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  • Space4People

    Lead Partner : Bielefeld - Germany
    • Arad - Romania
    • Badalona - Spain
    • Guía de Isora - Spain
    • Nazaré - Portugal
    • Panevėžys - Lithuania
    • Saint-Germain-en-Laye - France
    • Serres - Greece
    • Turku - Finland
    • Valga - Estonia

    City of Bielefeld - Head of Transport Department



    • Kick-Off Meeting Phase 1
    • Final Meeting Phase 1
    • Web-Kick-Off Phase 2
    • Web Meeting June 2020
    • Transnational Meeting October 2020
    • Webinar Dealing with sceptical business communities September 2021
    • Webinar Vision and measure selection September 2021
    • Webinar Dealing with a lack of support from decision makers September 2021
    • Webinar on Car-free livability programme Oslo and Spaces for People Scotland October 2021
    • Webinar Parking Management December 2021
    • Webinar Tactical Urbanism December 2021
    • Webinar Alternative Road Use January 2022
    • IAP Peer Review Session March 2022
    • Webinar Use of indicators and objectives in IAP March 2022
    • Webinar Tools and Methods to measure public space use April 2022
    • Site Visit to Saint-Germain-en-Laye June 2022
    • Final Event Barcelona with RiConnect and Thriving Streets July 2022

    Integrated Action Plan

    Bielefeld Integrated Action Plan

    Read more here !

    Bielefeld - Germany
    Serres: walkable, sustainable, inclusive and accessible city for all

    Read more here !

    Sérres - Greece

    Read more here !

    Nazaré - Portugal
    City of Turku's developement programme for pedestrian and leisure areas 2029

    Read more here !

    Turku - Finland
    Valga Integrated Action Plan

    Read more here !

    Valga - Estonia
    Saint-Germain-en-Laye Integrated Action Plan

    Read more here !

    Saint-Germain-en-Laye, France
    Panevėžys City Integrated Action Plan

    Read more here !

    Panevėžys - Lithuania
    Integrated Action Plan for the enhancement of public space

    Read more here !

    Guía de Isora - Spain
    Municipality of Arad Integrated Action Plan

    Read more here !

    Arad - Romania

    Space4People dealt with public space use in its cities and worked with its main use function: transport. Our focus was on walkability, quality of stay, mix of functions to achieve attractive public space for diverse user groups and a sustainable urban mobility scheme supporting such public spaces. Space4People has placed a user-centric approach at the core of its work that to assessed qualities and deficiencies, developed future visions and tested possible solutions to public space in our cities.

    Space4People - mobility solutions for attractive public space
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  • 23 Action Planning Networks ready for Phase 2!

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    On 7 May, URBACT's Monitoring Committee has officially approved all Action Planning Networks to proceed to Phase 2.



    The main objective of Action Planning Networks is to bring together between 7 and 10 cities across Europe to exchange their experience in a particular thematic urban development challenge and to share their ideas about possible solutions, during a period of over 2 years. The Phase 1 (from late June 2019 to February 2020) focused on the development of baseline studies, city profiles and the production of the Application Form for Phase 2.

    Following the Monitoring Committee's approval of the networks, cities are now ready to focus on the exchange and learning activities using a range of learning tools and approaches in line with the URBACT Method. Every partner city will consolidate an URBACT Local Group, which will co-design Integrated Action Plans for future implementation. The Phase 2 also presents a novelty for the projects, from now on cities are encouraged to undertake pilot actions (Small Scale Actions), to experiment with new ideas for projects gained from other network exchanges and in line with the cities’ network topic.

    As a consequence of the Covid-19 pandemic, the URBACT Secretariat will follow up with a series of adapted activities to support these networks and their partners, including the delivery of trainings using online formats and a 3 months extension of the network life-cycle, meaning that projects will run until August 2022. Thus, networks will respect the following calendar:


    • Activation Stage (May - December 2020): putting together an Integrated Action Plan roadmap
    • Planning Actions (December 2020 - December 2021): drafting the Integrated Action Plan
    • Planning Implementation (December 2021 - June 2022): finalising the Integrated Action Plan
    • Integrated Action Plans Finale (June - August 2022): sharing knowledge


    You can find all approved networks in the table below, the Lead Partner city is indicated is bold. To find out more about each one of the projects, check the network's webpages.
    Congratulations to the 23 approved projects!





