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  • Community Libraries

    What is the role of cultural principals in urban regeneration processes? The city of Bari, in southern Italy, has developed an urban development strategy based on services and cultural facilities in the neighborhoods, according to a logic of the 15mn city. In particular, in its 11 districts, it has created 11 community libraries: neighborhood libraries, born from the conversion of public buildings, conceived as open squares of knowledge, places of aggregation and cultural participation, intended for families, teenagers and children, to create social capital around reading and encourage an approach to culture. The 11 community libraries are proposed as civic spaces, neighborhood houses, to be linked to the physical transformations underway

    Vitandrea Marzano
    City of Bari
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  • Com.Unity.Lab


    Phase 1 | Kick-off meeting, Lisbon (PT)
    Phase 2 | 1st Transnational Meeting, Bari (IT)
    Phase 2 | Final Event, Lisbon (PT)
    Phase 1 | Final Meeting, Lisbon (PT).
    Phase 2 | 2nd Transnational Meeting, Lublin (PL)
    Phase 2 | 3rd Transnational Meeting, Aalborg (DK)
    Phase 2 | 4th Transnational Meeting, The Hague (NL)
    Phase 2 | 5th Transnational Meeting, Lille Metropole (FR)
    Phase 2 | 6th Transnational Meeting (online), Sofia (BG)
    Phase 2 | 7th Transnational Meeting (online), Ostrava (CZ)

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


    Municipality of Santiago de Compostela


    Municipality of Udine (Italy)


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    +351 21 436 9000

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    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


    This Transfer network aims to replicate the Lisbon Local Development Strategy for areas of Priority Intervention which provides the city a range of integrated tools to tackle urban poverty and empower local communities. This strategy is based on a co-governance and bottom-up participatory perspective, ensuring a horizontal and collaborative local approach, to mitigate social, economic, environmental and urban exclusion, resulting in a smart and effective toolbox to implement a sustainable urban living and enhance social-territorial cohesion.

    Empowering Local Development
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  • Resilience and communities: URBACT at the Venice Architecture Biennale

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    “How will we live together?” asks the 17th International Architecture Exhibition. URBACT has some answers.


    Resilient communities can be defined as those where the effort of reacting to rapid changes is a collaborative exercise: in a few words, where collaboration among people contributes to finding solutions to the challenges of the cities we live in.

    ‘Resilient Communities’ is also the title of the Italian Pavilion at the 17th International Architecture Exhibition at the Venice Biennale. The pavilion proposes an interesting reflection on the role of cities, and architecture in general, to respond to the ambitious question featured in the title of this year’s Exhibition: “How will we live together?”.

    The main elements of the URBACT programme – the active engagement of residents and stakeholders, definition of integrated action plans to be implemented in the medium and long term, and collaborative governance of challenges connected to the different dimensions of urban sustainability – can all be considered part of the answer to this question posed by the Exhibition’s curator, internationally renowned architect Hashim Sarkis.

    The relevance of the URBACT methodology as part of a wider reflection on future models of inhabiting urban spaces is particularly tangible in Italy. Not only considering the high number of cities involved in URBACT networks, but also due to the role that the programme is playing in the national urban debate and in fostering connections among local decision-makers, stakeholders, architects and practitioners.

    These aspects pushed the curator of the Italian Pavilion, Alessandro Melis, to invite the representative of the National URBACT Point for Italy to be part of the Pavilion’s Advisor Board. The objective was to include the experiences of the Italian and European cities of URBACT in the wider picture composed by different visions on the contemporary city.


    URBACT and the collaborative mapping of community resilience

    The Italian Pavillon, a true cultural laboratory for rethinking the role of architects and cities on how we live together, is showcasing the complexity of relations among urban spaces, nature and people, with a dense programme of activities and events from 22 May to 21 November 2021.

    The National URBACT Point for Italy was involved in mapping stories of community resilience, together with City Space Architecture and Unipolis Foundation. The main focus of this mapping, set to continue after the end of the Biennale Exhibition, was on stories carried out at different urban levels, from small municipalities to metropolitan areas. This highlighted the role of active residents’ participation in improving the capacity of cities to respond to rapid changes and hardships.

    The action of collaborative mapping, available online or accessible through a QR code at the Italian Pavilion, was based on a selection of some of the most interesting solutions developed in diverse URBACT networks. These include a participatory scheme for the creation of new green spaces in Potenza, shared in the Resilient Europe Action Planning Network, and the opening of new public parks and infrastructure in Casoria, co-designed with support from the Sub>Urban network.

    The mapping also explores practices adapted and transferred in URBACT Transfer Networks, such as the tools to tackle urban poverty implemented by Bari in the framework of Com.Unity.Lab or the models of urban co-governance transferred by Naples to other EU cities in the Civic eState network.

