POINT (-8.653754 40.640506)
  • Stay Tuned


    Phase 1 kick-off
    Phase 2 kick-off
    Phase 2 development
    Final event

    Arwen Dewilde
    City of Ghent


    European cities face higher levels of Early Leaving from Education and Training (ELET) than their national averages, meaning that some urban areas have more ELET rates, than the countryside areas - contrary to the national trends of these cities' countires. This represents a serious challenge, as ELET has significant societal and individual consequences, such as a higher risk of unemployment, poverty, marginalization and social exclusion. Tackling this issue means breaking the cycle of deprivation and the intergenerational transmission of poverty and inequality.

    Boosting the Frequency of Qualification
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    The Intercultural cities programme (ICC) supports cities in reviewing their policies through an intercultural lens and developing comprehensive intercultural strategies to help them manage diversity positively and realise the diversity advantage.

    Amadora launches a Guide on the welcoming of migrants


    Phase 2: Transfer Learning Period. Experiential Learning Stage. Transnational meetings: Antwerp, Suceava, Sassari and Clermont-Ferrand
    Phase 1: Kick-off meeting: Jurmala and Transnational Conference: Gijón
    Phase 2: Transfer Learning Period. Reflective Learning Stage.
    Phase 2: Sharing Period. Contextual Support for Learning. Transnational Meeting: Jurmala. Exchange and Learning Seminar: Aveiro and Final Conference: Gijón

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


    Municipality of Santiago de Compostela


    Municipality of Udine (Italy)


    For any enquires into Tech Revolution, email:

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

    Follow our Twitter: @Tech_RevEu
    Follow our Linkedin:




    Av. Movimento das Forças Armadas

    2700-595 Amadora



    +351 21 436 9000

    Ext. 1801


    City of Rome

    Department of European Funds and Innovation

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



    Câmara Municipal de Lisboa

    Departamento de Desenvolvimento Local

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



    Laura González Méndez. Project coordinator.

    Gijón City Council


    CARD4ALL is a Transfer network focused on the implementation of innovative services and technologies through a Citizen Card System. Cities can gather information to improve their services and use it for participative processes. It can be applied to promote social inclusion, local trade, urban mobility and sustainable living, thus creating a Smart City with Smart Citizens. The technology used allows the transferability and replication in different contexts.

    Your city in your pocket!
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  • Nine solutions for more vibrant, productive cities

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    These local actions for community participation and productivity are inspiring cities across the EU. Could they work in yours too?


    The New Leipzig Charter highlights three forms of the transformative city which can be harnessed in Europe to enhance people’s quality of life: the Just City, the Green City and the Productive City.

    URBACT’s latest publication is packed with sustainable solutions to address these three dimensions – all tried, tested and transferred between EU cities, with adaptations for each local context.

    To give a taste of the stories told in ‘Good Practice Transfer: Why not in my City?’, here are nine examples of local actions for Productive Cities. We hope towns and cities of all sizes will be inspired to ‘Understand, Adapt and Re-use’ participative solutions like this – from education and entrepreneurship to efficient governance and better use of urban spaces – improving everyday life for residents, and supporting a just transition to a green economy.


    1. Give citizens a card for local services

    To simplify everyday life in Aveiro (PT), the municipality got together with stakeholders to launch a card that will give citizens easy access to public services such as the library, museum, buses and shared bikes, as well as improved online and front desk support. A first step was to issue a student card to access school services across the city, from stationery and meals, to school trips. The idea is to promote a smarter, more open, resilient and inclusive society. Aveiro and four other URBACT partner cities are introducing their local versions of ‘CARD4ALL’ based on good practice from Gijón, a Spanish city that has provided citizen cards for nearly 20 years.


    2. Put residents’ wellbeing at the heart of urban regeneration

    In a project to bring an old playing field back into use, Birmingham (UK) gave local people the power to drive improvements themselves, thanks to a Community Economic Development Planning model, mirroring successful approaches already used in Łódź (PL). Building on this positive start, residents went on to co-produce an alternative Community-Led Master Plan for the wider area — where all council plans had previously been opposed. Council-appointed community ‘ambassadors’ now work with local residents, businesses, service providers and volunteers with a direct stake in the area’s economic health. And the approach is being rolled out across other areas of the city. Birmingham is one of six cities to learn from Łódź’ collaborative model as part of the URBAN REGENERATION MIX network.