    Research, technological development and innovation


    Leiria (PT)
    - Longford (IE)
    - Madrid (ES)
    - Mechelen (BE)
    - Michalovce (SK)
    - Parma (IT)
    - Pella (EL)
    - Unione della Romagna Faentina (IT)
    - Szabolcs 05 Regional Development Association of Municipalities (HU)

    Security and safety are two common goods and fundamental components of European democracy. This network intends to analyse strategies and concepts of urban design and planning, which could contribute to prevent segregation and anti-social behaviour. Additionally, this network wishes to co-create an integrated approach towards urban security focusing on improving citizens’ quality of life and the city’s smart, sustainable and inclusive growth towards a good living environment.

    Find your Greatness

    Alba Iulia (RO)
    - Bragança (PT)
    - Candelaria (ES)
    - Perugia (IT)
    - Wroclaw (PL)
    - Võru (EE)
    - Limerick (IE)
    - Budafok-Tétény 22nd district of Budapest (HU)

    The challenge is to build on the cities' opportunities. The partners of the project need to identify locally a strength, which was built as a sustainable mechanism generating urban development. The goal of this network is to explore and enhance the potential of the city, combining strategic marketing approach with innovative smart city tools.

    Access to and use of ICT

    (previously DI4C)

    Messina (IT)
    - Botosani (RO)
    - Oulu (FI)
    - Portalegre (PT)
    - Roquetas de Mar (ES)
    - Saint- Quentin (FR)
    - Trikala (EL)
    - Ventspils Digital Centre (LV)

    This network aims to set up an acceleration mechanism to enable cities to catch up the digitalisation opportunities in hard & soft infrastructure. Remove all the obstacles encountered by mid-sized cities in their digital journey: lack of strategic & global vision lack of technical and engineering capacities difficulties in incorporating the digital innovation. Municipalities need to guaranty the uptake of digital innovation by the local stakeholders: citizen and entrepreneurs.


    Fundão (PT)
    - Dodoni (EL)
    - Jelgava (LV)
    - Nevers Agglomeration (FR)
    - Razlog (BG)
    - Ånge (SE)
    - Kežmarok (SK)
    - Åbo Akademi University (FI)

    The objective is to encourage the creation of a network of European cities committed to the design of digitalization plans based on Internet of Things (IoT) solutions to increase the quality of life in small and medium sized EU cities, guiding us through a new age of digital transformation.

    Competitiveness of SMEs


    Amarante (PT)
    - Balbriggan (IE)
    - Pori (FI)
    - Pärnu (EE)
    - Grosseto (IT)
    - Gabrovo (BG)
    - Heerlen (NL)
    - Kočevje (SI)
    - Medina del Campo

    - Saldus (LV)

    This network aim to produce 10 different and unique robust economic development strategies, targeting their own genuine niches, and generating urban innovation ecosystems. City partners will focus on deepening the understanding of their own local economic strengths and establish strategic methods to revitalise their economy, adapt their city to the next economy and to future economic changes, establishing methodological bases for generate resilient cities.

    Tourism Friendly Cities

    Genoa (IT)
    - Braga (PT)
    - Rovaniemi (FI)
    - Venice (IT)
    - Utrecht (NL)
    - Krakow (PL)
    - Cáceres (ES)
    - Druskininkai (LT)
    - Dún Laoghaire Rathdown (IE)
    - Dubrovnik Development Agency (HR)

    This network aims to explore how tourism can be sustainable in medium-sized cities, reducing the negative impact on neighbourhoods and areas interested by different types of tourism to reach this ambitious aim, the project will create integrated and inclusive strategies which can keep 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.