    Activities developed under the Urban Innovative Actions (UIA) programme and then transferred with the UIA-URBACT Transfer Mechanism are also featured. Examples include Turin’s re-use of public spaces and underused structures developed with Co-City, and transferred to other cities in the CO4CITIES network, as well as Milan’s model promoting the agri-urban economy, which is being transferred to NEXT AGRI network partners.

    All these stories emerging from URBACT networks, narrated by the civic officials and elected representatives who implemented them at local level, have been making an important contribution to reflexions on the future of cities promoted by the Italian Pavillon. These practical experiences are presented alongside the principles of community resilience that were being studied by academics and experts well before Covid-19 raised the urgency of consolidating innovative urban solutions.


    Events at the Italian Pavillon

    These resilient city solutions were presented to national and international audiences in two seminars organised by the National URBACT Point for Italy in the arena of the Italian Pavillon on 21 and 22 September 2021. Representatives of Italian and European cities highlighted examples of community resilience, and showed how methodologies such as those promoted by URBACT are helping improve the governance of urban challenges.

    While the first meeting was mostly focused on an Italian perspective, the second enlarged the reflection to include the curators of the Slovenian Pavilion, National URBACT Points (Spain and Slovenia) and the cities of Madrid (ES) and Cluj Napoca (RO), which are testing similar methodologies of civic imagination and active involvement of residents and stakeholders on topics such as urban security or the future of work.

    The diversity of the experiences presented in Venice makes clear how different models of community resilience are shaping the future of public spaces, city services and urban infrastructures to respond to hardships and unexpected events.


    The Peccioli Charter and the legacy of the debate on community resilience

    The active contribution of cities and communities to reach the global goals on climate, a theme that re-emerged strongly from COP26, is one of the most relevant possible evolutions of the concept of community resilience in the years ahead.

    This approach was also shared by the Peccioli Charter, the document signed by all the members of the Italian Pavilion’s Steering Committee, which aims to be “a Constitution of the nation of the Italian resilient communities”. The document was officially launched in November 2019 in Peccioli, an Italian village which turned a wasteland site into a cultural and artwork space for all the community, a tangible example of resilient community. Meant as a legacy of the Pavilion, it defines the commitments that resilient communities need to put in practice in the medium and long terms. Among these, promoting knowledge and innovation, re-imagining cities and sharing urban spaces, being smart and anti-fragile.

    These are the sorts of actions being implemented by the cities and communities that are using the URBACT methodology to increase resilience, in the sense of “being brave communities, able to put in practice a permanent revolution, to adapt to rapid changes and to offer endless opportunities for reaching the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals,” as stated in the conclusions of the Peccioli Charter.


    Find out more

    Photos by Simone d’Antonio

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  • Com.Unity.Lab: empowering local communities in priority neighbourhoods

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    Daniela Patti showcases examples of sustainable urban development in disadvantaged neighbourhoods in Lisbon (PT) and explain how Lisbon’s experience of Community Led Local development inspires other European Cities, which join the Com.Unity.Lab Transfer Network.

    Disadvantaged neighbourhoods

    Imagine the scene: in a colourful favela with upbeat music, youngsters are dancing to the rapper’s lyrics: it’s the glamourizing of poverty on television. Legends about poor charming neighbourhoods and success stories thanks to talent are a common romantic narrative simply hiding the sad truth: poverty follows self-generating mechanisms. Children growing up in deprived neighbourhoods are likely to maintain a low level of education, have difficulties in finding employment and ultimately be more exposed to risks of delinquency and drug addiction. But the good news is that nobody is doomed, and with an investment of finances, education, psychological support and professional training a strong positive impact can be achieved.

    A European level effort to fight urban poverty and deprivation

    Such policies are not new to our social welfare tradition, but as a result of public investment cuts and the economic crisis of the past decade, in many cities across Europe and beyond poverty has increased. Effort is being made at European level with the EU Urban Agenda partnership focusing on Urban Poverty, but also related topics such as Affordable Housing and the Inclusion of Migrants and Refugees. Furthermore, European Social Funds and European Regional Development Fund structural investments are greatly supporting projects addressing the inclusion of deprived populations and building socio-cultural infrastructures in targeted neighbourhoods. With Europe as well as many national programs addressing poverty issues, much of it is concentrated in cities where it also fosters many of the conflicts we are nowadays familiar with. For this reason, city administrations play a key role in developing local strategies to address such problems. 

