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  • Is citizen engagement a waste of time in policymaking? Never!

    Copy linkFacebookXLinkedInEmail
    06/12/2023
    31/12/2025

    The URBACT Action Planning Network Action Planning Networks | urbact.eu  is all about unlocking the green potentials of citizen action. Being a network of city administrators, we know we need help. We need help to understand what green citizen action can look like and how we as an authority can co-create with our citizens. This is the reason why we have formed the network COPE. Together we will explore and test how we can engage with our citizens in making changes in our local environments in favour of the climate and biodiversity in a way that considers equity and justice. And not least how we can administrate these activities within our governance framework.

    Articles

    The URBACT network COPE

    Network
    From urbact
    Off

    Participatory effect

    Lead Partner Øystein Leonardsen have a lot of experience in testing methods for citizen engagement and explains that “in the city planning COPE seek to strengthen the empowerment of the citizens and their individual ownership through engaging and co-creative methods”. 

    The COPE project seeks to push three levels of change: the structural, the individual and the societal. We do not only need to make the structural changes through policymaking and governance in a traditional top-down process. We have tried, but our societal challenges are getting more and more complicated and the traditional processes of finding solutions falls short. If we do not develop new methods going from looking at our challenges as something technical easy to fix with a simple technological solution, to looking at our challenges as so-called wicked problems with no clear single answer the risk is that we evoke opposition and conflict in the society.

    We cannot let the individual change stand alone either relying on a bottom-up transition. This can be overwhelming and create anxiety at individual level.

    In the process of policy making we need to create People's acceptance of inconvenience or cost and link this to their understanding of the importance and share the experience of ownership. We as human beings care more about the decisions and things we have contributed to or created ourselves. We call this the participatory effect. Read more about the participatory effect in relation to bottom-up collective citizen climate action on page 49 in “Omstilling på Vippen: Hvidbog om forbrug, adfærd og folkelig deltagelse i grøn omstilling” by DeltagerDanmark here (in Danish). It can be fuelled not only through information, but also through conversations, involvement, and co-ownership. We also use the term social tipping point when talking about this societal level, where the change is becoming a norm that people start to follow. In our COPE city Vilnius a bright example of the co-ownership transforming a local area into a vibrant and inspiring green area is the old hospital ground that through citizen engagement started with making urban gardening evolving into creating a place for gatherings, eating and experimenting with a green lifestyle and is now functioning as a solid local community creating new ideas and initiatives.  

    In COPE we aim to find methods for working towards positive social tipping points in favour of the just green transition where as many as possible feel included or represented in the decisions and solutions. Just as we aim to avoid negative social tipping points like we saw with the yellow wests in France for example.

    Building capacity – we learn from each other.

    Our city network COPE consists of A Coruña (ES), Bistrita (RO), Copenhagen (DK), Kavala (EL), Korydallos (EL), Pombal (PT), Saint Quentin (FR) and Vilnius (LT). Our cities are very different on all levels; political, cultural, and societal. We have quite diverse narratives about the interaction between our political institutions and the citizens. But all cities are very eager to work together and learn from each other sharing knowledge and experiences.

    In each partner city a group of local stakeholders and citizens have been put together in a so called Local URBACT Group with the local municipality functioning in a new role as facilitator. And particularly this role as facilitator in the local groups is something that COPE aim to mirror in the bigger picture on local level. Through participatory and deliberative processes, we seek to explore the interface between the citizens participation and the governance structures and culture. How do we as a municipality co-create with our local citizens? How do we make certain that we do not invite into processes that have no mandate, no power, and no real influence?

    Sustainable urban development – going very local

    As you see we have many questions, that we aim to find answers to during the project. Our approach for this ambitious goal is to zoom in on a local neighbourhood in the city. Through this place-based focus we will engage the local community; the citizens, the institutions and the industries and explore what is at stake in this neighbourhood. What hopes and ambitions do they have for their neighbourhood and how do they see themselves and their neighbourhood in the shift towards a more sustainable lifestyle? Do they agree on the needed actions? Do they need to agree, and can they reach a common understanding? How can they work on fulfilling their ambitions? What can be done today with local resources and what do the municipality need to plan and find funding for?

    Change of mindset - Knowledge to action

    No real change come from above alone. The changes we confront are so enormous, that we as individuals easily get caught in despair, hopelessness or anger and frustration and that we as governance institutions may give up and just follow the short-term populistic perspective.

    The next two years of 2024 and 2025 each COPE city will work on both local and network level to find and experiment with methods for working towards positive social tipping points in favour of the just green transition. Seeking to push for a shift in mindset, not only within political institutions and the governance and planning processes of our cities. But also, through acknowledging the local knowledge, hopes and ambitions of the citizens and local interests evoking trust and engagement. This, we believe, will foster sustainable change within our society – no more no less 😊

    Please follow our work and let us know if you find the Philosopher's Stone. We would love to engage and share!

