• Towards strategic municipal CSR procurement in Europe: lessons and inspiration from URBACT

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    URBACT cities are finding ways to unlock the potential of strategic public procurement to boost Corporate Social Responsibility.



    The topic of linking public procurement and Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) becomes ever more important for cities when challenges are increasing and public resources are limited. So how can city leaders actively use strategic procurement to encourage businesses to fulfil their social and environmental responsibilities? Dr. Steffen Wetzstein, Lead Expert for the URBACT CITIES4CSR network, shares recent experiences from URBACT cities…


    Linking up strategic municipal procurement and Corporate Social Responsibility

    The link between strategic municipal procurement and Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) may seem complex. On the one hand, city governments are under pressure to procure important goods, services and works in the name of the public good, and on the other hand, CSR is about businesses donating and contributing to worthwhile ‘beyond-profit’ causes in return for publicity and marketing gains. But can city leaders actively and effectively use procurement processes and practices to make businesses fulfil their social and environmental responsibilities? And could this direct influence made our world a better place after all?

    The answers to those questions are a resounding YES! Procurement can directly boost CSR outcomes by municipalities telling their local enterprises not just what they need, but how they want it to be made, delivered, built and implemented. This dual added value has not just inspired our URBACT Lead Partner team in Milan (IT), but really constitutes a great opportunity to both supporting our communities and saving our planet. But the idea is spreading slowly. Too many obstacles need tackling, ranging from unawareness, prioritisation issues and lacking competencies to legal constraints, missing management capacities and under-developed monitoring practices. Untapped potential everywhere!

    But there is hope for change, because the European urban procurement communities and CSR communities have recently started to link up. Well-known experts representing these networks – Matthew Baqueriza-Jackson as Lead Expert behind the URBACT networks Procure and Making Spend Matter, and Valentina Schippers-Opejko on behalf of the EU Urban Agenda Partnership on Innovative and Responsible Public Procurement – have been sharing their experience and wisdom with URBACT cities. They both joined meetings with the 10 city partners in our URBACT CITIES4CSR network, the first ever URBACT network building municipal capacity for promoting urban CSR ecosystems and practices.

    This article asks what after two and a half years of dedicated URBACT project work is the local state-of-play regarding municipal procurement, what has been achieved so far, and what kind of barriers had to be overcome.


    Lessons from our URBACT partner cities

    1. Budaörs, Hungary: room for advancing local practice

    Two institutional procurement frameworks shape local decisions in Budaörs. There is the national Public Procurement Act that applies to purchases of goods/services above HUF 15 000 000 (about EUR 40 000), and construction investment above HUF 50 000 000 (about EUR 132 000). Decisions under this act are slow, heavily regulated, and come with a significant administrative burden. In contrast, the municipality's own management rules come into effect for purchases below the abovementioned thresholds. These are more flexible, perceived as transparent, accompanied by less administrative burden and enable faster operational processing. The current municipal management regulations are considered sufficient.

    For its URBACT Small Scale Action – tree planting and ‘green’ public awareness and education – the current procurement framework was considered adequate. Less satisfying, however, is the fact that the municipality currently does not give any consideration, preference or advantage to companies that have demonstrated good CSR practices. Part of the problem is that there is no useful administrative system in place to meaningfully compare and evaluate companies’ CSR activities.


    2. Nantes, France: successfully linking CSR and SDGs

    For long-term CSR-directed procurement decisions, Nantes builds on three strategies. First, general social and environmental criteria are initially being determined to select companies during calls for tenders. Second, a responsible purchasing plan incorporating social and environmental aspects will be widely communicated to inform companies of expectations to be met. Third, and as indeed required by French and European law, social and environmental criteria will have to be adapted to fit into more specific and relevant purchasing families, such as building and public works, provision of services and so forth.

    Nantes’ Small Scale Action, a digital observatory monitoring businesses’ performance concerning progress on achieving Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), is currently being assembled utilising best practice procurement. Despite being below the necessary threshold, it was decided to proceed as a call for tender precisely to allow the promotion of good practices. Broad digital advertising was followed by constructing an objective analysis grid that besides social and environmental criteria also incorporated competency aspects, quality dimensions, costs and deadlines. Finally, the assessment of the offers from potential service providers was assigned to selected URBACT Local Group (ULG) members in the name of openness and transparency.


    3. Guimarães, Portugal: learning to be alert and flexible

    The ULG in Guimarães seeks to build and run a digital platform that will connect the well-established economic development and social development networks. The almost autonomous operating municipality-managed platform is to become a modern, efficient and responsive digital mechanism to link organisations representing social and community needs with businesses that have vital resources to offer in response. Overall the project has progressed quite well, having attracted an initial municipal financial commitment of EUR 18 000 and reached its current advanced testing and feedback phase.

    Yet, three lessons had to be learned along the way. First, keep your options open concerning your supplier. Early on, the project team noticed feedback issues and failed deadlines with their preferred supplier, and were eventually forced to work with an alternative organisation. Second, in the teams’ own words “one must have a political champion, for every project, and must try to stay ahead of the political changes”. Having unexpectedly lost their project champion, the Councillor for Economic Development, officers eventually had to convince the Mayor directly, but lost four weeks into the process. Third, project management has to try to keep ahead of the game by anticipating and responding swiftly and adequately to almost unavoidable delays triggered by the fiddly specificities of procurement procedures. Luckily, a dedicated administrative department successfully helped to navigate those tricky roadblocks.


