• The Local Pact

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    A reinforced approach for tackling urban poverty.

    Urban design

    A policy paper calling for implementation of a renewed approach to tackling urban poverty based on a ‘Local Pact’ is the core output of work delivered by URBACT for the Urban Poverty Partnership (UPP) of the Urban Agenda for the EU. Here, we present the key elements of the proposed approach and the paper’s messages for the development of future policies addressing urban poverty across Europe.


    Citizen participation at the centre of the revitalisation efforts in Łódź (PL), URBACT Regeneration Mix network


    Seven dimensions of a reinforced policy approach


    A manifesto within the policy paper calls for the Local Pact as a new and reinforced approach to tackling urban poverty. This approach combines area-based regeneration (prioritising public interventions in neighbourhoods with the most socio-economic difficulties) together with a clear commitment to more participatory co-creation processes with local stakeholders (based on an extended model of public-private-community partnerships).

    The Local Pact approach comprises at least seven different aspects:

    1. Area-based policy – to reinforce (technically and financially) public interventions in priority areas which experience the most socio-economic difficulties.
    2. Integrated urban development – to deliver ambitious local strategies and action plans combining physical and soft interventions.
    3. Multi-level governance (finance) – to concentrate and optimise funds from all territorial levels (European, national, regional, local) and all sources (public and private).
    4. Co-creation and social innovation – to encourage and empower local inhabitants to become active stakeholders in the transformation of their area and the implementation of new solutions.
    5. Multi-level governance (strategies) – to encourage and support urban authorities to implement strategies at the local level according to a common national/regional framework.
    6. Horizontal cooperation (governance) – to ensure active participation from all municipality departments, all sectors and all type of stakeholders in local governance bodies.
    7. Capacity building – enhancing human resources and mobilising local stakeholders to increase capacities to plan, implement, monitor and evaluate actions.


    A call to action at all levels


    This reinforced approach for tackling urban poverty has clear implications for decision-making at local, national and European levels. At the local level, the approach calls on municipalities to co-build new solutions with local inhabitants, public institutions, knowledge organisations and the private sector.

    At the national level, the concept of the Local Pact can stimulate countries to allocate at least 6% of their European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) resources to sustainable urban development (Article 9 of the proposed post-2020 ERDF regulation) and more specifically to priority urban areas.

    Finally, at European level, this approach offers a useful basis for reflection on the next Cohesion Policy and how the different European Structural Funds can be effectively harnessed to support local strategies targeting priority urban districts. It can also positively contribute to the updating of the Leipzig Charter on sustainable European cities and to the implementation the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

    Or why not be even bolder and deliver a specific new European territorial instrument to encourage and support local authorities to apply the Local Pact policy approach in deprived urban areas? Such a ‘Local Integrated Pact’ (LIP) instrument would be multi-fund, flexible, integrated and largely based on ideas of local stakeholders, within the framework of the future Cohesion Policy and its future policy objective 5.


    Priority area in France, in the context of the ‘Politique de la Ville’


    Learning from four country examples


    The policy paper was built on work carried out by URBACT at the request of the UPP. URBACT was asked to take forward the UPP proposal for “the Local Pact as a multi-fund instrument… in the Cohesion Policy post-2020,” providing a potential tool for urban authorities to focus interventions on areas most impacted by poverty.

    In that context, URBACT organised a set of three policy labs during the course of 2018 to examine the models and examples of four countries: France, Germany, Poland and Spain. The labs brought together representatives of national, regional and local levels to analyse their urban policies targeting deprived areas.

    The labs identified important differences in approach to tackling urban poverty reflecting specific national contexts. This was seen notably in terms of the administrative framework in place and the extent to which decision-making is centralised or devolved, the relative importance of European funds – in particular the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and European Social Fund (ESF) – for supporting targeted urban policies, and the culture and experience of citizen participation thus far.

    The labs also identified important differences in approach reflecting specific local contexts. For example, whether the most deprived urban areas are in the historical centre or the suburbs of a city leads to quite different intervention policies. In the first case, the challenge is typically more about how to improve quality of life without causing gentrification, whilst in the latter, the challenge is typically about avoiding ‘ghettoisation’ and promoting social diversity.


    Three URBACT policy labs

    Three URBACT policy labs on tackling urban poverty were held in Saint-Denis (FR), Lodz (PL) and Barcelona (ES). They involved national, regional and local-level stakeholders from four participating countries:

       - France: City of Lille (local level); Metropolitan area of Lille (inter-municipal level); CGET (national level).

       - Germany: City of Berlin (local level); Senate Department for Urban Development and Housing, Section Soziale Stadt (regional level); Federal Institute for Research on Building, Urban Affairs and Spatial Development (national level).

       - Poland: City of Łódź (local level); Marshall office (regional level); and Ministry of Investment and development, Urban policy unit (national level).

       - Spain: City of Barcelona (local level); Region of Catalunya (regional level); and Ministry of Development, Urban Policies Deputy Directorate (national level).


    Guidelines on core aspects of the Local Pact approach


    To support urban policymaking, the paper provides an overview of how to put into practice different elements of the desired approach, with particular reference to the examples provided by France, Germany, Poland and Spain.

    These ‘guidelines’ cover: multi-level governance; an integrated approach; participation; financial management of area-based policies; institutional management and technical support; and monitoring and evaluation. Under each heading, the document sets out some of the key challenges to be overcome, important aspects of the approach to be implemented and practical examples from the four countries examined.

    For example, under ‘participation’, the paper identifies that the main challenge is to develop active participation of citizens from priority districts. This involves making skills and resources available to engage residents with a large diversity of profiles in genuine co-design and co-implementation of local urban policies. The guidelines address the examples of Citizens Councils used in France, and Neighbourhood Councils and Action Fund Juries in Germany.

    Under ‘integrated approach’, the paper highlights the main challenges as being to ensure a multi-sectoral intervention in priority districts taking into account social, environmental, economic and physical aspects. This involves combining physical interventions with soft measures (social support), and effective horizontal cooperation between different administrative departments. The examples presented include the use of ‘City Contracts’ covering social cohesion, liveability and economic development in France, and the ‘Social City’ programme in Germany.


    A final call to action!


    The URBACT policy paper on tackling urban poverty argues that much could be achieved if a growing number of countries would commit by applying the suggested multi-level governance model for urban policy, targeting priority areas. In any case, as we move into the next EU programming cycle, it will be important that significant funding and adequate instruments are in place to target the most deprived areas. Let us together be bold!




    The Local Pact policy paper is available here.
    To read the country profiles, click on the relevant links for France, Germany, Poland and Spain.
    The full version is available








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  • How transport adds to public space meeting people’s needs?