    3. Create a digital business hub with a local twist 

    The Greek city of Piraeus founded a new ‘Blue Lab’ near its harbour — the first Blue Economy Innovation Centre in Greece. Equipped with state-of-the-art technology, Blue Lab welcomes students and entrepreneurs, providing business mentoring, tech and entrepreneurship training. It has boosted cooperation with businesses and schools, and sparked an array of prototype technology solutions. Piraeus’ further plans now include a new larger co-working space, training facilities to upskill the workforce, and investment in more advanced technologies. Piraeus is one of six URBACT Tech Revolution network partner cities to set up their own start-up support schemes based on the Digital Media Centre in Barnsley (UK), an URBACT-listed Good Practice that has become a successful hub for local creative and digital business.


    4. Build local partnerships around education

    By involving parents, school staff, local clubs and council departments in ‘Educational Innovation Networks’ (EIN), the city of Halmstad (SE) is boosting local connections and sparking improvements in education. Thanks to the URBACT ON BOARD network, Halmstad learnt from Viladecans (ES) who originally formed an EIN to improve education as part of a drive to reverse rising unemployment and declining growth. Halmstad adopted new ideas, including ‘Positive Mindset and Emotions’ for better learning and methods for improving pupil participation. Communication within the municipality also improved thanks to cross-departmental clusters focusing on: Care and Support; Education and Learning; Growth and Attractiveness; and Infrastructure.


    5. Open a ‘living room’ for local clubs and residents

    Idrija (SI) transformed an empty shop into a ‘living room’ for the town, with free activities run by, and for, local associations and inhabitants. City administrators, social services and economic departments, local clubs and active citizens, are all involved in the project, as well as the regional development agency, library and retirement home. As a result, the site has become a meeting place open to all, with events focusing on topics as diverse as housing refurbishment, chess, and knitting. It also hosts a municipality-supported free transport service for elderly people and a book corner run by the local library. Idrija’s solution was modelled on the ‘Stellwerk’ NGO platform launched in Altena (DE) as a solution to help manage the town’s long-term decline.


    6. Turn unused buildings into homes

    Chemnitz’s (DE) ‘Housing Agency for Shrinking Cities’ helps transform empty buildings into valuable housing while reducing speculation, channeling grant money, and cutting future costs for both the owners of decaying buildings and the municipality. Initiated and funded by the city authorities, the project is carried out in the public interest by a long-standing private partner. This model inspired Vilafranca del Penedès (ES), partner in the URBACT ALT/BAU network, to review its housing policies and look for private partners with the technical capacity and financial solvency to help the city recover abandoned housing units. As a result, Vilafranca has signed an agreement with a social foundation whose main objective is to identify, obtain and rehabilitate low-priced rental housing in collaboration with job agencies.


    7. Launch a blue entrepreneurship competition (for cities near water!) 

    The port city of Mataró (ES) is boosting local entrepreneurship and jobs in the maritime economy – inspired by a BlueGrowth initiative in Piraeus (EL). Mataró encouraged diverse public and private stakeholders to get involved, including the City Promotion team, regional ‘Barcelona Nautic Cluster’, local port authority, and a technology park that hosts the University and a business incubator. The resulting Mataró Blue Growth Entrepreneurship competition provides cash prizes, mentoring and access to a business accelerator programme. So far winning projects include a boat repair franchise, a boat propulsion system, and an app linking up superyachts with relevant services.


    8. Help city employees become innovators

    When Turin (IT) teamed up with private sponsors to launch a competition inviting 10 000 municipal staff to submit innovative ideas for improving the administration's performance, winning proposals included solutions for improving community participation, smart procurement, and lighting in public buildings. This inspired Rotterdam (NL) and five other cities in the URBACT Innovato-R network to draw on Turin’s experience to boost innovation and process improvement in their own cities. As a result, Rotterdam took a fresh approach with its existing innovation network of over 1 800 civil servants and 500 external stakeholders, strengthening links with businesses and academics, introducing new online ‘inspiration sessions’, and co-designing a new innovation platform.


    9. Harness the power of public spending 

    Koszalin (PL) analysed the city’s procurement spending and is using the resulting evidence to shape public procurement practices in order to benefit the local economy, while taking into account social and environmental factors. To do so, they used a spend analysis tool that was originally developed by Preston (UK) and transferred to six EU cities via the URBACT Making Spend Matter network. Koszalin also started working more closely with key ‘anchor institutions’ in the city, such as the hospital and university, exploring how much they spend, and where that money goes geographically. Meanwhile, they improved support for local SME participation in public procurement.


