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  • Shifting mindsets to involve local communities in urban regeneration


    Appointing community representatives amongst the residents of the target area Edgbaston Reservoir, to become permanent ambassadors, communicating with the City Council, and understanding their challenges – enabling Birmingham in this way to rebuild trust

    Karolina Medwecka
    Project Coordinator
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    Birmingham’s population is growing rapidly: a predicted 80 000 more homes will be needed by 2032. However, when drastic national austerity measures were introduced after the 2008 financial crisis, severe budget cuts led to a 50% cut in Birmingham City Council’s (BCC) workforce. The Regeneration Team was among the first to be disbanded.

    From 2010 nearly all regeneration projects stopped – apart from ‘housing renewal’, which is driven by private developers and focused on capital investment, with little funding for associated social projects. Little space was left for social experimentation or risk-taking.

    In 2017, an Urban Innovative Actions-funded project ‘USE-IT’ enabled a fresh approach, with an innovative partnership adding ‘human-centred’ interventions to a housing Master Plan. The new approach was continued with further innovations in the course of the URBACT URBAN REGENERATION MIX transfer network.

    The focus of the Birmingham case is on improving the ways the local authority is communicating with their inhabitants. The goal is to promote inclusive growth in priority neighbourhoods. Given the 50% cuts in central government financing of local authorities in the UK, for the Birmingham Council the most important element in regeneration is what and how to finance, so that the competences of the communities become strong enough to be able to operate self sustaining actions, no longer needing permanent financial support from the public side. The city is very concerned by the results/impact of the actions, wanting to know if the few financial resources left have had a real effect in the communities. To achieve all these goals the role of mediators was further strengthened and extended with new tasks and responsibilities.

    Solutions offered by the good practice

    Whilst in Łódź a city administration mediator works with the community during the regeneration process, Birmingham went a step further, appointing community representatives in the target area – where some had lived for decades. Once trained, they become permanent ambassadors, communicating with the City Council, and understanding their challenges. This enabled Birmingham to rebuild trust in a community who had previously opposed all council plans.

    The role of the mediator (based in an NGO), as a link to the city, through the improvised role of the area manager (employed by the city) has proved to be a key element, giving real space to the participative process, putting aside professional intermediaries, as the “speed of trust” shared by the residents should at all costs be upheld. The same mediator, in the need to guarantee sustainability has become the CEO of a community enterprise in the local area and has led the coordination of the ULG with great success.

    Sustainable and integrated urban approach

    The project introduced a Community Economic Development Planning (CEDP) approach, encouraging local economic development that generates human wellbeing. The power to drive change rests within the community of residents, local businesses, and local service providers including councils, community groups and voluntary sector organisations with a direct stake in the area’s economic health.

    Integrated management is a big challenge to all public bodies. It’s been particularly inspiring for Birmingham to see changes introduced by Lodz. The cross-departmental approach of Lodz proved to be very inspiring to Birmingham in building up the localism agenda. In 2019 a delivery unit for the East Birmingham Inclusive Growth Strategy has been established and the structure of this has been modeled on the Lodz Regeneration Team. It is a multi-disciplinary team and aims to link several BCC departments with the city-region administration (West Midlands Combined Authority) – its remit is to support the regeneration of the area and foster inclusive economic development. The main purpose is to involve communities and include them in the redesign process of their neighbourhoods to make sure that the benefits of the development are felt where they are needed the most.

    Participatory approach

    Setting up an URBACT Local Group (ULG) proved a very powerful mechanism” to significantly improve the city’s engagement with residents. The council forged new links with members of the community – and put the ULG in their hands. This successful community leadership around Edgbaston Reservoir has provided a powerful catalyst for the local authority’s Housing and Planning teams to alter their approaches for future regeneration projects, fully embracing the principles of inclusive growth, involve communities in the co-creation of the local master plan. This is seen as a wider work on culture and policy change and it is still on-going, based on the example of implementation within Urban regeneration Mix, which will be replicated elsewhere within the city (East Birmingham).

    What difference has it made

    Within the Community Economic Development Planning (CEDP) approach, encouraging local economic development Cooperation with the local community, the original idea was to bring a local sports field back to community use. In talks with the City Council, residents ended up creating an alternative, which led to co-producing an alternative Community-Led Master Plan for the whole Reservoir – instead of campaigning against plans that did not necessarily meet their needs.