  • COPE

    LEAD PARTNER : Copenhagen - Denmark
    • Kavala - Greece
    • Pombal - Portugal
    • Bistrița - Romania
    • Saint-Quentin - France
    • Coruna - Spain
    • Korydallos - Greece
    • Vilnius - Lithuania

    Timeline

    Core Network Meeting in Korydallos/ Greece.

    COPE Online Network workshop: Online tool 

    CORE Network Meeting in A Coruña/ Spain

     

    Lead expert and Lead Partner event in Paris

    Library

    Lead Expert

     

     

    A green and just transition in cities is key to achieving carbon neutrality in Europe by 2050. The COPE (Coherent Place-based Climate Action) network will unlock the green potentials of citizen action through a place-based approach, recognizing citizens and local action groups as fundamental stakeholders working to accelerate the green transition. By actively engaging communities that have traditionally been left out of climate action, COPE increases the scope and impact of municipal policies.

    Coherent Place-based Climate Action
  • RetaiLink

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

    Amadora launches a Guide on the welcoming of migrants

    Blue Economy Forum

    BluAct Toolkit

    BluAct: The Documentary

    Timeline

    Kick-off meeting in June (Igualada). Transnational meeting in October (Sibenik).
    Transnational meetings in February (Liberec), June (Pecs) and October (Romans).
    Final event in April (Hoogeven).

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

    CONTACT US

    Municipality of Santiago de Compostela

    CONTACT US

    Municipality of Udine (Italy)

    CONTACT US

    For any enquires into Tech Revolution, email: DMC@Barnsley.gov.uk

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

    Follow our Twitter: @Tech_RevEu
    Follow our Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/company/urbact-techrevolution/

    CONTACT US

    Coordinator

    ADDRESS

    Av. Movimento das Forças Armadas

    2700-595 Amadora

    Portugal 

    TELEPHONE

    +351 21 436 9000

    Ext. 1801

    CONTACT US

    City of Rome

    tamara.lucarelli@comune.roma.it

    Department of European Funds and Innovation

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

     

    CONTACT US

    Câmara Municipal de Lisboa

    Departamento de Desenvolvimento Local

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

    CONTACT US

    urbact.civicestate@gmail.com

    CONTACT US

    Laura González Méndez. Project coordinator.

    Gijón City Council

    CONTACT US

    Municipality of Piraeus

    CONTACT US

    City of Ljubljana

    Mestni trg 1

    1000 Ljubljana, Slovenia

    CONTACT US

    Project Coordinator Martin Neubert

    +49 371 355 7029

     

    CONTACT US

    Riga NGO House

    CONTACT US

    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

    CONTACT US

    City of Eindhoven
    Stadhuisplein 1, 5611 EM Eindhoven

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

    CONTACT US

    City of Igualada
    Plaça de l'Ajuntament, 1, 08700 Igualada, Barcelona

    CONTACT US

    This Action Planning network created strategic plans to enhance the competitiveness of small and/or independent retail businesses, considering them a key economic driver. The project’s scope of work includes areas such as regulation, employment, urban planning, managing public spaces, mobility, cultural and creative industries and citizens participation. The multi-stakeholder approach brings together public sector, private sector, retailers and major commercial operators, consumers or cultural and creative industries.

    Creating innovative strategies to revitalise the retail sector
    Ref nid
    7503
  • ActiveCitizens

    Lead Partner : Agen - France
    • Hradec Kralove - Czech Republic
    • Dinslaken - Germany
    • Saint-Quentin - France
    • Bistrița - Romania
    • Cento - Italy
    • Santa Maria da Feira - Portugal
    • Tartu Vald - Estonia

     

    City of Agen (FR)

    CONTACT US

    ActiveCitizens - The different levels of citizen participation

    Timeline

    • Kick-off Active Citizens Network, Study Visits Adventure & Baseline Study
    • Validation of Phase 2, Communication Plan, Phase 2 Journey & Integrated Action Plan Roadmap
    • Analyse of problems, Visions, First series of experiments (Small Scale Actions), Mid Term Reflection, State of Action Report & Integrated Action Plan Draft
    • Reprogramming Network, Last rounds of Small Scale Actions, Final Integrated Action Plan, dissemination & Closure of the Active Citizens Project

    Final products

    Integrated Action Plans

    Listen and co-create with citizens - Integrated Action Plan Santa Maria da Feira
    Listen and co-create with citizens

    Santa Maria da Feira hosts multiple inspiring practices of citizen participation but also multi-stakeholder collaboration. Read more here !

     

    Santa Maria da Feira - Portugal
    Integrated Action Plan Hradec Kralove

    Read more here ! 