    Find out more about these and many more sustainable city solutions – in the new URBACT publication ‘Good Practice Transfer: Why not in my City?’.

    Visit the Good Practice database for more inspiration.


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  • A card to simplify smart access to local services


    Digitalisation for more efficient municipal policies

    Angela Cunha
    Project Coordinator
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    78 000

    Solutions offered by the good practice

    <p>Aveiro is an industrial city with an important seaport on the western coast of Portugal and also known as ‘the Portuguese Venice’. More recently, it has become known as a digital cluster, a territory of innovation with a strong knowledge economy, dynamic university, centre for telecoms R&amp;D, and innovative firms in the digital and traditional sectors. However, the increasing development of new digital solutions had created a complex system of providers, interfaces and information sources for various services around the city, which was increasingly hard for local people to navigate.</p><p>The Municipality has been wanting to simplify citizens’ access to public services and transform Aveiro into a smarter, more open, resilient and inclusive society. In 2018, it launched an Urban Innovative Actions (UIA) project ‘Aveiro STEAM CITY’, supporting the adoption of 5G and Internet of Things (IoT) technologies.</p><p>Aveiro has started by introducing a common card for all students across its different schools. All services provided by the municipality and schools can be managed and paid with it. This includes the cafeteria, school supplies, photocopying, even access to the buildings and school-day extensions. Crucial preparatory actions included mapping different systems to ensure compatibility and ease of use.</p><p>Almost simultaneously, the Municipality also activated new online services, with a wide range of options. Different linkages, payments loading, single sign-in and a number of other key elements discussed in Card4All are already in place.</p>

    Sustainable and integrated urban approach

    <p>The integrated approach supported by the ULG has been particularly valuable in helping the work with CARD4ALL fit into Aveiro’s constellation of ongoing projects, creating synergies and building on existing policies.</p><p>In addition, the services provided via the card clearly relate to environmentally friendly solutions such as a public transport. It can also potential include social benefits directly into the card.</p>

    Participatory approach

    <p>To reach this point, Aveiro and its stakeholders exchanged regularly with fellow partner CARD4ALL cities, and learned directly about Lead Partner Gijon’s Citizen Card system, including technical tools required for its development. This has already informed key elements of Aveiro’s new online public services and the emerging citizen card plans.</p><p>Local developments have been coordinated with an URBACT Local Group (ULG) comprising two different groups of stakeholders. The first engages all existing service providers on a practical, technical level. The second is a municipal cross-departmental group linking with wider economic development activities.</p><p>The network and the wider activities enjoy strong support from local politicians – and a clearly identified demand from citizens.</p>

    What difference has it made

    <p>Based on the practice of Gijon, the municipal departments are still working together to create a broader citizen card system covering almost all sectors of local life, including: mobility (bikes, buses, ferry, parking…); education and sports; culture (libraries, museums, theatre…); tourism; IT; and ‘the front office’ that deals directly with citizens. Each department acts as an intermediary with their own external service providers and concession holders, encouraging strong cross-sectoral cooperation. The card’s success in the future will require technical capacity, financial and human resources – including a municipal team of ICT developers and technical experts – which is not always easy to maintain in Portuguese municipalities.</p>

    Transferring the practice

    <p>The transfer journey has been demanding but rich. As a direct outcome, despite all ongoing challenges, the city is now working with more public service providers to add the library, museums, bus and bike sharing system to a new citizen card, further simplifying life for residents.</p>

    Is a transfer practice
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  • High tech Aveiro’s new Citizen Card makes life easier

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    When a high tech town simplifies citizens’ access to public services thanks to the Card4All network.

    Digital transition

    While launching a wealth of new tech initiatives including an interactive urban digital platform and 5G network, after a long history of digital innovation, the Portuguese town of Aveiro realised it was time to pause and simplify citizens’ access to public services. Inspired by Gijón (ES) and other cites in the URBACT Card4All network, municipal departments are working together to create a one-stop-shop citizen card for Aveiro.

    The small port-city of Aveiro in northwest Portugal has long been known not just for its picturesque street canals and colourful Moliceiros boats – but also for pioneering telecommunication research and digital transition.

    Since being named Portugal’s first “Digital City” back in 2003, the municipality has continued to develop as a digital territory for innovation, culminating in the current Aveiro Tech City. This includes a 5G testbed, supported by the Urban Innovative Actions STEAM city initiative (2019-21), in partnership with Altice Labs and other stakeholders to help the city “transition into a knowledge-based economy”.

