on the press because of riots in its banlieues” acknowledges Edgar Solmi, director of the Conservatoire Communal of Grigny, “so elected representatives have been developing innovative cultural initiatives to change the city’s negative image. It has been successful and reflects the inventive abilities of Grigny’s inhabitants.

    The three other network cities are vibrant mid-size cities in the Northern and Eastern European countries: Aarhus (pop. 341.500 c.) and Brno (pop. 386.000 c.) both second largest cities respectively in Denmark and Czechia, and Katowice in Poland (pop. 297.000 c.). All have lively cultural and music scene and economy. Both Brno and Katowice are UNESCO Creative cities and are planning to use the TN to improve the link between music and cohesion, using the EMMCA’s approach to create programs in primary schools with a high number of socially disadvantaged students or foreigners.

    Aarhus’s municipal school inspired L’Hospitalet to start their own “The participation in this network is part of the framework narrative about Aarhus, a city with room for diversity where community is in focus” says director of the municipal school Lars-Ole Vestergaard.

    All together now

    What swayed these cities into joining ONSTAGE is three-fold: first, the concept of a music and arts school as a public service to nurture cultural capabilities for all and social change to create a more equitable and cohesive city; second, the capability to “infiltrate” the formal education system and become part of it, contributing to school accomplishments using non-formal musical and artistic practice to empower and develop basic life skills from an early age; and equally, the use of a sound impact assessment system that can measure - in qualitative and quantitative terms - the success of the service towards this policy vison.

    These three elements of the practice will be transferred through a methodology that is currently being developed by the Transfer Network. For the next 24 months the network will work on finding strategies and methods to transfer a practice that is part and parcel of the New Urban Agenda. Culture and cultural diversity enrich and support the sustainable development of the city and – most importantly - of its citizens “empowering them to play an active and unique role in development initiatives” as the Quito Declaration on Sustainable Cities and Human Settlements for All recites.

    Changing lives

    EMMCA changed Nyah’s life. Not only does she play in the Band, she also speaks good Catalan, goes to school and has made new friends, she has become an active citizen and has a lot to look forward to in her life in L’Hospitalet.

    It is the many stories like Nyah’s that characterize EMMCA as a good practice for URBACT. Such vision sees music, performing arts and culture not purely as an ‘end’ that can be achieved by those who have power and talent, but rather as an instrumental ‘tool’ for social transformation, both personal and collective, to foster cohesion and democratic values for everyone in the city: women and men, from preschoolers to octogenarians - from all walks of life.

    L’Hospitalet and the six URBACT Transfer Network cities recognize that performing arts and cultural activities define the city itself, its people, its distinct and unique culture while bringing people together – onstage.


    Visit the network's page: ONSTAGE

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  • Let us build the new politics starting from our everyday lives

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    The Rethink Activism Festival

    Back in September, Sager der Samler (translated: Uniting Causes), in collaboration with many other stakeholders, organized the people’s festival Rethink Activism in Aarhus. We put together a program of 250 workshops, conversations, concerts and so forth which were all initiated by citizens and grassroots. The aim was to highlight a new capacity for action which is emerging across society and to raise the profile of everyday activists who are changing the world right there where they are through creativity and cooperative spirit. We set the stage for the experience of concrete local initiatives with an optimistic vision for society – not methods and fine speeches.

    The festival took place in the area surrounding the old slaughterhouse and power station at Sydhavnen in Aarhus which was transformed into a city within the city with town hall, school, factory, culture house, day shelter, health house etc. The city spread across an area the size of 10 football fields and as the festival opened on Friday morning the city’s new inhabitants flocked to the place. The interest and curiosity turned out to be enormous, lasting all the way until the end Sunday evening. Despite a very limited advertising budget more than 10.000 people visited the festival that was held over three days.

    Amongst those participants were partners involved in the URBACT CHANGE! Network. Led by Eindhoven, Aarhus is an active member of this network which is exploring how we can involve citizens in reshaping urban policy and practice. Each of the network’s cities came to festival with their own ideas and experience of how we can do this.