    Through applying the integrated management model observed in Lodz, Birmingham City Council introduced similar solutions – setting up the Rapid Policy Unit for East Birmingham combining three local authority and creating a powerful body that would work on the regeneration of East Birmingham breaking silo working between directorates and service areas.

    Transferring the practice

    Birmingham was one of the six cities adapting the Lodz URBACT Good Practice within the framework of the Urban Regeneration Mix Transfer Network. Not having the financial means which were available for Lodz (predominantly Structural Funds resources), in the course of the transfer process Birmingham changed significantly the original model of mediators. The essence of the change was to empower community representatives to become mediators. The idea of the community connector role is a further development of the original Good Practice, with motivating and inspiring small groups of inhabitants to take bottom-up actions, building in them a sense of community and responsibility for the space and the neighbors with whom they share it.

    The experience from the Edgbaston Reservoir is already being rolled out across wider East Birmingham with a population of over 240 000. A multidisciplinary team has been set up to deliver a newly launched 20-year East Birmingham Inclusive Growth Strategy modelled on the Łódź Regeneration Team. This enables several city departments to work together with the city-region administration and, crucially, communities will be included in the redesign of their neighbourhoods. So, the benefits of redevelopment will be felt where they are needed most.

    Is a transfer practice
  • USE-IT


    Unlocking Social and Economic Innovation Together

    Karolina Medwecka-Piasecka
    Municipality of Birmingham
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    Larger capital projects in poor neighbourhoods often do not lead to an improvement in the socio-economic situation of the local population. The USE-IT! project tested an approach that directly links the realisation of larger capital projects - here construction of a new hospital - with the improvement of the socio-economic situation of the population based on the existing local community skills, talents and ideas. 

    The innovative solution

    Despite larger investments, urban regeneration programmes and neighbourhood management the socio-economic situation of those citizens, living in deprived neighbourhoods in Birmingham, could not significantly be improved. Thus, USE-IT! pioneered innovative approaches to inclusive urban development combating poverty in areas of persistent deprivation. The objective was to use physical interventions directly to combat poverty by improving the socio-economic situation of the inhabitants; this was achieved by linking larger, physical interventions with skills and potentials of the inhabitants. The main solutions implemented  are: matching people with overseas medical qualifications with job opportunities in the hospital to support employment and better health outcomes in the community, creating a community of social enterprises to support employment and boost social value, as well as  developing community research in the local communities to identify and enable better local connections, unlock local skills and insights and link them with opportunities emerging from capital investment.

    A collaborative and participative work

    Large and diverse partnership of larger public, private and civic organisations working together with local embedded neighbourhood organisations. The partnership was built to complement each other’s specialist skills, knowledge and services, so that no organisation had to reinvent its own work for the purpose of the project and synergies could be achieved.  The main target group are the local communities in the ethnically diverse and economically disadvantaged neighbourhoods. The governance/participation structure: Work Packages for each “solution” were set up. Each WP consisted of key partners who collaborated with local community organisations. Each WP was coordinated by WP lead who coordinated activities of their relevant delivery partners. 

    The impact and results

    Due to the large and complex partnership, the communication and information flow between the partners has been a challenge. The Partnership needed time to build trust between the larger and the locally based third sector organisations to enable equitable working relationship.  This also demanded a “cultural change” in the larger organisations and a change of the way they worked (change in institutional processes).  So far, the main results are 250 migrants with medical skills that are connected with job opportunities in the new hospital, five  new consortia of social enterprises, 1 new network of social entrepreneurs, 36 new and 39 established enterprises supported, £240,000 brought into the locality by supporting local organisations to access grants and new contracts,  as well as 85 individuals completing ‘Community Research Training’, implementing 24 community research projects and more than £ 300k secured for future work.

    Why this good practices should be transferred to other cities?