    Low carbon economy in all sectors

    Urb-En Pact

    Clermont Auvergne Metropole (FR)
    - Bialystok Association of the Functional Area (PL)
    - CIM Alto Minho (PT)
    - Rouen Normandie Metropole (FR)
    - Elefsina (EL)
    - Galati (RO)
    - Palma di Montechiaro (IT)
    - Tampere EcoFellows (FI)

    Local authorities embrace the ambitious goal to become a zero-net energy territory within the next 30 years. Thus, the aim is to define the local action plans to become zero-net (ZNE) territory by producing and delivering local, renewable and regulated sources of energy by the implementation of an energy loop which gathers all the stakeholders of this circular economy, especially the consumers included in this fair trade business in and around the metropolitan area.

    Zero Carbon Cities
    (previously ZCC)

    Manchester (UK)
    - Bistrita (RO)
    - Zadar (HR)
    - Modena (IT)
    - Frankfurt am Main (DE)
    - Tartu (EE)
    - Vilvoorde (BE)

    The network will support capacity building of cities to establish science-based carbon reduction targets and their Sustainable Energy Action Plans (SEAPs) aligned to Paris Agreement on Climate Change. Working with 7cities to adopt different approaches to carbon budgeting and science-based targets, the network will undertake a programme of capacity building in order to support their local activities and integrated action plan and influence Covenant of Mayors' signatory cities.

    Environmental protection and resource efficiency


    Barcelona Metropolitan Area (ES)
    - Porto Metropolitan Area (PT)
    - Krakow Metropole Association (PL)
    - Paris Metropolitan Area (FR)
    - Gdansk-Gdynia-Sopot Metropolitan Area (PL)
    - Amsterdam Region (NL)
    - Transport for Greater Manchester (UK)
    - Thessaloniki Major Development Agency (EL)

    The overall goal is to rethink, transform and integrate mobility infrastructure aiming at reconnecting people, neighbourhoods, cities and natural spaces. The project will develop planning strategies, processes, instruments and partnerships, fostering public transport and active mobility, reducing externalities and unlocking opportunities of urban regeneration with the objectives of structuring the territory, and achieving a more sustainable, equitable and attractive metropolis.


    Utrecht (NL)
    - Riga (LV)
    - Oeste CIM (PT)
    - Copenhagen (DK)
    - Granada (ES)
    - Munich (DE)
    - Kavala (EL)
    - Prato (IT)
    - Nigrad (SI)

    URGE (circUlaR buildinG citiEs) aims to design integrated urban policies on circularity in the building sector – a major consumer of raw materials – as there is a gap in knowledge on this topic. The result is an in-depth understanding of this theme and a first plan for a tailor-made methodology that allows the circular dimension to be widely integrated in the large construction tasks the URGE partnership is facing. URGE thus accelerates the transition towards a circular economy.

    Healthy Cities

    Vic (ES)
    - Anyksciai (LT)
    - Bradford (UK)
    - Alphen aan den Rijn (NL)
    - Falerna (IT)
    - Farkadona (EL)
    - Loulé (PT)
    - Pärnu (EE)
    - Malta Planning Authority (MT)

    This network aims to deepen the relationship between health and the urban environment, planning actions that focus on improving the population’s health, while developing a rigorous health impact assessment methodology around it. Urban Planning can become a health generator on many grounds, and this network of cities reflects the multiplicity of possible approaches to tackle the issue: green areas, mobility, social cohesion or promotion of sports are some examples.


    Mula (ES)
    - Belene (BG)
    - Cesena (IT)
    - Malbork (PL)
    - Roskilde (DK)
    - Heraklion (EL)
    - Šibenik (HR)
    - Ukmergè (LT)


    The ultimate goal is to represent a moment of change, improving the urban environment of cities involved, developing heritage-led urban regeneration. It will enhance the potential of heritage in small and medium cities developing strategies for economic and social cohesion, inclusion and sustainable urban development. This network fosters the transnational exchange of experiences to test an innovative policy framework, combining a sound integrated approach with a real transformation purpose.


    Resourceful Cities
    (previously UrbReC)

    The Hague (NL)
    - Bucharest 3rd district (RO)
    - Ciudad Real (ES)
    - Mechelen (BE)
    - Cáceres (ES)
    - Patras (EL)
    - Oslo (NO)
    - Opole (PL)
    - Vila Nova Famalicão (PT)
    - Zagreb (HR)


    This network seeks to develop the next generation of urban resource centers to promote the positive economic, environmental and social impacts for the circular economy. They facilitate waste prevention, reuse, repair and recycling. The centers 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.