    Hradec Kralove - Czech Republic
    NEW PERSPECTIVES OF PARTICIPATORY DEMOCRACY IN URBAN POLICY

    Read more here !

    COMUNE DI CENTO - ITALY
    GIVING VOICE (AND POWER) TO CITIZENS IN LOCAL GOVERNANCE

    Read more here !

    Agen - France
    Bistriţa Integrated Action Plan

    Read more here !

    Bistrita - Romania
    Saint-Quentin Integrated Action Plan

    Read more here !

    Saint-Quentin, France
    CO-CREATING PARTICIPATORY DEMOCRACY WITH CITIZENS

    Read more here 

    DINSLAKEN - GERMANY
    FASTER ALONE, FURTHER TOGETHER – TARTU PARISH FOR AND WITH CITIZENS

    Read more here 

    TARTU VARD - ESTONIA

    Summary

    Useful links

    Digital Free Version of the Game  Citizen participation? Hell No !!  Just follow the link

    Video presentation of Active Citizens here

    First Small Scale Action in Agen - Video : Improvement works on Chopin Square

    Small Scale Action in Agen - Video : Choice of Voluntary Drop off Points

    Small Scale Action in Agen - Video : Market of ideas

    Small Scale Action in Agen - Video : Videomaton developement works on Place Fallieres

    Small Scale Action in Agen - Video : Citizenship Project with High School

    Small Scale Action in Agen - Video : Reduilding a Schoolyard with Pupil's ideas

    Small Scale Action in Agen - Video : Videomaton In Palissy High School

    Last Transnational Meeting in Lead Partner City of Agen - Video : Lead Partner and Lead Expert interviews

    The aim of ActiveCitizens is to rethink the place of the citizen in the local governance by finding a balance between representative democracy and participatory democracy. Led by the City of Agen (France), this Action Planning Network of European small and medium-sized cities, with the same expectations and the similar challenges, will take into account, to do this, new digital tools while integrating the issue of citizens away or not comfortable with digital tools.

    Citizen's participation in small and medium EU cities
    Ref nid
    13495
  • Are participatory processes a fantasy? Not for URBACT!

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    Are participatory processes a fantasy_COVER
    12/06/2023

    Municipalities are daring to give more voice and space to citizens in policymaking. Stories from URBACT…

    Articles
    Network
    From urbact
    On

    Citizen participation is on everyone’s lips at the moment. Well, maybe not everyone’s. But many people’s. Especially on elected officials’, civil servants’ and active citizens’. It is rather common today to stumble upon press articles, radio interviews, or political programmes that mention citizen participation, and to a wider extent, participatory democracy.

    Just to clarify things from the start, what do we mean when we talk about participatory democracy? Well, it’s not rocket science: participatory democracy is a form of governance in which citizens are given (and take) an active role in public decisions, and therefore in the governance of the territory they live in. It can be at local level, regional level, national level or beyond. Concretely? It means that citizens participate in political decisions and contribute to shaping public policies.

    That sounds a lot like the motto “the power of the people”. But in most democracies, the participatory model is not actually the one in place. The most traditional and widely spread form of democracy is called representative democracy. We’re all familiar with the logic: citizens elect representatives who make decisions for them. This model has been in place for decades in most democracies, but it is increasingly showing signs of its limited effectiveness. To cut the story short: growing disillusionment regarding failures of policies to respond to societal needs; growing indifference leading to low voter turnout, leading to low legitimacy of elected officials; growing discontent regarding the policies that are implemented, leading to growing dissatisfaction with the current system. It’s a short version of the story, but basically, our “democracies across the globe are in crisis”, according to the Freedom in the World Report (2020). Or to put it in a more positive way… Democracy would definitely benefit from a little ‘revitalisation’.

    Figure: adapted version of Arnstein's ladder of participation

    The good news is that a growing volume of proof tends to confirm that increasing citizen participation in policymaking is a promising way to reconcile citizens with democracy, while also potentially transforming the way policies are made in general. That means a double change. Having the reflex to give space, voice and power to citizens, and at the same time, re-thinking the policymaking process towards more open, collaborative, agile and participatory formats. Now, this conviction is largely shared throughout the URBACT community.

     

    URBACT cities: open, collaborative, agile, participatory

    If you’ve taken part in an URBACT network, whatever your role, it’s likely you’re familiar with the programme’s fundamental ingredients. Here’s a reminder: a resilient and sustainable urban policy should be integrated (systemically coherent) and participative (multi-stakeholder). Since its launch 15 years ago, URBACT has recognised the need to put participatory approaches at the core of all good policymaking process. Again, anyone who has joined the URBACT adventure will, at some point, come across the famous ‘ULG’, which stands for URBACT Local Group. What’s that? Simple: every city participating in an URBACT network needs to form its own group of people who will co-create the local strategy and action plan together with the city government. This stakeholder group shall be diverse, eclectic, mixed, and will probably include citizens, although this may depend on the topic in question.