    And if the festival proves one thing it is this: a lot of people are committed to society and to making societal change. As journalist at Politiken Anne Bech-Danielsen commented: “They are young, they are old, and they act: Refugees, unemployed or people who have simply had enough of overconsumption, isolation or not doing anything and there are more of them than just a handful of cheerful civilians.”

    A new way to be politically active


    The festival program presented several hundred concrete and visionary examples of how we as ordinary people can contribute to finding new solutions.
    One example is Annbritt Jørgensen and Steffen Sand who have been social assistance recipients for years and live with psychiatric diagnoses. They stand behind Skraldecaféen (translated: The Dumpster Diving Café) -  which uses food waste from supermarket containers to create new communities and help socially isolated people like themselves.

    Or local enthusiast Jeppe Spure Nielsen who is one of the initiators of “Forskøn Hans Broges Gade” (translated: Beautify Hans Broges Street) which at the same time improves an urban environment in a concrete manner and creates a sense of community between the residents in the Frederiksbjerg neighborhood in Aarhus. The street community is thus experimenting with being urban creators instead of just users of the local, public space in which they live.

    Yet another example is entrepreneur Metin Aydin who assists a Syrian refugee stuck in the municipal system. The Syrian has a dream of becoming a self-employed hairdresser. Metin helps him through VAT rules and how to set up a Facebook business page. Today Aarhus has a new mobile hairdresser and Metin has created the association (translated where he, together with other volunteers, helps people on social welfare realize their dream of becoming self-employed.

    Metin acted because he met a person in great difficulty whom he was able to help. And at the same time, it is a way for him to be politically active by putting into play competencies of his own which lack in the public system. It is a way for him to make a difference.

    Everyday politicians with a small “p”

    Researchers and opinion formers have also spotted the new movement which was showcased during the festival. Often, they use the term “ad-hoc volunteering” to describe it, but the term is misleading. Instead, we have chosen the word “everyday activism”.

    This new vigor is not directly comparable to classic volunteerism. Everyday activism is an expression of a more entrepreneurial approach where we as citizens are neither users nor volunteers. No one is set to do anything. On the contrary, we as citizens break away from our traditional roles and through our initiatives we become political individuals who create platforms for promoting causes and pointing out solutions.

    In other words, the movement reflects a new, democratic people’s culture which connects everyday life and politics in a very concrete way. People are no longer waiting for local, national or any other kind of authority to take up the reins. They want to change the world right where they are, and they are fed up with talking. They just go ahead.

    Some people question the ability of everyday activists to look beyond their own self-interests. And indeed, you can be very engaged in your own cause, but personal engagement is not necessarily a reflection of narrow self-interests.

    The point of departure for Annbritt and Steffen’s dumpster diving café was their own situation but at the same time they moved beyond what was right in front of them and looked further. They are experts in their own lives and they use that special knowledge to show us something which concerns the whole society, and that is how to combine sustainability with solving social problems.

    That way Annbritt and Steffen become a kind of everyday politician with a small “p” is because they represent something bigger without being attached to one specific political party.

    Active participation is a movement in its own right

    Another misinterpretation of what’s happening comes from the fact that everyday activism and initiatives are being described as temporary. This casts doubt on their durability.

    The Dumpster Diving Café is, like many other initiatives, loosely organized and managed by people who have no professional training or fixed budget. On the other hand, there is a strong sense of ownership and the project is the result of years of striving to change difficult life circumstances. It is a higher purpose that makes us want to get up in the morning and therefore the work will go on with or without project funding. There is no volatility here but of course the impact is greater with backup than without.

    The special quality of the Dumpster Diving Café and many other initiatives started by citizens is that they, through their example, discover new ways to solve a difficult problem, question prevailing standards and call attention to important but overlooked resources. At the same time, they have taken back control of their lives and experience a renewed faith that they have a part to play in the big community.

    That is why we have got to renew the way we talk about “active citizenship” and its original meaning. We have got to move away from a tendency that wants to turn our participation in society into a resource the municipal budget can draw upon, the public administration can administer, researchers can analyze or politicians can use to create a public image. Citizens should be a part of the renewal of our welfare society, but not in a way that consigns them to a narrow role as consumers or spare pairs of hands.

