• Tourism Friendly Cities


    Lead Partner : Genoa - Italy
    • Braga - Portugal
    • Cáceres - Spain
    • Druskininkai - Lithuania
    • Dubrovnik - Croatia
    • Dún Laoghaire Rathdown - Ireland
    • Krakow - Poland
    • Rovaniemi - Finland
    • Venice - Italy

    Municipality of Genoa - International Affairs Department


    Watch all the Tourism Friendly videos here.


    • Kick-Off Meeting - Genoa - Phase I
    • TNS Meeting - Braga - Phase I
    • Online Kick-Off Meeting - Phase II
    • e-Dubrovnik meeting - Phase II
    • Online Meeting - Phase II
    • e-Druskininkai meeting - Phase II
    • TNS Meeting - Dun Laoghaire - Phase II
    • TNS Metting - Rovaniemi - Phase II
    • TNS Meeting - Krakow - Phase II
    • Final Meeting - Venice - Phase II

    Integrated Action Plans

    Dun Laoghaire Integrated Action Plan

    Read more here !

    Dun Laoghaire - Ireland
    Druskininkai Integrated Action Plan

    Read more here

    Druskininkai - Lithuania
    Integrated Action Plan for Sustainable Tourism – Cáceres

    Read more here

    Cáceres - Spain
    Braga Integrated Action Plan

    Read more here !

    Braga - Portugal
    Krakow Integrated Action Plan

    Read more here !

    Krakow - Poland
    Integrated Action Plan for Dubrovnik as a Sustainable Tourism Destination

    Read more here !

    Dubrovnik - Croatia
    Enhancing sustainable tourism in Venice

    Read more here !

    Venice - Italy

    Read more here !

    Rovaniemi - Finland
    Integrated Action Plan for Sustainable Tourism

    Read more here !

    Genoa - Italy

    TOURISM-FRIENDLY CITIES is an Action Planning Network aimed at exploring how tourism can be made sustainable in medium-sized cities, reducing the negative impact on neighbourhoods and areas interested by different types of tourism and its related aspects through integrated and inclusive strategies keeping a balance between the needs of the local community, in terms of quality of life and of services available, and the promotion of sustainable urban development at environmental, social and economic level.

    Local community & tourists together for urban sustainability
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  • SIBdev

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


    CONTACT US: Municipality of Heerlen, The Netherlands - Team Policy, Domain Society
    mailbox 1, 6400 AA Heerlen, visiting address: Putgraaf 188 Heerlen



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

    Integrated Action Plan

    Võru County Integrated Action Plan

    Read more here !

    Võru County - Estonia
    Integrated Action Plan Baia Mare

    Read more here

    Baia Mare - Romania
    Kecskemét Integrated Action Plan

    Read more here

    Kecskemét - Hungary
    Pordenone Integrated Action Plan

    Rea more here

    Pordenone - Italy
    Fundão - Portugal
    Aarhus Integrated Action Plan

    Read more here !

    Aarhus - Denmark
    Zaragoza Integrated Action Plan

    Read more here !

    Zaragoza - Spain
    Heerlen Integrated Action Plan

    Read more here !

    Heerlen - Netherlands


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

    Boosting social impact - Investing in society with Social Impact Bond development
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  • Find your Greatness


    Lead Partner : Alba Iulia - Romania
    • Bragança - Portugal
    • Candelaria - Spain
    • Limerick - Ireland
    • 22nd district of Budapest (Budafok-Tétény) - Hungary
    • Perugia - Italy
    • Võru County - Estonia
    • Wroclaw - Poland

    Alba Iulia Municipality, Calea Motilor 5A, 510134, Romania



    Kick-Off Meeting

    2nd Transnational Meeting

    3rd Transnational Meeting in Alba Iulia

    4th Transnational Meeting in Wroclaw

    5th Transnational Meeting in Voru

    6th Transnational Meeting in Braganca

    7th Transnational Meeting in Alba Iulia

    8th Transational Meeting in Budafok

    9th Final Project Conference in Perugia

    Find your Greatness is a concept that reflects the most challenges addressed by AIM together with other EU local communities. Why Find your Greatness? Because the challenge is to build on the cities' potential. In the case of the partners of the project the need identified locally and which was built as a sustainable mechanism generating urban development, the need to explore and enhance the potential of the city, combining strategic marketing approach with innovative smart city tools.

    Europe's first strategic brand building program for smart cities
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    Lead Partner : Bilbao - Spain
    • Bielsko-Biala - Poland
    • Tartu - Estonia
    • Timisoara - Romania



    •  Transnational Network Meeting - Bilbao Kick-off Meeting (07/01-07/02)
    • Transnational Network Meeting - Tartu (10/28-10/29)



    • Transnational Network Meeting - Bielsko-Biala (01/21)
    • Transnational Network Meeting - Timisoara (05/11-05/13)

    More about AS Fabrik

    Euronews showcases in this video Bilbao As Fabrik as an example of service-based technology for an improved industrial sector.


    The AS Fabrik Transfer Mechanism pilot seeks to share the experience of Bilbao in the AS FABRIK Urban Innovative Actions project  with other European cities, which want to meet the ultimate approaches in the field of the smart specialisation in Industry 4.0 and digital economy. AS FABRIK was conceived to increase the competitiveness of the local KIBS sector and to prepare them to supply the digital transformation demands of the manufacturing sector. An strategic alliance based on knowledge and innovation that aims to improve the local ecosystems of cities, with city businesses, universities, local service providers and entrepreneurs hosted in a tailor-made innovative space.

    Smart specialisation towards industrial digital transformation
    Ref nid
  • What will happen to our jobs when cities go climate neutral? 

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    Green jobs @IStock


    URBACT Expert Eddy Adams explores the green shift’s potential impacts on employment.



    Temperatures are hitting record highs across Europe. In Western France, meteorologists talk about a ‘heat apocalypse’ as more than 25 000 people flee their homes to escape forest fires. Spain, Portugal and Italy have all been on an emergency footing with fires and recorded deaths due to heatstroke. Northern Europe has also experienced temperatures normally associated with the Middle East, and a recent German Environment Ministry report estimated that the financial impact of drought, floods and extreme heat in the country had been EUR 145bn since 2000.


    The Climate Emergency is a real and present danger. To combat this, the EU has committed to be climate neutral by 2050 - a central objective of the European Green Deal. Cities are in the front line of this transition, being the biggest contributors to greenhouse gas emissions worldwide (more than 60% according to UN Habitat), consuming 78% of the world’s energy and being home to 65% of the EU’s population. Recognising this, the URBACT IV programme has Green Cities as one of its strategic priorities. But what will the transition to climate neutrality mean for jobs and skills as our economy makes this huge green shift in less than a generation?



    What are green jobs?


    The twin megatrends of green and digital will affect every industry sector, and every occupational skill level. The EU forecasts that a handful of carbon-intensive industries will disappear altogether by 2050. These include coal and lignite mining, together with their support services, as well as oil and gas extraction. The decline of these sectors is expected to remove 338 000 jobs, heavily clustered in specific regions. Although this pathway is now slightly less clear, as Member States stall on decommissioning these sectors in response to the energy crisis triggered by the war in Ukraine, the overarching European Green Deal policy goal of climate neutrality remains intact.