    Promoting sustainable urban development at a local level

    This map identifies an area of the city, with approximately 6% of the city surface but one third of Lisbon’s population, who lives in disadvantaged conditions. The second tool is the grant scheme, which ignites local community projects aimed at responding to local needs, promoting local organisations partnerships and empowering population for sustainable urban development. Each grant has up to EUR 50.000 for a project where at least 2 local organisations must apply. Up until today over 150 projects have been funded through more than 500 entities developing more than 1.500 activities.

    Your next stay in Lisbon can support social inclusion

    One of the supported projects is Largo Residências, a hostel, hotel, artist-in-residence and café in the Intendente neighbourhood. Largo is run by a cooperative that develops projects to support the cultural and social inclusion of the neighbourhood’s precarious inhabitants. The establishment of Largo was assisted by the Lisbon Municipality's BIP/ZIP program in 2011 and still employs 15 people today who would struggle in getting employed elsewhere. We suggest you book your room for your next holiday in Lisbon here!

    Eat affordable meals and fight long term unemployment

    Another project supported by Bip/Zip is the Cozinha Popular da Mouraria (Mouraria Soup Kitchen) where local inhabitants can gather and visitors can join to eat an affordable meal cooked by the local employees, that come from a past of long term unemployment, and in some cases drug addiction problems. The kitchen is a lively place that triggers a series of new collaborations and projects, such as Muita Fruta (a lot of fruit) that makes jam with fruit collected from the trees in the neighbourhood.

    Discover the co-governance local offices: the Gabip

    The so-called Gabip, are local offices that develop a co-governance framework involving the Municipality, Local Boroughs and all relevant stakeholders and citizens’ organisations in any given area. They promote an articulated response among the political, administrative and technical dimensions with local organisations and community. Currently there are six Gabip active in the city, they are unofficial structures appointed by the Vice-Mayor to solve local problems that require the collaboration amongst institutions and civic organisations, such as in projects for the regeneration of housing estates. One of the Gabip was established within the USER project funded by URBACT II, which was an important opportunity to accompany the legalisation of many informal housing areas.

    The success of Community Led Local Development in Lisbon

    Finally, the Community-Led Local Development (CLLD) is supported by the European Union through one of the established instruments in the 2014-2020 funding period. It is a bottom-up co-governance network that develops a global strategy to BIP/ZIP territories and promotes experience, sharing to enhance local partners’ skills. The CLLD aims at increasing employment levels and stimulation of local economic fabrics, supporting higher levels of school qualification and reducing generational poverty. Today there are 173 organisations, these being local associations (51%), parish councils (10%), national organisations (24%), foundations (6%), and higher education or research entities mainly Universities (6%). This CLLD association is run by the Municipality of Lisbon, with a Board elected by members. Together, they manage EUR 3 million to develop local projects related to employment and have EUR 5 million as management costs.

    Com.Unity.Lab transfer network

    The original partnership within Phase 1 was composed by the City of Lisbon, Lead Partner, Bari (IT) and Aalborg (DK).

    These two transfer cities, withholding an URBACT good practice related to participatory development and social inclusion, have been very active in the development of the Phase 1 and the partnership enlargement. The new partner cities are: Ostrava (CZ), Lublin (PL), Sofia (BG), Lille MEL (FR) and Den Haag (NL).

    These cities all have relevant former experience in addressing urban poverty with tools that are, to some extent, comparable with the Lisbon ones but not necessarily embedded within a comprehensive strategy as the Bip/Zip, which is considered an important condition for transferability regardless of these cities having different transfer conditions.


    Visit the network's page: com.unity.lab

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  • SPAZIO 13 - Creative Hub for urban regeneration


    Transforming a former disused school into a Creative Hub as part of (sub)urban regeneration process.

    Vitandrea Marzano
    Mayor’s Staff
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    SPAZIO13 is the conversion of a former disused school into a creative hub in a suburb of Libertà (IT). It is a community experience of social innovation and reuse of a decommissioned public building, having triggered the involvement of residents and stakeholders in the transformation process affecting the neighbourhood. This urban regeneration process includes an extensive network of 15 youth associations.
    In addition to the public multicultural nursery school set up by the city, the property of 1,000 square metres is composed of three areas:
    1) Informal Education (architectural/engineering design, photography, startup businesses, digital communication);
    2) Making (fabLab 3D printing, carpentry, audio/video production, recording music, photo printing); and
    3) Events and social spaces (co-working, public library, public events and conversations).