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    Space4People, challenging the use of public space!

    Urban design

    It is not the latest news to tell that our cities are growing. To put it in figures: population forecasts show an increase of population from 72% to 85% in urban areas in 2050. And cities have seen a 50% faster growth in terms of GDP, and saw an increase in jobs of 7%, in comparison to other areas which have stagnated over the last years. Many cities are busied with developing new residential areas, space for businesses or mixed-use districts. Looking in the back-mirror, cities have not just started their growth periods. The facts presented in the future forecasts base themselves on the steady growth history of the past decades.

    Nor is it the latest news that traffic in our cities is growing. And this is only the logical consequence of the growth pathways of population, businesses and new building developments – more people and more opportunities result in more traffic needs. The growing traffic figures have been met by supplying enough space to accommodate those traffic needs for over at least five decades. The most prevalent solution followed the most dominant transport mode, which was and still is car traffic.

    The consequence of these developments is more space for motorised traffic – for cars. City development dedicated the largest part of public space to accommodate car traffic, through roads and parking facilities alike. The ruling paradigm for traffic planning was to forecast future traffic figures and to prepare for the steady growth of traffic volumes by constructing infrastructure able to meet these growth figures. Consequently, more and more public space was used to cater the needs of motorised transport mainly for cars, which at the same time increased the attractiveness of car use fostering more car traffic. In the end, supply of public space to meet car traffic growth projections and the connected increase of car traffic formed a self-perpetuating process.

    The result is that a high share of public space is dedicated to motorised transport. Roads, parking facilities and other traffic infrastructure for motorised means shape the image of our cities. Other use forms of public space such as areas to meet and linger, to take a stroll or to cycle are rather the exception compared to the overall average public space use. Of course, and luckily, some cities are demonstrating how a different public space use can look like, such as in Danish Copenhagen, Spanish Vitoria-Gasteiz or Italian Bolzano. These and further good practise examples give good reason to engage in the reallocation and redesign of public space in our cities.


    Is the solution easy and at hand? The argumentation of growth of cities and their traffic volumes alongside the knowledge on past and recent public space use might create the image that both, challenges and solutions are known. But in fact, our cities’ realities are much more diverse and complex to apply a one-fits-all solution.
    Differences start with the nature of growth by e.g. population groups, need to face the existence of shrinking cities, have to deal with demands on public space from various sectors, like industry, businesses, retailers, tourism, children, seniors, gender aspects, education, sports, leisure activities, greening and more.



    Example from Arad (RO) on traffic loaded streets and pedestrianised solutions

    The Space4People approach. Our network is approaching the challenge of public space use from the perspective of its largest “user” – transport. We aim to work for a more fair and valuable use of public space for cities and their stakeholders and inhabitants; striving to contribute to the overall goal of more liveable cities – with people at the centre of future developments.

    By this, we are challenging the current “inhuman” main use of public space by transport focusing rather on vehicles than on people’s needs. Among the many aspects connected to urban transport, we chose to focus on three areas where we see most potential, due to their effectiveness and the fact that these potentials have been neglected or underused so far. Our focus areas are:

    • Walking: to assess and improve quality and quantity of public space dedicated to pedestrian movement and pedestrianised areas
    • Parking: to increase parking management options for higher efficiency of public space use by parking, to re-allocate parking space to more valuable use forms of public space and to use supply of parking and connected conditions as a steering element for transport mode choices
    • Intermodal hubs: to improve user experiences at focal transport locations such as public transport interchanges and exploit their potential to work as centres of city development uniting more than just transport functions

    Clearly, our selling point is the efficient use of the scarce resource public space. We aim to create a more liveable transport reality by steering modal choices in favour of active modes and reducing the needed space for transport. This tackles the current use forms like infrastructure supply by shifting its purpose to the actual user needs. Space4People consequently puts the diverse user perspectives and stakeholder views at the centre of work, which is an at least twofold challenge: to accommodate the needs of underrepresented population groups in decision making such as seniors, children and youth of women as well as working with the difference in perception of what people want against others’ - like decision makers’ -  views on this.

    Reasons for these two aspects are easy to recognise. To quote Jane Jacobs, “Cities have the capability of providing something for everybody, only because, and only when, they are created by everybody.” Jane Jacobs 1916 – 2016, American Canadian journalist, author and activist.

    ULG meeting of stakeholders in Serres (EL)

    Perception on the other hand can be a trigger for better planning in the case of better understanding of each other, but otherwise as well source for misinterpretation and wrong-guided albeit well-intended actions. The following example from German Leipzig showcases the need to work on perception: taking the opinions of citizens to investing in public transport or car transport, actual opinion and the perception of stakeholders vary greatly (compare illustration below).

    Source: Socialdata

    Within Space4People, we work with 10 cities and their different challenges:

    • How to push sustainable modal choices connected to the inner-city area to mitigate high emission loads and improve high quality public space in Bielefeld (DE)?
    • How to meet the reality of a large and disperse municipal area promoting walkability and safeguarding accessibility for locals and tourism at the same time in Guía de Isora (ES)?
    • How to cater the needs of locals and tourism connected to accessibility, quality of stay and the topographical challenges at hand in Nazaré (PT)?
    • How to design attractive public spaces for creating civic pride in a shrinking town facing a cross-border twinning city reality and the challenge of historical monument protection in Valga (EE)?
    • How to deal with the overuse of existing parking spaces and the dominance of car traffic infrastructure in the city centre and provide more pedestrian spaces for people at the same time in Arad (RO)?
    • How to push for higher attractiveness of the inner-city area facing major traffic volumes at peak hours, different perceptions of stakeholders as well as overcoming the natural and artificial divide in Saint-Germain-en-Laye (FR)?
    • How to cater for the needs of all population groups in walking infrastructure and to supply attractive public spaces facing diverse current use forms in Serres (EL)?
    • How to solve the challenge of heavily undersupplied parking options in residential areas leading to misuse of public space as well as high traffic volumes and parking loads at central points of interest in Panevėžys (LT)?
    • How to solve the conflicts of public space use between transport modes and other use forms in the central area of Turku (FI) and safeguarding good pedestrian connections crossing major natural and artificial barriers?
    • How to improve pedestrian conditions facing competing demands from private traffic and last mile deliveries connected to the perception of people that walking is unpleasant and unsafe in Badalona (ES)?

    Example on road space design in Serres (EL)

    Taken the challenges at hand from there, we aim to provide fitting solutions for each city by exploiting our own knowledge and experiences and investigating what to learn from examples of other cities and how to apply them in our diverse realities. Possible solutions are at hand, such as Arad delivering first ideas on how to solve the parking challenges of Panevėžys in higher density residential areas or Bielefeld demonstrating inclusive design of walking infrastructure that might be of value for Serres. We are excited to dive into the challenge of planning for better public space – a space for people.