    4. Vratsa, Bulgaria: taking risk more seriously

    The municipality of Vratsa stated that the internal rules for managing the procurement cycle are prescribed by the Public Procurement Law. While this process is perceived as clear and smooth, the local project team problematised the inflation risks stemming from the long time lag between calculating project costs, and implementation time. Inflation – surely a vexing and pressing future topic globally – leads to budget inadequacies and, consequently a lack of participants and unabsorbed funds because of insufficient financial resources.


    Reflections, recommendations and potential actions

    CITIES4CSR case studies highlight at least three key lessons regarding effective municipal CSR-directed procurement.

    1. Rigid and bureaucratic national procurement frameworks may hinder CSR-directed goal setting and implementation. Effective lobbying for more flexible national laws may help to innovate.
    2. Local-level project management capacities need to match vision and aspiration, including adequate legal competencies and solid administrative skills. Awareness-raising, targeted training and good practice dissemination may improve this situation.
    3. Politics both enables and restricts innovative approaches to embedding local economic, social and environmental considerations in procurement. So changes in political leadership may cause the biggest risk. Strategically anticipating and skillfully navigating these risks may prove essential.  

    Our divergent findings on how CSR-mediated municipal procurement has progressed locally reinforce one of Matthew Baqueriza-Jackson’s primary messages: partners should take their time when using procurement to realise CSR outcomes, because it takes strategic foresight and incremental implementation to change the state-of-play. Our partner lessons also underscore a second of his messages: that any evolution of procurement activities requires inclusion of a range of stakeholders, including politicians, strategists, technical staff, procurement officers and contract managers. We may actually require a well-functioning CSR procurement capacity system across municipal departments.

    Clearly, strategic municipal procurement and CSR capacity building belong together. Procurement is potentially a powerful tool to directly influence CSR-mediated actions, practices and outcomes. Municipalities really are in the driver seat. Boldly and creatively confronting key barriers promise two inter-related outcomes. Guimarães (PT) illustrates how we may aspire to achieve a local win-win between business/economic and social/community stakeholders in terms of responding to needs quickly, competently and effectively. Let’s call this ‘small win-win’. Yet, if we look to Nantes (FR), we can aim even higher. Eyes could be set at a ‘big win-win’ by aligning our collective urban practices with reaching our global Sustainable Development Goals.

    This article demonstrated the value of thinking and doing municipal CSR capacity building, and strategic municipal procurement, together. So mutual engagement, co-learning and shared capacity building should be intensified in challenging post-pandemic years. Improved two-way communication would be a starter and a more conceptually grounded debate desirable. Common initiatives may produce powerful shared messages to stakeholders and the wider public – perhaps already at our planned CITIES4CSR outreach event in Brussels on 30 June and 1 July 2022! Longitudinal and strategic project formats both locally and transnationally should be the ultimate goal. Let us unlock together the potential of strategic procurement for much needed social and environmental progress now!


    Find out more about URBACT’s support to towns and cities looking for better ways to buy goods and services – with articles, practical advice, and a free online course on strategic procurement: URBACT strategic procurement Knowledge Hub.


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  • Cities must rethink procurement for a healthier economic recovery

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    Ten tips for strategic, integrated public procurement to help local economies bounce back stronger.


    Over the last seven years, the URBACT programme has sought to adapt the ways in which towns and cities across the EU think about their purchasing. The URBACT networks Procure and Making Spend Matter, our online course on Strategic Procurement, and our representation on the EU Urban Agenda Partnership for Innovative and Responsible Public Procurement have all sought to shift the perception and practice of procurement away from something very boring and bureaucratic to something that is exciting and effective in addressing the challenges that cities face.

    Cities, including their municipalities and other institutions, use procurement every day to buy goods and services, ranging from construction projects to school catering. The process is framed by legislation from the European Commission in the form of the European Procurement Directives – and the choice of suppliers to provide a good or deliver a service has often been on the basis of price alone, with the cheapest offer winning the contract.

    Purchasing for recovery: choose quality and wider benefits

    Our work at URBACT helps local governments move beyond price as the primary decision-making factor in procurement. We encourage a much broader consideration of both the quality of the good or service being provided, and its wider economic, social and environmental benefits. How can the procurement of that good or service help tackle youth unemployment? How can the procurement of that good or service contribute to reducing health inequalities? How can it reduce environmental impact and mitigate climate change?