    (previously Rurban Food)

    Coimbra Region (PT)
    - Alba Iulia (RO)
    - Córdoba (ES)
    - Larissa (EL)
    - Szécsény (HU)
    - Bassa Romagna Union (IT)
    - Tartu Tartumaa Arendusselts (EE)
    - BSC Kranj and Gorenjska (SI)

    Recent experience suggests that it is necessary to promote a transition towards regional food systems. This network encourage the creation of a network of European cities committed to the design of food plans that extend from the urban and periurban areas through a corridor that facilitates urban-rural re-connection. This approach enhances production and consumption environments founded on a base of economic, social and environmental sustainability, integrated into development policies.


    Hegyvidék 12th district of Budapest (HU)
    - Espoo (FI)
    - Limerick (IE)
    - Messina (IT)
    - Breda (NL)
    - Poznań (PL)
    - Santa Pola (ES)
    - Suceava (RO)
    - Tartu (EE)

    As a response to the various health risks related to rapid urbanization and the densification of cities, this network project promotes health-responsive planning and management of urban green infrastructure with an overall aim to bring health and wellbeing benefits for citizens across Europe. The network applies a holistic approach that addresses the main functions provided by urban green infrastructure that deliver health and social benefits.

    Sustainable transport


    Bielefeld (DE)
    - Arad (RO)
    - Badalona (ES)
    - Nazaré (PT)
    - Turku (FI)
    - Guía de Isora (ES)
    - Panevèžys (LT)
    - Saint-Germain-en-Laye (FR)
    - Sérres (EL)
    - Valga (EE)

    This network improves quantity and quality of attractive public spaces in urban areas. For this, it tackles the main public space use being transportation in 3 aspects: improving user experience and adding space to pedestrian networks and (semi) pedestrianised places, upscaling intermodal hubs to urban centres of mixed use as well as reducing and optimising parking in public space. The project takes a user-centric approach by users assessing and creating future use and design of public space.

    Thriving Streets

    Parma (IT)
    - Antwerp (BE)
    - Igoumenitsa (EL)
    - Klaipèda (LT)
    - Nova Gorica (SI)
    - Oradea (RO)
    - Santo Tirso (PT)
    - Radom (PL)
    - Southwark London Borough (UK)
    - Debrecen Economic Development Centre (HU)

    This is a network that addresses the bottlenecks in sustainable urban mobility. The project will focus on the economic and social benefits of sustainable mobility, rather than on the widely demonstrated environmental effects. The network argues that working with local amenities and social networks at neighbourhood level could unlock the hidden demand for active mobility in cities, and thus act as enabler of behaviour change towards more resilient and liveable neighbourhoods.

    Employment protection and resource efficiency


    Heerlen (NL)
    - Aarhus (DK)
    - Baia Mare (RO)
    - Fundão (PT)
    - Kecskemét (HU)
    - Pordenone (IT)
    - Zaragoza (ES)
    - Võru Development Centre (EE)

    This network aims 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 shorttermism, 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.

    Social inclusion and poverty


    Ghent (BE)
    - Braga (PT)
    - Glasgow (UK)
    - Thessaloniki (EL)
    - Liège (BE)
    - Odense (DK)
    - Poznań (PL)
    - Toulouse Metropole (FR)
    - Timisoara Department of Social Assistance (RO)

    This project aims to eradicate homelessness through innovative housing solutions at city level. It will exchange knowledge on how to gather accurate data and make the conceptual shift from the symptomatic management to the actual ending of homelessness, with Housing First and Housing Led as guidance model. This network will guide the partner cities towards integrated local action plans linked to the long-term strategic goal of Functional Zero (no structural homelessness).


    Agen (FR)
    - Bistrita (RO)
    - Cento (IT)
    - Dinslaken (DE)
    - Hradec Králové (CZ)
    - Santa Maria da Feira (PT)
    - Saint-Quentin (FR)
    - Tartu (EE)

    The aim of this network is to rethink the place of the citizens in the local governance by finding a balance between representative democracy and participatory democracy. This network of European small and medium-sized cities, with the same expectations and similar challenges, will notably take into account, to do this, new digital tools while integrating the issue of citizens away or not comfortable with digital tools.