    Of course, bringing together a group of people in your policymaking process is not quite the same as installing participatory democracy across your city, but it’s a little step in the right direction. Why? Because a policy plan built with a group of citizens and stakeholders from your city is already way better than a plan built solely by civil servants. Because the more diverse the people around the table, the more diverse the perspectives on the problem you’re trying to tackle, and the richer the ideas and potential solutions proposed. So setting up an URBACT Local Group, or something similar such as a multi-stakeholder committee, neighbourhood councils, or citizen assemblies, ensures that your policies are made with the active participation of multiple voices.

     

    Daring to experiment involving citizens

    Citizens don’t bite! More local authorities should dare to approach residents, talk to them, involve them in municipal processes, ask them their views, invite them to suggest ideas and co-create solutions! It’s not forbidden, as a city authority, to engage in conversation with citizens. Yet, this communication doesn’t always come naturally (beyond the collection of complaints). Cities don’t tend to have the ‘reflex’ of involving citizens whenever they make projects, build policies, redesign public space, develop policies and plans, etc. When cities involve citizens, it’s often because they have to. By law. Not by choice. Not by conviction that it could make their projects and/or decisions better.

    Obviously, I’m exaggerating a bit here. Indeed – even though it’s not yet the new normal – we’re seeing more and more cities developing participatory processes. Or at least trying to. And that’s the first fundamental step. To dare to experiment. Unless, your town or city has tried, there is very little chance that change will happen. But once you’ve done it, once you’ve worked with citizens, the added value starts showing: ideas, enthusiasm, commitment… And then, enlarging, replicating such processes will be a lot easier. So, all it takes is the initial courage to dare to experiment.

    And that’s what the partner cities of the URBACT ActiveCitizens network have done. Eight small- and medium-sized cities that, with URBACT support, developed over 30 experimental Small Scale Actions (SSAs) over the past two and a half years. These eight cities are: Agen (France), Bistrita (Romania), Cento (Italy), Dinslaken (Germany), Hradec Kralove (Czech Republic), Saint-Quentin (France), Santa Maria da Feira (Portugal) and Tartu Vald (Estonia). Although some cities had slightly more experience in citizen participation than others, all have made progress. Each city produced three to seven Small Scale Actions during the course of the network. And all of these SSAs not only reinforced and re-motivated the URBACT Local Groups, but also showed civil servants that they could dare to go beyond their comfort zone and try out things they never tried before, such as engaging citizens in conversation, co-creation and co-decision, either outside, directly in public spaces or in other totally informal set-ups.

    Here are concrete examples of some of these Small Scale Actions run by ActiveCitizens towns and cities:

     

    1. Video booths

    Agen (France): videomaton set in public space to record video testimonials of citizens

    Agen (France) decided to open up conversations with citizens and users in two different public squares before imagining and/or building any plan for these places. The team of Agen set up a ‘videomaton’ (video booth) tent in the middle of two squares and passers-by were invited to answer a series of questions that were recorded on video. Citizens were asked about how they perceived the square, their use of it and, of course, their wishes regarding a potential future transformation. “How would you like it to be?” This Small Scale Action is interesting for multiple reasons: first, because civil servants went out of their offices or regular meeting places and ‘put themselves on the spot’ in public space, to engage with citizens.

    Second, because they used videos to collect citizens’ voices, needs and wishes: a tool that is not often seen in the administrative culture. Third, because they engaged the conversation with citizens in an exploratory way outside of any pre-formalised plan regarding these squares. There is no plan for the moment. Nothing has been decided or imagined yet. And consulting citizens without having everything already planned and finalised is rare. Cities tend to consult citizens after they’ve worked on the plan and nearly decided everything… usually not leaving much room to take citizens’ views into account.

     

    2. Safari walks

    Santa Maria da Feira (Portugal): safari-walk (exploratory walks) through the vast city green urban area for a participatory diagnosis

    Santa Maria da Feira (Portugal) and Dinslaken (Germany) organised ‘safari walks’ – variant forms of exploratory walks. In the case of Santa Maria da Feira, a large and diverse crowd of citizens took part in a long tour around the park and castle of the city to collectively diagnose the park and explore its potential future improvements. In the case of Dinslaken, a small group of young people from popular neighbourhoods did a ‘photo-safari’. Both walks used photography as a tool to enable citizens to make their own diagnosis of positive and negative aspects of public space in their city, then share and discuss it collectively. These two Small Scale Actions showed that involving citizens in urban planning projects was not only possible, but that it could also be done in dynamic and active ways, rather than classic neighbourhood meetings. This practice of organising citizen walks could become a new ‘normal’ way of involving citizens in urban planning departments, complementing other methods such as participatory mapping, vision building, or playful city modelling.