    But one downside of adopting new digital solutions over the years is that Aveiro’s citizens – and the city administration – are having to juggle more and more cards, interfaces and information sources for services around the city, whether it’s to borrow a library book, catch a bus or manage school services.

    The new technological revolution with the wide adoption of a 5G infrastructure and IoT platform will transform the local innovation ecosystem,” says Miguel Sousa, Lead Expert for the URBACT Card4All network. Seeing this as an opportunity to simplify access to services and improve local governance, in 2018 Aveiro joined Card4All, an URBACT transfer network that helps small and medium sized cities learn from Gijón’s (ES) successful Citizen Card.

    In Gijón, citizens, businesses and tourists have been using a personalised card since 2002 to access multiple municipal services, reducing bureaucracy and saving time, while also promoting policies of social inclusion, sustainability, smart growth and sustainable mobility. The card acts as an electric wallet to pay for parking tickets, bus fares and access to sports facilities. Cardholders can also enter a personal code to access official documents and the status of applications. And Gijón’s municipal employees can even use their card to open certain council vehicles.

    Aveiro decided to start designing their Citizen Card by learning from three main public services that until now have their own separate cards:

    1. Schools, as currently children need two or three different cards as they move from kindergarten through to high school – for buying lunches and supplies, staying after school, or accessing certain buildings;
    2. Public libraries;
    3. An upgraded bike sharing system, due to launch in 2020.

    The card could also enable quick access to the museum, wi-fi, and sports bookings. And the system should allow more services to be added later, whether they are run by public or private entities.

    The aim is to have a first version of the one-stop-shop Citizen Card ready to test by mid 2020, and reach at least 35,000 of the region’s 40,0000 inhabitants in the first year.

    We need to make things more efficient, simple and clear for people,” says Aveiro’s Card4All project manager Maria Angela Cunho, responsible for the Economic development and innovation sub-unit. “The initial phase is connecting what already exists. Having one interface will simplify people’s lives.”

    Relevant municipal department chiefs met early on and agreed a structured plan for the two-year URBACT project. “It’s a huge thing to get them to work together on one card!” says Cunha.

    With the goal to “improve city performance, fostering technological development and innovation as a contribution for better policies and services”, this URBACT Local Group (ULG) meets every few months – sometimes with their Card4All European partners and URBACT expert. It includes people working on the following:

    - Mobility (for bikes, buses and parking);
    - Education;
    - Sports;
    - Culture (for libraries, museums, the theatre, youth and elderly, and tourism);
    - IT (for public wi-fi);
    - the Front Office that deals directly with citizens.

    Each department acts as an intermediary with their own stakeholders, often operators of external services such as transport, energy or food supply companies who may join the card later.

    Next transnational steps

    Armed with questions defined by the ULG, interviewers recently set off around the city to meet citizens face-to-face and understand their priorities for local public services. This insight will help Aveiro start working with external developers to prepare a public tender for the Citizen Card’s development. Then, early in 2020, members of the ULG – including the city’s tech department and external developers – will travel to URBACT Good Practice city Gijon for an intensive meeting with their peers there. That will help Aveiro finalise the public tender.

    I think it’s important to see Gijon’s experience because it shows that it’s possible. They’ve added lots of services, even external services. It helps to have a goal, something to look at,” says Cunha.

    The Municipality of Aveiro has a large experience in transnational collaborative projects where the city acquired knowledge and gained relevant experience in the design and implementation of strategic plans to support economic development and RD&I activities,” says Sousa, Card4All Lead Expert. “I believe that the transnational cooperation experience speed up the digital transition in Aveiro.”

    Avoiding digital pitfalls in local governance

    Providing access to essential services and listening to all voices in decision-making, including those of the less privileged and most vulnerable - these are just two fundamental elements of good local governance for cities to have in mind when developing digital tools. Others are to ensure the city has necessary IT skills in-house, and the resources to answer new messages from citizens.

    Christophe Gouache, Lead Expert for the URBACT ActiveCitizen network recently launched in Agen (FR) to promote better local governance, warns that for cities, “the biggest danger facing citizen participation and local democracy is to rush into the ‘digital promise’… and to suppress other, low tech, modes of participation”. By this he means collaborative events like neighbourhood meetings, or workshops with inhabitants. “Digital is only a tool, a complementary channel of connection with inhabitants,” he adds.