    Amsterdam (NL)
    - Dublin (IE)
    - Lisbon (PT)
    - Riga (LV)
    - Sofia (BG)
    - Tallinn (EE)
    - Vilnius (LT)
    - London Greater Authority (UK)

    This network addresses the importance of inclusive cultural policies. A challenge all cities in this project face is that culture does not enrich or empower all people equally. We need to gain a better understanding of our communities in order to engage all citizens in our cities. We have identified four topics to work on that will enable us to gain that understanding and support us in reaching all population groups in the participating cities from the west, east and south of Europe.


    Umeå (SE)
    - Frankfurt am Main (DE)
    - Panevèžys (LT)
    - Trikala (EL)
    - La Rochelle (FR)
    - Barcelona Activa SA (ES)
    - Celje JZ Socio (SI)

    Creating conditions for gender equality through a holistic understanding of how gender inequality is created in the specific place. This network creates an exchange on challenges faced by cities with an understanding of gender inequality that is globally understood but locally contextualised.

    Education, skills and lifelong learning


    Milan (IT)
    - Bratislava (SK)
    - Budaörs (HU)
    - Guimarães (PT)
    - Molina de Segura (ES)
    - Nantes Metropole (FR)
    - Rijeka (HR)
    - Kekava (LV)
    - Sofia (BG)
    -Vratsa (BG)

    Through intensive capacity building of local actors, the network will increase collaboration among municipalities, businesses and the civic society in order to promote sustainable, inclusive & innovative urban change. The project aims at increasing the role and added value of companies’ CSR activities at local level, towards urban regeneration and social innovation, with a special emphasis on education, in order to better address emerging and unmet local needs.




    Interested in finding more about the approved networks and what they will do? Watch the URBACT Method video and check out the Action Planning Network's infographic!

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

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    Space4People, challenging the use of public space!

    Urban design

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

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

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

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


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



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

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

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

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

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

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

    ULG meeting of stakeholders in Serres (EL)

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

    Source: Socialdata

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

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

    Example on road space design in Serres (EL)

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

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  • Transfer networks, an URBACT Learning Lab to build capacity and promote cohesion across Europe

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    You might not expect Twitter to be the place for informed debate on the future of the EU Cohesion Policy. But you’d be wrong. Amidst the white noise on this social media platform, a fascinating catalogue of exchanges is developing.

    Investing in skills and competencies


    The other week some of the big beasts popped their heads above the parapet. First, John Bachtler, Director of Strathclyde University’s European Policies Research Center, tweeted about the importance of European Social Fund + and skills in closing inter-regional gaps. Then Andrés Rodiguéz Pose (London School of Economics Professor and author of a recent influential paper on places left behind, jumped in, reacting to a recent World Bank publication on the future of Cohesion Policy as a tool to address regional inequalities across Europe.

    This timely World Bank report makes for interesting reading. One of its principal conclusions relates to capacity building, and in particular the need to invest in the capacity of public administrations.

    "A second implication of taking a more “region-centered” approach is that, along with local ownership, should also come capacity building, to enable local actors to plan and deliver on regional policy. The lack of local-level capacity is a major barrier both in planning and implementation. In terms of planning, it has been highlighted in several lagging regions that capacity at regional and lower (e.g., municipality) levels for planning is weak."

    The case for investing in the skills and competencies of public officials, alongside organizational development, has been gathering momentum for some time. Within a busy landscape of research and activity, some of the more eye-catching contributions have come from Demoshelsinki, the OECD and NESTA. It has also been a recurring issue within the Action Planning processes of the Urban Agenda for the EU Partnerships – for example Digital Transitions and Jobs and Skills. Capacity building is also one of the three key features in the proposed European Urban Initiative, contained in the new draft ERDF Regulations.

    It is too early to say whether this represents a sea-change away from the culture of out-sourcing and reliance on external expertise that has held sway in the sector for the past twenty plus years in many parts of Europe. More likely, it is a rebalancing. After years where city authorities struggled to attract and retain talent, there is a sense that the pendulum has at least stopped – and may even be moving slowly in the other direction.

