• Playful Paradigm


    Kick-off meeting
    1st TN Meeting in Esplugues de Llobregat | 2nd TNM in Udine | 1st Customized Activity in Udine: Ludobus and Social Transformation | 2nd Customized Activity, Paris, Toy Libraries Study Visit | 3rd TNM in Klaipeda
    4th TNM Viana do Castelo | TNM Online (Parts 1+2+3) | Webinar "Network Management for Tackling the COVID Crisis" | Webinar "Public Procurement" | Webinar "Manifesto of Playful Cities" | Playful Paradigm to re-think cities (virtual session @ EURegionsWeek)
    Sharing Period | Final Event 20-21 April

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


    Municipality of Santiago de Compostela


    Municipality of Udine (Italy)


    Cities offer unique opportunities for addressing the challenges of urbanization, ageing, climate change, social exclusion, only if enabling, enjoyable places are co-created. This Transfer network aims to replicate the “playful paradigm” based on gamification as an innovative concept for promoting social inclusion, healthy lifestyles & energy awareness, intergenerational & cultural mediation, place-making & economic prosperity. Games offer new strategies for engaging city stakeholders in urban development.

    Games for inclusive, healthy and sustainable cities
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  • RU:RBAN Second Wave


    Kick off meeting
    Algeciras Transnational Meeting
    Alexandroupolis Transnational Meeting
    Carlow Transnational Meeting
    Split Transnational Meeting
    RU:RBAN 2nd Wave Final Event in Rome

    RU:RBAN's Good Practice is the Management model of Urban gardens in Rome to be transferred to newcomer cities that are geographically, historically and socio-culturally distant from each other, to ensure sharing of experiences to enhance the capacities of local governance. Transfer efforts will be ensured on the 3 well known and successful components the GP is divided into: 1. Capacity building, 2. Inspiring and training people to manage urban gardens (Gardenisers), 3. Governance & Regulations

    Urban agriculture for resilient cities
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  • Creation of a new NGO platform


    The new ‘Towns’ Living Room’, established by the municipality in a vacant building, involves the heads of the city administration, active citizens, social services, development agency, public library and nursing home, local clubs and various associations

    Tina Lisac
    Project Coordinator
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    Solutions offered by the good practice

    Fostering the engagement of inhabitants who are not in paid employment but have access to skills and resources to help support those in need, builds the capacity of civil society to engage with often complex social problems in a structured way. Altena founded its NGO platform in 2008 and called it Stellwerk. The Stellwerk started without a budget. The municipality made available premises, paid the energy and cleaning bills, provided a minimum of administrative resources. Currently the Stellwerk has 8 volunteer workers who co-ordinate several hundred volunteers providing disability support, arts and music groups, home visiting and home care services, refugee integration and much more. The Stellwerk provides an essential channel of communication between civil society and municipality.


    In February 2020, Idrija launched its new ‘Towns’ Living Room’: the municipality offered a vacant building to house a small ULG involving the heads of the city administration, active citizens, social services, development agency, public library and nursing home, local clubs and various associations.


    The ‘Towns’ Living Room’ links organisations with interested citizens if needed, but it is a “by the people for the people’’ model. Activities have already included events on housing and building refurbishment, chess classes, evening of poetry, book presentation, reading of fairy tales for children, knitting evening to raise breast cancer awareness and many more. It hosts services, such as a municipality supported volunteer based free transport service for elderly people and a book corner provided by the local library.

    Sustainable and integrated urban approach

    For successful transfer of good practice, it connected and established cooperation across different departments of a municipality. As well as also it strengthened the connection between local actors, NGOs and municipality.


    With the practice based on ‘people to people’ approach it also improves the quality of design and implementation of smaller local actions.


    Good practice works when there is trust established between all different parties – municipality, NGOs/volunteers, institutions and citizens.

    Participatory approach

    The practice is based on people, NGOs, volunteers that are encouraged by ULG. The coordination between all the elements was done by ULG coordinator. It includes all important stakeholders and interested citizens which is essential part of success of a practice based on ‘’people to people’’ approach. It uses bottom-up approach which leads to that people actually want to be part of good practice and want to give to community because they are having opportunity to fulfil their wishes and they actually have a say in what will happen.

    What difference has it made

    After official opening of the premises of the NGO platform (the "Towns living room’’) volunteers started to turn up. Ideas are coming in all the time which means that people are actually engaging and doing things on their own. There is also a wide acceptance now in public. At the start there were a lot of opinions about "just another project’’ and now those opinions are different and more in a way "we really needed that’’ "it is nice to have a place where we can do something’’. A lot of ideas are already on the list to do, and everyone is more confident now. With less Covid-19 restrictions the "Town living room" was able to open up again which resulted in a rich monthly program with different activities organized as well as giving people a place to hang out a bit without organized activities.

    Transferring the practice

    Idrija was one of the seven European cities (besides Manresa Spain, Igoumenitsa Greece, Isernia Italy, Melgaço Portugal, Aluksne Latvia, Nyírbátor Hungary) of the Re-grow City Transfer Network, led by Altena, Germany, to transfer the URBACT Good Practice of Altena on finding opportunities in declining cities. Some of the cities were transferring the NGO platform while others the Pop-up shops.


    This good practice has also been chosen as one of 5 URBACT National Practice Transfer Initiatives (NPTI) and will be transferred to 6 other Slovenian municipalities. The project is led by Slovenian NUP, with Tina Lisac as national expert.


    Equipped by URBACT with a toolkit, the cities could learn from the good practice and also from each other.


    Re-grow City deliberately focused on small and medium sized towns, because they face distinctive challenges in terms of constrained resources and limited technical capabilities when compared to larger cities. These constraints offer opportunities, however, for example robust social networks with high levels of ‘social capital’ and short decision making routes that speed up the adoption of untested or controversial methods. Taken together with the resources and skills local people have, shrinking cities are places of opportunity and can demonstrate considerable resilience even where they face severe constraints.