    Four other industry sectors - chemical manufacturing, non-metallic-mineral manufacturing, basic metal manufacture, and the automotive sector - are expected to be totally transformed, as their use of energy and materials is revolutionised. However, every industry sector is likely to be affected by the shift that’s already taking place. A very narrow definition of the ‘Green Economy’ suggests a relatively modest workforce of 4.5 million workers in the EU. But EU data shows that low carbon sectors - the fastest growing in the economy - already employ more than 70% of workers. As the concept of circularity is embedded across key, high-energy industry sectors like construction, which currently accounts for one third of all EU energy related emissions and over 35% of waste, this trend will continue, as will the demand for properly skilled workers at all skill levels.



    What does this mean for skills in the city?


    Vilawatt field visit to Viladecans (ES)
    Vilawatt field visit to Viladecans (ES).




    As Ed Glaeser, Harvard Economics professor and expert on cities, consistently points out, skills are a valuable commodity for every city. Successful cities are those that nurture, retain and attract talent. Organisations need skilled people, while workers need to refresh their skills continually to remain in demand in a competitive job market. Linked to this, the pace of change - driven by digital innovation and the need to reduce carbon emissions - is accelerating. At the same time, the OECD estimates that the declining demand for lower level skills will continue, driven by automation and other digital developments. All of this means that frequent upskilling will be required for workers to VILAWATT URBACT Network during a site visit to Viladecans. 
    stay in touch with labour market developments.


    That is potentially a growing problem for urban economies. For many, the profile is one of rising vacancies with residual pools of unemployment and economic inactivity. The recently refreshed EU Skills Agenda noted that 70 million EU adults lack basic numeracy, reading and digital skills. At the same time there is a wide - and potentially growing - skills gap as employers struggle to find staff with the right skillset.


    However, recent research shows that higher skilled people are those most likely to participate in further training. Only one in five low skilled workers participates in upskilling, often through lack of funds, knowledge or time. So a major shift is required if we are to avoid a widening skills gap, with the risk of increased social polarisation.



    Who’s most at risk of being left behind - and what are cities doing about it?


    Just transition, a concept initially developed by trade unions in North America, means achieving climate neutrality without leaving any person or place behind. It is a central part of the European Green Deal. A recent report by Urban Innovative Actions (UIA), Skills for a Green Future, focused on the employment and skills dimension to the Just Transition, setting out the challenges cities face as well as the innovative approaches being developed in response. This identifies five specific groups at risk of being left behind as the economy transitions to climate neutrality:


    • Vulnerable people already marginalised in the labour market
    • The low-skilled
    • Women, older people and youth
    • Micro-businesses and the self-employed
    • Workers in energy intensive and high-carbon emitting industries


    At the recent URBACT City Festival 2022, Maarten van Kooij, Strategic Adviser to the City of Rotterdam, showed that Rotterdam (NL) workers already in precarious jobs and sectors face increasing risk as the economy transitions. The pandemic had exposed their situation, evidenced by the fact that 15 000 of the city's 43 000 self-employed workers required temporary income support during the crisis. With limited resources and minimal access to careers guidance and training, they remain poorly informed and ill-equipped for the shift that’s already happening. Rotterdam is designing new approaches to address this, including its innovative Work Learning Agreements.


    Anamaria Vrabie, Director of the Urban Innovation Unit, echoed these points from the perspective of Cluj Napoca (RO). Although the city’s economy has been a big success story in the past decade, their work has identified significant risks due to high levels of automation, with implications for the lower-skilled in particular. Supported by its strong higher education offer, the growth of the creative and cultural industry sector has been part of the Cluj success story. However, the pandemic underlined the vulnerability of many workers in this sector, which is characterised by micro-businesses and the self-employed. The development of their so-called culturepreneur programme, designed to enhance the resilience of cultural and creative industries, has been a key innovation. Through its UIA project ‘Cluj Future of Work’, the city is also piloting innovative approaches to preparing one of Europe’s most vulnerable communities - the Roma - to improve their employability, through potential links to the circular economy.


    Sonia Dominguez, Head of EU funds at  Viladecans (ES) showed how supporting micro-businesses has also been a priority, after the city identified them as being at risk. Public procurement has been a key driver in changing mindsets here, as has the city’s establishment of spaces, both digital and physical, to promote cross-sectoral collaboration. This has been particularly effective at facilitating dialogue between businesses in ‘old’ and ‘new’ sectors.




    'Cities in the frontline of the climate emergency' panel during the URBACT City Festival, June 2022.
    'Cities in the frontline of the climate emergency' panel during the URBACT City Festival, June 2022.



    As the UIA report notes, the energy transition will also have implications for gender balance in the workforce, creating more jobs traditionally associated with men according to the International Labour Organisation. For example, in the renewable energy sector, where the number of jobs is forecast to jump from 10.3 million in 2017 to almost 29 million in 2050, only 32% of the current workforce are women. In response, Viladecans has targeted interventions towards women to raise their awareness of the employment shift that is taking place, and the opportunities and threats it brings. 


    The link between the gender equality mission and the transition to climate neutrality is clear. So too is the need to combine the climate and social justice agendas effectively if cities are to achieve just transition, as Mathew Bach of ICLEI - Local Governments for Sustainability noted in the URBACT Festival session. This means informed investment and a drive to promote cross-departmental collaboration within administrations, as well as effective partnerships across the public, private and NGO sectors.



    Where do we go from here?


    The challenges ahead cannot be overstated. As the slogan says, “there is no planet B”, and cities must lead in implementing the transition to a climate neutral Europe. The front-runners are already showing the way, and initiatives like the EU’s Climate Neutral Cities Mission and Scalable Cities are setting the pace. But a mass movement is required to reach the goal of climate neutrality, with small and medium sized cities fully on board. Supporting all cities to make a successful transition requires everyone to raise their game.


    A just, green transition also requires smart cooperation across traditional silos, informed by smart strategic investment. The URBACT IV programme, with its pillars of green, digital and gender-equal cities, anticipates these needs in cities, and will provide space for collaboration, peer-learning and capacity building. URBACT will also offer a platform to transfer experience and techniques in effective urban interventions, both through its own good practices and its ongoing cooperation with UIA and the future European Urban Initiative.






    URBACT IV official logo
    The URBACT IV Programme (2021 -2027) will retain the principle that cities will be free to select their own network themes according to their needs and priorities. Nevertheless, it will also explicitly aim to build the awareness and capacity of all programme actors “to better include cross-cutting considerations such as digital, environment and gender equality” in their work and activities both at programme and network-level.
    From urbact
  • URBACT cities are driving Europe’s acceleration towards a circular economy

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    Rising temperatures

    Urban circular economy solutions could keep global temperature rise below 2°C, writes Dr. Eleni Feleki, Lead Expert from the URGE Network.