    15 years supporting European civil servants skills to develop integrated urban planning solutions at URBACT

    This shift is encouraging. However, there is a long way to go. And although it is good to see more debate on the importance of capacity building and a recognition of its value, there are not so many examples of it working well in practice. Within the context of this Cohesion Policy debate, the URBACT Programme has a great deal to contribute. For more than fifteen years it has supported cities of all sizes to more effectively deliver integrated sustainable urban development. What are the key messages to share from this experience?

    Much of this experience has been gleaned from URBACT’s established Action Planning Network (APN) model. These networks have extensive experience of building municipal capacity to design and implement integrated sustainable plans.

    Here are five important lessons that have shaped the approach:


    1. Listen to cities, and involve them closely in programme design

      As a Programme, URBACT has an unusually close working relationship with participating cities – around 500 in the current programming period. There is a continuous dialogue and exchange that includes the use of focus groups, surveys and other tools. 
    2. Underline the importance of peer-to-peer learning

      Our experience supports the efficacy of peer to peer learning and support between urban stakeholders. Having the opportunity to walk in the shoes of someone doing your job in another city is a great learning opportunity. The URBACT networks – and key capacity building events like to URBACT Summer School – provide a supportive structure for this.
    3. Create safe spaces to learn, build trust and experiment

      Public services are under pressure to innovate whilst at the same time saving money. A tall order! Civil servants are in the public eye, and mistakes are not always looked upon kindly. URBACT provides a safe space for city stakeholders – primarily public officials – to learn from trusted colleagues in other member states, and to apply those lessons in safe spaces.
    4. Provide support and access to tools and resources

      URBACT provides a tried and tested methodology to support learning and to build capacity. This includes the URBACT Toolkit, translated into several EU languages, offering a range of practical tips designed to get better results. It also includes hands-on learning events like the URBACT Summer University, where stakeholders collaborate with peers to generate solutions for the problems of a synthetic city.
    5. Promote participation and support municipalities to involve wider stakeholders

      Increasingly, collaboration is the key to successfully tackling urban challenges. Across Europe, public officials are working in partnership with other local stakeholders to design and implement new solutions. However, capacity and experience to work this way is uneven. Building the confidence and capacity of municipal employees to engage differently with citizens, NGOs and other urban stakeholders, is a key dimension of URBACT’s work.

    Cities leading adaptation and transfer of Good Practices to other cities across Europe

    From April 2018 the programme has extended this experience through the launch of a new network type, Good Practice Transfer networks, which will take the learning and capacity building elements further.

    At the centre of these networks is an established example of urban good practice Over the next 2 years and a half, Good Practice cities will lead a network whose primary focus will be the adaptation and transfer of these practices to other cities across Europe. Once their partnership is finalized, these networks will consist of a balanced ticket of partners in terms of regional development levels. Narrowing inequalities and allowing space for peer-to-peer learning amongst cities of all sizes remains an important URBACT principle.

    Peer to Peer

    In this new network model, the peer-to-peer learning paradigm has altered. Where traditionally, city partners enter through the door of a shared problem, here one partner enters with a ready-made solution. Other partners share the problem for which the solution was designed. Yet, despite this distinction, learning and capacity building will take place at multiple levels for all participants.

    The learning will take place at three main levels: personal, organizational and city. In addition to this, it is likely that each network will derive its own unique learning experiences across the partnership.

    Individual learning

    At the individual level, we expect participants in these networks to make significant professional development gains. One of the model’s strengths is that individuals are learning from their direct peers. Municipal workers are sharing their own perspectives, unpacking familiar challenges and discussing ways to solve them. Beyond this, other important urban stakeholders are doing the same.

    Organisational and City Level Learning

    One of the pilot transfer projects focused on the transfer of an integrated public food policy successfully developed in Sodertajle, Sweden. That good practice involved a long list of key contributors, ranging from senior elected officials, to public procurement officers, local food producers and school canteen staff.

    In the resulting exchanges, each participated in relaying their learning experiences to peers from other cities. Feedback suggests that this precise mapping of stakeholders was an important contributory factor to the success of the project – now widely adopted in other EU cities.