    Our thinking at URBACT on procurement continues to evolve. In particular, and as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, we have been involved in developing a new Action Paper for the EU Urban Agenda Partnership for Innovative and Responsible Public Procurement, published in January 2022 for public feedback. We identified ten ways in which public procurement can be utilised to stimulate and enable economic recovery in a post-Covid world. Municipalities and other institutions should:

    1. Pay suppliers quickly, enabling the circulation of money within the economy to be quicker and reducing the risk of businesses facing cash flow and liquidation challenges.
    2. Use social criteria to create jobs, as this contributes towards addressing the key challenge of unemployment, particularly among young people.
    3. Encourage suppliers to upcycle products using a circular approach. This reduces waste, both in cost and environmental terms.
    4. Encourage suppliers to adapt their products and offer, enabling businesses to diversify and grow.
    5. Raise awareness among local businesses of upcoming procurement opportunities. This both enables the growth of local economies and reduces carbon emissions.
    6. Connect with SMEs – the largest component part of the economy. Towns and cities benefit from supporting these businesses and the jobs they provide.
    7. Give consumers a say. Citizens are the people who pay for procurement spend through the redistribution of their taxation, and they should have a voice in how that money is spent.
    8. Be strategic. Develop a coherent procurement strategy, outlining in a clear way the types of economic outcomes the city is seeking to achieve.
    9. Support innovation, as it enables new goods, services and works to be developed.
    10. Enable group bids. Bringing organisations together to bid for procurement opportunities enables smaller businesses to deliver economies of scale.

    Linking the ten ways to the cycle of procurement

    A new, healthier economic recovery

    In all of the above, there is a need to consider how we think about ‘economic recovery’. Traditionally, economic recovery would have been predicated by a return to economic growth in the form of Gross Domestic Product (GDP). The Covid-19 pandemic presents an opportunity for a new type of recovery which is framed not only by considerations of economy, but also by addressing social, cultural, health and wellbeing, and environmental challenges.

    In terms of the resources that cities have at their disposal to realise this more integrated approach to recovery, we at URBACT firmly believe that procurement is core. Existing money can be levered in different ways to support not only high-quality goods and services, but also contribute towards realising more effective local economic, social and environmental outcomes.

    URBACT procurement support for cities

    URBACT provides tools, capacity-building and exchange opportunities to ensure procurement is integral to a strong, integrated recovery in EU towns and cities. As well as taking the ten steps described in this article, we invite city hall staff and other urban practitioners to:


    Matthew Baqueriza-Jackson is an URBACT Lead Expert and represents URBACT in the EU Urban Agenda Partnership for Innovative and Responsible Public Procurement.


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  • Understanding and shaping procurement spend


    Supporting local economy, society and environment via procurement

    Adam Sawicki
    Finance Manager
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    Solutions offered by the good practice

    Koszalin is a city in northwest Poland located 12 km south of the Baltic Sea coast. The three most important sectors of the economy are industry, construction and tourism.

    Koszalin had already worked with Preston (UK) as a partner in the 2015-2018 URBACT network ‘Procure’, in which it had sought to understand if and how procurement could really be used to create jobs, support SMEs, and address environmental challenges - and whether procurement bureaucracy could really be reduced.

    As a result, the city already had a local Integrated Action Plan (IAP) to improve its approaches to procurement and was convinced of the power of procurement to prompt both local economic change and pursue sustainability objectives.

    In 2018, Koszalin was looking for help to implement their ambitious new IAP, and particularly objectives  around understanding more effectively their procurement spending, encouraging local SMEs to bid for procurement opportunities with Koszalin City Council,  including social and environmental considerations in decision-making; and influencing the procurement behaviour of other anchor institutions”.

    Sustainable and integrated urban approach

    The approach developed by Preston for procurement addressed local (economic), social and environmental considerations, while seeking to promote local products, social enterprises, local SMEs and environmentally friendly products. At the same time integration is key within municipalities and in the cites to ensure that these criteria are correctly identified and addressed.

    Participatory approach

    Through their URBACT Local Group (ULG), Koszalin City Council transferred the spend analysis tool to anchor institutions within the city, such as the Regional Hospital, Technical University of Koszalin, and Koszalin District Administration. This enabled them to explore alongside the city authorities how much they spend, and where that money goes geographically, sectorally and in business type terms.

    What difference has it made

    Across all procurers within the city, they collectively identified an annual spend of over EUR 100 million making procurement a significant contributor to Gross Domestic Product. The City Council was pleasantly surprised by the extent to which procurement spend was already spent with organisations in the Koszalin Functional Urban Area (83%) and SMEs (91%).

    Addressing the other side of the procurement dynamic, Koszalin strengthened relations with business representative bodies and SMEs. They surveyed business chambers to identify challenges and how they could be addressed to support SME participation in procurement.

    Transferring the practice

    The city adopted Preston’s spend analysis tool and achieved the core objective of their previous URBACT network and IAP: to understand the scale of procurement spend in the city and to use this evidence to shape wider procurement practice.

    Koszalin has presented their procurement activities and results at events organised by the Polish National URBACT Point to showcase their example as a city that has realised real incremental change. They also shared their learning bilaterally with the Gdansk-Gdynia-Sopot Metropolitan Area and they feature as a case study in URBACT’s strategic procurement training programme.

    The involvement in Procure and Making Spend Matter has been “incredibly beneficial” for procurement in Koszalin and the city representatives are convinced that this is only the beginning of a new journey around procurement. Indeed, they recognise that progressive procurement is integral to the future economic, social and environmental destiny of Koszalin.