    As a side-outcome of the Re-Grow City network, in May 2021 the new pan-European network ReGrow Towns has been established. This is aimed for towns below the size of 50 th residents and is an addendum to the already existing networks of Eurocities (cities above 250 th residents) and Eurotowns (cities between 50-250 th residents).

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    • Kick off meeting online
    • Next Agri Bilateral meeting Almere - online
    • Next Agri Bilateral Meeting Vila Nova de Gaia - online
    • Next Agri Bilateral meeting Stara Zagora - online
    • First transnational meeting in Almere - online
    • Second transnational meeting in Stara Zagora - online
    • Third Transnational Meeting in Vila Nova de Gaia
    • Field visit to Milan
    • Transnational meeting and field visit in Almere

    • NEXT AGRI site visit

      Why the Transfer Mechanism does not work without sites visits

    • UTM capacity building meeting in Paris

      Capacity building and URBACT Method: updates from the Paris meeting

      The first meeting in person after 2 years of pandemic has been a very powerful tool to empower URBACT Transfer Mechanism pilots. Next Agri partners met in Paris at the URBACT capacity building meeting with the aim of exchanging experiences and estate of the art of the project

    • URBACT City Festival 2022 sign

      Let's talk about food: the conference at the URBACT City Festival 2022

      From 14 to 16 June 2022 at La Cité Fertile in Pantin, Greater Paris, the URBACT City Festival returned in live format. This edition was inspired by European cities’ actions for climate and sustainable integrated urban development. This year’s edition was the first carbon-neutral URBACT programme-level event.

    The NEXT AGRI UIA - URBACT Transfer Mechanism pilot network builds from the experience of Milan. The city decided to set up an urban coalition with a series of partners to scale up this positioning in the peri-urban agricultural industry, setting up a stable growth and creating new jobs and skills. The project is mainly an urban policy experimentation that follows the place-based approach, focusing on new skills for new jobs in peri-urban agriculture. The project area can be defined as an “urban fringe”, representing the transition zone between the consolidated part of the city and the agricultural lands.This project aims at transfer to other 3 cities the processes and strategies implemented to create a favorable environment to develop new opportunities in the food system transformation in the urban and per urban agriculture sector.

    Innovative approaches in periurban agriculture territories
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  • Making integrated urban development more manageable

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    How can cities improve their plans for integrated urban development?

    Urban planning

    By recognising its complexity and breaking it down into its component concepts cities can better manage integrated urban development. One of the findings of the recent study of URBACT cities’ Integrated Action Plans (IAP Study) was that cities need to fully understand, but also break down, the complexity of ‘integrated urban development’ in order to better take on the challenge of systematically improving their approaches.

    Integrated Urban Development: a challenging concept

    Previous efforts by URBACT to communicate what 'integrated urban development' means have typically focused on the ideas of ‘horizontal’ and ‘vertical’ integration. These are useful concepts for enabling a general understanding of the topic, but the IAP Study found that practical efforts to both improve and assess the integration of an urban action plan require more detailed definitions.

    ‘Horizontal integration’ potentially incorporates: diverse policy areas/sectors; different locations and spatial relationships; the diversity of local stakeholder groups; and the balancing of economic, social and environmental objectives. Thus, the apparently simple question “is this action plan horizontally integrated?” becomes extremely difficult and complex to answer in practice. The various dimensions mean that a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’ is not enough.

    Meanwhile, ‘vertical integration’ between levels of governance can refer variously to the engagement of decision-makers and stakeholders, the alignment of strategies and the mobilisation of funds from different levels. Once again, the question of whether an action plan is vertically integrated or not becomes complex and nuanced and does not lend itself to a simple answer.

    In this context, it is perhaps unsurprising that the IAP Study found that cities were often struggling to process and communicate the complexity they were dealing with in trying to deliver integrated approaches to urban development.

    The Integrated Action Plan of Medina del Campo (ES) from the CityCentreDoctor network describes the revitalisation of the city centre “as an integrated process. Integrated because it includes social, economic, environmental, cultural and institutional areas.” This definition does not really do justice to the level of integration demonstrated. In fact, the IAP shows coordination between sectors, across locations and spatial relationships, between levels of governance and with stakeholder groups, as well as between economic, social and environmental aspects.

    The need for a clear and detailed definition

    For some IAPs then, the lack of a clear and detailed definition of ‘integration’ affected their ability to fully communicate the complexity of their plans. However, for many, the lack of such a definition also increased the risks that certain aspects of integration would be missed.

    In conducting its analysis, the IAP Study found that the picture was extremely varied across and within the IAPs. Sometimes aspects of integration were clearly addressed. Sometimes they were addressed, but not clearly or not fully. Sometimes they did not seem to be addressed at all. And when they were missing, it was not clear if this was an oversight or an intentional decision not to focus on an aspect not considered to be of importance.

    For example, we can consider the IAP of Södertälje (SE) from the AGRI-URBAN network. This is generally an excellent example of an integrated action plan, which is presented extremely clearly and demonstrates various aspects of integration as well as good practice in stakeholder engagement and transnational exchange. However, unlike some other IAPs, it does not mention cooperation with neighbouring municipalities in developing actions. It is not totally clear if this potential aspect of a fully integrated approach to food policy was not considered or not deemed relevant.

    Meanwhile, the IAP of Strasbourg (FR) from the BoostINNO network does not set out actions that are integrated across sectors or that address different locations or spatial relationships within the city. This might seem like a major omission. However, given that its whole approach is to foster social innovation across all aspects of work and across the whole of the city, it is perhaps both understandable and legitimate that its actions are focused on governance aspects that lack sectorial and spatial dimensions.