    Temperatures raising, with a thermometer under the sunlight.
    From urbact

    Take a ride with us through memory lane. This article was first published in 2022, yet it still is as relevant as ever with the heatwaves and high temperature hitting European cities.


    Over past decades, humanity has breached two major milestones: the world is consuming 100 billion tonnes of materials every year and it is one degree warmer.


    The level of warming strongly depends on the reference period definition, the future time horizon and the level of greenhouse gas emissions. Among the various greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions produced by human activities, carbon dioxide contributes most to climate change, and is expected to continue rising if no action is taken. Specifically, climate neutrality by 2050 means achieving net zero GHG emissions for European countries, mainly by investing in innovative green technologies and enabling green transformation.


    With global warming showing no signs of slowing, the 2016 Paris climate agreement was a step towards changing some of our unsustainable practices, processes and behaviours. But even if all 194 countries that pledged climate action as part of the Paris Agreement fulfil their emissions-cutting promises, the rise in temperatures is still forecast to hit 3.2°C this century.


    We need to do more to fight global warming fast, and – as the recent URBACT City Festival demonstrated – cities across Europe are taking action, changing policies and mindsets, together with major stakeholders and citizens.



    Circular economy helping meet Paris Agreement commitments to slow global warming


    We are presented with a significant opportunity not only to achieve our climate goals, but also to future-proof our economy: The circular economy.


    Sustainability forerunners started looking towards circularity as an alternative to the traditional and still widespread linear economic model of producing and using goods and services – take, make, dispose) – which relies on large quantities of cheap, easily accessible materials and energy.


    The circular economy is a model of production and consumption that involves sharing, leasing, reusing, repairing, refurbishing and recycling existing materials and products as long as possible. In this way, the life cycle of products is extended.


    In practice, it implies reducing waste to a minimum. When a product reaches the end of its life, its materials are kept within the economy wherever possible. These can be productively used again and again, thereby creating further value.


    Circularity has great potential to overcome global sustainability challenges, reducing the use of raw materials and keeping materials in the loop as long as is feasible. This reduces and minimises the ecological footprint of every human-made product and thus helps mitigate climate change.



    Circular economy and the role of cities


    The role of cities in this circular transition is critical.


    Cities are growth engines in need of supervision and control. They are major contributors to climate change, responsible for up to 76% of carbon emissions. Even though they occupy less than 2% of the Earth’s surface, they account for 75% of natural resource consumption and 50% of global waste production. On the solution side, cities are also magnets for creative potential and thus facilitators of societal transformation towards more sustainability in the public as well as the private sector.


    Cities are among the most important actors that can positively influence development by embracing the circular economy.


    According to the Circularity Gap Report(link is external), we need to reach an average of about 18% circularity rate – share of material resources used which come from recycled waste materials, thus saving extractions of primary raw materials – to limit global warming to well below two degrees.


    To date, this rate at global level is only 8.6%. And the worst is that in 2018, circular rate at the global level was 9.1%, thus the trend is going down. The good news: we need to only roughly double the current rate of 8.6% to limit global warming to well below two degrees.

    At European level, things are slightly better. In 2020, the EU’s circularity rate reached 12.8%.  This means that almost 13% of material resources used in the EU came from recycled waste materials. This information comes from data on circular material use rate published by Eurostat. Compared to 2019, the circularity rate increased by 0.8%.


    Even if the EU seems to be complying well in relation to the globe as a whole, we are still lagging behind in reaching the average of 18% circularity rate. At the same time, it is obvious that the performance varies a lot among Member States. These differences are due not only to varying commitments to recycling in each country, but also on a range of other issues, including structural factors in national economies, levels of understanding and awareness of the circular economy notion, legislation and institutional barriers, and lack of infrastructure.


    How can we improve that?



    URBACT Action Planning Networks in the fight to help this transition


    Local governments in many towns and cities are discovering the urgent need to enhance their sustainability and resilience, and contribute to the fight against climate change. By implementing circular economy strategies, they are moving forward without straying from their low-carbon commitments.  


    Acknowledging these needs, the URBACT III programme financed 23 Action Planning Networks through its January 2019 call aiming to find solutions to common urban challenges. These brought together partners from towns and cities in different European countries to share experience and learn from each other. All partners produced an Integrated Action Plan and had the opportunity to test some small-scale solutions in their cities.


    Among these, two URBACT networks have had a particularly strong impact on boosting circularity in European cities – URGE: Circular building cities, led by Utrecht and Resourceful Cities, led by The Hague.


    URGE, standing for 'circUlaR buildinG citiEs' is an URBACT Action Planning Network on circular economy in the construction sector – a major consumer of raw materials. As there is a gap in circular economy principles' implementation in this sector, URGE brings together nine cities, from nine EU countries, to inspire and learn from each other on developing integrated urban policies. This supports the integration of circularity in construction tasks, thus contributing to sustainable cities.


    In the construction sector, building renovation quickly imposed itself as an obvious immediate win, combining a local activity boost with a necessary efficiency upgrade. Construction is one of the sectors that offers the ground for transformational change towards a greener economy.


    At the same time, the need to introduce infrastructure to store, reprocess, and innovate with different kinds of materials, is high. Not only for construction materials, but also for materials coming from other industries, such as electric and electronic equipment, or textiles, which not only produce a lot of waste but also demonstrate high opportunities to use spare parts and create new, upscaled products.


    In this direction, Resourceful Cities, a network of nine cities from eight EU countries, has been seeking to develop the next generation of urban resource centres, so they can serve as catalysts, promoting the positive economic, environmental and social impacts of the local circular economy. Facilitating waste prevention, reuse, repair and recycling, the centres also work as connection points for citizens, new businesses, researchers and the public sector to co-create new ways to close resource loops at the local level, putting people at the heart of the circular transition.


    Both networks used the URBACT Method and URBACT Toolbox to bring interested local actors together to promote the circular economy.



    Good examples from the URGE: Circular Building Cities and Resourceful Cities networks


    By exchanging knowledge, trailing small scale solutions, drafting Integrated Action Plans – and much more – partners in the Resourceful Cities and URGE networks achieved results that will live on beyond the official close of the networks in August 2022. The cities celebrated examples of such successes during a session dedicated to acceleration of circular economy at the 2022 URBACT City Festival. Here are just a few:


    Governing circular economy: Copenhagen (DK)


    The four themes of focus of the URGE Network

    The circular economy is all about connecting the outflows of one industry or process, to another one to develop innovative value chains. But to obtain that, we need to have a place to keep materials,  process and transform them into something else, that is still useful and economically valuable.


    Apart from that, another big barrier to reusing materials and resources is linked to lack of incentives, weak policies and, inconsistencies in legislation that hamper the widescale use of recycled products.


    Copenhagen, partner in the URGE network, has revealed the importance of establishing an operational and institutional framework, in order to be able to put forward innovate value chains, boost business innovation and raise citizens’ awareness.