    The Rethink Activism People’s Festival created a narrative about active participation as a movement in its own right. Here, everyday activists call into question what politics really is. They say: how can we create a new society? What would it look like? They try themselves to create examples of new solutions and show what today’s dream society would look like. This is a much deeper role than any repackaged concept of volunteering. Instead, it rests upon the shared values that still exist within our communities and draws upon the creativity and social entrepreneurship which characterizes this new generation of everyday activism.

    It is high time we talked together

    Come by and talk to Annbritt and Steffen about marginalization and get some ideas as to how food sustainability can foster new communities. Come by and talk to Metin about how entrepreneurial competencies can inspire new ways of supporting refugees into jobs. Come by and talk to the many, many everyday activists who are out there and make a difference. And through networks like CHANGE, these conversations are taking place not only in Denmark, but throughout Europe. Change is in the air.

    At a time when democracy itself is at risk, it is high time we talked together and reinvented the person-to-person political talk. Democratic disparities can only be reduced through dialogue, collaboration and a desire to reach a common ground through mutual learning - and formative processes. It will not happen through strategic communication which is a one-sided way to make the electorate support a certain policy.

    Too often, politicians overestimate themselves and underestimate the inventiveness of their citizens. Therefore, we urge politicians to sharpen their eyes to the political visions which are created in everyday life. The everyday activists want to get into the game, testing new solutions together with the established system – the point of departure being everyday life.

    The challenges cities face are well-established – lack of trust, migration, climate change – amongst them. We are deeply convinced that the only way to address them is if everyone becomes part of the solution. The most important foundation for a living democracy is that more people take ownership of the development of society and help create optimistic visions for the future.

    Let us take back everyday life as the basis for new politics – this is where we live our lives.

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  • Experimenting with governance

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    Innovative governance work is notable is several of the 97 URBACT Good Practices. Common themes emerge around how cities are beginning to innovate. Firstly, how they relate and connect to their citizens. Second, how they build new alliances with a wider range of organisations. Thirdly, how for innovative practices to truly function, significant internal change is required from government organisations.

    The roots of modern European governance

    Abandoned Spaces

    Governance systems currently in place in much of the European Union were first developed in the 19th Century as the industrial revolution unfolded.  Some aspects have changed but often the essential form has remained the same. ‘Management’ as Manfred Weber first documented is bureaucratic and based on rules and procedures, which are systematised through reports, signatures and files. This written paper culture still informs the way of doing business in much of the public sector, even in countries where digital technologies are most advanced. Although flatter hierarchies are now the norm in some countries, elsewhere, rigid hierarchies and promotion based on seniority limit the potential and creativity of younger staff. Everywhere, departmental and professional boundaries restrict our ability to tackle complex problems in a holistic way.

    Key characteristics of the old 19th and 20th Century economy were industry and urbanism. Local government responded to these new needs by developing forms of governance that were essentially paternal, aimed at a newly urbanised working class. Their main drive was to deliver healthy enough conditions, enabling a working population to make new industrial products in the workshops of the world. 

    Changing governance to meet dynamic cities

    URBACT challenges such ways of working by proposing integrated and participative approaches. But these are often superimposed on the old structures so that although some relations with the outside world change, the internal organisation remains the same.

    In the 21st Century we are slowly beginning to see the emergence of new forms of governance that rebalance the relationship between government and citizens. Instead of redistribution through the raising of tax and the delivery of public services we see the notion of coproduction that puts the service user at its centre. Instead of a one-service model for everyone we see the emergence of personalised models that fit around the individual. But the new coexists with the old and there are inevitable tensions between the paradigms.

    Many of the good practices presented at the URBACT city festival illustrate facets of this emerging model of governance. They range from changing internal ways of working, to how the municipality reaches out to citizens through new forms of regulation for common space. 

    Naples, civic cultural success

    Nicola Masella from Naples explained how active civil society movements had taken over vacant and derelict buildings owned by the municipality. Initial success then provoked a reflection inside the city about how this ‘temporary use’ could be organised on a more regular basis, and what form of regulation was needed to facilitate this process. Naples provides and excellent example of how regulatory change can quickly stimulate new activity within the city. Inevitably this activity generates more growth and activity. Here are signs of real change, in other times the response would have been to insist on eviction and increase the security of empty buildings, at cost to the public purse.