    What these two examples show is that it is not enough to simply observe the presence or omission of one of the aspects of integration in order to assess the quality of the integration. It is important to also have an understanding of whether this aspect of integration is relevant and/or a priority in the specific case being addressed. Integrated action plans should ideally explain their choices clearly.

    Six aspects of integrated urban development

    The IAP Study strongly advocates that cities carry out a more systematic approach to developing their approaches to integrated urban development. This will not only enable cities to build a fuller picture of the complexity of integrated urban development, but also to do so in a way that is manageable in practice – by dealing with each of its component parts in turn.

    The IAP Study identified six aspects of ‘integrated urban development’ that all towns and cities should consider when working to improve the integration of their approaches in practice. These six aspects were mainly identified by separating out the various dimensions of horizontal and vertical integration demonstrated by cities. They also include the overarching elements of: the need for sustainable approaches and the involvement of stakeholders in implementation (in addition to consultation in the planning).

    Six aspects of integrated urban development

    1. Sustainable urban development - actions address all three pillars of sustainable development in terms of economic, social and environmental objectives
    2. Sectorial integration – addressing the full range of policies/sectors of activity, including infrastructure, transport, employment, education, green spaces, housing, culture…
    3. Local spatial integration – coherence of actions in different locations within the city and considering overall spatial coherence within and across locations and neighbourhoods
    4. Territorial integration – coherence and complementarity of actions and policies implemented by neighbouring municipalities
    5. Multi-level governance – actions are planned coherently at different levels of governance, covering local (district, city), regional and national levels
    6. Stakeholder involvement in implementation - the full range of relevant stakeholders are engaged in the implementation of planned actions

    Systematically addressing this list can help ensure that cities do not forget to give environment and social objectives equal billing in their plans and to demonstrate this clearly. It can encourage them to think about spatial dimensions within their city and integration beyond the scope of their municipality – whether with neighbouring municipalities or different levels of governance. The list can also ensure that cities do not forget to include stakeholders in the implementation of their plans – beyond a simply consultative role.

    Practical differences in applying integrated approaches

    Working systematically through the aspects of integrated urban development does not mean that each city has to plan actions on each or become somehow formulaic in its response. The systematic approach means only that cities need to consider improving their integration in each aspect and make a conscious decision on how to address it. This is why a quality planning process is such a crucial pre-requisite to effective integrated urban development and also why no two integrated action plans will ever be the same.

    For example, in the IAP of Szombathely (HU) from the MAPS network, the actions show a good level of integration of sectorial and spatial dimensions focused within the city limits, principally on the site of the former military barracks that is targeted. The plan balances economic, social and environmental aspects and engages stakeholders well. However, the study found no evidence of coordination with neighbouring municipalities and little evidence of multi-level governance. This might be justifiable, but the plan might be stronger if it explicitly addressed such potential.

    A very different example is provided by the IAP of Cluj (RO) from the REFILL network. The focus of the network on vacant spaces leads the city to prioritise governance aspects that will facilitate temporary use. This focus on governance rather than physical interventions leads to very different strategic choices in developing its integrated action plan. For example, there is no particular sectorial dimension to the actions planned – rather, such aspects will need to be considered in the actual implementation of temporary use that the action plan seeks to facilitate.

    A final example here is the IAP of Antwerp (BE) from the sub>urban network. The plan presents actions across multiple relevant sectors, with a strong spatial dimension and specific actions to collaborate with neighbouring municipalities. This fits quite logically with the focus of the network on the urban fringe. However, the IAP is less clear about its specific approach to multi-level governance and what potential this might have to improve the approaches developed.

    What seems clear from the IAP Study is that there are no objectively right or wrong answers when it comes to developing more integrated approaches. The topic addressed has a major impact on the aspects of integration that cities need to prioritise, with the strongest difference being between topics that are focused on a specific physical space (e.g. revitalisation of a city centre or former military site) and topics that address a way of working (e.g. supporting social innovation or promoting temporary use). However, a more systematic approach to addressing each aspect of integration can ensure that no dimensions are missed and that cities are able to show and justify their strategic choices.

    Focusing on the journey towards more integrated approaches

    A concluding message for cities and those that work with them is that this approach to integrated urban development is relevant and can be applied to all cities, no matter their starting point and previous experience with integrated approaches.

    When addressing any topic or challenge, every city can reflect on the six aspects of integrated urban development and ask itself where it can improve the integration of its approach and add value. For cities that are new to integrated approaches or new to a topic, this might mean choosing some limited priority areas of action rather than attempting to do everything at once.

    The IAP of Klaipeda (LT) from the Gen-Y City network shows an approach where such clear strategic choices were made. It states that “ULG Group members decided to narrow the initial version of the Integrated Action Plan and to focus on the main objective and related measures for attracting and retaining talents in Klaipeda”. The strong focus of its actions on supporting freelancers aims to fill a particular gap identified in the existing service provision. The ongoing challenge for the city will be to add additional dimensions to make the approach ever more integrated over time.

    More experienced cities can still look at their existing approaches and identify areas where the integration can be improved. Maybe they have missed one dimension in their plans so far. Maybe some aspects could be dealt with in more depth, integrating yet more stakeholders or additional sectors or improving the multi-level governance. Most action plans could improve the rigour with which they show the balance between economic, social and environmental objectives.

    There is no such thing as a perfectly integrated action plan. The important thing, wherever a city is on its own pathway, is to be constantly seeking improvement and reflecting with stakeholders on where it can still further improve the integration of its approaches, using the six aspects of integrated urban development as a guide.


    For more information on cities’ differing approaches to integrated urban development in practice, see the 7 illustrative case studies of URBACT cities’ Integrated Action Plans, along with the full IAP Study report, findings and recommendations.