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  • URBACT’s strategic procurement knowledge at the click of a button!

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    It’s never too late to access and use the information provided in URBACT’s online course.


    Since 2015, URBACT has been at the forefront of supporting cities in using public procurement as a strategic tool to tackle their social, economic and environmental challenges.

    In his recent article on URBACT and Public Procurement, URBACT expert Matthew Baqueriza-Jackson notes that the perception of public procurement is changing, “from something… shrouded in bureaucracy and challenges, to something which is integral to ‘integrated urban development’ and exciting”.

    The recent URBACT Online Course on Strategic Procurement confirmed that there is a growing community eager to learn from each other on how to apply procurement more strategically in cities. URBACT is committed to supporting this community in collaboration with the European Commission, EU Urban Agenda Partnership on Innovative & Responsible Public Procurement, EUROCITIES and many more players!

    What happened in March 2021?

    The first ‘learning cycle’ of URBACT’s online course was a great success! It ran over a three-week period and was followed by more than 600 registered participants from over 40 countries and 150 cities across the world!



    The course comprises seven modules covering the whole procurement process from recognising why procurement is important and analysing your city’s spending… to deciding contracts and monitoring those that have been awarded.

    Every week, new modules were released on the URBACT Toolbox – allowing participants to learn about each step of the procurement cycle based on city case studies.

    All training is provided through short videos presented by co-trainers Matthew Baqueriza-Jackson – URBACT Expert of PROCURE (2016-2018) and Making Spend Matter (2018-2021) networks – and Valentina Schippers-Opejko Coordinator of the EU Urban Agenda Partnership on Innovative and Responsible Public Procurement.  The videos are supported by resources for further knowledge and guidance.


    Matthew explaining the Importance of Procurement and the structure of the course in Module 1

    As part of this first learning cycle, the modules were supported by weekly live events. While the modules remain accessible to everyone at all times, these live events provided participants a moment to network, meet their trainers and discuss the learning outcomes. More than 150 people from over 30 countries and 70 cities took part in the live events!

    URBACT pushing the debate on public procurement

    One week after the launch of the online course, URBACT organised the first live event in collaboration with the EU Urban Agenda Partnership on Innovative & Responsible Procurement. This event invited speakers from EUROCITIES and the European Commission for a panel discussion on the different dimensions of the EU policy framework.

    Speakers emphasised some of the key messages of the course. For example, the “importance of having a different vision of public procurement and using it as a lever to develop a better quality of services to our citizens,” was mentioned by Ivo Locatelli, from DG GROW, European Commission.

    Ieva Cerniute, from DG REGIO, added that “around 50% of the EU cohesion policy is channelled through public procurement” and highlighted the work of the Commission in “promoting a strategic way of using public procurement in the cohesion policy while investing in EU funds”.

    Anja Katalin de Cunto, coordinator of the Big Buyers Initiative at EUROCITIES, insisted on how important it is to “continue working and collaborating with the market not only with big suppliers, but also the local suppliers because the dialogue has to be in both directions”.

    While there are no plans to update the current EU Directives on public procurement, speakers agreed that there is room for improvement within the current framework. Investing in capacity-building for public buyers to maximise existing possibilities, for example, was said to be a priority.

    The speakers also indicated that food procurement is another critical area for improvement to allow cities to buy more locally and use procurement as a lever towards developing local food systems. This can help protect citizens’ health, the environment and support the local economy – closely aligning with the work of URBACT’s Transfer Network Bio-Canteens and URBACT’s wider influencing efforts leading to COP 26.

    Finally, Matthew announced that URBACT is currently researching on the impact that public procurement has on women. Building on the great collaborations developed in the framework of Gender Equal Cities and the momentum of this online course, URBACT is organising a thought-provoking session on ethical and gender-responsive procurement at the 4th URBACT City Festival, taking place online on 15-17 June 2021.

    What did participants think of URBACT’s first learning cycle on strategic procurement?

    The feedback on the course was overwhelmingly positive! Participants praised both the content of the course and the structure of the learning cycle. More than 95% of the participants felt that they could put what they learned on strategic procurement into practice within their city and would recommend the course to others. Participant feedback included the following quotes:

    “The URBACT Online Course on Strategic Procurement is a great learning [resource]. I found it a great opportunity to learn and update my knowledge... I enjoyed the course from the beginning till the end...”

    “I liked the possibility to watch courses when it suited me… [Since] there was a possibility to watch them when you wanted, that was really helpful in times when there are a lot of online meetings to schedule.”

    What is also striking is the diversity of the participants, including not only urban practitioners looking to undertake strategic methods in their procurement processes, but consultants, researchers and students engaged in the topic. Interestingly enough, while numerous URBACT beneficiaries took part in the course, most registered participants were not previously involved in the URBACT programme, either as experts or as city partners. URBACT will continue to facilitate learning exchanges among this community to keep the course content alive.

    Wish you’ve had the chance to join?

    The first learning cycle may have ended, but the opportunities to benefit from the wealth of URBACT knowledge on strategic procurement are far from over.