     

    3. Mixed cultural-participatory events

    Cento (Italy): the Giants' Garden is ours - participatory process embedded within a multi-social & cultural event

    Cento (Italy), among several Small Scale Actions, experimented with conducting participation outside, in the Giardino del Gigante, a public park that people had abandoned due to bad reputation. In order to gather citizens to discuss about the park, but also have them vote, decide and engage in it, the city of Cento had the smart idea of setting up a public cultural event in alliance with active local associations. Why set up a cultural event instead of a simple ‘participatory tent’? Because, very few people come to this park. The civil servants could have waited all day before catching any citizens to interact with. The ‘trick’ here was to bring music, arts, dance, circus, etc. into the park to create an event for parents and their kids, and other people from the neighbourhood.

    Then, once on site, they would be invited to contribute, engage and vote. This Small Scale Action worked so well that over a dozen citizens decided that it was really a shame that this park was left abandoned. A collective of citizens decided to form right on spot: they would go on to explore the future of this ‘garden of the giants’. This solution for ‘hiding’ the participatory process within a cultural/popular event not only made people show up, but it was also a way to reach people known as ‘un-usual suspects’ – as well as the ‘usual suspects’, who regularly show up in participatory processes. Looking beyond these already active citizens is key to democracy.

     

    4. Involving citizens in simplifying procedures

    Hradec Kralove (Czech Republic) tried putting together new ‘instructions for the use of citizen committees’. Hradec Kralove has 25 ‘Local Government Committees’ (Komise místní samosprávy) composed of citizens who act as an ‘initiative and advisory body’ for the city council. Even though these committees have existed for nearly three decades, the administrative machine, its procedures, its rules, etc. still remain rather obscure for the people on these committees. How to proceed when faced with complex practical problems such as road repairs, playground refurbishment, waste problems, traffic issues, parking tensions, maintenance of greenery, complaints, investments? What are the right procedures? Who should be contacted? What are the possible solutions?

    To answer these questions, the city of Hradec Kralove decided to bring together civil servants plus members of these Local Government Committees (LGCs) in order to not only clarify the procedures, but also to add a dedicated section on the city website. This new section was named ‘LGC Requirements - What to Do When I Want to Change Something’, making it easier for the LGCs to organise their activities and maintain their district.

    This example is interesting both for the co-creation process – involving civil servants and citizens, rather than the city’s IT technicians alone – as well as for the way it gives citizens the tools to facilitate their engagement and ‘work’. Indeed, we often see cities that push and promote participation but don’t work on reducing or simplifying procedures. If towns and cities want to have active citizens, they must reduce or limit the administrative burden, or help people bypass it. Engaging in local actions is already quite a demanding role. So don’t overload valuable active citizens with administrative weight!

     

    5. Participation training for municipal staff and elected representatives

    Saint-Quentin (France) decided to train all the managers of the city and all its elected officials in participatory democracy and design for policies. Wait. What? We know that participation is usually encouraged by people who are already deeply convinced of its added value. But it’s not necessarily widespread within city governments, even those in the ActiveCitizens network. This is why the City of Saint-Quentin decided to make sure that no one in the city government could say “I don’t know what participation means and how it works”. And at the same time: inspire the curious ones, reinforce the convinced ones and celebrate the already active ones.

    A first training session was organised for about 50 civil servants and later on the same day, training was provided for all the elected officials of the majority party, including the mayor herself. The civil servant training allowed to imagine and reflect on projects with a potential participatory dimension. It also helped trainees to realise that participation can take multiple forms… with a small group of citizens or a big crowd… over a long period of time or in a very spontaneous one-shot way… etc. For many elected officials, it was a ‘wake-up call’. When some of them reacted to the training, saying: “we know all this”, the Mayor responded: “you might know it, but we don’t do it”!

     

    6. Ask people how they want to communicate with their local authority

    Tartu Vald (Tartu Parish, Estonia) is a rural municipality of 15 000 inhabitants spread over an area of 700 km2. Due to their particularly low population density, with no major urban centre, Tartu decided to work on communication challenges. In a municipality like Tartu, where public meetings are impractical, the municipality decided to ask its citizens directly about the best ways to communicate with them. They realised it was worth adapting to people’s existing tools and habits. All too often, cities develop their own communication channel or tool without checking or evaluating its impact – such as a city app that ends up not being downloaded by residents, and then not updated by the city itself. Here in Tartu, citizens were asked about their communication preferences through an online survey. The output? Citizens highlighted three preferred information channels: Facebook groups; the municipality’s monthly magazine; and finally, occasional onsite events or gatherings.

    Their survey also showed that the municipality’s participatory budget was still quite unknown to many citizens. What this Small Scale Action illustrated is the need for cities to adopt and use the same tools that citizens use on a daily basis – and to reflect on their own communication practices –  the first fundamental step towards enabling fruitful citizen participation. Especially if towns and cities want to reach out and engage with people beyond the usual suspects.