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  • UrbSecurity - An Action-Plan Network for planning safer cities

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    UrbSecurity is a network of 9 cities which proposes an innovative approach to urban security and safety by integrating it with urban planning, social cohesion and other urban policies, following the recommendations of the Urban Agenda on Security in Public Spaces expected to be published still in 2019.

    Urban design

    UrbSecurity proposes to widen the security and safety application in public spaces and city planning and management of the 9 cities in its network. It aims to address public security policies from different perspectives by exploring their relation to other urban policies, thereby promoting socio-economic development. The idea is to bring safety and security to all levels of governance, preventing social exclusion and anti-social behaviour and, ultimately improve citizens’ quality of life.

    The development of synergies among several policies is a key aspect in the project as security has so many variables and stakeholders that have a direct or indirect influence. For example shop owners can highly benefit from a secured environment but in fact they become also agents in the process as shops are themselves a major contributor to the perception of a safe environment. The aim of the project is therefore to work with all stakeholders, test small scale solutions, promote citizens participation and, therefore promote changes in the city.

    Urban planning is considered a key element to define the cities’ spatial design which has a direct influence in the spatial segregation of society and in citizen’s perception of urban security and safety. Urban security and safety integrates urban crime prevention principles into safety-conscious urban development interventions which aim to reducing urban vulnerability, promote the integration of cross-cutting safety issues and create a transformative approach into urban intervention by city authorities.

    In this context, this network intends to provide a series of innovative tools (practical actions, strategies and methodologies) to the involved cities that can be used by local authorities and stakeholders and provide answers to the following concerns:

    1. How can urban planning help reduce urban crime and violence?

    2. How can urban planners create safe and healthy places?

    3. What tools can be used to monitor and evaluate these actions?

    4. How should local stakeholders participate in urban planning regarding city’s security and safety?

    The main goal of UrbSecurity is therefore to co-create Integrated Action Plans (IAP’s) on safety and security that promote smart, sustainable and inclusive growth. Good practices such as the mix-use of spaces, promotion of activity generators, reliable infrastructures (as proper lightning) or crowdsourcing will be investigated and analysed to assess its transferability into the future IAP of the participating cities.

    The partnership

    The partnership is led by the Municipality of Leiria and includes eight other cities/regions, namely: Madrid (ES), Parma (IT), Longford (IR), Mechelen (BE), Pella (GR), Michalovce (SK) and the regions of Szabolcs 05 Association of Municipalities (HU) (HR) and Romagna Faentina (IT).

    Three of the members of the partnership, Unione della Romagna Faentina, Mechelen and Madrid are also involved in the Urban Agenda on Security in Public Spaces proving a bridge between the Urban Agenda and UrbSecurity.   

    The UrbSecurity partnership will look for solutions to tackle the following challenges:

    - Improvement of spatial design, urban planning and development of security by design concepts, including better protection of public spaces.

    - Improvement of the resilience and efficiency of the public infrastructure;

    -  Improvement of public-private cooperation in urban security (public control and private areas), for instance by promoting a wider use of ICT in video surveillance, data exchange, etc.

    - Assessment of urban security: building a framework of indicators to assess the evolution of citizens’ perceptions towards safety and security, identifying new and potential vulnerable areas and monitoring changes in their security.

    - Creation of effective and easy to use monitoring tools for public safety as a means to establish more information led actions and measurement of their impact;

    - Increase citizen participation in security and safety issues – by involving local associations in security policies,  for instance, implementation of crowdsourcing  schemes as the Volunteer Geographic Information (VGI) where users collect and share information voluntarily with the city authorities on safety and security issues using digital platforms.

    - Creation of a model for citizen participation and co-creation in the field of crime prevention and building resilience for vulnerable people against criminal involvement;

    - Creation of a joint training curriculum for crime prevention officers for setting up the implementation of prevention projects;

    - Design and test small-scale interventions on urban design and activity generator to determine their effectiveness;

    UrbSecurity and the EU Urban Agenda

    Safety is currently seen as one of the aspects that influences the quality of living in the EU. The framework developed by Eurostat proposes different methods of measuring safety, namely income, living conditions, education or health, and, equally important, subjective measures such as an individual’s appreciation of their living environment, whether they can rely on friends/family and how safe citizen’s feel.

    Safety is currently seen as one of the aspects that influences the quality of life in the EU. As set in the framework developed by Eurostat, that includes objective measures like income, living conditions, education or health, and subjective measures such as an individual’s appreciation of their living environment, whether they can rely on friends/family, how safe citizens feel is one of the measurements taken into consideration.

    The notion of urban security has just recently been introduced in the international political debate and it is now each government’s obligation to integrate this concept within its policies. Protecting public spaces poses particular challenges for the EU due to the “the broad variety of public places that have been or could be targeted, their different characteristics ranging from fully open spaces to areas with some form of protection, the variety of actors involved in the protection of such sites, the risk of mass casualties and, importantly, the imperative to strike a balance between improving security and preserving the open nature of public spaces, ensuring that citizens can continue their daily lives”, as stated in the Communication of the Commission to the EU parliament “Action Plan to improve protection of public spaces” (Brussels, 18.10.2017 COM(2017) 612 final). This Communication highlights the importance of increasing awareness of local urban authorities to the vulnerability of public spaces, enhancing knowledge and the spread of good practices in promoting security by design.


    The design of urban public spaces and urban planning are constantly challenged by how cities are used and how citizens occupy and make use of its spaces. The introduction of new trends and necessities and the increase in problems and conflicts among users brings rapid changes on the local urban authorities’ procedures regarding the design and the management of a city. It is therefore essential that the “user’s experience” is considered as a main input on the analysis of how the spaces are used and what conflicts or are taking place.

    Urban safety and security are fundamental components of the modern democracies of the EU. It is therefore urgent that European local urban authorities begin to accept their role in designing and implementing security policies. UrbSecurity intends to make sound contributions to these policies and provide guidelines for other EU cities to pursue their strategies in safety and security in an integrated and participative way.

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  • “Culture with everyone”: Why creating culturally inclusive cities is changing the way capital city policymakers approach their work

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    Happy, healthy, prosperous cities are rich in culture but culture does not enrich and empower everyone equally. 

    Urban design

    Groups of people or geographical areas can face barriers to accessing culture; existing cultural offers may not include the stories or cultural forms which reach out to current populations. To address these challenges, eight European capital cities have come together through URBACT to form the ACCESS network. Each participating city has committed to working together to include more people in and through culture and to adapting their approach to policymaking to make this happen.