    All seven modules of the online course are available at the click of a button at any time. Just visit the URBACT Knowledge Hub page on Strategic Procurement to find out more.

    Interested in further expanding your knowledge on public procurement? Sign up for the session on Ethical and Gender-Sensitive Procurement at the 4th URBACT City Festival, taking place online 15-17 June 2021. Make sure to save the date already and click here to register!

    Don’t miss out on these opportunities to build your capacity on the topic of strategic public procurement – an ever-more-important lever to drive positive change within cities and communities. We hope to see you online soon!




    Nouhaila Bouhout is a Communications Officer at the URBACT Secretariat. One of her main projects is designing and implementing the digital communication strategy of the URBACT Online Course on Strategic Procurement.


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  • Delivering Socially Responsible Regeneration and Procurement

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    Over the course of 2 and half years, Urban Regeneration Mix Transfer Network has been seeking to enable a new approach to urban regeneration. Framed by the good practice , the network has sought to influence the process of regeneration so that it includes greater community involvement and engagement, so that it brings social and environmental benefits, and so that it challenges the orthodoxy of the way in which regeneration has been undertaken historically in a European context.



    As part of this wider set of activities, our Transfer Network asked Matthew Baqueriza-Jackson  to provide Ad-Hoc Expertise around the topic of public procurement. All of us felt it would be important that if a new approach to regeneration was to be realised, then there also had to be a focus upon procurement – and particularly how municipalities spend their own money and encourages others such as developers and regenerators to think about how they do so.

    Read more about it in our new product created by ad hoc expert Matthew Baqueriza-Jackson.


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  • URBACT and public procurement: a wealth of knowledge to share

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    Unlock the potential of public procurement in your city, with URBACT expert Matthew Baqueriza-Jackson.



    Public procurement continues to grow in importance across Europe and will be integral to our responses to Covid-19 and the continuing economic, social and environmental challenges that cities face. In this article, I’ll tell you how URBACT has been working to influence this agenda and ensure it remains a core component of Integrated Urban Development long into the future. There is great potential here that needs to be unlocked!




    Bringing public procurement into the light


    Over the course of the last five years, and instigated by the experience, knowledge, and desire of the City of Preston, URBACT has undertaken a number of activities around the topic of public procurement. I, Matthew Baqueriza-Jackson, as Lead Expert, Ad-Hoc Expert, URBACT representative and trainer have been lucky enough to help shape and animate that activity utilising my knowledge and expertise. 


    Collectively, we have turned public procurement, as a theme, from something that has always been shrouded in bureaucracy and challenges, to something which is integral to ‘integrated urban development’ and exciting. By this we mean, public procurement can be used as one of the levers which city authorities have at their disposal to address economic, social, and environmental challenges; and as a means of bringing together different stakeholders to improve outcomes.


    The work around public procurement undertaken by Preston, URBACT and its participating cities and networks - as described below - has culminated in the production of the URBACT ‘online course on strategic procurement’, which will be launched in March 2021. The course - which involves 7 modules and accompanying city case studies from URBACT - utilises this depth of experience and expertise to provide a step-by-step approach as to how cities can be more strategic in public procurement. Interested? Save your spot by registering online.



    So, what have we collectively done around public procurement?


    URBACT’s work around public procurement commenced in 2015, with the launch of the Procure Action Planning Network. Led by the City of Preston and involving ten other cities, this network started the journey to change the perception and role of public procurement. Our core finding from three years of action planning activity was that public procurement has to be viewed as a ‘cycle’. To be able to embed social and environmental outcomes into public procurement, there has to be:


    • political buy-in and a willingness to change public procurement cultures;
    • an understanding of where existing municipality procurement spend goes and how much is spent;
    • an overarching procurement strategy or approach - which as well as legislative requirements, details the economic, social and environmental outcomes a municipality wants to achieve through procurement;
    • a reflection upon the relevance of those wider outcomes during the design of goods, services or works (commissioning);
    • questions asked around these wider outcomes during tendering, and evaluation of responses during decision-making and selection of the winning supplier;
    • monitoring of the extent to which those wider outcomes are achieved during the delivery of the good, service, or work.   

    Feeding into the EU Urban Agenda


    In 2017, the City of Preston and I (as an URBACT representative) were asked to participate in and observe the activities of the EU Urban Agenda Partnership on Innovative and Responsible Public Procurement. The Partnership, through engagement with the European Commission, other European programmes and institutions, and regions and cities, sought to further advance the use of public procurement as a means to delivering key economic, social and environmental outcomes.


    In practice, URBACT’s role has been far from simple ‘observation’ – indeed, with the City of Preston, we have led the development of the Partnership’s Measuring Spend and Wider Impact Action and have contributed towards the Building Strategy Action.

    Supporting city transfer of good procurement practice


    Also in 2017, the City of Preston was awarded URBACT Good Practice status for its work around ‘spend analysis’ and how it can be used to progress procurement processes and practices. In 2018, the Making Spend Matter Transfer Network started the journey of transferring this Good Practice to six other cities.


    The Network is due to complete its activities in June 2021, with the cities working on understanding, adapting, and re-using the Good Practice in their own contexts, and the City of Preston importantly improving it. The Network will launch its final output - a Toolkit on how cities can be more strategic in public procurement, at a conference in March 2021.