    Urban poverty is one of the main topics of the Urban Agenda for the EU. USE-IT! created a unique model of economic development that is inclusive and results in lasting urban regeneration, by raising aspirations, building community resilience, and connecting people to local resources. It draws on and contributes to the theory of community wealth building. 
    USE-IT! has demonstrated that creating the links between micro and macro assets is crucial to effective community wealth building, in effect ‘unlocking’ the potential of these assets. To transfer the USE-IT! approach, relevant partners have to learn to identify these assets and support individuals and groups to build on them to link them to the larger capital infrastructure/ investment projects. This demands an existence of a partnership of organisations responsible for the implementation of the larger capital infrastructure with locally based organisations that work with the local communities. All cities and neighbourhoods contain a range of assets. This include physical assets in the form of buildings and green spaces; financial assets in the form of businesses and investments; the financial assets of public, social and private institutions; community assets in the form of voluntary sector groups and social enterprises; and human assets. 

    Is a transfer practice


    Kick-off meeting in July (Birmingham). Transnational meeting in November (Liepaja).
    Transnational meeting in March (Rieti).
    Final event in April (Loule).

    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. 

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    +351 21 436 9000

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    City of Rome

    Department of European Funds and Innovation

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    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


    Municipality of Piraeus


    City of Ljubljana

    Mestni trg 1

    1000 Ljubljana, Slovenia


    Project Coordinator Martin Neubert

    +49 371 355 7029



    Riga NGO House


    City of Antwarp
    Grote Markt 1 - 2000 Antwarpen

    Manchester City Council
    Manchester M2 5RT

    City of Rotterdam
    Coolsingel 40, 3011 AD Rotterdam

    City Council Bielefeld
    Bürger Service Center
    Phone +49 521 510


    City of Eindhoven
    Stadhuisplein 1, 5611 EM Eindhoven

    City of Loulé
    Praça da República, 8104-001 Loulé
    Phone +351 289 400 600


    Seeking answers on how to combat social exclusion through the redesign of public spaces in deprived residential areas by using the power and common language of sport, this Action Planning network found solutions through innovative urban sport actions, physical equipment and better orchestrated service delivery. Active living positively contributes to social cohesion, wellbeing and economic prosperity in cities. However, currently cities are challenged by the opposite: dramatic increase in the frequency of diseases as a result of sedentary life style and social exclusion. To tackle these challenges, European cities have invested in large scale sports facilities over the past decades. These strategies have a limited success, hence a new approach is needed: instead of ‘bringing’ the inactive citizens to the sports facilities, public space itself should be turned into a low threshold facility inviting all citizens to physical activity.

    Urban sports promotion for social inclusion, healthy and active living
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  • Cities are finding innovative ways to help poor neighbourhoods

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    See how SmartImpact is sharing its learning.
    Disadvantaged neighbourhoods


    How can cities sustain urban regeneration efforts in times of austerity? How can they encourage people to work together on projects to revive their local area, instead of competing for grants? These are just two of the big challenges that authorities still face despite a long history of EU policies tackling urban poverty. URBACT expert Iván Tosics investigates two cities that are adopting new, community-based approaches to urban renewal – thanks to inspiration from URBACT partner cities.

    Fighting urban poverty

    URBACT’s links with EU policies fighting urban poverty go back a long way: the programme itself grew as a collaboration programme for cities that applied the URBAN Community Initiative, back in 2002. More recently, the main aspects of area-based policies were discussed during URBACT’s 2020 conference in Porto (PT), with a ‘City Lab’ focused on the spatial dimension of city interventions.

    During the City Lab, representatives of EU cities highlighted two types of problems linked to area-based interventions. One of these is that the policies, institutional frameworks and funding conditions of area-based interventions are mostly determined at national level, giving cities relatively little room to make their own choices. The other refers to the limits of real involvement of residents: usually formal governments hold most decision-making powers regarding deprived areas, without giving real powers to citizens on the essential decisions about urban renewal in their own neighbourhood.

    The Covid-19 crisis broke out only a few weeks after URBACT’s Porto conference. Although at first sight ‘everyone was affected’ by the lockdown policies, it quickly became clear that the most affected have been those who were already at risk of poverty and exclusion. People’s resilience capacities are in strong correlation with their incomes, employment and housing conditions – as described in our earlier article, ‘Urban poverty and the pandemic.

    Experimenting with stronger involvement of residents

    It is no wonder that under such conditions, cities are looking for new approaches to support their poor residents and poverty-stricken neighbourhoods. There is a growing understanding that top-down policies, even if designed with the best will by the local government, on their own, rarely achieve lasting results in terms of improving the lives of residents. The limited success of traditional forms of area-based policies brought up this key question: “How can efficiency be raised through more structured and stronger involvement of residents in the design and implementation of neighbourhood renewal programmes?”