    Amsterdam [NL], Dublin [IE], Lisbon [PT], London [UK], Sofia [BG], Talinn [EE], Riga [LV] and Vilnius [LT] each have rich and vibrant cultural offers but have each identified challenges specific to their cities in making their cultural offers more inclusive. In Riga, for example, 70% of all cultural institutions are concentrated in just two of 58 of the city’s neighbourhoods. Amsterdam, now a ‘majority minority’ city (ie most of the population is from a minority ethnic group), culture has not fully adapted to the demographic change. Tallinn has identified a knowledge gap such that they have no qualitative evidence that the city’s cultural offer is actually meeting people’s needs and contributing to wellbeing. Each city found resonance in the others’ challenges. Collectively, the network has therefore identified three areas of common need: to widen participation, to spread cultural infrastructure more equitably across the city and to improve data collection and use around cultural participation.

    They have also identified a new approach to policymaking as a central requirement. As Araf Ahmadali, Senior Policy Advisor for Arts and Culture, City of Amsterdam said, “We have to start with a recognition that as civil servants we don’t know all the answers; we’re not at the head of the table, we’re part of the table.” Work to deliver cultural inclusion needed to be genuinely inclusive: not culture for everyone, but culture with everyone.

    “Everything we do is based on conversation” Tracy Geraghty, Dublin City Culture Company

    Discussions between the partner cities and invited local stakeholders at the inaugural meeting of the ACCESS network in Amsterdam in September identified five key aspects of an inclusive approach to cultural policymaking:

    - an ongoing conversation: discussion about culture in the city should be continuous, not occasional. As Tracy Geraghty explained, this is already the cornerstone of the Dublin City Culture Company’s ‘tea and chat’ model of programme development: “Everything we do is based on conversation; we don’t do anything without having spoken to the communities we serve first.”

    - be open and accessible: make it easy for people and organisations to get in touch

    - listen and learn: many people and organisations have experience of how to share culture more widely and are keen to share their expertise

    - reconsider their city ‘centre’: if a different area was the city centre, what cultural offer would you expect to see there? what institutions and support would it need?

    - challenge existing definitions: what is talent? what is quality? what is culture? Policymakers must be open to new and different definitions.

    Each city has committed to developing this approach for their own cultural policymaking.

    The ACCESS network will continue to collaborate and share ideas and practice over the next two years as each city develops its own Action Plan for ‘culture with everyone.’ More policy and practice ideas from the network will be shared in future blogs.

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  • “Gender is everywhere”: Introducing the Action Planning Network GenderedLandscape

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    Evropski teden regij in mest
    Urban design

    Why gender?

    Women and men experience and use the city and its resources and services differently; however gender equality is often not part an explicit part of the consideration behind urban policy and planning, despite the fact that it is a significant factor in the equitable design and delivery of public spaces and services. Moreover, many of the methods for working with gender equality are “one size fits all.” However, the barriers to implementing gender sensitive policies vary widely across contexts as a result of different local policy frameworks, administrative structures, and degrees of openness to the topic of gender. In the URBACT GenderedLandscape Action Planning Network, the seven partners’ common work will therefore focus on two topics: increasing the visibility of the gendered perspective in integrated urban development and the local contextualization and interpretation of tools and approaches for reducing gender inequality in urban policy and development.

    To do this, the network will employ the URBACT method, taking an integrated and participative approach to urban challenges with a focus on transnational exchange and learning. Co-learning and peer exchange on the network level will be translated into integrated action plans on the local level and contribute to capacity building among city administrators.


    Gender + Equal + Cities

    Despite the fact that gender equality has been a fundamental tenet of EU policy since the 1990s and has been explicitly included in United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals and the New Urban Agenda, policy implementation on the local and regional levels lags behind. Cities as public organizations have an extremely important role to play in creating conditions for gender equality. In order to do this, however, there needs to be a holistic understanding of how gender inequality is created by the combination of specific local conditions, including social norms, political and administrative structures, and the built space itself.

    The starting point for creating public services that are user-sensitive and promote inclusion instead of exclusion is being aware of and taking into consideration the experiences of different groups as well as an understanding of how gendered power structures affect the way women and men feel about, use, and access the city. For example, how fear of violence can unequally restrict urban mobility, the gender segregated labour market and its implications for infrastructure and public transportation, and stereotypical expectations and prescriptive norms regarding responsibility for unpaid care work, just to mention a few examples. The physical structures of the city and public service design can work towards ensuring equal rights and opportunities for both genders, with a focus on ameliorating the negative effects of gender norms, but only when these are a visible, conscious element of planning.

    Photo 3: Gender-responsive policies and spaces are only possible if gender is considered during decision-making.

    Global, Local, Glocal?

    The seven partners will explore both the global and local expressions of gendered power structures and use knowledge gained at the local level to inform and improve policy instruments on the global level. The first step in this process was to analyse the gap between policy and delivery for each city. At the kick-off meeting in Umea on 10 & 11 October 2019, the partners used a gender mainstreaming self-assessment canvas designed for the event to start thinking, among other things, about the political commitment, existing implementation plans, data, and dedicated resources related to their local challenge. These aspects will be examined in more detail during the partner visits over the coming three months.

    Photo 4: At the kick-off meeting, partners performed a self-analysis using a canvas designed for the exercise.

    We are excited to begin this journey together! You can keep up with our network’s and URBACT’s work on gender equality by following the hashtags #genderequalcities and #genderedlandscape or by subscribing to URBACT’s newsletter.

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  • Thriving Streets: Designing mobility for attractive cities

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    Ten European cities join forces in the new ‘Thriving Streets’ network. Their approach: transform streets to create people-friendly places, encourage walking and cycling, and reduce car-dependency. In this way they work on a more healthy, attractive, accessible, inclusive and thriving future of their cities.

    Urban design

    Bringing streets to life

    On September 14th, a remarkable transformation takes place in the Via della Salute in Parma, Italy. For one day, citizens clear the street from the cars that usually dominate the space. Their place is taken instead by huge tables, set for a dinner to host about 200 people from the neighbourhood. As the neighbours start to prepare the event, kids come out of their houses, and started using the street as their playground. Like birds that feel as if spring is coming, the kids just feel it is their time to claim the space.

    Two weeks later, Patrizia Marani introduces an international delegation to the street and the wider neighbourhood. The visit is part of the kick-off meeting of the Thriving Streets network, of which Patrizia (working for the Municipality of Parma) is the coordinator. To her, the dinner event is a clear example how the use of streets can encourage social cohesion, create a positive dynamic and increase attractiveness. The next two years, Parma will commit to work together with citizens, shop owners and local organizations to spark a similar dynamic in the whole neighbourhood of Oltretorrente.