    The city proposed four key actions on governance to boost circularity in the construction sector:


    1. Produce a handbook on circular procurements.
    2. Support national (and international) legislation in order to allow and incentivise for the use of secondary materials.
    3. Develop infrastructure not only for the city (such as urban resource centres) but for the whole region.
    4. Promote citizens’ awareness through urban renewal projects, in a sense of urban living labs, where the residents co-design, co-create the neighborhoods, applying circular economy approaches.



    Urban resource centres: Mechelen (BE)


    Since 2020, the city of Mechelen has set a firm goal to reduce its material footprint by 30% by 2030, in order to reach its climate goals and foster a competitive green economy across the region, in which growth is decoupled from resource use. In close dialogue with local actors and by analysing the circular and social potential of specific urban value chains for the development of the economy in the region, Mechelen chose to focus on four urban resource centers in the short and medium term (scope 2030):


    1. A food hub where wasted food is collected and redistributed to vulnerable families or transformed.
    2. A material bank or several hubs for the reuse of construction materials.
    3. A textile hub where clothes and fabric are collected (mainly postconsumer) and redistributed for reuse, reworked, or recycled.
    4. A community hub which brings together all of the different actors and offers inspiration and room for experimentation.

    The circular community hub model of Mechelen, designed for the Resourceful Cities Network



    The role of local authorities in supporting of SMEs towards circular transition: Ciudad Real (ES)


    A very natural role for local authorities in the circular economy is in networking, matchmaking or bringing together different parties for cooperation. Local authorities need to work closely with industrial players in order to make them aware of the changing environment and incentivise SMEs that will in turn help to raise demand for circularly-made products.


    Ciudad Real, partner in the Resourceful Cities network, identified a need to support the business sector, made up mainly of SMEs, in understanding the circular economy and the opportunities it presents. Examples of actions:

    1. Local award for the most circular entity to promote the adoption of the circular economy among businesspeople
    2. Circular economy training for entrepreneurs to contribute to the generation of new companies that incorporate elements of circularity from their earliest stages, thanks to the training and awareness of Ciudad Real entrepreneurs
    3. Organisation of hackathons for entrepreneurs from Ciudad Real tο generate new business ideas focused on solving real challenges related to the circular economy


    The role of industrial partners: Nirgrad d.d.o, Maribor (SI)


    During a so-called ‘small-scale action’ for the URGE network, Nigrad d.d.o, a utility company from Maribor, produced micro-urban fixtures out of recycled aggregates that can be used as benches with a bicycle rack.


    Benches combined with bicycle racks are a stylish and practical solution for decorating a city park, city centre or areas around schools or kindergartens. Old benches, are deconstructed and the concrete is transformed into ‘green’ concrete, used in the benches. Reusable wooden parts and scrap metal, are also being tested.      



    URBACT cities and communities are already seeing positive impacts of their circular economy actions: Opole (PL) and Kavala (EL)


    Opole, partner in the Resourceful Cities network, opened their Urban Resource Centre (URC) in an empty shop building in the city centre. The main aim of their URC was to have a central physical space to promote resource reduction, reuse and repair and to raise awareness and participation levels of residents in the circular economy. In one month, 7.1 tonnes of resources were brought to the centre and 6.4 tonnes of resources were taken for reuse. There were 7200 visitors in total. The local authority also won two national awards relating to the ReUse shop for innovative local government. They are now looking to extend their services to include a repair cafe for electronic equipment and to source a location for the reuse and repair of bulky goods.


    The Municipality of Kavala, in northern Greece, is partner in the URGE: Circular Building Cities network. Building on experiences gained in the URBACT Making Spend Matter Network, Kavala wanted to explore the topic of public procurements in the construction sector, through the lens of the environmental and economic dimensions of sustainability and circular economy.



    Municipal departments worked in a participatory and integrated approach together with Ministries, regional authorities, local market players, academia – and the Technical Chamber of Greece, which plays an important national role in proposing technical specifications for the reuse of construction materials and influencing regulations. In the end, they drafted a tender for the restoration of access of a rural road network, using secondary materials.


    Kavala is now ready to launch the tender that includes circular economy criteria, which is a huge step at national level towards changing mindsets and considering alternatives to common, linear, practice.  


    Looking ahead: URBACT’s lasting local legacy


    URBACT has provided the opportunity to initiate links between 18 European cities experienced in finding circular economy solutions.


    URGE and Resourceful Cities have agreed to keep on working together after their URBACT networks officially end. Partners of both networks will continue to meet digitally, in order to seek common solutions and implement their Integrated Action Plans. Fundraising will be one of the most important issues for all cities. A solid basis has been formed to achieve the intended results. Most importantly, partners of both networks acknowledge the importance of working in an integrated, participatory approach. They are exploring opportunities to keep their URBACT Local Groups alive, and further, to keep expanding the networks. Several ideas exist to achieve this, by embedding the URBACT Local Group into the local governance ecosystem.


    Both networks are also pursuing to generate impact outside their project boundaries.


    Utrecht, Lead Partner of the URGE network, organised a political event in July 2022, in which URGE local coordinators responsible for the development of Integrated Action Plans in each of the nine partner cities called on politicians to support the aim to become circular by 2050 or even sooner. The URBACT Local Group coordinators signed a list of URGE recommendations, and highlighted the need to present them to various levels of government – local, regional, national and European – and other relevant stakeholders.


    In the same sense, Resourceful Cities lead partner The Hague is preparing a policy roundtable to coincide with the European Week of Regions and Cities in October 2022. This will link up with a study visit to one of the city's new Urban Resource Centres, the Impact Factory in Mechelen.



    Participating in the URBACT networks URGE: Circular Building Cities and Resourceful Cities has been a truly valuable, challenging and worthwhile experience for all involved. Valued relationships have been born and while the networks may be officially coming to an end, their work will continue both independently and collaboratively as they strive for a more inclusive, fair and sustainable system of consumption and production.



    Interested by the topics of circular economy and green transition? Check out URBACT's recently approved Action Planning Networks!


  • Alternative to mass tourism? Sustainable tourism and the regulation of short-term rentals

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    A study involving URBACT cities highlights the need for local solutions that ‘Prepare, Preserve, and Platformise’ holiday rentals.

    From urbact

    Airbnb and other Short-Term Rental (STR) platforms are the phoenixes of todays economies: they beautifully thrive and when they are at the risk of disappearance, they are reborn and fly up again, says URBACT Thematic Expert Laura Colini. Here, she presents the outcomes of the EU Urban Agenda for Culture and Cultural Heritage work on better regulation of short-term rental platforms and sustainable tourism, which includes a study conducted with URBACT cities.


    In recent years, we have seen Short-Term Rental (STR) appear on the market as a social innovation for sharing domestic spaces, turning houses, public spaces, entertainment, culture and heritage into a successful tourism machine all over the world. This produces profits for different types of stakeholders, from individuals to large enterprises, thus creating troubling issues for cities. First and foremost, STR platforms such as Airbnb thrive on a shallow mechanism that allows unlicensed properties to be listed; it encourages landlords to change long-term into short-term rentals, reducing the amount of affordable housing stock for locals; it reinforces mass- and hyper- touristisation, gentrification and Disneyfication of historical cities in Europe, and ultimately monopolising the tourism economy, overshadowing traditional and alternative ethical forms of tourism such as Fairbnb and others.