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  • Participatory approach in creating City Strategic Development Plan

    Czech Republic

    Involving citizens in urban planning for sustainable change.

    Ondrej Dostál
    Strategic Planning Specialist
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    In 2016, the City of Ostrava (CZ) developed a Strategic Development Plan for 2017-2023. The uniqueness of this process lays in communication and involving citizens under a new, unified brand “fajnOVA”, meaning “fine Ostrava” in Czech. Having a plan made for and by the citizens, ensures that the city vision lives in people's minds, not just on paper. It also ensures a sustainable long-term vision that should be less exposed to political change. In addition to the 250 experts from various fields of urban development, 20,000 residents and visitors of Ostrava have been actively involved. This is by far a unique citizens’ involvement in public decision-making that the Czech Republic has ever seen.

    The solutions offered by the good practice

    Our good practice describes an effective method of integrated and participative approach, in the preparation of the City Strategic Plan as an example of sustainable development city planning. For some cities, it can be an inspiration, for others a baseline that can be developed. The main benefit is the expectation of a permanently fulfilling vision of the city over a long-term period (until 2023 or 2030), which should be independent from political changes and the four-year election period. Moreover, having a high quality Strategic Plan enables more conceptual urban planning within the city in various fields of development, which makes it easier to choose, realise and communicate the best projects for the city.

    Building on the sustainable and integrated approach

    Broader participation and engagement of key stakeholders and citizens have gained greater importance in the entire process. The portfolio of participating stakeholders was very wide. The goal was to get together people from different fields of urban and sustainable development in working groups, a steering committee or in individual interviews on topics such as city development and infrastructure, growth and city government, people and communities, environment and resources, vision and image, architecture and urbanism, implementation, connected city or metropolitan city (e.g. representatives of National Heritage Institute, Confederation of Industry of Czech Republic, Zoo, Hospital, Library, Regional Development Agency, city clubs, SMEs, investors, Cultural and Education Centre, Agency for Social Inclusion, Science & Technology Park, Labour Office of Czech Republic, universities, high schools, basic schools, Institute for Community developer, Parish, IT companies, Automotive Cluster, Regional Employment Pact, architects, Czech Environmental Inspectorate, Health Institute, Institute for Global Change Research, NGOs, architects, environmental experts, industrial factories, city council and assembly members, city district mayors, mayor from cities in agglomeration, regional governor, Government Office, Member of European Parliament, etc.). All their thoughts and statements were written down during the sessions, and used in the text of the Strategic document.

    Based on a participatory approach

    The new Strategic Plan is not a “document put in a drawer”, but involves many experts and citizens of Ostrava. Work started with creating a communication and participation plan, and setting the goal of involving 5,000 citizens of Ostrava. At the end of 2016, more than 20,000 people were involved, which is exceptional within the Czech Republic, maybe within Central Europe as a whole. The planning process was coordinated by the steering committee of City Council members, as well as other experts and inspirational leaders. The same pattern was used in working groups focused on specific fields (the involvement of political opponents turned out to be very useful). The Plan was created with contributions from more than 20 000 people, both citizens and visitors to Ostrava. 6 800 people completed a questionnaire giving their opinions on Ostrava, 8 000 people put 32 000 comments into emotional maps in streets and participated in debates, 1 200 people put 15 300 comments into the online emotional map, 250 experts were involved in working groups or interviews, 500 people sent us their ideas for projects and suggestions for the Strategic plan, and more than 3 250 people are member of the Facebook community. During the creation of the Strategic Plan, we published project proposals online. Anyone can send us ideas for projects in Ostrava until 2023, when the most strategic ideas will be implemented.

    What difference has it made?

    Created as a communication tool for the preparation and implementation phases of the strategic plan, the "fajnOVA" brand combines two key elements: “fajn”, a local dialect word meaning “fine” and pronounced like the English word “fine", and OVA, a commonly used abbreviation of the city name. Today, the "fajnOVa" brand has a positive image and is understood as a communication and participation tool informing about new projects and city plans, as well as a participation platform where citizens can get involved in public life and supporting communities. The brand helps changing the negative perception of public administration in the Czech Republic. During the process, we managed to involve 20 000 citizens, which is a remarkable achievement for a Czech city. Another exception was the active participation of the mayor, who was not only formally head of the whole process, but personally and proactively led most of the working groups. The 2016 City Council partly reallocated the city budget for the realisation of future strategic projects. Nowadays, we are invited to many experts and public meetings to present our good practice. Our experience from the participative process is reproduced by other Czech cities, and we share it through regular departmental meetings on strategic development.

    Why should other European cities use it?

    It is crucial for cities to have their own development strategies, or city plans, and help local stakeholders and decision makers to implement strategies that will contribute to the city's future economy, sustainability and overall health, hence citizens' wellbeing and happiness. City planning can be done differently. The participatory approach chosen by the city of Ostrava proved successful, with broad reach and popularity among citizens, and with high expectations from everyone involved in its development, mainly in sustaining and implementing the Plan. The entire preparation process of the plan has been collaboratively carried out by the City Council, staff, external consultants, residents, visitors and local businesses. A number of various communication and participation tools have been used, and participants were invited to comment on the draft before the plan was wrapped up to its final form, and approved by the City Council. As every bigger city has strategic development documents and plans, we believe that since Ostrava has been an inspiration for many Czech cities in want of incorporating a participative process in the City Strategic Plan preparation, we might take the chance and foster our good practice beyond our borders.

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  • Arts District

    The conversion of a central decaying area into an innovative district
    Pedro Marín Cots
    Director of the Urban Environmental Observatory (OMAU)
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    The Arts District of Soho in Málaga (ES) has become the city's new art and urban culture reference area. A 2010 citizens' initiative was the starting point to this urban regeneration process. The Arts District is located between the harbour and the old town, which faced depopulation and misuses of public spaces, two growing issues for the inhabitants. 
    The project was led hand-in-hand with neighbours, artists and business holders, on a strong participative basis. Soho has come to shape its new identity, boosting and diversifying the local economy, allowing the development of all arts thanks to cultural events, and by offering more public space for citizen use. 