    Meanwhile, the Aveiro Tech City scheme includes the development of a single urban platform with multi-source data-collection to support decision-making by the mayor and elected representatives, civil servants, and citizens. André Costa, Head of Economic development and entrepreneurship, says the platform will be similar to those of larger cities like Dublin, Barcelona, Milan – and could take up to a decade to develop. “At any moment,” says Costa, “our mayor will be able to know the city’s level of revenue. He will be able to know the number of processes requested for the requalification of urban buildings. He will know the level of CO2 emissions that we are able to reduce once we’ve implemented electrical buses, electric engines in our municipal boats, and electrical ferry boats. And we’ll be able to inform our citizens so they know the results and the outcomes of the investments being made.”

    Aveiro’s Card4All will be designed to link in with this new urban platform. It would be technically possible to produce a mobile app to access public services virtually instead of printing individual cards for everyone. That would save costs, not just on producing the cards, but also acquiring, installing and maintaining card readers. But Cunha says a physical card is still necessary for children, the elderly, and other people excluded from technology: “I guess for now we have to have both solutions”.

    Summing up the project, José Ribau Esteves, Mayor of Aveiro, said, “The Card4All project is a part of our global initiative – Aveiro Tech City – that intends to support the City of Aveiro transition into a knowledge-based economy, while providing better services to our citizens and visitors. Economically, we aim at competing with the stronger national economic centres, being able to attract and retain the necessary talents for our economy to grow and produce more added-value, making Aveiro a more competitive city globally. Socially, we intend to provide better services to our citizens using digital tools, and Citizen Card will play a very important role in this regard.

    Further reading on urban governance
    A chapter from the Future of cities report by the European Commission’s Knowledge Centre for Territorial Policies.

    Many more URBACT cities are using digital tools to improve quality of life
    They include, Helsinki (FI), in the URBACT REFILL network; and cities in the new URBACT IoTxChange network, led by Fundao (PT).

    URBACT and Digital Transition:

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  • Your city in your pocket!

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    Card4all project is based on the Gijon Citizen Card, an URBACT Good Practice, which is celebrating its 16th birthday in 2018. During this time, Miguel Sousa says it offered citizens access to a range of public services, stimulated their modernization and increased trust and proximity between citizens and city services.

    Smart living in Gijon

    Gender equality

    The idea for the Citizen Card first took hold in 1999 after analyzing similar experiences developed by other cities. Three years later, in 2002, it was implemented in Gijon as a tool to integrate services and a very useful resource one could have, be it residents or visitors.

    The card’s objectives from the beginning were: to offer citizens good quality services, have one card for all municipal actions, improve existing functions and add new ones. It has become an essential tool to the quality of life in Gijon City: "Smart living". Citizens of Gijón, businesses and tourists could access municipal services, allowing a reduction in bureaucracy, time saving, ensuring access to services, promoting policies of social inclusion, sustainability, smart growth and sustainable mobility.

    The Citizen Card is personal and non-transferable, replacing other identification systems like the Library Card, Transport Card or others related to municipal services. Gathering all services in one single card, means saving time and an overall efficient simplification.

    Thanks to all the improvements already made and those that can be implemented in the future, the Citizen Card will prove to be a basic yet crucial mechanism helping citizens with services offered by Gijon City Council. It’s also set to become a distinctive symbol of the city.

    Gijon citizen card data

    The Citizen Card launched its services in 2002, with 27,037 cards issued that year. From that moment on, the numbers have been steadily increasing to reach 332,283 cards 16 years later.

    Today the number of cards issued is higher than the population of Gijon, which in 2017 reached 271,987 inhabitants. This can be explained by the cards being available to non residents. The aim of the card was always to go beyond borders and open the city’s virtual doors to any person/company/association that needs its services.

    The Citizen Card services have been improved thanks to the citizens’ collaboration, and to each service’s internal tools… An anonymous survey received useful information to make a database about its us and needs. Each service established a number of indicators to gather information about the card’s use, which allows to develop and further improve the services offered.

    Thanks to databases updated in real time, it soon appeared that the most used service is bus transport, reaching 90% use, data that remains constant since the early days. Thanks to this service, the users benefits from reduced fees, or even free rides. The second service is made up of libraries and media libraries, where users have free access to books and Internet. The public bathrooms are the third most used service, again, free for those with a Citizen Card. All this information is available in open data to anyone who may be interested.