    Inhabitants, social movements, and city administrations have voiced these detrimental  effects, creating measures to control the STR in their cities (for example banning illegal STR leasing in Berlin by law, capping the amount of days for STR in Amsterdam, and other cities, in France and elsewhere) while demanding better regulation of Short-Term Rental at EU level (for example the Eurocities initiative).


    The COVID emergency knocked Europe’s tourist economy hard and just when Airbnb seemed to lose ground, it reinvented itself, turning investment towards digital nomads, diversifying its offers towards leisure and assuming an ethical approach for humanitarian causes. Nevertheless, as we look beyond COVID-19, tourism has come back with new soaring prices catching up for hotels and flights, with $1.5 billion realised by Airbnb in the first quarter of 2022, equal to an increase of 70% compared to the previous year, and with the same detrimental issues for cities as we knew before 2020.



    URBACT cities supporting sustainable tourism



    The EU recognises the crucial role of tourism in the European economies, and a range of different actions, funding and initiatives are geared towards fostering sustainable tourism. In particular, following the pressures for better regulations at EU level from cities, the EU Urban Agenda took an opportunity to dedicate an action led by URBACT to this aspect. In collaboration with cities from the URBACT networks Tourism-Friendly Cities and KAIRÓS, and in exchange with the European Commission’s Directorate-Generals for Regional and Urban Policy and Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs, the action for Sustainable Tourism and better regulation of Short-Term Rental is now in the Action Plan of the EU Urban Agenda Partnership on Culture and Cultural Heritage (EU UA C&CH). The scope was to outline potential perspectives for sustainable management of tourism at city level in relation to STR, respecting the definition of sustainable tourism of the UNWTO.


    The main outcomes of this EU UA C&CH are:

    1. A Memorandum 2021, a legal input analysing the bottlenecks at EU level in regulation of STR by Yolanda Martinez; Marimon Avocados ES 'Regulatory enforcement difficulties in the short-term rental accommodation sector stemming from the European legal framework on digital services’
    2. The 'Sustainable tourism – Regulating phenomena of sharing economy’ Study by Prof Ugo Rossi, GSSI IT, and Dr Laura Colini, URBACT with the collaboration of URBACT cities
    3. Peer-learning and exchange among cities, the researchers, the coordinators of the EU UA C&CH and external input from prof Claire Colomb UCL UK
    4. Collaboration with the EU UA C&CH, DG GROW, DG REGIO and URBACT for the EU COM STR initiative to strengthen links between the European Commission’s work and cities.



    Sustainable tourism – regulating phenomena of sharing economy



    The Study 'Sustainable tourism – regulating phenomena of sharing economy’ focuses on a range of towns and cities that differ in terms of population size, geographical location, and tourism offers across Europe: from top tourist destinations such as Berlin, Bordeaux, Dubrovnik and Krakow to popular small towns such as Druskininkai and Rovaniemi, to emerging destinations such as Braga, Caceres, Dun Laoghaire, Šibenik. These cities have been selected from members of the EU UA Culture and Cultural Heritage, as well as two URBACT Action Planning Networks (Tourism-Friendly Cities, which explores the potential for sustainable tourism in medium-sized cities, and KAIRÓS, which looks at cultural heritage as a driver for sustainable urban development and regeneration). 


    As the sector saw largely unregulated growth during the second half of the 2010s and a popularisation of digital platforms in the holiday rental business, cities across the world – and especially Europe – witnessed an unprecedented acceleration in the influx of tourists and the rapid expansion of the digital platforms industry, exacerbating the housing crisis in Europe and elsewhere. This expansion poses a threat to urban societies, as fast-growing numbers of homes move from standard rentals for residents to short-term rentals for platform users. This tends to drive permanent residents and indigenous businesses out of urban districts and neighbourhoods that attract large numbers of short-term rental listings, due to a shrinking supply of affordable housing.


    The outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic dramatically impacted cities, and particularly their service-oriented economies. Departing from the assumption that pandemics and similar threats offer opportunities for substantive change, this unprecedented slowdown posed by the COVID-19 pandemic to the global economy may represent a unique opportunity to correct the distortions of the standard pattern of economic development, including the urban tourism industry.


    In the Northern hemisphere, the summer of 2021 saw urban tourism getting back to pre-pandemic levels, especially in environmentally attractive destinations like coastal cities, while in other cities it is still well below those levels.



    Community-led rental platforms?



    The Sustainable Tourism study is based on exploratory research into how to pursue a stronger, socially supported regulation of short-term rentals, using the debate in 2021 about the need for recovery from the pandemic slump of 2020 as an opportunity to achieve more sustainable urban tourism. In particular, the study proposes combining a prescriptive approach to regulation with a proactive strategy that considers the role of risk management and community engagement in the pursuit of sustainable urban tourism. The study emphasises the role of municipalities and local communities, stressing the importance of the local context not only as a site for policy implementation, but also in a generative sense as a breeding ground for the development of deeper institutional capacity.


    The study involved a qualitative survey based on in-depth, semi-structured interviews conducted with city officials of the selected cities on the regulation of short-term rentals from the perspective of sustainable urban tourism. It tested the interest and availabilities of these cities to experiment with locally managed, community-led rental platforms, following a multi-scalar approach with three main founding principles:


    • Prevention is better than cure: in tourism policy, an anticipatory approach seeks to avoid the reproduction of a systemic risk of over-tourism.
    • Community engagement is key to success: cultivating a sense of belonging to the local community means embracing an approach to tourism that places the needs of the local community at the centre of local policy strategies committed to economic diversification and urban sustainability.
    • Local power matters: the local scale is crucial not only from the point of view of societal impact and policy implementation, but also in terms of institutional empowerment of local communities.

    Departing from these principles, the policy approach put forth a '3Ps strategy’: Prepare, Preserve, Platformise. The goal of the study is to deal with the regulation of short-term rentals from a wider perspective, linking regulations to risk management and the experimentation with local alternatives to corporate-owned platforms. In particular, ‘Prepare’ means working side-by-side with local communities to prevent the risk of over-tourism; ‘Preserve’ means implementing regulations aimed at preserving urban areas and their communities particularly exposed to the risk of over-tourism; ‘Platformise’ means experimenting with community-led short-term rental platforms.


    The study proposes to re-think urban tourism as a process of sustainable transition where new regulations call for a socio-ecological approach that incorporates the needs of local communities, as well as their institutional capacities and that relies on three main aspects.


    First, the issue of risk awareness and preparation of communities: when not effectively regulated, tourism is no longer a resource for local communities, but becomes a threat that requires general awareness of the consequences of an unbridled tourist sector. Second, the socialisation of regulation is essential for making regulations implemented successfully to contextual constraints and demands. Third, municipal experimentation should be encouraged to further innovate on municipal-led platforms and peer learning as in the philosophy of URBACT.