    The solutions offered by the good practice

    1. A promotional programme. This involves actions for disseminating the Soho Arts District project. Part of these activities relate to branding such as a contest for the logotype, a campaign called “In the core of Málaga, Soho beats”, a gastronomic route, etc., while others relate to social media marketing, intending to spread the Soho Arts District idea to visitors and tourists through a web page and social media (Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, etc.). There has also been a wide range of cultural events such as music performances, theatre, workshops, concerts and exhibitions, aiming at attracting as many spectators as possible - neighbours and inhabitants of other districts as well as visitors, with the involvement of the neighbourhood’s cultural managers. 2. An urban design adaptation programme. Related to mobility and accessibility, works have been carried out to give priority to pedestrians and disabled people. New street lights with an innovative design and LED-technology have been installed in order to enhance security and save energy, and make the area more friendly and usable. Other ongoing actions are gardening, street furniture, new pavements, etc. 3. A programme for attracting activities and consolidating existing ones. • Online Real Estate Listing, with available offices and commercial spaces; • Commercial file, Businesses Bank of Ideas; • Grants and subsidies for implementing or renovating businesses.

    Building on the sustainable and integrated approach

    Regarding development, the Soho Project is a paradigmatic case of co-design and close collaboration between different stakeholders of the city. The sustainable and integrated approach is reflected in the Master Plan, which unites the different sides and phases of the project, and provides the basis of the public and private participation methodology. Social and economic actions in an integrated way define the key guideline of the plan. Local stakeholders, neighbours and institutions have worked together on common targets and actions such as: • The implementation of innovative business ideas (e.g. the Bank of Ideas), intended to engage newcomer entrepreneurs and keep the existing ones; • A multitude of events with the common thread of art and culture, e.g. an urban art display with the involvement of local and international artists (MAUS programme), in order to give shape to and showcase the identity of the Arts District. In the process of design and execution of the enhancement of public spaces, sustainability focused on environment has also been taken into account and carried out with the participation of neighbours and local agents on the Technical Boards. This process resulted in the use of space in an inclusive manner, a huge increase of pedestrian areas, universal design criteria and energy-saving measures like the installation of LED street lighting.

    Based on a participatory approach

    The project itself started as a citizens’ initiative. The implementation of the Soho project arises from the elaboration of a Master Plan, which provides the basis of the public and private participation proceedings. This framework is linked to a strategic planning process, where joint decisions regarding promotional actions, urban design, art interventions and activity consolidation are made. The process sums up needs and concerns of all represented groups in the neighbourhood. Within the participation process, two bodies were created for the representation of citizens and institutional stakeholders involved in the work teams: the Soho Art District Assembly, and the Technical Work Boards. Since then, 20 meetings have taken place. The Assembly was open to neighbours keen on joining the process. This has been a dynamic and effectively participative body which included citizen’s participation. It has addressed their proposals to the Technical Work Committees City Council and was represented in the Technical Work Committees by staff from different departments, such as the Urban Planning Department, Urban Environment Observatory, Energy Agency, Culture Department, Training and Employment Agency and Welfare Department Beneficiaries. Citizens have also taken part in the process. For example, the “In the core of Málaga, Soho beats” branding campaign presented neighbours and business holders in the district, who shared their experience and acknowledged the benefits of settling in the area.

    What difference has it made?

    The district has now successfully brought about its self-identity, by the innovative businesses settled, the fancy bars and restaurants and the casual aura of its pedestrian streets. More than 150 enterprises have settled in the area in the last 7 years, and more than 20 have moved to a new space. More than 20 new culture-related enterprises have been created (50 new jobs), plus 12 existing ones which are profiting from the new environment. Some of the previously existing businesses now connect their main activity to cultural ones. Bars and restaurants are getting a social-cultural touch: more than 12 enhance their usual business with activities such as art exhibitions, theatre, music performances, cooking courses, etc. The Alfonso Canales square has been secured for the public. Located at the edge of the neighbourhood facing the harbour, it used to be a dark space full of high bushes that gave a sense of insecurity. The intervention opened up the space and added paths, inviting people to enter the Soho. Nowadays, people walk through the gardens and get across the Soho towards the old town. Over 12,000 m2 of streets have now pedestrian use, 766 m2 are provided with ecologic pavements in the garden area, plus 1,008 m2 of newly planted areas (364 specimen plants). The new cityscape, the increased mobility for pedestrians, bicycles and disabled people, the improvement of security and arising of activity, are evidence of this project's success.

    Why should other European cities use it?

    We think that this practice is interesting for other cities. Many have to face similar challenges, such as misuse or depopulation of central areas suffering from out-of-date or lacking activity. There is actually a background of transferability in the development of the Soho project, shown in the Morocco-Spain Cross-Border programme framework. A technical datasheet was created for collecting data, in order to identify and compare possible Arts Districts. This datasheet was filled in by our Moroccan partners who were invited to point out possible actuation areas. Based on this information, a report on Arts Districts for Moroccan cities was made, including the study and analysis of the proposed areas in regard of social, economic, inheritance-related and cultural indicators. For example, the report concluded that the Florido district in the city of Alhucemas was the most suitable to become an Arts District. As long as the Soho project relies on the principles of Integrated Sustainable Urban Development, it is plainly transferable, but its tools and procedures used in the process can also be useful: the collaboration of all stakeholders involved, the focus on the self-identity, the grants and advice provided, etc. Furthermore, Soho is an award-winning project: • 1st Spanish city in the Google Art Virtual Gallery; • Creative Spanish Cup; • Gold cultural event in Event Plus Prizes 2014; • Agripina Prize best cultural event 2014; • 2nd prize in the Auralia Awards for the lighting system.
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  • Urban evolution towards resilience