    PHOTO 1: Neighbourhood Dinner in Via della Salute, Parma. Photo by Annarita Melegari

    Thriving streets: Thriving Local Economy and Thriving Communities

    Each of the partners in the Thriving Streets is exploring how sustainable mobility can lead to local economic and social benefits, by putting people central in the design and use of streets. All these 10 European cities have their own, yet related, challenge as focus. For Parma, the issue can be illustrated with a picture of a street with many empty shops. A depressing sight, but a reality in many cities across Europe. The local shops are challenged by the development of shopping malls and more recently online shopping. By making the streets attractive for people, the (economic) activity can prosper again.

    How to strengthen the local economy in city centres and neighbourhoods, and increase their attractivity? This question is key also for other partners. The cities of Klaipeda (Lithuania) and Radom (Poland) are focussing for this question on the historic city centres. The cities of Nova Gorica (Slovenia) and Antwerp (Belgium) instead focus on off-centre neighbourhoods.

    Questions of inclusivity also arise when creating thriving streets, for example about how the public space could lessen gender-inequality or how to overcome transport poverty. The cities of Igoumenitsa (Greece) and Santo Tirso (Portugal) identified youth as a vulnerable and underrepresented group. Together with schools, they will work on child-friendly school environments and safe commuting. This means overcoming cultural barriers for the acceptance of walking and cycling by both children and their parents, as well as playing into the health benefits of active mobility.

    For the district of Southwark, London (UK), the target is also inclusivity, but focussed on local businesses. Planned developments in the area will bring about 27,000 new homes and 26,000 new jobs. The traffic flowing through a strategic route, Lower Road, competes with the needs of the local neighbourhood. Communities are left disjointed with poor active travel access to local shops. How to make sure the ‘old’ local businesses and communities will not be left out?

    Starting point in all cities is a specific street or neighbourhood. The impact of the interventions developed at such place goes beyond its limited spatial scale. The local changes give rise to changing mobility flows in the city, can shake up engrained behaviour patterns, and go hand in hand with improvement of public transport on city level. Two partners in the Thriving Streets network focus on the relation between pedestrianization of the city centre and the related changes in mobility patterns. Not surprisingly, these are both metropolitan authorities, from Debrecen and Oradea.

    PHOTO 2: Cycling classes in Santo Tirso – photo by Municipality of Santo Tirso

    Working together to make Thriving Streets happen

    How attractive the ambition of turning streets into thriving streets might seem, the process is not an easy matter, of course. So… how?

    First of all, it is about getting different perspectives and domains on board in the development.
    Creating thriving streets is not just about mobility or spatial planning, but also very much about health, local economy, social cohesion, equal opportunities, etc. It can help to make benefits of such transformation explicit, by empowering the people who will benefit to raise their voice. It can also be worth trying to translate benefits into ‘hard’ indicators, such as growth in customers or increase in social contacts in a street.

    Equally, to get many people to contribute to and support the transformation, a lot of effort will go to co-creation. This helps overcome resistance. Too often, politicians and other decision makers drop their support to ambitious transformations as soon as they are confronted with angry and vocative local business-owners or car-users, who feel passed over. Most importantly, co-creative methods help to create better solutions by tapping into local knowledge and linking to the ambitions and energy of different stakeholders. The example of the dinner-activity in Parma is just one of many.

    Join our learning journey

    In the coming years, the ten cities involved will work together with local stakeholders on their respective ambitions, sharing a common base: creating thriving streets for a thriving city. The cities will go on a learning journey together, exchanging experiences and inspiration. We don’t start from scratch, but build on the existing experiences of cities around Europe, and take inspiration from other projects such as Living Streets and Happy Streets.

    If you want to stay up to date or share your own experiences, please join our learning journey. You can express your interest and subscribe for updates by sending an e-mail to p.marani@comune.parma.it.

    PHOTO 3: The city teams involved in Thriving Streets – photo by Municipality of Parma

    This URBACT III project is co-financed by the European Regional Development Fund.
    Thanks to Nena Bode (DRIFT) for contributing to this article, and the partner cities for their inputs.

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  • The Leipzig Charter and URBACT - an explainer

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    Why City Labs? Find out more in our explainer.

    Urban design

    Since 2018 URBACT has organised a series of City Labs, looking into the principles of the Leipzig Charter and how cities apply them.

    What is the Leipzig Charter?

    First signed in 2007, the Leipzig Charter (named after the signing ceremony in the German city) promotes the use of ‘integrated urban development’ policy and sets out - for the first time in a single EU document - the key principles behind it.

    The Leipzig Charter’s principles are about simultaneously taking into consideration diverse aspects of urban policy - across space and sectors of activity, as well as over time. It encourages the involvement of the general public in policy making and it also focuses on ‘deprived neighbourhoods’ within cities as having particular priority when it comes to working towards social and physical cohesion.

    Led by Germany, who held the rotating EU Council Presidency at the time, the Leipzig Charter was signed by ministers from across the EU, affirming their commitment to integrate these principles into national and local policies.

    Discussing the principle of integration and recording notes during the City Lab 3 in Warsaw

    Why is it being updated now?

    More than 20 years after the first Leipzig Charter, the context facing European cities has significantly changed with city authorities typically expected to do more with less. Key drivers have included the financial crisis, the increasing climate emergency and the rise of populism. While the original Leipzig Charter argues for a coherent national urban policy, this is far from being the norm across member states.

    With Germany due to hold the EU presidency once more in 2020, it has undertaken an initiative to refresh the Leipzig Charter. To prepare this, it has been carrying out a significant review of the urban development principles in an effort to make them more relevant to the current situation.

    The German initiative to refresh the Leipzig Charter principles is based on their priorities for the EU, and acknowledges the important role cities play as the source of both challenges and potential solutions around the climate emergency, air quality and health, housing, mobility and so on.

    It is primarily an inter-ministerial process, meaning that the discussions and proposals made by Germany - involving federal (national-level) ministries, regions and cities in Germany - are debated and amended in a European ‘dialogue’, mainly composed of representatives of national ministries from the other EU countries.

    How does URBACT contribute?

    The URBACT programme has developed from an initial focus on deprived urban areas to become a platform for city exchange and learning on any urban topic. Over the years, the programme’s method has been extended and refined to cover four core principles:

    1. sustainable urban development
    2. an integrated approach
    3. participatory methods
    4. multilevel governance

    Through programme support, cities are encouraged to put these principles into action when developing their urban strategies and action plans.