    Age is another factor to take into account when it comes to the card’s use analysis. In this case, the 30-50 age group is the most represented with 36%, followed by the 51-70 group with 25%, and a 16% for the 13-29 year olds. These three groups make up more than 75% of the total cards issued, because they are at the ages where the services offered are most demanded.

    Card4all project

    CARD4ALL, is a partnership led by Gijón (ES), with Suceava (RO), Jurmala (LV), phase I partners, and Aveiro (PT), Sassari (IT), Clermont-Ferrand (FR) and Antwerp (BE) as partners for phase II. The network is committed to good practice and it shares its small and medium sized European cities’ identity’s characteristics.

    For a growing European economy, the health and wealth of these small and medium sized cities and their connected hinterlands should be a priority. By participating in the Card4all project, cities will have the opportunity to develop their digital strategy, to increase citizen information transparency, to promote healthy habits, socialization and social inclusion and to facilitate the participation of citizens in relevant city life issues.

    Expected challenges

    One of the main expected challenges is the process of adopting and adapting the Citizen Card good practice across the partnership cities. The starting point of the cities is different, as are the expectations for the project’s outcome. The transferability methods will be flexible and open to allow the identification and understanding of the challenges and transfer good practice.

    Another challenge is to overcome the complexity of public organizational structures and to identify good practice transfer progress, every year, as well as the “ownership” of the city card - meaning the ones that will lead the process and that will engage other local stakeholders in the city card’s implementation.

    Expected benefits for Card4all cities

    The simple implementation of the Citizen Card is already an improvement when it comes to municipal services available, since it is a fast and efficient way of accessing a host of services. Regarding the expected benefits they are as follows:

    • Integration of several services into one card, substituting former ones (libraries, pools, transport…).
    • Proximity to public services, allowing both natural and legal persons to interact with the public Administration in a faster and easier way by identifying themselves through the Web or Citizen Terminals.
    • Improve citizens’ quality of life with accessible services that save time compared to face-to face procedures.
    • More available hours thanks to the Citizen Terminals network.
    • Any natural or legal person can have a Citizen Card.
    • Easy to use thanks to the contactless card that speeds procedures up and allows for a more efficient use of new communication technologies.
    • Diminishes proceedings and unnecessary costs since the card does not have an expiry date.
    • Applications can be face-to-face or online, depending on the citizen’s needs.
    • Any person can benefit from the services offered, whatever their place of residence.
    • It is a tool to implement different policies: use of public transportation, recycling, etc..
    • Cities will have a lot of data about the use of services in a centralized system that can be used for statistics or to make relevant decisions to improve services provided.

    Card4all intends to reach cities and regions beyond the borders of this first partnership and will implement an ambitious communication and distribution plan for phase 2 of the project.


    Visit the network's page: CARD4ALL

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  • ‘Migrant crisis’: what can cities learn about new service design?

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    A message from Sicily

    There’s been a lot of recent talk about the additional pressure new migrant arrivals place on public services. There has been less discussion about how cities – and it is mainly cities – are coping with this. And less still about what we are learning and the implications for future public services.

    This was the focus of a recent Social Innovation Europe event in Siracusa Sicily. Meeting on one of Europe’s front lines gave us the chance to see what’s happening and to hear about lessons emerging from our recent experiences. We were particularly interested to examine the range of social innovations emerging to meet new service demands.

    This article shares some of these new service examples. It also considers what they tell us about the new service design dynamics they reflect. Finally, we conclude with reference to Ezio Manzini's call for a new narrative around migrants, aligned to a design-led approach to service development.

    Digital transition

    What can be done to address negative perceptions?

    Today in Europe, the narrative around migrants is almost unceasingly negative. Fear of terrorism; Islamophobia; the ongoing Global Financial Crisis: all contribute to a climate of anxiety which shapes the debate. Too often, facts are not allowed to get in the way of this debate. Like the fact that some EU countries will be reliant on immigration to keep the economy going, due to demographic changes in Europe. EU forecasts show for example that Germany’s population will drop from 81.3 million to 70.8 million by 2060 without immigration. Poland’s population is expected to drop by almost 14% in the same period.

    Despite the facts, the fears remain. Too often those fears are based on prejudice and rumour, rather than fact. This can be an insidious problem – especially when much of the media has an anti-migrant undertone.