    The successful story of a city's transformation strategy

    Asier Abaunza Robles
    Deputy Councellor of the Urban Planning Area
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    In 80 years, Bilbao has transformed itself from an obsolete industrial city into a knowledge-based economic centre. Investments in infrastructure have successfully rejuvenated the city and resulted in better social cohesion. A wide range of single interventions in the fields of the environment (the clean-up of the Nervion river), mobility (the underground's construction) and culture (the building of the Guggenheim Museum) have been integrated into a coherent vision. The implementation of these projects was possible thanks to a combination of different mechanisms: a perspective on urban development that goes beyond the city's limits, a multisector governance involving both the public and private actors, and an inclusive public participation. 

    The solutions offered by the good practice

    Bilbao's urban evolution is the result of a wide range of single interventions integrated into a common, agreed and coherent city vision. Some interventions stand out for being not only emblematic, but for acting as catalysts in the development process. a) Environmental restoration of the heavily polluted waters of the Nervion river and estuary. b) Elimination of railway barriers and obsolete associated infrastructures, releasing public space for multiple uses c) Improvement of mobility and accessibility by means of the construction of the underground, the tram and new bridges. d) Massive regeneration of urban public space and social housing development in the river banks in Abando- Ibarra, with the construction of the Guggenheim museum as an outstanding landmark. The implementation of those projects was possible thanks to the combination of different mechanisms: a) A supra-municipal perspective of urban development, i.e. consideration of the interventions in the context of Bilbao's metropolitan functional area b) Multisector (horizontal) and multilevel (vertical) governance approach with different formulas and ad hoc public-public and public-private partnerships in place. c) Public administrations at all levels participating and contributing with a land property, resulting from abandoned infrastructures and industrial uses. d) Truly inclusive and open public participation, facilitated by external professionals in the context of the Plan for Urban Zoning.

    Building on the sustainable and integrated approach

    Bilbao's urban evolution has built upon the principles of sustainability, resilience, inclusive urban development and regeneration. Bilbao has used a holistic and integrated approach in order to cope with its social challenges (poverty reduction, social exclusion), its environmental problems and the loss of competitiveness in the context of a deep economic decline. The transformation strategy relies on one hand on the horizontal integration of interventions that combine physical, economic, social, environmental and climate resilience dimensions, and on the other hand vertical integration with a multi-stakeholder cooperation at all levels of government and local players (local administration, civil society, private sector, etc.), between different levels of governance (local, regional national, EU), and finally territorial integration of interventions in the functional urban area represented in the Bilbao Metropolitan Area. The city strategy aims at contributing to the objectives of the EU Operative Program of Sustainable Growth: OT2: Smart City approach in the field of mobility and lighting. OT4: Boosting the transition to a low carbon economy OT6: Rehabilitation of urban areas, and greening of urban spaces towards flood risk reduction OT9: Development of cultural, social and entrepreneur activities in old and disused industrial facilities OT11: Developing institutional capacity, and promoting efficiency in public administration.

    Based on a participatory approach

    Since the post-industrial transformation governance, the lessons learned materialised in a mature, robust, transparent and truly social participatory and inclusive planning process. Open public participation facilitated by external professionals has been incorporated by the municipality in the context of the Plan for Urban Zoning, as a key component of the continuous urban regeneration and transformation process. The progress of the new General Plan of Urban Zoning is open to participation, allowing a redefinition of the city model for the next years. Many participation processes have been carried out, and were nourished with contributions and suggestions concerning the articulation of the city transformation strategy. Bilbao offers a multisector and multilevel governance approach with different formulas in place, depending on the needs of each project and intervention.

    A) Public-public partnership: in the early 1990s, Bilbao Ria 2000, an ad hoc public company, was created for the land management and urban regeneration operations in metropolitan Bilbao. It represented an effective framework to align government, business and the community towards a shared vision for the city.

    B) Public-private partnership. For a project such as the Zorrotzaurre Peninsula, an alternative model was created, namely the Commission Management.

    What difference has it made?

    The experience of Bilbao as a comprehensive city project, incrementally executed through more than 25 urban projects over 30 years and still ongoing, has achieved a profound transformation of the city. Bilbao has significantly improved its environment and quality of life, strengthened its social cohesiveness and cultural vibrancy and also increased its economic competitiveness. Strong GDP growth: from € 6 695m in 1980 to € 66.208m in 2009. Industrial strength: Creation and/or consolidation of Advanced Technology Centres such as Tecnalia and IK4. Investment in R+D: 2.1% of the GDP, exceeding the EU average Good Governance: zero debt. Tourist evolution: from 24.302 visitors in 1994 to 734.215 in 2012. More than a 50% increase in visitor numbers between 1997-2012, linked to the city's cultural services and attractiveness.

    Why should other European cities use it?

    The good practice offered by Bilbao provides evidence of the effective performance of single interventions implemented over the years, which interrelate among them towards the construction of a common and agreed vision of the city. Bilbao has faced, and faces today, the urban challenges common in other cities across Europe (i.e. improving environmental quality and climate resilience, social cohesion and inclusion, economic prosperity and quality of life in general terms). However, the most interesting aspect of Bilbao's good practice is that it also offers an urban development pathway with key elements that have been proved successful towards sustainable, territorially coherent, socially accepted, resilient, long-term and still ongoing transformation. Those key elements are: • An integrated and holistic approach to achieve economic, social and physical transformations; • A multi-stakeholder management approach: considering ad hoc formulas attending different needs at different moments in the process; • A feasible financial operation: public landowners releasing land in central areas of the city, investing in construction and/or housing. Capital gains obtained are invested in regeneration of former industrial areas; • A robust, truly participative and sustainable public policy framework. In this context, the Plan for Urban Zoning assures, consolidates and allows a common, long-term and coherent vision for the future in the city.