    Since 2019, URBACT has also started to integrate public procurement learning into other network activities. As part of the evolution of the Implementation Networks, URBACT produced a Guide about the implementation challenges of public procurement and how they can be overcome, with case studies detailed throughout.



    The Playful Paradigm and Urban Regeneration Mix Transfer Networks are also embedding exchange and learning activities around public procurement into their networks, for which I have been providing ad-hoc expertise. Playful Paradigm has produced the ‘Playful Paradigm Procurement Guide’, which talks through the stages cities need to go through to purchase goods, services, and works associated with play and games. Urban Regeneration Mix are exploring how public procurement can be used to deliver regeneration outcomes, with this a key topic of conversation at their upcoming Exchange and Learning Seminar.

    Spreading procurement knowledge beyond URBACT!


    In 2018, URBACT, started the process of formulating an online course, using this wealth of knowledge, experience, expertise and outcomes. During the 2018 URBACT City Festival in Lisbon, I led  a Lab Session entitled ‘Buying a Better Future’. The session reflected on the core findings of the Procure Network, and how the steps of the procurement cycle could be translated into real procurement exercises.


    This has developed into what has become the URBACT ‘Online Course on Strategic Public Procurement’ to be launched in March 2021 – don’t forget to register now!


    What is more, this course will not be the end of the journey. In fact, it is just the start of embedding our learning from our networks and involvement in the EU Urban Agenda Partnership to a bigger and wider audience. Please join us to see what you can learn and use for the benefit of your city!


    Matthew Baqueriza-Jackson is the Lead Expert of Making Spend Matter. He has represented URBACT on the EU Urban Agenda Partnership on Innovative and Responsible Public Procurement and is the Co-Trainer for the ‘URBACT Online Course on Strategic Public Procurement’.


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  • Making Spend Matter


    April 2018 – September 2018 | Phase 1: Transfer Network development
    4 December 2018 | Start of Phase 2
    January 2019 – March 2019 | Transfer Planning Period: development of the Good Practice transfer, tools and training on spend analysis methodology
    April 2019 – December 2020 | Transfer Learning Period: transfer of the Good Practice in partner cities, bilateral activities on the themes of Advanced Spend Analysis, SME Engagement, Social and Environmental criteria in Public Procurement.
    January 2021 – May 2021 | Transfer Sharing Period: National/Regional Good Practice Transfer Events
    March 2021 | Final Network Event
    4 June 2021 | Project End Date

    Making Spend Matter Transfer network explores how to use spend analysis as an evidence tool to enhance the impact of procurement by public / anchor institutions in order to bring additional economic, social and environmental benefits to the local economy and its citizens. This will be achieved by transferring the Good Practice developed by Preston in this area.

    Changing Procurement - Changing Cities
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  • BioCanteens


    Kick-off meeting

    Transfer Period

    End of Transfer Period + Sharing Period

    BioCanteens Transfer Network is about ensuring the distribution of sustainable school meals in participating cities as a key lever towards the development of an integrated local agri-food approach, protecting both citizens’ health and the environment. The project aims to transfer Mouans-Sartoux’s Good Practice in the field of collective school catering, to other highly committed cities across Europe. Mouans-Sartoux’s Good Practice is based on the daily distribution of meals that are 100% organic and mostly composed of local products, the drastic reduction of food waste thereby fully compensating the higher cost of switching to organic products, and the organisation of dedicated educational activities to raise children’s awareness about sustainable food.

    Education - Food - Environment - Local Economy - Governance
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  • Social clauses in public procurement procedures


    Including social criteria in public recruitment procedures to help disadvantaged people access the labour market in Avilés

    Ana Isabel Riesgo Pérez
    Equality technician
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    Public procurement to help disadvantaged people to enter the labour market, has been the cornerstone of the Avilés City Council (ES) since 2009. A key tool is the Introduction of Social Clauses in Public Procurement Procedures, known by its Spanish acronym ICSA. 
    This tool envisages the possibility of introducing social criteria at various stages of the recruitment procedure, allowing the set-up of a quota for Special Employment Centres and Social Insertion Companies and introducing social criteria in the appraisal of tenders or as a further condition for executing bids. It also requires technical expertise on the subject matter of the contract. The Labour Accompanying Department is in charge of short-listing candidates as well as monitoring them at their workplace when job offers derive from social clauses included in the technical specifications of a public contract.

    The solutions offered by the good practice

    It turns passive policies into active policies for inclusion, contributing to social policies and economic sustainability, particularly in employability and socio-occupational issues. It has a direct economic impact, since many of the people hired are on costly subsidies and social security benefits. They stop receiving this financial aid upon their recruitment and, in turn, they become net payers who generate income for the Spanish Tax Agency while reducing social spending. This is one of the best average cost/benefit rates, as the qualitative and quantitative impact on most vulnerable groups’ employment rate is high while startup costs are relatively low. The discrimination that still exists in the labour market can be combated through the programme's development and implementation. This practice is the culmination of actions carried out by the Avilés City Council regarding education, training and employment. It can also serve as an example and be easily replicated in other territories. Moreover, regulating the introduction of social criteria and having specific procedures for recruitment and monitoring has helped overcome technical difficulties posed by municipal staff. This in turn allowed changing deeply rooted ideas and introducing new approaches more in tune with social responsibility.