    This eclectic group of stakeholders is likely to be a characteristic of this new generation of transfer networks. As its name suggests, the Bee-path network, led by Ljubljana, places beekeeping at the heart of a new concept or urban ecology. Beekeepers, environmental policy officers and mobility experts may be amongst the stakeholder map in each city. Meanwhile, Manchester’s Culture for Climate Change project explores ways in which the creative and cultural sectors can contribute to the reduction of carbon emissions. Arts officers, NGOs and museum staff may be in the frame here. In Badalona, Silver Cities brings together older people, health and care professionals and caring NGOs to transfer a model of supporting older people to live fulfilled independent lives.

    Open and Trusted Space

    These learning exchanges take place in an open trusted space created by the networks. No one is selling anything and transfer partners get to hear the real story, not an air brushed version, as we are as likely to learn from what didn’t work as to what eventually did. And the learning is two way. For those intent on transferring their good practice, this is an opportunity to see it again through fresh eyes – and to gather valuable suggestions on how to make it even better.

    A learning Lab

    These networks are something of a learning lab for all concerned – including URBACT, as the programme runs them for the first time. Understanding the lessons that emerge will be very important, and the programme will do this through a number of tools. For example, within each city there will be designated transfer diarists keeping track of the lessons that emerge. At the city level, each partner will also track its own journey, through an initial Transfer Report and, ultimately, through a final Learning Log.

    To complement these city level products, the National URBACT Points will broker events across much of Europe to showcase the results, disseminate the learning journey experiences and, most important, seek to promote and encourage a learning cascade. In this way, the programme will reach a wider network of second circle cities, extending the capacity building and the lessons.

    Cohesion Policy in action

    URBACT is in the business of supporting urban transformation. Across Europe, cities face many shared challenges, and although there is no shortage of ‘good practices’, transferring them successfully is not always so easy. Keys to this include establishing a deep understanding of the practice, exploring the scope for adaptation and supporting its eventual re-use. Successful stakeholder participation is an integral part of this. Supporting them – with municipal employees often at the centre – is central to this mission.

    Through this work, URBACT is making a strong contribution to building urban stakeholder capacity across Europe. In doing to so it continues to support the change needed to optimize the use of public monies and the closing of inequalities between Europe’s regions. Here, we have a tangible example of the Cohesion Policy in action.

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  • Building an age-friendly city


    The story of how to implement an age-friendly urban strategy to promote citizens' health, inclusion and wellbeing at all stages of life.

    Jordi Piera
    Chief Information and R&D Officer at Badalona Serveis Assistencials
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    Demographic change is one of the key societal challenges that cities are facing. The number of elderly citizens is increasing continuously, but cities are struggling to adapt to their needs. The city of Badalona (ES) acknowledged this mandate for change and demonstrated that it is possible to redesign the local health and social services to improve the quality of life of elderly people.
    Through several initiatives and projects launched since 2012, Badalona aims at putting the citizen at the centre of the continuum of care, including vertical integration (between different levels of care) and horizontal integration (between different local services, e.g. social services, employment and housing). The results are an improved quality of care, and more stable interconnections between different public services.

    The solutions offered by the good practice

    The good practice in Badalona is formed by a set of interrelated solutions that conform a holistic approach towards active and healthy ageing, while including all the relevant stakeholders within an innovation ecosystem. The practice is completely aligned with the policy level, service provision, industry level, academia, R&D activities and the civil society throughout a participatory process that enables a common design, and redesign of the overall strategy. The practice is represented mainly by four different solutions: • Badalona Towards a Healthy City: a city project that fosters and promotes healthy habits within citizenship, and helps to prevent disease with a clear participatory vision and networking view; • R&D Chair between Badalona Serveis Assistencials (BSA) and the Open University of Catalonia UOC): with the objective to foster the research and innovation actions based on the use of ICT in the fields of health and social care; • Badalona Reference Site on Active and Healthy Ageing: where 24 actors, covering the Quadruple Helix of Innovation within the city of Badalona, have obtained the recognition of the European Commission, and operate in a coordinated manner towards the common goal of building an age-friendly city; • Badalona Health Observatory: merging environmental, demographic, social and clinical data towards identifying patterns and determinants of healthy living within the urban context.