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  • Holistic method for urban regeneration


    A clear vision and a participatory approach are more important than a masterplan for urban regeneration.

    Anne Juel Andersen
    Project Manager
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    130 853


    Local collaboration is the key in this model, put forward by the Municipality of Aalborg (DK). The concerned two Aalborg neighbourhoods are situated outside the area of dynamic urban development growth, both had severe reputation and identity problems, and they were not seen as attractive residential areas. The rethinking process has shown their potential much clearer. Strategic plans focused on visions and action plans, including investments and partnerships, are main outputs of the practice. This has been developed through a ’rethinking’ process, including both physical environments, local network and cohesion, as well as storytelling and identity. Local and political ownership and partnerships, with trustful relations between the municipality, local stakeholders and investors, have been developed. This has brought security for investors, which is very important for the sustainable regeneration process.

    The solutions offered by the good practice

    In Skalborg, the solution was the renewal of land use and strategic plans focused on visions and action, with cohesion and much better internal connections. This was reinforced by an important communication effort. In Tornhøj, the solutions have been structural changes, by opening up closed enclaves and by connecting different built-up areas, people and functions with new mobility solutions. The different investor partners have committed themselves to work for the common vision. Both neighbourhoods were built up in the golden age of the welfare state to provide separation of functions, good housing and an equal supply of public service for everybody. Now, they seem worn and out-dated, as the society and its dominating values have changed. The main goal for both areas has been developing unique urban neighbourhoods that provide quality everyday life for people. The new plans focus not only on potential areas for new housing densification, with new types of housing which are needed, but also on a potential for businesses, which can be integrated with housing in local centres. The process has been focused on communication and dialogue to create trustful relations and partnerships. Temporary activities, used strategically, have created very concrete and visible successes, and common identity in the area.

    Building on the sustainable and integrated approach

    In Tornhøj, the process started with a competition focusing on sustainable urban living. It developed a strategy for feasibility and new mobility to connect the neighbourhood and increase public transport, creating a ‘main street’ as the backbone for various users - pedestrians, cyclists and a new public driverless bus -, and an attractive urban space which includes not only housing, but also public institutions and other workplaces. Tornhøj is a socially vulnerable neighbourhood, and it has been crucial to rethink the area for the existing citizens in order to provide them with a sense of community and belonging, along with an invitation of new segment groups. In Skalborg, the project was also about improving the physical surroundings for its inhabitants' everyday life. An important part of the vision is to create a local centre for the whole neighbourhood, with a spread of service functions including grocery shops and attractive meeting places. The approach has been integrated and participative. The holistic approach is altogether the key point in the model. Horizontal integration has been the point in the cross-disciplinary work, not the least between different public sectors. Vertical integration is used in the dialogue between local school children and other groups of citizens, at different levels of government and politicians. Territorial integration is present when the vision process touches the role of the neighbourhood in the city and city region.

    Based on a participatory approach

    In Tornhøj, citizen involvement took place by workshops, guided walks with selected focus group workshops with representatives of the civic association, a local community office etc. A game was accomplished where consensus was made on activities in the urban spaces etc. Several temporary activities were carried out, which triggered involvement and good attention to the project. In Skalborg, communication plays a central role. The civic association, the social housing association and the local institutions play an important role as the community's cornerstones. Many citizens attended the introductory meetings and workshops. Key persons and the civic association were directly involved, and the executive committee in the local civic association was an active partner in the ongoing process. The temporary activities have been involving people in the neighbourhoods. In Skalborg, a dark and unpleasant pedestrian tunnel under the main road Hobrovej, which is a huge barrier splitting the area in two, was painted by hundreds of schoolchildren under the guidance of a professional street artist. The opening of this fantastically coloured tunnel was a big event which brought together children, parents and the area neighbours. The result is a much more inviting passageway. Even if the barrier problem is not solved yet, awareness of the traffic and solutions for safer ways especially for school children has come on the agenda.

    What difference has it made?

    Listed below are the most important projects to be realised in Tornhøj: • A narrow pedestrian tunnel is transformed into a broad path under a bridge. This project is closely connected to a new urban space; • A new café will open in an existing building, facing the new “main street”; • A new, driverless bus connection along the new main road (a pilot project with varied funding); • A new public care home for people suffering from dementia; • New grocery shops, cafés and different types of housing (including rental and ownership, as well as housing for elderly, young and families). The neighbourhood regeneration around Tornhøj into a new and sustainable suburb centre is in full swing. The renewal is both physical, social/functional and mental, as new stories about the area are changing its identity. The Skalborg project is some years “behind” the project in Tornhøj, but many goals have been reached so far, due to the strategic plan which gives security for investors. New collaborations, and a positive energy about the neighbourhood, did arise. • Two housing projects under development: two very visible corners in the city that will become landmarks; • The decoration of the tunnel under Hobrovej, which had a large impact and created big media coverage; • The project of a new local centre is starting up now.

    Why should other European cities use it?

    We think that the model could be interesting for many other European cities with similar neighbourhoods. First of all, the overall goal of creating synergy using existing, limited resources and attracting interest from investors will be shared by many cities. The use of a commitment process, focusing on special identities and storytelling in each neighbourhood, is involving citizens and pays attention to development possibilities. The model and methods employed can be inspiring for cities that also face safety and urban structure issues, negative storytelling and social exclusion in certain neighbourhoods. The model can be adjusted to different urban situations or actors, to their resources and those of the municipality. Some good advice on "how to": • Get hold of possible investors and initiate a dialogue; • An “opening picture” can be a method for dialogue about the future; • Register and involve, interview key partners and local associations; • Identify cooperation will in the neighbourhood, and bring people together; • Communicate broadly, and in many different ways; • Discuss the identity and future of the neighbourhood; • Use a small amount of money on temporary activities; • Arrange events and short-term activities, which generates new and positive stories about the community.