    Building on the sustainable and integrated approach

    Because it does not entail allocating additional resources, it is a sustainable initiative. It aims at changing the behaviour of the economic agents involved in recruitment toward a higher social provision of goods and service. This raises awareness of more inclusive and sustainable development models. It contributes to the stability and survival of social economy enterprises, such as Special Employment Centres (SECs) and/or Social Insertion Companies (SICs). By using market reserves, it is easier for these companies to access public contracting under advantageous conditions, so they can compete with companies which do not include social clauses and do not invest in social costs. Complying with the existing rules and regulations on public contracting, this innovative approach is focused on social integration, going beyond simply contracting works, services and supplies. It actually allows contracting a project related to socio-occupational inclusion of people in – or at risk of – exclusion. ICSA increases the profitability of public investment, boosting the development of initiatives including more equity in economy while contributing to combat social exclusion.

    Based on a participatory approach

    Avilés is facing up to challenges opened to dialogue and cooperates with different interest groups. Networking and establishing partnerships are the cornerstone of groundbreaking initiatives which are of great value for the territory and create future opportunities for citizens. The different stages for ICSA elaboration and development (external advice, establishment, testing and piloting) were the result of reflection, discussion, consensus and political and technical commitments for which municipal managers and the Welfare, Legal and Economic Departments worked together. Moreover, the local government has led the introduction of social clauses into public contracting within the framework of two agreements (Avilés Avanza, Avilés Acuerda) and a network of territories (Retos). Through Avilés Avanza and Avilés Acuerda and by signing the agreements, the Avilés City Council along with business associations and trade unions commit themselves to introducing environmental and social criteria in public procurement. The Plan de Acción Local de Empleo Juvenil (employment for youth plan), falling under the JOBTOWN Programme financed by URBACT, whose partnership was composed of youth associations, social agents, administrations, companies and educational centres, proved how important this practice was and how much it was needed in order to improve employability in Avilés’ population.

    What difference has it made?

    Four agreements were signed between the Avilés City Council and social and economic agents within the territory. Five legislative documents that helped ICSA to be launched were published. ICSA was presented as a good practice in several national and European conferences. Transfer of the experience to other cities is already executed and completed. Social criteria have been introduced in 147 specifications for public contracting. Eleven contracts were reserved (eight for Special Employment Centres and one for a Social Insertion Company). Two contracts included Social Insertion Companies regarding Technical Solvency. More than 500 people have been hired by the companies contracting with the Avilés City Council (the same people can be included in different situations): 279 women (66.4%), 88 people with disabilities (20.9%), 107 long-term unemployed (25.5%), 75 people over 45 years old (17.8%) and 39 immigrants (9.3%). Tendering companies have assessed the programme positively. This initiative has gained recognition as a good practice.

    Why should other European cities use it?

    The major challenge facing European cities is unemployment, which increases the risk of inequalities and social exclusion. In this context, social participation becomes more and more important. Participatory governance is a social obligation which is rapidly gaining ground. Both social agents and public administrations are more aware that economic development and successful policies must be achieved through cooperation and not solely in the public sector. Public procurement in the EU is estimated between 12% and 15% of the member States’ GDP, reaching 50% in some municipalities. Local governments’ procurement spending is significantly higher and therefore it increases the investment in social growth and cohesion. The introduction of social criteria in public procurement procedures is an inclusive and sustainable approach that contributes to more attractive and cohesive cities while promoting the building of human capital and combating inequalities. The policies meet the headline targets of the European 2020 Strategy for inclusive cities. Since ICSA's inception, several cities and public administrations have requested the support of the Avilés City Council. In fact, after ICSA was presented in national and international conferences, other cities have shown interest in undertaking similar initiatives as long as they are properly supported.

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  • Progressing procurement practice through spend analysis


    Anchor institutions using spend analysis to improve procurement practice and benefit the local economy

    Tamar Reay
    Policy Officer
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    In 2013, Preston City Council (UK) and six other anchor institutions embarked on a project to identify how their wealth could be understood and harnessed more effectively for the benefit of the local economy. An element of wealth that anchors institutions can influence their procurement spend. Central to the work in Preston has been the analysis of these institutions’ procurement (1 billion euros), to understand where that spend goes geographically and on which types of business type, and what happens to it once it reaches suppliers. The anchor institutions then used the evidence gathered to inform how they undertake procurement. Some institutions have revisited the spend analysis: evidence suggests their spend has increased in the local economy and with small to medium-sized enterprises. The work demonstrates the importance of using evidence to shape policy change and the role of procurement in addressing challenges.