    URBACT is now a key member of the European dialogue process to update the Leipzig Charter, bringing the voice and experience of hundreds of cities who face the practical and policy challenges of trying to implement an integrated approach to urban development on the ground.

    As part of the process, URBACT is drawing on the direct experience of hundreds of cities to understand how they are putting principles into action. Specifically, it has hosted a series of ‘City Labs’ bringing together city representatives and different levels of governance to discuss specific thematic topics, identify good practices and address challenges that remain:

    1. Participatory approaches – September 2018 (Policy paper)
    2. Sustainable urban development – July 2019 (Policy paper, Video)
    3. Integrated approaches – October 2019 (Policy Paper, Video)
    4. Placed-based approaches - January 2020 (Policy Paper, Video)

    Young people participating in URBACT Gen-Y City network

    What are the next steps?

    Following the CityLab #4 in Porto on 29 January 2020, URBACT will share with 400 participants of the Cities Forum the current reflections on the revised Leipzig Charter, and gather further input for the final meeting. It will be organised alongside the meeting of the Director Generals for urban matters (DGUM) in Croatia, April 2020.

    The revised Leipzig Charter will finally be presented during the ministerial meeting to be held in Leipzig, as part of the German Presidency events, in November 2020.

    URBACT will accompany the publication of the revised Leipzig Charter with practical examples of cities putting them into practice, to continue the role the programme has to play to ensure all cities can access and implement integrated urban development policies.



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  • If you want to do European projects, URBACT is the place to start

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    Meet Kieran McCarthy, EU Committee of the Regions member and Cork City Councillor.

    Urban design

    City Councillor Kieran McCarthy is a living link between the everyday challenges of his hometown, Cork (IE) – and the international machinery of European policy-making. With a PhD in Geography and a passion for local heritage corkheritage.ie, he is the Committee of the Regions (CoR) rapporteur on the EU Urban Agenda, and a strong advocate for improving Europe’s cities through practical local actions and cooperation.

    As a partner in the URBACT Playful Paradigm network, Councillor McCarthy’s city organises pop-up playgrounds in places like temporarily pedestrian streets, public buildings, or empty plots – promoting inclusion, health and sustainability.

    Back from a spin on his motor scooter photographing local landmarks for his latest book, Councillor McCarthy found a moment to answer our questions.

    Amy Labarrière (AL) - Since discovering URBACT at the European Week of Cities and Regions, you’ve become a fan of the programme. Why?

    Kieran McCarthy (KMC) - What I like about URBACT is that it’s down to earth. It’s like a stepping stone: if you want to do European projects, this is the place to start – there’s a lot of support. 

    I’ve been looking at the letters that make up URBACT and I know it's not an acronym, but I was thinking what the letters could stand for…

    It would be the ‘U’ for about ‘Us’. It’s a citizens oriented programme. We’ve had a new bridge constructed with EU funds in our city… but more people here have heard about URBACT and Playful Paradigm than anything else.

    I’d say the ‘R’ in URBACT stands for dealing with very ‘Real’ problems, even at the broader scale of EU politics.

    ‘B’ would be for ‘Belief’. The URBACT facilitators I’ve met over the years have a real belief that these projects are going to make a difference: “You can go home with ideas from this workshop and you can roll them out in the morning!”

    ‘A’ would be for ‘Action’. When people go into an URBACT project or workshop they’re working hard to figure out a problem. They return to their hometown with new ideas, vision, collboration skills... that they apply to actionable local projects. URBACT has a fantastic methodology to do that.

    ‘C’ for ‘Collaboration’. With the Committee of the Regions I’ve done workshops across the EU, on different themes from the Urban Agenda to the digital single market… Some cities are great at collaborating, and some aren’t. It’s not easy to bring people together round a table and suddenly say “talk !”: you need a methodology. URBACT gets people listening and learning from each other.

    ‘T’ could be for ‘Toolkits’- that I’m a big fan of. All the URBACT projects and toolkits are online at urbact.eu. A lot of local authorities don’t actually realise that.

    Recently I was involved in a debate in my own council chamber on dereliction in the city, looking for ideas on how to reboot derelict sites: I quoted from an URBACT document, and it was published in the local newspaper.

    I’m passionate about my own city, but I’ve discovered that there are other ‘Corks’ out there, second cities full of ambition and ideas. Most cities are trying to do some sort of inner city renewal, trying to fix their transport, come up with a climate change adaptation plan, get their citizens more engaged… And we’re all asking the same questions: who can we collaborate with? Who can we get ideas from?

    We don’t have to do things alone: we can learn from each other! Once you’ve been involved in an URBACT project you’re going to be searching for the next one!

    AL - Many cities go on to apply their URBACT-acquired skills in bigger programmes. Have you seen URBACT sparking broader EU improvements in urban development?

    KMC - URBACT is one arrow in a huge quiver of arrows all advancing thinking within cities and regions, and ‘communicating Europe’. The Committee of the Regions has toolkits and analysis on themes from bio-economy to IT… There’s also the European Capital of Culture, Interreg, Horizon 2020, the European week of cities and regions, local councillors… It’s a combined effort.

    AL - You were appointed to the Committee of the Regions in 2015. What was it like to jump to EU level?

    KMC - It’s been a very steep learning curve. It completely changed my life – all of a sudden you’re going from the local council to the hemicycle of the European parliament! Everyone gets their minute to speak up and influence policy. It took me a while to get into debates, and to cut through the European lingo.

    In Bucharest recently for the informal discussion with EU ministers on the Urban Agenda, ten minutes before the meeting I was on the phone dealing with a pothole problem, then I got out of the taxi and was shaking hands with the Vice Prime Minister of Romania!

    I’m still amazed by the different perspectives the Committee of the Regions brings. And the problems they’re expressing are the same as in your country – you realise “I know this!”. That’s the good thing about the Committee of the Regions, it does give a voice to local and regional reps. I think the Cohesion Alliance has worked.

    AL - What has your role been as CoR rapporteur on the EU Urban Agenda?

    KMC - I did an assessment of the implementation of the EU Urban Agenda last year. Plus I looked at how we could splice some of the action plans together: housing, environment…

    My role is to make sure the action plans are looked after. 12 action plans have emerged from the partnerships, 12 actions in each, so how do we actually roll out these 140 actions? In Bucharest (RO) I spoke on behalf of the Committee of the Regions on where the Urban Agenda should go. There’s a huge fear that some of these action plans may just end up on the shelf. So I’ve been calling for extra financing for implementation, and that the voices of the partnership coordinators be heard a lot more.

    The heads of delegation for the Member States were positive about the Bucharest declaration - that was great. And, the German presidency want to champion this EU Urban Agenda, dusting off the Leipzig charter on urban affairs from 10 years ago!