    The solutions offered by the good practice

    SPAZIO13 offers a virtuous and subsidiary solution of community conversion of an abandoned public space strongly integrated with urban regeneration through social innovation levers and the leadership of a local youth network. A good practice of conversion, participation and innovation focused on communities, residents and local economies. SPAZIO13 is a learning space and its concept was started by a collective research action conducted on the neighbourhood identity by 15 associations of young architects, urban planners, designers, photographers, communication experts and European policies experts with residents, families and young residents. Through its participatory methodology approach to conversion of public space, SPAZIO13 is an antidote to gentrification in city suburbs. Its cultural offering, stratified into different sections (education, production and collaboration), provides interdisciplinary and multi-target methods for dialogue with the neighbourhood, highly integrated with the local networks and strongly oriented objectives of economic rebirth.

    Building on the sustainable and integrated approach

    SPAZIO13 fully complies with the URBACT principles and challenges both in the sustainable development dimension and integration. SPAZIO13 is a community experience of reuse and conversion that seeks the social inclusion of vulnerable groups in the processes of regeneration, activating education courses, participation, social innovation, promoting new opportunities and job skills. As reuse experience stands in contrast with the soil consumption policies, the prominence of 15 NGOs ensures a very broad urban partnership. SPAZIO13 also responds effectively to the horizontal integration and vertical principles promoted by URBACT. In terms of horizontal integration SPAZIO13 is characterized by being simultaneously a physical redevelopment of a public space, a social experience of shared management, a cultural laboratory of participation and an enabler of local economies in the neighbourhood, promoting new skills and collaborative networks. In terms of vertical integration, SPAZIO13 is a virtuous experience of PPP between the city of Bari and civil society. SPAZIO13 was inspired by the will of the city to convert the former school in the target neighbourhood of its regeneration strategy. A local group was selected after a national tender. Governance involves the municipality of Bari, neighbourhoods, civil society, local economy representatives, university and residents.

    Based on a participatory approach

    SPAZIO13 is a collaborative project that is based on the participation of civil society and local networks preliminarily involved in the co-design phase of conversion. The city of Bari established a partnership with the local group. Subsequently, the partnership involved the local university, representatives of the local economy, cultural stakeholders and residents' associations to define the best proposal. The start of the conversion has been marked by two important experiences: a photo contest opened to all residents to attest to the school’s identity before the change with a hashtag on Instagram (#nontiscordardimelo) and Huffington Post as a media partner, an experience of collective self-building to adapt the spaces at the new functions. The space was furnished through an open call to residents to donate disused furniture and fittings in exchange for participation in the courses. Neighbourhood focus groups were held to define priorities and activities. More info:

    What difference has it made?

    Some results of SPAZIO13 have already been achieved, and other objectives are being realized. The results achieved and expected are: 1) promote the conversion of the former school through a collective self-build path and co-design workshops with associations and residents, 2) activate an urban laboratory of education, production and social innovation serving communities, 3) promote a collaborative network at the neighbourhood level composed by associations, professionals, institutional, economic and research that can play an active role in the regeneration process. Regarding the first, SPAZIO13 has involved 15 NGOs and 80 young people (16-35 age group) in the co-design of 1 000 square metres and same path was made on branding that has been marked by a visual identity defined in a participatory way. On the second result SPAZIO13 is involving 630 young people in informal educational courses and trainings and hosts five start-ups in co-working. On the third objective, SPAZIO13 has managed the involvement of 1 110 people, including residents and local stakeholders (universities, schools, local economy representations, cooperatives, youth associations etc.) in public events and discussions. In terms of social impact, SPAZIO13 proposes an overall increase of awareness on participatory planning (+25%), an empowerment of new skills (+ 15%), an increase of knowledge about the neighbourhood regeneration plan involving 10 000 inhabitants, other 25 NGOs and more than 10 local schools.

    Why should other European cities use it?

    SPAZIO13 is part of a holistic approach to urban regeneration and enhancement of young people that Bari started three years ago in compliance with the regional political framework that has represented a vanguard on the European scale for urban creativity issues (European Enterprise Promotion Awards 2012, Regiostar 2015). The city has led a regeneration focused on the reuse of public properties and the redevelopment of open spaces through the levers of culture, leisure, theatre, contemporary arts and commerce, with a strong focus on youth capabilities. An urban programme that includes: the conversion of a large former barracks (20,000 square metres) into an extensive urban park with a public library and the new Academy of Fine Arts; the conversion of a former theatre into the Museum of Contemporary Arts (10,000 square metres), an old parking garage into a theatre research centre (2,000 square metres), the conversion of a tobacco factory (40,000 square metres) into a huge campus of scientific research and technological innovation. Knowledge from Bari on reuse, urban regeneration and social innovation has already been shared at URBACT level. SPAZIO13 may be interesting to all European cities that are involved in regeneration processes because it demonstrates how social innovation models and creative hubs can play a key role in activating and involving people in deprived neighbourhoods.

    Is a transfer practice
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