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  • Community building and neighbourhood renewal


    A case of revitalising degraded residential urban neighbourhoods through community planning

    Sanja Kožman
    Offcie for Environment and Spatial Planning
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    The renewal and revitalisation of Planina neighbourhood in Kranj (SI) implemented a sustainable urban strategy and brought new life to a degraded residential urban neighbourhood, according to the needs and ideas of its residents. The project focuses on integrated solutions to reduce environmental, transport and economic problems, issues of urban poverty, social exclusion and segregation, with the aim of strengthening social cohesion. It enables a comprehensive, participatory and integrated attitude of all stakeholders, bringing together the expertise and experience of the actors involved. It supports the economical use of (public) land and the transition towards rational use of energy while encouraging the cooperation between the city and the state. The project is concrete, transferable and proven in practice.

    The solutions offered by the good practice

    The project represents an effective tool for the implementation of measures planned by the sustainable urban strategy for Kranj. For this purpose, we have developed various tools for gathering information about the residents’ needs and wishes, as well as various methods of working with the residents through project-based learning. We have given them some space and time for an in-depth consideration of the quality of living conditions in their neighbourhood. They had the chance to get to know the status of ownership for individual areas of the neighbourhood, as well as become familiar with the notion of the general good. They could learn about the competencies and responsibilities of stakeholders and actors in their neighbourhood. A positive effect of this was that the residents know now who they can turn to when they have a certain question or problem. We have established close cooperation between the residents and the municipal authorities, public services, non-governmental organisations and other important actors in the neighbourhood or in the municipality. We have provided small sums of financial support to carry out a planned project, so that the residents could have an experience of working together in planning and implementing the improvements that they wish to make. This is how they could directly address concrete challenges and contribute to a better quality of life in the neighbourhood.

    Building on the sustainable and integrated approach

    The project supports the efficiency of urban governance and the implementation of sustainable urban strategies, offering citizens and relevant stakeholders (municipal and government bodies, economy, professional public, civil society, etc.) a comprehensive, integrated, innovative and participatory approach to tackling complex urban problems. It contains various polycentric development policies of the municipality (social, economic, environmental policies, policies of spatial planning and infrastructure, housing, educational policies, etc.) that are aimed at identifying the challenges with the goal of finding appropriate solutions for the renewal and revitalisation of degraded urban areas, in line with the values and principles of a sustainable urban life: stimulating economic growth and the creation of new jobs, improving the quality of life for citizens/residents while reducing the environmental footprint, and taking effective measures for reducing urban poverty and social exclusion.

    Based on a participatory approach

    Several groups of people were able to benefit from the results of the participatory approach: residents of different age groups participated in planning and assumed active roles and responsibility for the development of their neighbourhood. The sense of connectedness is increasing and there is less vandalism as public surfaces are becoming more attractive and are used more frequently by the residents. Greater optimism and a positive attitude toward an improved quality of life in the neighbourhood can be noticed in posts on social networks and in conversations with the residents. There is an increase in the number of various activities and events in the neighbourhood, organised by the residents and different organisations. The neighbourhood is becoming more and more interesting for establishing business initiatives and its public image is improving. Cooperation among residents, experts and several organisations was established on the national and international levels. We examined the project together with different representatives of the professional public and they confirmed that it is innovative and that it takes into account the principles and the value of sustainable urban development. We have set an example of good practice that is becoming more and more recognizable on the national level and with which the Ministry of the Environment and Spatial Planning wishes to encourage the renewal and revitalisation of degraded residential neighbourhoods in other towns.

    What difference has it made?

    The most relevant result of the project is the comprehensive plan for community programmes of neighbourhood renewal and regeneration that was made together with the residents, the experts and the stakeholders. It includes a clear timetable and a financing plan for the implementation, as well as a plan for future development. We have developed various innovative and integrated methods of project work, aimed at the active participation of the residents, introducing them to several municipal offices, to experts in the field of urban renewal and to other stakeholders. We informed other Slovenian municipalities facing similar challenges and the interested public of our project and invited them to work together with us. We established a dialogue with several national ministries aiming at the establishment of guidelines at future tenders for co-financing the renewal and regeneration of degraded urban centres. Since January 2016, there have been six working groups of residents, fifteen public events on the larger and on the smaller scale, attended by about 1 650 residents and taking place on nine different public surfaces and locations in the neighbourhood. Our partners were five municipal council offices, nine public services on municipal and national levels, four local communities, four kindergartens, three elementary schools, one retirement home and one local secondary school, ten NGOs, five experts in different fields and one local company for the management of apartment buildings and several private companies.

    Why should other European cities use it?

    The project provides an answer to the question that planners often ask themselves: how to start and above all, how to include the residents and other stakeholders into the process? It is focused on the interests and needs of the residents, local organisations, the professional and interested public that are active in the neighbourhood and in the wider region. It is interesting because it builds upon a comprehensive, participatory and integrated attitude of all stakeholders and so brings together the expertise and experience of the actors involved. The project is a complementary combination of two principles of cooperation, the “top-down” approach (from the decision-makers to the residents) and the “bottom-up” approach (from the residents to the decision-makers). Its innovative methods of work make it possible to include residents of different age groups with different needs and wishes. It does not look for solutions only within the neighbourhood or municipality, but it is open to the outside world, to share and test the experience of other comparable good practices. In this sense, the project is capable of self-reflection and open for development. It is also proven in practice, concrete and transferable, considering that it is necessary to adapt it to a wide variety of characteristics of an environment or a specific area in which it will be implemented.

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