     

    7. Fun community events to build connections

    Bistrita (Romania): the courtyards that bring us together. Rock the backyard!

    Bistrita (Romania) is rebuilding their relatively weak links between citizens and public authorities. A first goal was to reconnect citizens with their municipality. This meant that, rather than developing direct participatory processes, Bistrita put efforts into bringing citizens of all ages together through co-organised activities. For example, one action involved restoring and opening up historical inner courtyards for the use of all citizens, by holding a fun cultural event. This led to the creation of an actual demonstrator of a revitalised unused space, and a convivial moment of shared multi-cultural activities, including a photo exhibit, fashion show, food and wine tasting. In parallel, Bistrita also started involving school children in various activities connected with active participation: creating ‘peace banks’, Bistrita through the children’s eyes: ‘Drawing the soul of my city’ and a city treasure hunt’ to reclaim the city.

     

    Citizen participation is no ordinary practice, but it can become one

    What the ActiveCitizens city partners have demonstrated through their more than 35 Small Scale Actions is that citizen participation, even though it is not ordinary practice for all city governments, could definitely become a more regular, ‘normal’ practice of policymaking. They’ve proven that citizen participation is not only feasible through intense, expensive, time consuming, formal, institutionalised processes, but it can also be done in light, spontaneous, agile, creative ways. There is no miracle recipe for participation. But there are infinite ways for imagining participatory processes that can not only provide valuable, diverse citizen input, but also lead to fun, convivial, memorable social events.

     

    Based on our experience with URBACT towns and cities, if there is one last word of advice for public authorities it is: As a city, opening up your processes to citizens is not enough. You need to go towards citizens, wherever they are. Go out. Go and meet the people you never meet. Because they are the precious silent voices that don't feel legitimate to speak up in our democracies. Yet.

     

    Further information

     

     

  • 23 Action Planning Networks ready for Phase 2!

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    15/11/2022

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

    News

     

    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!

     

    NETWORK

    PARTNERS

    DESCRIPTION

    Research, technological development and innovation

    UrbSecurity

    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

    DigiPlace
    (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.

    IoTxChange

    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

    iPlace

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

    - 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

    RiConnect

    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.

    URGE

    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.

    KAIRÓS

    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.

    FOOD CORRIDORS
    (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.

    Health&Greenspace

    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

    Space4People

    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

    SIBdev

    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

    ROOF

    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).

    ActiveCitizens

    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.

    Access

    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.

    Genderedlandscape

    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

    Cities4CSR

    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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  • Seven cities on a Zero Carbon Journey

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    15/11/2022
    URBACT City Festival on vuoden 2022 eurooppalaisen kaupunkikehittämisen huipputapahtuma. Se järjestetään Pariisissa 14.–16.6.2022.
    Articles

    The stage is set for more accountability from decision-makers

    Public pressure is on with movements such as Fridays for Future or demonstrations by movements such as Extinction Rebellion, leading to many national governments and cities having declared climate emergencies. So, how can we get excited about the obvious? How to avoid that these remain just statements? Indeed, these declarations as well as preparing plans without immediate action could be seen as mere greenwashing.

    In the framework of the URBACT Zero Carbon Cities project, seven cities will set up a local carbon budget and a Zero Carbon strategy and action plan by 2022. These action plans will be accompanied by key local pilot projects. As decision makers are held accountable for having declared a climate emergency and for their commitments to initiatives such as the Paris Agreement or the Covenant of Mayors, the current project aims to adopt carbon budgets as a strategic decision-making tool for all local choices.

    What is a carbon budget?

    A carbon budget is the total amount of CO2 that can be emitted over a specific period of time in order to be compliant with the 2015 Paris Agreement. By signing this Agreement, the states committed to keep the increase in global average temperature to well below 2°C and if possible below 1.5°C. Thereafter, some states have adopted overall national carbon budgets, but also broken down per sectors such as transport, buildings etc.

    At local level, pioneer cities such as Oslo, Vienna or Manchester started using carbon budgets as local policy tools and are developing local strategies to reach climate neutrality. They set up action plans consisting of specific measures to implement the strategy by 2050 or even 2038 for the most striving ones.

    Ambitious Manchester

    In 2019 Manchester decided to become a zero carbon city by 2038. At city level, this means capping total emissions at 15 million tonnes of CO2 between 2018-2100 based on a science-based ‘carbon budget’ in line with the Paris Agreement. Therefore, Manchester needs to halve its emissions between 2018 and 2022 – a 13% reduction every year. Manchester is not only looking at its direct emissions, but also at consumption-based emissions as well as aviation emissions. An annual report is prepared to show whether the city is on track or not.