    During the online 2021 URBACT City Festival, the session Leave No One Behind - Dealing With Priority Neighbourhoods was an opportunity to hear directly from cities experimenting new types of participation policies. Lille (FR) and Birmingham (UK) are two particularly interesting examples.

    Lille: newly designed grant system for poor areas

    Lille vue gd place

    Lille was one of eight partner cities in the URBACT Com.Unity.Lab network, transferring good practice from Lisbon (PT), while Birmingham was partner in the URBACT URBAN REGENERATION MIX network, transferring good practice from Łódź (PL).

    Lille Métropole (comprising 95 municipalities) is an active partner of the French ‘Politique de la Ville’ policy. The 26 priority neighbourhoods assigned in the area concern more than 200 000 inhabitants, i.e. one sixth of the overall population of the metropolis. Lille’s ‘Politique de la Ville’ programme is based on a city contract signed by 50 partners. Within this framework, an important element is the grant system: each year EUR 40 million is spent on calls for proposals, funding 1 000 projects in different fields, including economic development, education, sports, culture, and living conditions.

    The original, URBACT good practice of Lisbon is very complex, involving four different elements. Lille joined the Com.Unity.Lab Transfer Network with the aim of transferring the ‘Grant’ element of Lisbon’s good practice, in order to improve its own system. The most important innovation refers to the way the grants are applied.

    Diagnoses showed that the usual forms of call for proposals are not functioning optimally in Lille, being very competitive, and excluding vital cooperation between stakeholders. Lisbon’s call for proposal system requires at least two entities to apply together, which enhances cooperation in neighbourhoods. Although this is a step forward, the system of calls for proposals in itself might not be the best tool to achieve the involvement of the residents, as it focuses on money issues, while many initiatives need other types of support such as loans for premises or equipment, or skills improvements. As a consequence, Lille was looking for other methods to help local stakeholders, in order to strengthen interest in civic participation, community life and internally generated development.  

    Identifying local potential

    Lille has modified its traditional ‘call for proposals’ system in two ways: besides requiring at least two entities to apply together, the other idea is to strengthen the qualitative elements, by offering institutional help to the stakeholders through design thinking. Instead of a simple call for proposals in the assigned neighbourhoods, organisers ask the question: “What does your area need?” In fact, a ‘project factory’ is organised, building on local workshops, listening to people’s ideas. In Lille, this is being set up with guidance and ideas from Francois Jégou, URBACT expert and head of Strategic Design Scenarios.

    Such workshops help to attract new partners from the neighbourhood, including the private sector, groups of residents, and additional NGOs. The workshops promote more participatory development, enabling informal groups of inhabitants to participate in projects. Additionally, they also foster projects that can reach financial sustainability. The new approach is currently being experimented, with design workshops in two selected municipalities.

    Lille transferred the good practice of Lisbon in an innovative way, creating a new dynamic in a pilot phase that is set to last for two more years. The aim is then to roll out the method to other areas of Lille Métropole, with precise conditions determining how many organisations have to be included. It remains to be seen to what extent this institutional innovation modifies the Politique de la Ville programme itself.

    Birmingham: empowering community representatives to become mediators

    Birmingham City Hall

    Birmingham was partner in the URBACT URBAN REGENERATION MIX network, transferring good practice from Łódź – particularly on appointing mediators in the process of urban renewal.

    Birmingham was hit hard by the great financial crisis and the following drastic national austerity measures. Severe budget reductions led to a 50% cut in Birmingham City Council’s workforce. The Regeneration Team was among the first to be disbanded. As a result, nearly all regeneration projects stopped, except for ‘housing renewal’, driven by private developers and focused on capital investment, with little funding for associated social projects.

    This financial austerity at local government level contrasts sharply with the rapid growth of Birmingham’s population: a predicted 80 000 more homes will be needed by 2032. How to do more for the growing city by a financially cramped local municipality? – this is a main challenge in the city. In such a situation, the competences of the communities have to be made strong enough to be able to operate self-sustaining actions, no longer needing permanent financial support from the public side.