    In conclusion, short-term rental platforms can be re-thought to bring inhabitants, businesses, and tourists closer, re-considering platforms as a positive potential for a more sustainable tourism.



    Visit the Cities engaging in the Right to Housing platform.


  • 9 ways to support the development of sustainable tourism

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    9 ways to support sustainable tourism_COVER

    Understanding the focus of the Integrated Action Plans of the Tourism-friendlyCities network.

    From urbact

    How can a city balance the inevitable conflicting needs of its residents and its tourists? Can tourism be a viable local economic sector, that acts as a leverage for sustainability, well-being and reduction of inequalities? Through what mechanisms can we really integrate the lesson learned from the recent pandemic? Finding collective answers to these questions, involving stakeholders from NGOs, businesses, academia and public institutions, was the core of our common work within the URBACT Tourism-friendly Cities (TFC) network during September 2019- August 2022.


    The Integrated Action Plan (IAP) is the main output of cities participating in Action Planning Networks such as the Tourism-friendly Cities one, financed through the URBACT programme. IAPs define the local actions to be carried out in response to the sustainable urban development challenges addressed in the network. It is a way for cities to develop their local development strategy using the URBACT method, which is informed by principles of integration, participation and action learning. Here are 9 strategic directions the TFC cities have chosen for their IAPs on sustainable tourism:

    #1: Genoa: addressing conflicting visions on growth and outlook of the tourism sector for local economy

    Genoa underwent in the last decades a major transformation, strategically investing in the revitalization of its cultural heritage. Moving away from its recent history connected to steel industry and the maritime port, the city, and entrepreneurs alike, were experiencing a growth of the share that tourism has on the local economy. This growth was in return causing frictions with local residents and accelerating the process of gentrification of parts of the old city centre. Thus, Genoa’s IAP is focused on co-creating a shared vision of a balanced tourism strategy informed by both residents and the industry. To achieve this, for the next years the Genoa ULG determined an extensive set of actions and projects under three key areas of action:

    (1) raising awareness among city stakeholders also on the negative effects of tourism. This would also entail encouraging residents to become ambassadors for their own city and guide visitors on how to experience the place as a local and keep disruption at a minimum. (2) improve city amenities, from housing, tourist accommodation, urban mobility to public space. Key is to always invest in assets that would not only solely benefit tourists, but also residents. On this, Genoa also builds on its good practise of the tourism city tax, where parts of the funds collected are earmarked for public works. (3) pushing the tourism industry to innovate. This would include development of new tourism packages, such as nature tourism, that would diversify to existing offers, as well as increase the use of digital tools and gamification ways for promoting sustainable behaviours from tourists.

    #2: Braga: raising awareness at international level on the diversity of its tourism offer

    Group of local citizens that attended the first tour “Enjoy The City Like a Tourist” in 27th September 2021 - World Tourism Day.Already named European Best Destination 2021 Braga wants to change its international perception which is still mostly connected to religious tourism. Being able to accommodate a much wider tourism offer, but also to sustain a balance between tourists and residents needs, Braga is actively working in avoiding the mistakes of the past of other cities which are now experiencing overtourism. For this, the process of developing the IAP using the URBACT method was a key step in establishing a multi-stakeholder working group and co-designing actions that can sustain the fragile balance of sustainable tourism.

    Thus, most measures of Braga TFC IAP are connected to how to consolidate collaborative practices between city residents, tourists and tourism industry. An example of such action, was already tested through Braga’s small scale action on a training and immersive experience for local residents to experience the city as a tourist.

    #3: Caceres: focusing on increasing length of stays of tourists

    Cáceres, located in central western Spain, in the autonomous community of Extremadura is a welcoming city of 96,720 inhabitants. A UNESCO World Heritage City, the old city centre has attracted constant visitors for short-term stays. Due to its suboptimal connectivity with key transport hubs such as Madrid, Caceres is sometimes missed as a tourist destination. Other times, it is visited alongside other cities in the Extremadura, making the duration of the visit relatively short. This is why, the city wants to encourage the development of sustainable tourism, one that brings prosperity to the local community, while also balancing the needs of inhabitants and protecting the cultural and natural heritage.

    More specifically, the main strategic objectives of Caceres connected to sustainable tourism are: (1) Increasing overnight stays; (2) Improving long-haul connections; (3) Attracting foreign tourism; (4) encouraging demand all year round and (5) Improving the profitability of the value chain. In fact, Caceres has implemented a Small Scale Action within the co-development process of the IAP related to supporting local producers by organising a bio-market in its UNESCO city centre.

    #4: Druskininkai: leveraging the local success of developing a sustainable tourism destination with more international connections

    Druskininkai is a balneological, mud and climate therapy resort, located in southern Lithuania. Historically developed around its spas, it is a city that welcomes tourists. In recent years, it proved also a viable option for welcoming new residents- young families moving away from the big city rush and searching for better quality of life.

    The city has invested constantly in tackling the challenge of seasonality connected to tourism demand and achieved impressive results. By building venues that can function year around and that are complimentary to the spas, such as the Snow Arena, Druskininkai was not experiencing significant differences in number of visitor between winter and summer seasons. However, the restrictions imposed during the COVID-19 pandemic significantly changed that- the number of foreign tourists in 2020 compared to 2019 decreased by 77.8%, meanwhile in the first half of year 2021 it fell by 98.3% compared to the same period of year 2019. Thus, the focus of Druskininkai IAP is to actually consolidate the image and perception of the city as a sustainable and high-quality tourism destination. For this, the Druskininkai ULG has determined several areas of focus, mixing priority investments for residents with international digital marketing plans for tourism promotion.

    #5: Dubrovnik- Incremental changes to move away from over-tourism

    After the warning issued by UNESCO in 2016 that its World Heritage Status was at risk, Dubrovnik took significant measures to tackle the negative effects of tourism. Measures included restricting and monitoring the number of visitors to its Old Town area and the development of the Respect the city programme. The programme sets out a set of guidelines to be observed by tourism businesses, visitors and residents alike, tackling issues related to quality of life of neighbours, urban mobility, environment and cultural and natural heritage.

    However, tourism is part of the DNA of Dubrovnik, as the city is widely known as “the pearl of the Adriatic”, and much of its local economy is based on this economic sector. This is why, the co-development of Dubrovnik IAP was a much needed process to reach a common vision and consensus on how the local economy can develop in a sustainable why, while also taking into account the quality of life of residents, especially the ones who are not involved in tourism. For this, the actions identified in the Dubrovnik IAP will focus for ensuring transformation in these three key areas: (1) Sustainable, smart, socially conscious mobility system in Dubrovnik with optimized traffic flow based on adequate traffic infrastructure and improved/smart traffic management which meets the needs of both citizens and tourists; (2) Transformation to a sustainable tourism destination which manages its development using a participative, agile, integrated and multidisciplinary approach and strongly relies on intersectoral cooperation and (3) Improved quality of life of citizens, through preservation of public resources and natural and cultural heritage and sustainable and responsible development of tourism.