    Building on the sustainable and integrated approach

    Active and healthy ageing should be understood as the way of optimising the health opportunities, participation and security of the people as they age. We are moving from a conceptual healthcare model that deals individually with each citizen and that considers him/her a passive actor of the system towards a model that fosters the rights of old people, their autonomy and the establishment of social relations. They are appraised as change actors, recognising the values and competencies that they bring into the community and the main objective is the improvement of their quality of life. Tackling ageing from this new vision requires taking into account the following concepts: autonomy and dependency, participation, the vital course of life, cultural aspects, inequalities (in terms of poverty and social exclusion) and environmental factors. The project deployed in Badalona is fully built on the top of the sustainable and integrated approach in all of the dimensions as defined in the URBACT values. A full ecosystem of partners covering the Quadruple Helix of Innovation work together (vertical integration) towards converting the city into an urban age-friendly innovation ecosystem. This is greatly improved through the regional and international cooperation. The interventions deployed through the Reference Site network combine physical, economic, social and the environmental dimensions (horizontal integration).

    Based on a participatory approach

    The target of this practice mainly comprises the Northern Barcelona healthcare region, where the assigned population reaches 545,000 inhabitants. Even though the city of Badalona is the coordinator of the initiative, there are other municipalities that are also benefiting from the holistic strategy: Santa Coloma de Gramenet, Sant Adrià de Besòs, Montgat, Tiana, Alella, Teià and Masnou. This shows a participatory design not only at a local level, but also at metropolitan area level. The leading ecosystem of the practice has been collaborating for many years through the so-called Healthcare Boards, managed by Badalona Serveis Assistencials, to engage all the relevant stakeholders at local level in order to contribute to shaping the health and care model deployed. In 2016, this consortium presented the city's application to become a Reference Site within the European Innovation Partnership on Active and Healthy Ageing. Its members bring full coverage to the Quadruple Helix of Innovation: a) Government health and social care provision, b) Industry, c) Academia and research and d) civil society. Coming from this application, the city's reference site was validated and rewarded with 2 stars out of 4.

    What difference has it made?

    In Badalona, the whole care model puts the person at the centre of the continuum of care, including vertical and horizontal integration. The internal assessment conducted shows that there has been a reduction in the average length of hospital stay, in the average number of bed days, and in emergency visits. Furthermore, the clinical pathways developed have facilitated an improvement in the process outcomes, including compliance and adherence to the guidelines. These processes have improved the functional status and health outcomes of the elderly, and have led to a reduction in the operating cost of clinical services, while increasing the quality of life of older people living in an urban context. Another example are the economic opportunities that emerged from the inclusion of the private sector through collaboration agreements, meaning to bring new ideas into the market, first through a piloting phase, and later implemented. Three good examples of such strategies are: • ITHACA project (BSA - Novartis - Indra): monitoring hypertensive patients at home, and including an educational programme; • project (BSA - Arvato/Bertelsmann): tracking patients impaired by depression through an Internet Cognitive Behavioural Therapy Intervention; • AsmaProcare project (BSA - IN2): a mobile application that manages patients in acute stage of asthma and avoids as much as possible income visits.

    Why should other European cities use it?

    Interest in how things are done by the Badalona municipality has been widely demonstrated. The partners involved in the ecosystem of Badalona are actively contributing to European co-operation and consequently, to transferability through their participation in relevant EU strategies. The experience of BSA in EU-funded projects dates back to 2003, when, following the recommendations from the strategic plan, the organisation started its R&D specialisation strategy towards ICT solutions, to improve the care provided to its target population. Following such an approach, BSA started looking for networking opportunities, both at national and international level. Since then, BSA has participated in many EU projects and different funding programmes such as AAL JP, FP7, CIP, DG SANCO Health Programme, and more recently in H2020. The role in different partnerships has mainly included piloting leadership, evaluation modelling and evidence generation, care pathway design and co-design processes. Two good examples, which show that emerging learning and experiences are being shared with other regions at international level, are: • The case study from the SIMPHS3, conducted by the Joint Research Centre of the EC; • The ACT Cookbook.

    Is a transfer practice
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