    In 2017, an Urban Innovative Actions-funded project USE-IT enabled a fresh approach, with an innovative partnership adding ‘human-centred’ interventions to a housing Master Plan. The new approach was continued with further innovations over the course of the URBACT URBAN REGENERATION MIX transfer network.

    Empowering community mediators

    Birmingham took over the spirit of the Łódź good practice, but applied it with significant changes, not having the financial means which were available to Łódź from Structural Fund resources. The original model of municipality-employed mediators was adapted to a model empowering community representatives to become mediators. Once trained, the appointed community representatives, living in the target area, become permanent ambassadors or brokers/mediators, building up trust inside the local community, communicating with the City Council, and progressively understanding the challenges of both sides. The idea of the community connector role motivates small groups of residents to take bottom-up actions, building in them a sense of community and responsibility for the space and the neighbours with whom they share it.

    The project also introduced an innovative Community Economic Development Planning (CEDP) approach, encouraging local economic development that generates human wellbeing. The power to drive change rests within the community of residents, local businesses, and local service providers including councils, community groups and voluntary sector organisations with a direct stake in the area’s economic health.

    The main lessons learnt by Birmingham City Council can be summarised as follows:

    • Refrain from leading on initiatives and stop obsessing about outputs and leaders in the community;
    • Steer away from grant dependency, open doors connecting people who wouldn’t be involved otherwise;
    • Build on early wins to unlock more opportunities;
    • New skillsets are needed in local authorities – more risk taking and openness for innovation.

    Towards resident-led urban regeneration

    Such promising experiences in Lille and Birmingham suggest that in the post-Covid period, it is high time to refresh the way Cohesion Policy helps the regeneration of priority areas. This new philosophy for area-based interventions involves activating people to find out themselves what is best for their area. Thus, regeneration plans should not be required to be ready before funding arrives – these plans should be developed in an action planning process with the strong involvement of local residents.

    All this would mean, in Cohesion Policy terminology, to strengthen the Community-Led Local Development (CLLD) element in the design of area-based interventions. This was also a key element of the Local Pact policy proposal of URBACT in July 2020. The upcoming French presidency would be an ideal occasion to create debates about this novel approach and foster its application.


    This article is the first in a series exploring the latest challenges in sustainable urban development, based on discussions with cities and leading experts at the 2021 URBACT City Festival. Look out for upcoming articles on topics ranging from gender in public procurement to cities tackling climate change. View recordings of festival highlights here.


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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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  • USE-IT


    Launch of pilot network

    Larger capital projects in poor neighbourhoods often do not lead to an improvement in the socio-economic situation of the local population. The USE-IT UIA - URBACT Transfer Mechanism pilot network shares a tested approach that directly links the realisation of larger capital projects - here construction of a new hospital - with the improvement of the socio-economic situation of the population based on the existing local community skills, talents and ideas.

    Unlocking social and economic innovation together
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  • UIA Transfer Mechanism: five pilot projects ready to take off!

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    Urban Innovative Actions and URBACT come together to put into practices the lessons learnt from the Transfer Networks. 


    Last week, on the 9 March, URBACT's Monitoring Committee have approved five pilot networks to transfer innovative solutions. In 2020, the UIA first call projects came to a close and a proposal was made to test a new URBACT tool which aimed to support the transfer of innovation. The UIA Transfer Mechanism experiment will support a group of EU cities to understand, adapt and prepare to re-use the UIA practice through the co-creation of an investment plan. The 18-month journey of these networks builds on the success of the URBACT Transfer Networks model.


    Following a competitive call, 7 pilot projects were submitted for approval. When considering all the 28 potential city partners, 6 candidates were URBACT newcomer cities from 5 different countries, while 16 cities were also newcomers to UIA. This shows what a unique opportunity this networks represented for cities discovering the universe of EU cooperation! As foreseen by the Terms of Reference, eligible proposals have been assessed by a two assesors from URBACT and UIA. Scroll down to find out more about the five newly approved networks.  

    The URBACT Programme acknowledges and thanks every city that has submitted proposals and used the URBACT Marketplace for this call. URBACT also warmly welcomes the new UIA Transfer Mechanism partners, who will take their first steps in the kick-off meeting on 23 March.