    #6: Dún Laoghaire- endorsing a common branding strategy with the city of Dublin and focusing on coordinated visitor experiences that are reflective of the environment and the communities in which they sit.

    Located about 12 km south of Dublin city centre, Dun Laoghaire is a suburban coastal town in County Dublin. It is governed by the Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council, which represents the Dún Laoghaire town and over two dozen unique and thriving areas – some recognised as communities and others as villages, but all known for offering one of the best quality of life for residents in Ireland. This proximity to both a major metropolis and a tourism hub such as Dublin, but also its rather hard to grasp name for foreigners, put Dun Laoghaire is a challenging position to determine its international branding strategy.

     Thus, the Dún Laoghaire Rathdown County, home to 218 000 citizens, made the strategic decision to endorse the branding concept proposed by the Irish Tourism Board, which meant that that the destination would be promoted under the name of Dublin, but with a distinctive focus on the outdoor experiences a visitor can enjoy outside Dublin. This approach proved successful, with a significant and stable number of visitors discovering the beautiful costal area. However, this meant on the one hand that overnight visits in the area were quite unlikely, and also that only the communities ( small towns part of Dún Laoghaire Rathdown County) with good connectivity to Dublin city centre would be discovered by tourists.

    This is why, in order to make tourism a viable and strong economic sector, Dún Laoghaire wants to (1)ensure that an increased number of visitors to Dublin City find their way to Dún Laoghaire Rathdown to experience a variety of unique experiences; (2) enhance the level of connectivity between the coastal villages and the range of experiences they have to offer visitors and (3)support the level of collaboration between all the key stakeholders active in tourism development in Dun Laoghaire.

    #7: Krakow: building internationalization for the rich cultural and art local scene

    Krakow, Poland’s second largest city, is a preferred destination by both domestic and international tourists all year round. Boosting a rich history and being an UNESCO World Heritage site, the city also hosts yearly nearly 100 festivals and other world-famous cultural events. This cultural offer does not represent however the main point of attraction for the city, as before the COVID-19 pandemic Krakow was also preferred for weekend trips and parties. In fact, it was the development of this type of tourism that brought about complaints from local residents.  In addition, the constant growth of the number of tourists meant that the city was beginning in 2019 to experience over-tourism and a steep gentrification of central areas. While the pandemic changes slowed down these processes, the city remains committed to changing the model of tourism into a sustainable one and consciously investing in internationalization for its rich cultural local scene. For example, Krakow is among the most active cities in the European debate on sustainable impact of tourism, especially related to short-term rentals that need solid regulatory frameworks. 

    This is why, the Krakow IAP focused on opening up the strategic discussion on the future of tourism with more stakeholders and finding new way of engaging the tourism ecosystem. In fact, the IAP describes several mechanisms through which the Krakow ULG can monitor whether the strategic objectives outlined in key programmatic documents of the city are actually being observed. These mechanisms are: (1) the Historical Cities conference, taking place every two years; (2) the set of sustainable and responsible tourism indicators measured yearly; (3) the development of the sustainable tourism quality label and (4) a public-private partnership named the Sustainable Tourism Krakow Lab.

    #8: Rovaniemi- putting the natural heritage first

    Rovaniemi is the Official hometown of Santa Claus®, and one of the major Finnish cities in Lapland. The destination is extremely popular in the winter season, with over 63% of tourism related activities taking place in the winter months. Even though this Arctic Circle has been experiencing constant tourist growth before the COVID-19 pandemic, its challenges are not necessarily related to over-crowding. Rather the discomfort experienced by residents connected to urban mobility, peer-to-peer accommodation, recreational facilities and use of nature are among the contant points of concerns. Moreover, the centralized Finnish system of collecting taxes also poses some governance challenges for the local municipality on how to collect revenues from tourists that could be eventually used for better financing local needs of residents.

    This is why, the Rovaniemi ULG agreed on several bold actions to be included in the IAP that address the following four objectives: (1)Reduce the side effects during tourism high season in winter; 2. Reduce the impact of tourism on Arctic nature and mitigating climate change; 3. Strengthening the socio-cultural benefits of tourism and 4. Building up an active Destination Development Group (working name). Most importantly, all these objectives stem from the shared vision that sustainable development of tourism can only be a reality if the “carrying capacity” of nature is respected and is both starting and end point.

    #9: Venice – adopting smart city solutions for addressing over-tourism challenges

    Venice and its Lagoon, an UNESCO World Heritage, has long brought wonder for its unique landscape, and also attracted significant number of tourists. Tourism is actually key for the local economy, with 1 in 3 people employed in the commerce and tourism sector. However, due to constant growth, Venice also become an international poster city of the adverse effects of over-tourism on the quality of life and heritage. This is why, in the last years, the city has become strongly committed, both locally and internationally, to the agenda of sustainable tourism. In fact, the city has committed to bringing changes to its entire system connected to the destination management system. This includes the way it manages the resources and making a priority the protection of residents from the inconvenience caused by tourism activities. In fact, Venice was one of the first cities to innovate in terms of marketing and communication, launching the still existing campaign of #EnjoyRespectVenezia

    The Venice IAP has thus focused on how to create a greater engagement among tourism and city stakeholders for the vision of a new model of sustainable tourism for Venice. Two key objectives were identified as a priority, namely: (1) governing the tourist flows to make them compatible with the daily life of the residents by enhancing the traditional craftsmanship and cultural offer and (2) promotion of a strategy for the relaunch of the tourist offer of the city and its mainland. Both directions are and will continue to rely on several smart city solutions, such as the Smart Control Room and use of innovative marketing and communication.




  • Strategic Public Procurement




    Public procurement is the process used by municipalities and other institutions to buy goods, services and works which enable them to deliver their activities. At URBACT we see procurement as a strategic lever that cities can use to address the economic, social and environmental challenges they face. We think procurement could be used to create jobs and apprenticeships, to develop workers skills and reduce carbon emissions. We call this strategic procurement.





    Buying a better future

    The URBACT Knowledge Hub brings together good practices from across the EU, with the latest urban trends, to fill the gaps and make sure that the learning is within everyone's reach. At URBACT we see procurement as a strategic lever that cities can use to address the economic, social and environmental challenges they face. Building on the experience of URBACT networks, we developed a wealth of resources on strategic procurement, including a free online course targeted at anyone with an interest in procurement and changing the way it is undertaken in cities.


    • Local economy
    • Social cohesion


    URBACT's support for better procurement strategies


    Back in 2015, the work of the PROCURE Action Planning Network paved the way for a future generation of URBACT cities eager to enhance their procurement processes. The core learning from the network was that procurement has to be viewed as a cycle: the Cycle of Procurement. In 2018, the Making Spend Matter Transfer Network started working on transferring one of the key steps of the cycle, called Spend Analysis, across EU seven cities.


    Most recently, the CO4CITIES innovation transfer pilot, the Cities4CSR Action Planning Network and the BioCanteens#2 Transfer Network have concluded their activities in 2022. All these projects have also contributed to the reflections of how cities can leverage public procurement at local level. Today, the GenProcure Action Planning Network, which was approved in May 2023, will explore how cities can further develop gender-responsive processes.