    By revisiting the notion of civic use, the good practice proposed by Naples city council aims at guaranteeing the collective enjoyment of common goods. These common goods can be cultural and natural heritage, essential public services, public spaces and water resources. Through its willingness and use of its administrative process the city has strengthened civic participation and enabled the fair use of common resources while at the same time allocating clear responsibilities for maintenance and management.

    In particular, Naples aims to make spontaneous, bottom-up initiatives recognisable and institutionalised, ensuring the autonomy of both parties involved: the proactive citizens and the institutions.

    How it works in Naples: Filangieri Asylum

    The first common good to be recognized was the former Asylum at Filangeri, Naples, a complex that in 2012 had been occupied by a group of art and culture professionals protesting against the restoration and recent abandonment of the premises. The city council acknowledged its civic use in a resolution in 2012 which recognised the building as a “place with a complex use in the cultural field, and whose spaces are used to experiment in participative democracy”.
    Re-use produces high social and cultural value as well as generating positive economic externalities. Uses must involve not only the users of the space but the whole neighbourhood and the wider city. In return the administration contributes to the operating expenses to ensure an adequate accessibility of the property and general safety conditions: maintenance, cleaning, electricity consumption and surveillance. An ah-hoc unit on the technical level, and a political coordinator are in charge of promoting and fostering an integrated approach particularly, between municipal departments involved and other institutions or agencies.

    The facility in its new form has to be free and inclusive, i.e. it must guarantee access to all. Finance comes from donations, voluntary contributions, self-financing and other forms of social pricing, which is permitted for cultural events. The management model must be based on a strong participatory process. In the Asylum Filangieri three different structures manage the building the "Management assembly", the "Steering assembly“ and the “Board of Trustees”. Each has its own distinct remit.

    Since the passing of the regulation in 2012 there have been more than 200 weekly open meetings held in the Asylum Filangieri. Working groups are formed as necessary for implementation and over 900 events have been produced with attendance of 18 000 people. The venture has strengthened community cohesion by building bonds between citizens, and has narrowed the gap between artists, academics and citizens.

    A second resolution in 2016 recognised a further seven public properties as “relevant civic spaces” and as “common goods”. These facilities have generated 5,800 activities 1,500 days of theatre, dance and music rehearsals; 300 exhibitions; 250 art projects, 300 concerts musical groups plus as many rehearsals and 350 debates. An estimated 200,000 citizens have taken part. In addition, the community-based organisations have provided a range of free services including training for the unemployed, a neighbourhood nursery, schooling for migrants and health services.

    The Naples approach puts empty buildings at the service of the community and allows the community’s creativity to flower in a new setting.

    Umeå: Governance from a new perspective

    The city of Umeå, in northern Sweden has taken an innovative approach when working towards a more gender-neutral cityscape. Unlike other governance innovation schemes the city has chosen to look broadly at the governance perspective and work towards dismantling a male lead system that precludes the needs and wants of almost half its population.

    The city’s municipality began by focusing on how the city works from a gendered perspective. Their practice is to take citizens, policy makers and visitors around the city on a bus tour during which issues facing women and men are explored by visiting different sites in the city and examining them with gender in mind. Interest was ignited when work began on a long pedestrian underpass, used to access the train station, the Lev. This was redesigned with gender equal safety in mind and so is better lit, wide, with no corners behind which people can hide. The main aim of the tour is to view the overall city space and highlight the need for collaboration when creating new, safe, inclusive environments.

    Umeå’s approach to improving its urban environment should be celebrated yet its simple, almost obvious idea of inclusive and representative design only highlights the astonishing fact that cities and towns worldwide still do not design educate, design or govern with women in mind. Aside from specialist projects, most major designs that relate to our cities, from the macro level of masterplanning down to the design of public space, schools, hospitals and indeed housing are lead predominantly by men.