    The solutions offered by the good practice

    The good practice offered by the Preston City Council and the six other anchor institutions is a methodology and means of changing behaviour around procurement so that it generates more local economic, social, and environmental benefits. The methodology consists of three parts. First, it enables cities and institutions to understand where their procurement spend goes. So, the methodology measures the extent to which the annual 1 billion euros of procurement spend of the anchor institutions is with: businesses based in Preston and Lancashire, SMEs and social enterprises, and with businesses in particular industrial sectors. Second, it enables cities and institutions to understand the extent to which their procurement spend occurs elsewhere in the UK and across Europe and in which sector and to explore the scope for that money to be spent with different types of business, for example.. Third, it enables cities and institutions to identify the extent to which their suppliers are creating jobs or apprenticeships and find out about their practices around social sector engagement or environmental management. Effectively this activity develops an evidence base through which cities can understand the existing contribution their anchor institutions make to a local economy and assists in developing policies and practices through procurement which can enhance those contributions and further harness the potential or wealth of anchor institutions.

    Building on the sustainable and integrated approach

    The good practice fits with URBACT principles because it is about harnessing the wealth of anchor institutions through procurement spend which can help to create wealth in the local economy, thereby reducing poverty and social exclusion through increased employment opportunities, the creation of new businesses and supply chains, skills development, and dealing with environmental issues, for example, by reducing carbon footprint, waste etc. It is also based on an integrated and participatory approach whereby the anchor institutions (public and social sector) work together to ensure that their procurement spend is used to bring additional economic, social, and environmental benefits to their local economies. The recent inclusion of stakeholders from business networks ensures that the voice of the private sector, and also supply chains, are involved in the process. Whilst the good practice initially focused specifically on the Preston local authority area, it has now been broadened to encompass the wider functional urban area (of Preston and South Ribble) and also the wider Lancashire region, ensuring that the horizontal, vertical, and territorial integration aspects have been taken into account.

    Based on a participatory approach

    The work around anchor institutions and spending analysis in Preston commenced in 2013 and continues in 2017. Over the last four years a range of stakeholders has been involved and the whole project is framed by a cooperative desire across the institutions to use their wealth to create greater benefits for the local economy. Stakeholders have been involved throughout the work. 1) The chief executives and political leaders (where appropriate) were visited to secure their buy-in to the principles of harnessing the wealth of institutions. 2) Procurement officers in each of the institutions were engaged to share data around their procurement spend and their suppliers to enable the analysis to take place. 3) The chief executives, politicians and procurement officers were brought together to share the findings of the supply chain analysis and to develop a collective statement of intent as to how they were going to change practices around procurement in light of the analysis. 4) The procurement officers have continued to meet through a procurement practitioners group and now an URBACT local group (as part of the Procurement Network) to discuss how they are changing practice around procurement. 5) The supply chain of some of the anchors has been engaged to identify the wider impact they are bringing through the delivery of goods and services. Engagement has been sustained over the course of the last four years with the stakeholders described above.

    What difference has it made?

    The overall achievements of Preston have been: 1) It has positioned Preston as a progressive place for local economic development and addressing poverty. 2) It has led to a much more effective relationship within and between institutions in Preston. 3) It has enabled a range of baseline data to be collected about the existing impact of anchor institutions and the wider business base in Preston. 4) It has secured the buy-in of senior stakeholders and enabled the development of a collective statement of intent. 5) Through the analysis of where spend goes and in what sector, it has enabled a much greater understanding of Preston’s business base and those which could potentially deliver goods and services. 6) It has changed behaviour around procurement in each of the institutions and enabled enhanced impact. For example, the proportion of spending of Preston City Council with Preston-based businesses through procurement has increased from 14% to 28%. 7) It has recognised that this is a long-term approach to addressing key challenges. 8) It recognises the importance of scale when implementing wealth-building initiatives. 9) It has had an impact on addressing wider issues including low pay and deprivation. The core impact has been in the behaviour of anchor institutions and the realisation that spending analysis and procurement can be utilised as a lever or way in which challenges facing cities can be addressed. 10) The approach has enabled more effective engagement with SMEs and subsequently a greater proportion of SMEs being successful. 11) There is a more collective approach to not only delivering local economic benefits through procurement but also to Social Value. 6) It has changed behaviour around procurement in each of the institutions and enabled enhanced impact. For example, the proportion of spending of Preston City Council with Preston-based businesses through procurement has increased from 14% to 28%. 7) It has recognised that this is a long-term approach to addressing key challenges. 8) It recognises the importance of scale when implementing wealth-building initiatives. 9) It has had an impact on addressing wider issues including low pay and deprivation. The core impact has been in the behaviour of anchor institutions and the realisation that spending analysis and procurement can be utilised as a lever or way in which challenges facing cities can be addressed.

    Transferring the practice

    Over 2.5 years, Preston has led the Making Spend Matter network, transferring its practice to 6 other cities: Pamplona (Spain), Kavala (Greece), Bistriţa (Romania), Koszalin (Poland), Vila Nova de Famalicão (Portugal), Schaerbeek (Belgium). You can, in particular, check Koszalin’s Good practice here. The approach was based on Preston’s four areas of work adaptable to each city’s reality: Advanced Spend Analysis, Business Database Development, SME Capacity Building, and Social and Environmental Criteria. The final outputs are all available on the URBACT website.

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