    AL - What do you see URBACT contributing to these changes in EU cities?

    KMC - Over the last 10 years we’ve seen cities and regions move on – there’s a lot more collaboration – and I think URBACT is at the heart of that debate.

    Maybe there’s a political crisis at central government level, but what I’ve actually found on the ground with the Committee of the Regions is that Europe’s cities are thirsty to work together, to learn more, and there’s a bubbling underground evolution towards more citizen-led change. I think URBACT helps with that evolution. People can just open up the URBACT files and look at how collaboration works. It’s not easy but it’s really important.

    I’ve seen this in my own city. Playful Paradigm brings together different city departments, but also citizens. On Cork’s marina, giant Connect 4 games were set up, tug of war... It’s empowering local residents’ associations, getting to the local people – which doesn’t always happen with macro-scale European projects. The Committee of the Regions opinions are frontiers of ideas, they’re about connections, partnerships, dialogue, unity, diversity, cross-border interoperability… but you can’t just talk about those buzzwords: we need practical projects, knowledge exchange platforms.

    Collaboration breeds further collaboration – even on smaller projects like opening up a tiny street-side park. When people have fun working with each other they’ll work together again. My city is relatively small, 210 000 inhabitants, so people from Healthy Cities projects, age action programmes, refugee programmes, Chamber of Commerce, business associations… all know each other, but they might not have worked with each other before. URBACT is cross-disciplinary, it brings people together, champions citizen innovation – and you discover an electric current in the city, an energy!


    More about Kieran McCarthy on kieranmccarthy.ie

    More about the Leipzig Charter and how URBACT is refreshing Europe’s urban policy principles here.

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  • An old fortress brings new cohesion

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    MEDINT project MEDINT is an URBACt I Project which studied the integrated approach concept, which has become a characteristic feature of European urban development strategies. The work carried out in European cities shows that this concept has been interpreted and implemented in a variety of different ways (integration of local actors, of different economic sectors, of different initiatives, of different development tools and policies). The conclusions of the MEDINT network are summarized in the form of several pdf files.
    Urban design

    Today, locals and tourists — many arriving on cruise ships — enjoy Cartagena’s waterfront and Art Nouveau architecture, as well as archaeological sites, from a Phoenician shipwreck to a huge Roman theatre.

    But few visitors venture into the more run-down areas. Cartagena joined the URBACT MAPS network while facing increasing social and economic fragmentation. The city wanted fresh ideas to boost year-round tourism — while becoming more collaborative, inclusive and resilient, with the benefits of tourism reaching even the poorest neighbourhoods.

    One such district is Los Mateos, which sits below the abandoned 18th-century fortress Castillo de los Moros. Here, 21% of adults are illiterate, and 24% are unemployed. “As an inhabitant of Cartagena, Los Mateos was a ‘forbidden’ neighbourhood... considered dangerous and insecure. I remember my first visit — for the MAPS project — as a tense moment... I looked around with distrust,” says María Peñalver, Professor at the Polytechnic University of Cartagena. When they joined the network, the city set up a group of local stakeholders (URBACT Local Group) to reflect and act on the use of the abandoned fortress while revitalising the district. Acting as a coordinator of this group, Ms Peñalver soon discovered many people in Los Mateos were enthusiastic about improving their own neighbourhood. “They had determination to change things, generosity... I decided to collaborate with them as much as possible and accompany them in this challenge until the end,” she recalls.

    Working with residents and stakeholders — including presidents of local associations, and council representatives — Ms Peñalver helped the local group produce an Integrated Action Plan in line with the city’s strategic objectives. Dubbed ‘Re-starting from heritage’, it defines:

    • actions to improve social cohesion and inclusion in Los Mateos district. These include sport and painting competitions and a botanic garden around the fortress with the involvement of citizens and students of the district;
    • reusing the Los Moros fort to increase Cartagena’s cultural offer. Actions include guided touristic and sport tours;
    • an urban planning reference model based on a participatory approach, to use in other marginalised areas. Actions also include a cleaning campaign at the fortress with the involvement of inhabitants, transformation of three empty urban plots into public spaces.

    The Integrated Action Plan is crucial, because for the first time in history Los Mateos district has an integrated project to work together in the same direction for a better future,” says Francisco Sáez, Municipal Urban Technical Advisor.

    Visible changes

    After a workshop in Espinho (PT) with MAPS partner cities, Cartagena developed its own urban governance model — now featured in the integrated plan for use across the city. This set of mechanisms link the municipality with local stakeholders and inhabitants, creating a platform for actions to improve the city.

    The local group tested the model on designing and implementing mock-up projects involving inhabitants in regeneration efforts in and around the Los Moros fortress.

    You can already see results: Los Moros hill is a new a green area for the city, with new accesses to the fortress; colourful facades decorate the streets; attractive public areas have replaced empty urban plots. Los Mateos is a place to visit.

    Above all, says Ms Peñalver, MAPS showed Cartagena “a new way to improve the urban quality of neglected areas, placing the inhabitants as the epicentre of change”.

    Without MAPS, she believes decision-makers and citizens would still be ignoring Los Mateos, underestimating the castle’s potential to boost integrated urban regeneration — and the benefits of working collaboratively. Los Mateos’ inhabitants would be unaware of their own potential to improve their quality of life, given the necessary support.

    Everything learned from the URBACT approach has been new for the city of Cartagena, and useful for developing our vision for the Integrated Action Plan,” Ms Peñalver explains.

    Political backing

    The mayor Ana Belén Castejón supports the Integrated Action Plan, encouraging all political parties to approve it at an upcoming council Plenary Session. Next, Cartagena hopes to apply for a new URBACT call to focus on Los Mateos’ regeneration


    You can find the Cities in Action - Stories of Change publication just here.

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  • Gender Equal Cities: Inspiration from Vienna

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    Vienna (AU) is famous for many things: classical music, exquisite architecture and good cakes too. Less well known is its reputation as an exemplar city for gender-sensitive urban planning: The city has over 25 years’ experience of gender mainstreaming; the Women’s Office opened in 1992 and, the city has developed a network of gender experts and champions across its departments. So, where better to host an URBACT expert exchange event than in the Austrian capital?

    Urban design

    The meeting took place in the context of URBACT’s Gender Equal Cities Knowledge Hub initiative that aims to highlight ways in which cities are driving change through gender sensitive policy making. At the heart of this work is knowledge sharing, so in October the team travelled to Vienna for a 3-day workshop. We were joined by gender equality experts and practitioners from cities across Europe including Athens (GR), Umea (SE), Venice (IT), Paris (FR), London (UK), Villiers le Bel and Poznan (PO) as well as networks such as CEMR, ALDA, Genre et Ville, all willing to share a wealth of knowledge about driving this agenda at local level.