    Reaching these ambitious targets requires the necessary governance structures. Internally, Manchester City Council set up the Manchester City Council Zero Carbon Coordination Group chaired by the deputy chief executive. This group involves different municipal departments via the directors/heads of the respective departments: Planning, Strategic development, Neighbourhoods team (community focused), Legal, Finance, Communications, Housing, Human Resources, Policy, Building estates (municipal buildings).

    A climate Change Partnership

    However, in Manchester responsibility is allocated to different stakeholders for up to 20% of Manchester’s total CO2 emissions. The City Council has a facilitation and leadership role where they can gather key stakeholders to take joint action. These stakeholders are part of the Manchester Climate Change Partnership composed of public, private, community and academic partners from the faith sector, local property companies, the Manchester City football club, the two local universities, the social housing sector, the climate change youth board, the culture sector etc.

    The Climate Change Partnership is part of the Our Manchester Forum, a local governance structure that goes beyond climate change and covers all sectors.

    The Zero Carbon Cities project

    Manchester is working closely with Frankfurt (Germany), Vilvoorde (Belgium), Zadar (Croatia), Bistrita (Romania), Modena (Italy) and Tartu (Estonia) in the framework of the URBACT Zero Carbon Cities project. They are all Covenant of Mayors Signatories. Bistrita, Zadar, Modena, Vilvoorde and Tartu are currently preparing their sustainable energy and climate action plans with the target of 40% greenhouse gas-reduction by 2030. In Frankfurt, the City Council Assembly adopted in 2012 the goal to supply Frankfurt with 100% renewables by 2050 supported by the “100 % Climate Protection Masterplan” approved by the City Council Assembly in 2015.

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  • Zero Carbon Cities

    LEAD PARTNER Manchester
    • Frankfurt - Germany
    • Tartu - Estonia
    • Zadar - Croatia
    • Bistrița - Romania
    • Modena - Italy
    • Vilvoorde - Belgium

    The Zero Carbon Cities Action Planning Network will support partner cities to establish science-based carbon reduction targets, policies and action plans, including governance and capacity building to enable them to contribute to the successful implementation of the Paris Agreement and the EU’s strategic vision for carbon neutrality by 2050.

    Zero Carbon Cities
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  • Do we need participatory democracy to save democracy?

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    15/11/2022

    Everyone acknowledges today that democracies around the world are increasingly challenged. The number of issues they have to face – and have difficulties to respond to (social justice, economic stability, climate change, etc.) – put our democracies at risk. On top of that, a growing number of people feel that they are not listened to or taken into consideration by policymakers. Citizens claim a right to have a say in public decisions, choices, and policies that are made.

    Articles

    At city level, local governments are not at rest either and face the same situation as national governments and appear quite unequipped to respond to the claim of citizens. Yet, they realise they have to better collaborate and involve citizens in decision-making processes and in the local governance of the city in general. Amongst those conscious cities, 8 small and medium-sized cities of Europe have decided to embark on the audacious journey of participatory democracy.

    These 8 cities have gathered together in order to set up a network called Active Citizens. These cities all range in between 35 000 and 95 000 inhabitants. They are from all over Europe, -south, west, and east. From Portugal (Santa Maria da Feira) to France (Agen and Saint Quentin), Italy (Cento) to Germany (Dinslaken), Czech Republic (Hradec Králové), Romania (Bistrita), and Estonia (Tartu). These 8 cities have different experiences with participatory approaches, some having already engaged with participatory methods, while others are more at the beginning of the journey. However, they all have in common this shared feeling that they need to go further, and that they can do so, by joining together and learning from one another.

    The ambition of the Active Citizens’ network of cities is quite clear: how to better involve citizens in the local governance of our cities? ‘But why would you do that?’ one could ask. Well, because, ‘we believe that by involving citizens into the local governance, we can build better policies, services, and cities as a whole. More efficient. More pertinent. More relevant. More adapted.’

    ‘But why would we need to involve citizens in the governance? We already have elected officials for that! It’s the whole principle of representative democracy!’

     

    Yes. In principle. Elected officials are elected to represent citizens and ‘govern in their name’. And they do. But in many cases, they don’t represent ‘enough’ of the people. And even if they did, does this prevent them to compose with citizens during their whole mandate, for every decision? Cities acknowledge today that integrating a certain level of citizen participation (in some cases) to the decision-making process could be – not only – useful, but actually necessary. 

    Citizen participation? Hell no!

     

    Clearly, not everyone in city administrations (but also in national governments) is convinced of the added-value of citizen participation to governance. Reasons of NOT doing citizen participation are plenty. In order to identify them, we developed, within Active Citizens, a card game called ‘Citizen participation? Hell no!’. This game is composed of 42 reasons of NOT doing citizen participation. The cities of the network were asked to pick the ones they most often hear within their own administrations, by their colleagues (either civil servants or elected officials). Some of the reasons include: “citizen participation slows down every process or project’, ‘citizen participation is useless because citizens are not experts!”, “it’s too complicated to work with citizens”, “citizens are better at complaining, than at finding solutions”, “citizens have no interest in public actions & matters”, “no need for citizen participation, we already work with NGOs, unions and associations of consumers”, “with citizens, conversations always remain superficial and without depth”.