    One city challenging the rumour mill is Amadora in the metropolitan Lisbon area, which is the Lead Partner in the URBACT Arrival Cities network. The municipality has embarked upon an innovative way to tackle malicious anti-migrant rumours and to help make sure that its citizens know the facts. Don't Feed the Rumor is a communications campaign that initially started in one of the city’s secondary schools. Its aim was to tackle unfounded rumours in a city where 10% of the population has a Lusophone African background. Unfounded assumptions about their school performance, social customs and attitudes were barriers to effective integration.
    The pilot campaign involved recruiting and training 60 pupils of Seomara da Costa Primo secondary school as anti-rumour agents. Armed with facts and trained to challenge rumours when they arose, these students were part of an effective pilot that is now being scaled across the city.

    How can we support access to public services?

    New arrivals need access to information on public services. They often arrive with few resources, limited host language skills and different cultural perceptions. As a result, they can easily tie up large amount of front-line service time in their new host cities. Finding efficient ways to help them access information directly is therefore in everyone’s interest.

    Consequently, there is a wave of i

    nnovation related to improving access to information for migrants. Perhaps the best-known and field leader is Mobilearn, a web solution initially developed in Sweden. Established as a social enterprise by people with first-hand migration experience, it is now being rolled out in other parts of Europe. Acknowledging the widespread use of smartphones amongst refugees, Mobilearn provides a survival guide to local services in a variety of languages.

    Mobilearn has been extensively evaluated and is building an important data bank on the hours (and resources) saved to local authorities as well as the social impact created by the service. In some respects, this work is similar to that of other cities who are developing online ‘Welcome’ services for new arrivals. Dresden, which has faced challenges with anti-migrant protests, launched an app to welcome new arrivals in 2015. Here again, the basic service enables migrants to register for health and other support services.

    What do these developments tell us about emerging service demand? First of all, they underline the ubiquity and importance of smartphones. Migrants arriving with next to nothing will either arrive with one or make it one of their earliest purchases. They also reflect the shift already under way from providing face-to-face public services towards those that are online and available 24/7. This trend is only going to grow further.

    What housing solutions are emerging?

    Many of Europe’s cities face a crisis in affordable housing, one of the reasons why this has been identified as an initial priority theme within the EU Urban Agenda.

    For new arrivals, housing is clearly a top priority, but the current situation can make this difficult. In Germany, where the pressure is perhaps most acute, a recent Robert Bosch Foundation report concluded that there was a need for up to an additional 125,000 dwellings. In response, a range of initiatives have been undertaken to find solutions. These have ranged from establishing temporary accommodation, piloting shared schemes and (controversially) utilising empty former East German housing estates.

    Again, ICT is emerging as a key part of the solution. The Refugees Welcome site, inevitably labeled as ‘Airbnb for refugees’, matches accommodation seekers to potential hosts. Operating across much of Europe, as well as Canada, the service has so far matched over 600 refugees.

    Working on the same lines the UK’s Shared Lives model might offer possibilities to build upon. Aimed at supporting vulnerable people to live within communities, it matches host families to seeking individuals. Although the initial focus has been on health, the principals could be applied to support newly arrived migrants.

    How can we meet the demand for education and employment?

    A high proportion of migrants to the EU are younger people, aged under 34. In 2015 88,700 of them were unaccompanied minors. For many, their education has been disrupted. For example, of the young Syrians arriving in Europe, 25% were in education before their lives were turned upside down. Meeting the educational aspirations of these young people is another of the challenges receiving cities face.

    There is widespread evidence of the educational barriers  that face migrants coming into Europe. These include a lack of familiarity with the host language which prevents participation in the education system. Another is the frequent lack of equivalence between qualifications gained in third countries. In addition, many refugees arrive with few possessions, and often lack the evidence of qualifications even if they have them.

    In Germany, Kiron learning centres have created an innovative access framework linked to the country’s universities and aimed at refugees. Plugging into a network of higher education providers, Kiron offers online learning programmes via MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) as well as language support provision through established providers like Babbel. Kiron has crowdfunded around €500,000 allowing it to offer almost 500 scholarships. The response has been very positive and Kiron is expanding rapidly since its inception.

    For adults looking to fast track into employment, education may not be the priority. Acquiring and demonstrating competencies with labour market value may be a bigger issue. For those who already have skills, but who may lack paperwork or host-country experience the growing area of microcredentialism is proving to be helpful. This reflects a growing demand from employers to have a very specific understanding of the skills people have, due to trends of generic job descriptions. Linked In recommendations are a good example of this development, labelled ‘technologies of expertise’ by Beth Noveck.