    Learning from the best

    We were fortunate to be hosted by the City and shown around by Eva Kail, Gender Planning Expert and Ursula Bauer, Head of Gender Mainstreaming.  Their detailed explanations enabled a deep understanding of the gendered nature of urban space and governance, within the concept of a fair-shared city.  We also heard about the structures and processes that Vienna has put in place, and adapted over time, to address the challenges.

    During site visits we looked at:

    1. Parks that have been redesigned to provide better lighting and access for women and girls, as well as more democratic seating arrangements to provide shared space for different park users including women, children, migrants, the elderly and the homeless;
    2. Sidewalks that had been widened and street crossings that had been re-timed to allow for parents with buggies, the elderly and the mobility impaired to move around more comfortably.
    3. New pedestrian paths that allow for the most direct routes between home/schools/ shops/ transportation.
    4. Residential areas with improved safety features such as mirrors to see around bends on alleyways and planting to increase attractiveness
    5. Housing designed by woman architects that provides personal space for single mothers and encourages community support networks.

    This study visit around Vienna emphasised how gender-sensitive planning has many overlaps with other policy areas. For instance, more walk-able, greener cities that respect sustainable mobility principles benefit everyone.

    In designing these measures to improve safety and mobility for parents, the city of Vienna is careful not to reinforce the idea that women can only be either mothers or victims. They are combining these hard measures that stay true to the everyday experiences of women, with soft measures that challenge stereotypes. Their gender equality actions are not just about women but about changing damaging notions that impact us all: by encouraging fresh thinking about men and women’s places in the city Vienna is combating gender-based exclusion at every level.

    What do we mean by gender mainstreaming? Gender refers, not to our biological sex as male or female, but to socialisation as either woman or man. Gender-sensitivity is therefore evaluating the impact of policy on different genders and acting to ensure the equality of this impact. Mainstreaming refers to evaluating the impact of all policy, not just so-called ‘women’s issues.’ Mainstreaming gender is increasingly common practice internationally and means thinking about how stereotypes of femininity and masculinity operate as a social structures in all areas, sectors and levels of city policy.


    The intense thematic exchange covered many areas of opportunity for cities to make a change.

    Follow the money

    Vienna, like many European cities, faces distinct challenges from diminishing public spending.  The role of the Women’s Office is to advocate for gender sensitive policy even with limited resources, and also to make sure each neighbourhood and department publishes gender budgets, so that if services are cut there is a proper impact assessment of what that means for women and men.  The significance of EU funding was flagged here. When funders include assessment criteria on gender and diversity, it provides a helpful stimulus to embed equality measures. The answer from Vienna? Do more with less. Although there are no quick fixes to gender inequality, there are small inexpensive measures the city can put in place to improve representation, safety and access in public spaces: better street lighting, quotas for elected representatives and participatory processes that involve women is all examples of this work in action.

    Engaging civil society

    Gender sensitive participatory approaches mean recognising the particular expertise on equality that women’s networks and experts can bring to the table across policy areas. NGOs and associations in cities across the EU work closely with women from all backgrounds, socio economic groups and ages.  They are uniquely positioned to articulate their needs and feed into policy making that is more impactful. Likewise, there are many universities and research agencies that have gender departments or expertise that can contribute with supporting knowledge. The Vienna team acknowledged that often these partnership dynamics are not without tension, as agencies will rightly push for better services, for change and hold the city to account.

    Calls to action: data, equal pay and representation

    As in Lisbon earlier this year, gender disaggregated data and the significance of representation were high on the list of our experts’ priorities. We need data broken down by gender (amongst other indices) to best understand how women and men experience the city differently. In Vienna we learnt how both quantitative data and qualitative approaches such as social space analysis had underpinned their plans. Without this knowledge, attempts to solve the problem can be misguided. For example, qualitative data collected in London suggests that women and particularly women of colour do not feel represented by the advertising in their city. So, London’s mayor is featuring all women artists on the underground for 2018 and hosting a competition for representative advertising campaigns. The winner will receive free advertising on the underground for a year!

    Representation and equal pay also continue to be problems in a Europe where just 15% of mayors are women and women earn on average 17% less than men. We need 50/50 representation at all levels of local governance: this isn’t just a democratic imperative and a human right, it also makes for better urban policy when all experiences of the city are factored in to decision-making. Participants in Vienna suggested quotas as a temporary solution to the problem, but only when combined with mentoring, training and incentives to get women into local office and high paying roles, and keep them there. Quotas alone won’t change traditional, male dominated cultures that haunt politics across Europe, so it is not just about getting women through the door but empowering them to be true to themselves, to feel confident in introducing new styles of leadership.

    Plurality of voices

    It is clear that women and men do not all experience the city in the same way based on their gender, and experts discussed how to better incorporate plural voices. Other identities including race, class, religion, sexuality and abilities also impact citizens’ everyday lives. As Linda Gustafsson, Gender Equality Officer for Umea put it “we have to always think about gender in the city, but we cannot only think about gender in the city.” Gender affects all citizens in one way or another but reacting to data while not reinforcing stereotypes is one of the hardest challenges faced by policy makers and planners working on equality.

    URBACT networks: a unique opportunity

    One thing was clear from the workshop in Vienna: when it comes to gender equality, supportive spaces to network, co-create and share are crucial. Ultimately, gender equality is about changing centuries of discrimination that in 2018 simply hold back cities and all their citizens.  It is complex and multi-faceted and transformation requires a long term, strategic approach. A key part of this process is capacity building about how gender impacts the city and the unique opportunity it has to change this. Our experts from across Europe testified to the success of structured learning programmes, unconscious bias training, webinars, role play and theatre to help the city lead by example in its approach to gender equality. Communication across European networks is also important to connect gender equality to different urban issues. URBACT has a unique platform for change thanks to its reach into 500 cities.

    Finally, everyone can support change-makers in everyday life: lift women up, call out inappropriate behaviour and advocate for change. If you’re a man and offered an opportunity to speak on an all male panel, how about recommending your female colleague? The same for white women asked to speak on all white panels. These are small acts that can make a big difference.

    What’s next for Gender Equal Cities?

    URBACT is very grateful to the city of Vienna for hosting the exchange as well as to all the experts for contributing with passion and honesty. The URBACT Programme is now reviewing how it can improve its own performance on gender equality in networks, capacity building and knowledge hubs. If you are interested in learning more about gender equality in the city please join the Gender Equal Cities LinkedIn group and keep your eyes peeled for our report to be published in early 2019 in partnership with Council of European Municipalities and Regions (CEMR).

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