    Since 2017, URBACT and the City of Preston have been contributing to the Urban Agenda Partnership on Public Procurement pushing forward public procurement as a strategic driver to help public authorities solve challenges they are dealing with, be they social, economic or environmental. URBACT has co-developed the action Enabling Sustainable Economic Recovery through Public Procurement in the partnership's original action plan and the programme will continue its contribution until 2024.



    At last, the programme supports cities in the EU and beyond with its tools, notably the

    URBACT Online Course on Strategic Procurement, its thematic articles and segmented newsletter.

    Online course

    What is this course about?

    Drawing upon the activities from previous networks, URBACT has developed a free online course to equip cities with the knowledge and tools required to embed social and environmental criteria into the process of public procurement and to progress strategic procurement.

    Who is this course for?

    The training is targeted at anyone with an interest in procurement and changing the way it is undertaken in cities. You could be a mayor or politician, a civil servant working in strategy or procurement department, or working in urban and economic development, or someone completely different and willing to learn!

    How is this course structured?

    Available on the URBACT Toolbox, the original course comprised 7 training modules and it was first released in 2021. Alongside city case studies, the training covered the procurement cycle. In 2022, in collaboration with EIGE, URBACT released 4 new transversal modules to raise awareness and help cities implement gender-responsive public procurement at local level.

    URBACT online course on strategic procurement

    Thematic newsletter






  • Food and sustainable local systems



    Food systems activities produce greenhouse gases that contribute to climate change. They are a primary cause of environmental degradation and significantly contribute to socio-economic and health inequalities. Only a food systems approach can identify effective actions to accelerate climate impacts and reduce inequalities.

    Food for thought

    The URBACT Knowledge Hub brings together good practices from across the EU, with the latest urban trends, to fill the gaps and make sure that the learning is within everyone's reach. URBACT has supported many working on topics linked to sustainable food and urban agriculture and pulled together their insights to help others take action -- some good food for thought!


    • Climate action
    • Local economy
    • Social cohesion
    • Urban food systems
    Urban agriculture (IStock)

    Food for thought - URBACT Knowledge Hub

    What's on the menu?

    Read below the latest stories and expert's contributions on the subject of food and sustainable local productions.

    See all the key ingredients

    Since 2013, URBACT has supported 11 networks to learn from each other on the topics of sustainable food and urban agriculture.



    Thanks to URBACT, more than 60 cities have led the transition towards more sustainable local food ecosystems. URBACT is pulling together the insights from these cities and beyond to help cities take action.

    Check out URBACT's recipe

    Below you can find out how cities are making the most with each ingredient, so better, more sustainable and organic cities can thrive.

    1. Policy-making

    Food policy meeting
    Why food policy is more important than ever?



    Food systems encompass the entire range of stakeholders and their interlinked activities from food production to distribution and consumption via transformation. These actors range from private to public, NGOs, as well as citizens, focusing on the types of food items, their quality, their integration into daily lives


    2. Food production

    Food production in Mouans Sartoux (FR)
    How to ensure local and sustainable food production?


    In order to support the transition to more sustainable local food ecosystems, many cities have sought to modify the way they produce their food - for example, by making it more local and reducing direct transport, by introducing new planning measures and land-use rules, transitioning to organic production, or diversifying their local food production (fruits, vegetables, meat, bee products). Food sovereignty is a key concept for many cities and reflexions upon the Commons has also been initiated. 


    3. Food distribution

    Food distribution in Vaslui (RO)
    How does your food get into your plate?


    The way food is distributed in a city reflects largely its relation to the food ecosystem. Cities can improve access to (sustainable) food to all its citizens by diversifying its selling points developing retail entities, markets, cooperatives and other forms of food provision. Short food supply chains can also be a way to empower actors and make territories (more) resilient.




    4. Jobs and skills

    Food jobs - Canteen ladies in Pays de Condruses (BE)
    How can cities promote educational and professional pathways and develop skills while developing sustainable food ecosystems?


    Focusing on food systems is both an end and a means to address jobs accessibility and skills development. Cities can use food to boost employability of job seekers and support the most disadvantaged people to develop new skills while socialising. They can support the development of business and entrepreneurial initiatives through business incubators and test farms.



    5. Food transformation

    Food transformation- Rosignano Marittimo (IT)
    From the raw products to the dishes in your plate, how to ensure a healthy and good quality food?


    In the conventional sector, food transformation is a key moment in the supply chain where food items are strongly modified with potentially negative effects on health, as well as on the environment. Cities can take action to ensure that the quality of the food is preserved - for example, by ensuring that products are both organic and local in school canteens meals.  Transformation can take place with the aim to sell and make profit in the private sector, or to be delivered and eaten in school canteens, to teach and raise awareness in NGOs, or to be preserved at home.


    6. Community-building

    Food community in Brussels (BE)
    How to raise awareness about sustainable food and use it to engage?


    Food has always been a binding ingredient for local communities. URBACT cities have developed specific approaches to engage with citizens, and more particularly with children in schools. Community engagement is an underlying component of many municipal programmes focusing on changing food behaviours through education and transitioning towards more sustainable food consumption.


    7. Solidarity

    Food solidarity
    How to make sure everyone gets access to (quality) food?


    The Covid-19 pandemic has made increasingly obvious the need to ensure that nobody is left behind when considering one of our core primary needs, food. Access to good, organic and local food shouldn't be a privilege for a selected few. Cities can take action to ensure that everybody gets access to the best available food – best for them, for the environment and for (local) economy – but also promoting healthy food as a key common good for all.

    8. Marketing and branding

    Food branding - honey from Portugal
    How to promote your city via its gastronomy and food products?


    Food has always been a key item not only to bring people together, but also to attract them. As such, many cities are using it as a token for touristic development, branding and marketing. Some have developed gastronomic strategies - with the creation of brands or producers’ clubs, or taking part in european competitions, others develop their own labels, or specific touristic paths.

    9. Education and awareness-raising

    Food education in Mouans Sartoux (FR)
    How to raise awareness and educate on food?


    Cities can play a role in raising awareness and educating citizens on good quality and healthy food - for example, by running activities for different types of publics and creating time and spaces for all to engage in these activities.

    10. Circular food systems

    Circular food systems
    How to transition towards a more circular and sustainable food system?


    Local food ecosystems are holistic approaches to address food from its production to its delivery and consumption via its transformation. A key remaining element, to ensure closing the loop, is to adopt a circular approach, notably in addressing foodwaste, seeking to reduce it at individual collective and private sector levels. The benefits can then not only be environmental but also economic.

    11. Bees and wild pollinators

    Bees and wild pollinators
    What bees have to do with cities?


    Bees and wild pollinators are natural biodiversity indicators in the urban jungle. Far beyond the sweet honey, bees can bring benefits related to education, jobs, skills, tourism and gatronomy. They can also create and strengthen exisitng communities. See how bee-friendly cities are paving the way towards change and join the movement!