    For those refugees with high skills in demand, a number of specialist services are emerging. One of these is the Refugee Doctors Programme designed by the Bridges Project in Scotland. This seeks to support qualified refugee doctors to fast track into employment within NHS Scotland. The programme is also open to dentists and pharmacists.

    What conclusions can we draw from this early intensive experience?

    It’s way too early to draw any hard and fast conclusions from European cities’ early experience of meeting migrant needs. The picture is so varied and messy that making generalized observations is a risky business. However….on the basis of some early feedback, here are some very early potential implications for our governance models.

    The migrants’ arrival is generating demand for new services

    The flow of people from the world’s most troubled corners is creating a market for services. Some of these are provided illegally, like the traffickers who charge a lifetime’s savings to take a chance crossing the Mediterranean in a flimsy dingy. Others are legal and, at times, core public services, such as the provision of housing and education for those at risk. In the middle is the growing market of hybrid services such as the smart apps which help migrants navigate the new systems and realities they encounter.

    Many of these demands reflect trends already taking place in our cities

    The emerging services mentioned in this article are mainly targeted at new arrivals. However, they reflect service needs already evident in our cities, such as:

    • The need for a counter-narrative to the growing poisonous rumours aimed at society’s most vulnerable people. (Thought leaders like Julia Unwin have written about the increasing tendency to blame the poor and vulnerable for their own situations.)
    • The demand for wider-access to higher education that is free and available 24/7
    • The challenge to provide affordable housing – and in particular the need for new supported housing models for the most disadvantaged people in our societies

    The scale of the migrant challenge has galvanized community responses…which traditional funding sources have struggled to support

    As nation states have deliberated and city administrations have wrung their hands, across Europe ordinary citizens have stepped into the breach to offer support to Europe’s new arrivals. This compassionate groundswell of public support has been one of the few chinks of light in this otherwise dark period of Europe’s history.

    Yet, often our established funding models have struggled to find ways to adequately support these grassroots movements, which are often co-ordinated by unconstituted groups of volunteers. Take for example, the case of Options FoodLab in Greece, which is supporting a wide range of food-related activities bringing refugees and locals together. Yet, due to Greece’s inhospitable climate for social enterprises, they have struggled to evolve and scale.

    Yes, times are tough and there is less money to go round. But this is the very time when we need creativity, energy and social innovation – and the modest financial resources to initially oil the wheels.

    And finally…

    At the SIE event in Siracusa, Ezio Manzini, based at the Politecnico di Milano and the University of the Arts in London, gave a stimulating keynote which touched on these questions. Adopting a design-perspective, he stressed the need to reframe the narrative around migrants, and the need for a more human-centred approach. Instead of this loaded term, he suggested ‘people on the move’. He also suggested a paradigm for service redesign based on different dimensions of that experience – work that he is currently developing and that we will follow with interest.

    At the high policy level, the EU and Member States are exploring solutions – such as the recent controversial Turkey deal. Meanwhile, on the ground, it’s in our cities that the practical solutions are being forged. That’s because most migrants head for urban areas, where their support networks lie and where they are most likely to find work.

    In the coming months there is a growing pipeline of activity and resources relating to how our cities best accommodate and support these people on the move. Although stuck in the old lexicon, this reflects the urgency of the situation and a real commitment to learn, find and share solutions. Some of the key components of this include the EU Urban Agenda’s identification of Migrant Integration as one of its initial four priority themes. Another is the Urban Innovative Actions Programme, one of whose four initial call strands was migrant integration. Alongside this, the recently closed call for the European Social Innovation Competition focused on this theme.

    In the coming months we will be reporting back on these developments. However, a clear message from the SIE event is that the challenges the “Migrant Crisis” presents are mere reflections of the fundamental ones our cities face in these turbulent times. They also act as potential catalysts for new service design and innovation, encompassing themes addressed by some of the new URBACT networks, including CHANGE!, Boostino and Interactive Cities.

    URBACT also recently published an article on refugees and migrants inclusion from the European perspective - The Urban Agenda for Europe: 'Inclusion refugees and migrants' partnership


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    Improve the university-city nexus. By applying to the URBACT programme, they want to learn from each other's experiences and practices, and move forward as successful and inclusive knowledge cities to realise Europe's 2020 strategy.

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    A strong tradition in the ceramics industry and for two years they shared their experiences and developed local policies adapted to this changing economic context in order to make ceramics an asset for their territory in terms of innovation, cultural dynamism and attractiveness.

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