    Smart specialisation in advanced services towards the digital transformation of industry

    Bilbao (ES)

    Bielsko Biala (PL)

    Tartu (EE)

    Timisoara (RO)



    The collaborative management of urban commons to counteract poverty and socio-spatial polarisation

    Torino (IT)

    Budapest (HU)

    Gdansk (PL)

    Cluj-Napoca (RO)



    Unlocking social and economic innovation together

    Birmingham (UK)

    Rotterdam (NL)

    Trapani (IT)

    Poznan (PL)



    Innovative local public-private-citizen partnership for energy governance

    Viladecans (ES)

    Eriges Seraing (BE)

    Nagykanizsa (HU)

    Trikala (EL)



    New skills for new jobs in peri-urban agriculture

    Milan (IT)

    Almere (NL)

    Stara Zagora (BG)

    Vila Nova de Gaia (PT)

    *Bold letters used for UIA cities who will act as Lead Partner



    Interested in the findings of the URBACT Transfer Networks?
    Check all related activities here!





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    Phase II Kick-off meeting Łódź 21-23 Januray / Transnational meeting Zagreb 02-04 April / Transnational meeting Toulouse 17-19 June / Transnational meeting Łódź 17-19 September/ Mid-term reviev &Transnational meeting Bologna 10-12 December
    Phase I Kick-off meeting Łódź.
    Transnational meeting Braga 3-5 March/ Concluding Network Exchange and Learning seminar Birmingham 20-22 October (online meeting)
    URM Final Virtual Conference: Let's do it together - How to revitalisea city with its residents? 20-21 May

    The Good Practice to be transferred through the URBAN REGENERATION MIX Transfer network is a collaborative city model that increases the participation of city residents, promotes their equal involvement and strengthens relations between the main stakeholders in urban regeneration processes. The network will focus on the study, identification and application of key success factors that bring back life to degraded urban areas and help to realise the potential of their inhabitants.

    Improving the social dimension in process of urban regeneration
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  • Breathing new life into abandoned spaces

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    This is the report of the Creative SpIN Final Event, held in Birmingham, 21-22 April 2015
    Abandoned Spaces

    Located 10 km from Naples, in a mess of urban sprawl beneath a major airport flight path, Casoria has struggled through years of economic and social crisis. If it once benefited from the post-war boom, there is little evidence today beyond the shells of old factories. A maze of roads and railway lines chokes the chaotic modern city, which is home to an estimated 7 000 unauthorised buildings. Many of these sit empty, surrounded by concrete. Unemployment is at 30% — rising to 65% among young people — and more and more people are forced to leave the area to find work elsewhere.

    Trying to improve these conditions is notoriously difficult. Some problems are a reflection of national and regional inequalities. Others go back decades or are rooted deep in society. Despite this, in 2013 the municipality drew up an ambitious new urban plan, based on sustainable ecological models. The idea was to develop a network of abandoned and underused spaces that would be transformed into green or cultural hubs as the basis for a radical regeneration. After two years of preliminary work, as they waited for approval from the regional government, the municipality joined URBACT to share planning experiences with other cities

    Starting from zero

    We had no experience of an initiative like this,” says Francesca Avitabile, an architect in the municipality’s Public Works Department. “Before anything else we had to learn how to work as a community.” Thanks to their participation in URBACT, the city set up a group of local stakeholders (URBACT Local Group) to plan actions. The group’s meetings were large while the minutes were published online. The aim was to plan a series of small interventions in line with the broader urban strategy. From the offset, for example, owners of key brownfield sites were asked to provide temporary public paths on their land to connect future regeneration sites directly with the city centre. This was a simple and effective way of challenging the city’s fragmented geography.

    The group closely followed a step-by-step strategy, which formed the basis of their Integrated Action Plan. They had already identified Michelangelo Park, an overgrown ex-military base, as a pilot site from which to begin their gradual improvement of the town. “Transforming this was a practical demonstration of future visions, a prefiguration of those urban transformations that would be infeasible today,” says Enrico Formato, an external expert for Casoria, based at the University of Naples. During the development, the local group coordinated guerrilla gardening events and citizen-led clean-up initiatives. Even the furniture was co-designed during participatory sessions and procured for free, thanks to a programme of public sponsorship.