    Gender balanced governance: Inspirations from Umea

    Women mayors are still relatively rare in local government in most of the EU Member States. Even the famous mayors of big cities such as Anne Hidalgo in Paris and Ada Colau in Barcelona are unusual in their own countries. Finding new ways to help policy makers understand issues from a gendered perspective is therefore essential to reach better decisions about design, usage and management of urban facilities. The Umea bus tour which helps people to understand the city from a gender perspective does just this. 

    Turin opens up to innovation

    Fabrizio Barbiero explained how the city of Turin chose to mobilise the innovative capacity of its ten thousand strong workforce in a project called ‘everyone is an innovator’ led by Innova.TO. A challenge was made to the city’s workforce to come up with innovative ideas that were capable of being implemented. Its main aim was to create a cultural shift within the governing body, from being a rule-bound organisation towards a more creative and open structure with a focus on reducing both cost and waste and improving services. 71 project ideas were received in the first round held in 2016. In addition, over 4000 contacts were recorded on the web platform and the initiative has attracted international press coverage as well as in the city itself. One limiting factor at present is that projects must raise their own resources for implementation.

    A key aspect of the project is that it is open to regular staff at any level with the exception of directors. Individuals propose most projects but about a third are by two or more staff. The project proposers are anonymous during the selection process which is carried out by a panel which mixes external experts from the University of Torino and the private sector with internal officials. Innova.TO is just one part of wider programmes for social innovation involving communities and other actors in the city.

    In the 2016 edition ten projects were taken forward. These included an idea to improve community participation in local projects, a proposal for sensors to control lighting in public buildings, a new model for smart procurement and a method by which citizens can see how their donations encouraged through the income tax submission finance public actions. None of these projects has imposed any cost on the municipality.

    The key aim of the project is in changing the perception that only the private sector is innovative.  By creating a reflective space for innovation within the municipality the project starts the process by which the public sector can be reinvented. Although it is a bottom up initiative it ultimately depends on senior and middle management for implementation of the chosen proposals. This helps to develop a listening culture among senior managers who need to become more open minded to change.

    Aarhus: Culture as an Intermediary

    Lars Davidsen from Aarhus presented their approach using culture as a way of intermediating with citizens. Their specific approach has some echoes of what Naples has been doing as they take the opportunity presented by empty properties to create a form of popup revitalisation. 

    Aarhus is using participation around culture as a way of integrating policy and addressing more complex problems such as loneliness, the inclusion of vulnerable young people and youth unemployment. The use of empty property on a temporary basis allows greater flexibility and for a quick learning by doing approach which might be stifled in a permanent solution. 

    The city works with a mantra “City life before urban spaces and urban spaces before buildings”

    Change in action in Amersfoort and Swindon

    The change in workplace culture taking place in some cities has been written about previously in URBACT workstream Social Innovation in Cities with two cities mentioned in particular: Amersfoort and Swindon. Amersfoort’s city manager started a process in January 2015 when he asked his 800 staff to become ‘Free range civil servants’ in the sense that they were asked to go into communities to listen and coproduce rather than staying walled up in the Town Hall. One of the first projects was to develop a former hospital site into an activity park.  It showed that co-production could work as a popular planning tool.

    In Swindon restructuring of the city’s services created three directorates. All service delivery departments were put in the same department under one director.  A second department deals with localities or neighbourhoods while the third is engaged solely in procurement. This radical redesign was aimed at developing services that cost less to deliver and could produce better results for the citizen. But it is only a start, in complex interventions for example concerning troubled families, a host of non municipality agencies are also involved from police and criminal justice to housing associations, job centres and social security. Providing an integrated service to the user can start with the municipality but also needs to address these other fields that are run by other government departments. 

    Public Administration needs to go Dutch

    Our cities continue to change at an increasing rate and yet many of the systems and processes we use to deliver services are groaning under the strain of modern needs. The examples looked at here point to the necessity for a cultural or even philosophical shift in the way we envisage governance engaging with citizens. New, non-hierarchical and inclusive models of governance need to be enacted, systems that represent the needs of every citizen and not simply those within the system. This is perhaps the most challenging aspect. Organisational cultures are very rigid and fixed. Saying that public administration needs to go Dutch is one thing. Doing

    From urbact
    Ref nid