    Rebuilding a local identity

    In April 2018, Michelangelo Park was finally opened for use and it is now the biggest green space in the town. “This was the first tangible result of participatory methods in Casoria,” says Ms Avitabile. “It was the start of a whole new process for the community.” Even more remarkably, this was achieved in spite of sizeable political changes. In 2016, a new municipal administration was elected. And while the new party supported the park, they slowed down the wider implementation of the 2013 Structural Plan. That the sub>urban integrated plan survived this shift in policy is testament to the project’s popularity among citizens.

    As a result of URBACT, a network of associations and civic committees has been formed and consolidated in Casoria,” says Mr Formato. “Today even without a strong coordination of the municipal administration, they are carrying forward the ideas and methodologies shared during the sub>urban experience.” The ongoing development at another green site, Boccaccio Park, is the most visible sign of this unfolding impact. The main legacy, however, has been a shift in mentality. “URBACT is very important for people here,” confirms Ms Avitabile. “This wasn’t just about a park; it helped us rebuild our local identity.”


    You can find the Cities in Action - Stories of Change publication just here.


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  • New URBACT book: ‘Cities in Action - Stories of Change’

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    The Creative SpIN Local Action Plan in Rotterdam

    Paris, 24 January 2019 – A new publication by the European programme URBACT shares positive stories from 40 cities that took a more integrated approach to local policy-making while learning from EU peers in their ‘Action Planning Network’.

    Reviving a town centre, welcoming migrants, re-using abandoned buildings, boosting entrepreneurship, engaging citizens… ‘Cities in Action - Stories of Change’ shows cities finding new ways to tackle diverse urban challenges, bringing long-term improvements.

    It is about cities that have dared to experiment, that have succeeded in achieving results in the fields of social inclusion, economic development, urban planning, or greener ways of living,” writes Corina Creţu, EU Commissioner for Regional and Urban Policy, in the introduction. “City-to-city cooperation is the best way to facilitate exchange, adaptation, implementation and up-scaling of good practices all over the world.”

    Read the publication ‘Cities in Action - Stories of Change’

    These stories will be really inspiring for any urban practitioner looking for simple ways to bring people together and make their cities safer, cleaner and more prosperous. URBACT has sparked community-led improvements like these in more than a thousand cities since 2002.” says URBACT’s Adele Bucella

    The 40 cities range from Aarhus (DK) and its plan for collaborative citizenship, to Zagreb (HR) and its 11 new smart city initiatives. With URBACT’s support, each city formed a local group including officials, local stakeholders and urban experts, to co-create an Integrated Action Plan – many of whom contributed lively accounts to the publication. Meanwhile, cities also worked with up to 10 other partner cities in their URBACT network, including site visits and peer reviews.

    Today, more than 66% of these URBACT cities have had their Integrated Action Plan approved, nearly 50% secured funding for it, and more than 80% of them have already started implementing it.

    Locally-driven solutions

    The new publication includes:

    • A message from Corina Creţu, EU Commissioner for Regional and Urban Policy;
    • A clear summary of the URBACT method and its principles of horizontal and vertical policy integration;
    • Stories of locallydriven improvements in 40 EU cities, with solutions in nine key areas: urban mobility, jobs and skills in the local economy, reuse of abandoned spaces, climate adaptation, innovative public procurement, digital transition, inclusion of migrants and refugees, urban poverty, sustainable use of land;
    • Key information on the 20 Action Planning networks, including full partner lists.

    Lasting impact

    If we hadn’t joined MAPS I think we’d still be searching for one big aim, one big new reuse of the whole territory. And instead, the area must be split up, and different uses must appear. I think we’re now sure in the municipality that we’ve had the wrong approach over the past more than 20 years.
    Ágnes Győrffy, Project Manager for the Mayor’s Office of Szombathely (HU)

    As a result of URBACT, a network of associations and civic committees has been formed and consolidated in Casoria. Today even without a strong coordination of the municipal administration, they are carrying forward the ideas and methodologies shared during the sub>urban experience. This wasn’t just about a park; it helped us rebuild our local identity.
    Enrico Formato, University of Naples external expert for Casoria (IT).

    Visiting delegates had very powerful thoughts, and gave us the confidence to be strong in our desire to shape wider policy to tackle our city’s disadvantaged and neglected communities. We hope to have the support of this network to challenge politicians and decision-makers in Birmingham to ensure that a wider systems-thinking approach is continued, rather than reverting back to silo working.
    Ravinder Bains, Birmingham City Council (UK)

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