    Yes. There is still a long way to go in order to deconstruct these many ‘reasons’…

    But... ‘what is it you want?’

     

    There are many objectives which could motivate a city to engage in a network such as Active Citizens. The 8 cities of the network were therefore asked to express what were their motivations… and here is a little selection of the most common desires they have picked:

    • We want to develop a culture of participation and a sense of active citizenship.
    • We want to rebuild trust between citizens and the city administration.
    • We want citizens to co-create solutions (ideas, plans, agendas, actions) with us, city administration.
    • We want to facilitate the dialogue between elected officials and citizens.
    • We want to collect citizensʼ opinions and views on public matters or actions.
    • We want citizens to take an active part in urban planning projects and decisions.

    This set of motivations highlight the richness and diversity of objectives (but also challenges) that the cities wish to tackle through citizen participation: from trust to dialogue, from consultation to co-creation, from concrete projects to public agenda, and more.

    ‘When you start doing citizen participation, you realize there are so many things you are not satisfied with, as a city administration’

     

    For the cities who have already a bit of experience with forms of citizen participation, all of them are not 100% satisfied with how things are. ‘First, It’s always the same people who show up’. That’s the so-called ‘usual suspects’. And, most often, they are all retired. ‘This is not satisfactory, as a public administration’. Indeed, cities want citizens to be as diverse as possible, as representative as possible (of all the inhabitants and potential voices). ‘Citizens tend to only speak up for their personal interest, not necessarily the common good’, yet it is the role of a public authority to ensure that public policies and services shall be for the common good. ‘In the neighbourhood councils, we decided that the citizens would be elected by the inhabitants but we realise that, once elected, they don’t all necessarily consult the citizens afterward’. Even though the idea was to give power to citizens, we end up having just a new layer of not-functioning-so-well ‘representative democracy’, at the micro-level of a neighbourhood, instead of a city one. Of course, all the cities are experimenting, testing, piloting, exploring and learning from their experiments, what works well, what works not so well, what does not work, then revise, change, redesign their ways of doing. And citizens contribute to it (requesting particular trainings, suggesting changes, etc.). Both sides have to learn how to collaborate better, as it is not a natural thing for any of them.

    There is hope, there is urgency, there is pressure

     

    Participatory democracy is a trendy topic. No doubt. The number of articles, news, papers, books, case studies, of participatory democracy are multiplying like never before in the last decade. At the same time, toolkits, guidelines, toolboxes, and handbooks of all kind are also multiplying and meant to support cities in the adoption of participatory approaches in their governance. Yet, the trendy nature of the topic is not without risk. Indeed, as the topic becomes ‘a nice thing to do and have’, some cities tend to apply participatory approaches either in bad ways (tools, methods, formats) or for the bad reasons (fake motives, hidden agenda) leading to what could be called ‘fake public participation’. And this can have disastrous effects on democracy. Indeed, the number of active citizens willing to take part, to a certain degree, to public decision making processes, are not – let’s be honest – millions (yet). So doing ‘fake public participation’ can convince the most willing citizens that participation processes are just smoke and mirrors. Disappointing, once again. And lowering a bit more the citizens’ trust in politics, and, by extension, the democratic model. But there is hope, because citizens are present and willing to take part, and city administrations (like the ones of Active Citizens) are also more and more inclined to go towards a more participatory democracy and want to do it right, meaning with honesty, transparency, attention, care and empathy.

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  • Making Spend Matter

    LEAD PARTNER Preston
    • Bistrița - Romania
    • Kavala - Greece
    • Koszalin - Poland
    • Pamplona - Spain
    • Schaerbeek - Belgium
    • Vila Nova de Famalicao - Portugal

    Timeline

    April 2018 – September 2018 | Phase 1: Transfer Network development

    4 December 2018 | Start of Phase 2

    January 2019 – March 2019 | Transfer Planning Period: development of the Good Practice transfer, tools and training on spend analysis methodology

    April 2019 – December 2020 | Transfer Learning Period: transfer of the Good Practice in partner cities, bilateral activities on the themes of Advanced Spend Analysis, SME Engagement, Social and Environmental criteria in Public Procurement.

    January 2021 – May 2021 | Transfer Sharing Period: National/Regional Good Practice Transfer Events

    March 2021 | Final Network Event

    4 June 2021 | Project End Date

    Making Spend Matter Transfer network explores how to use spend analysis as an evidence tool to enhance the impact of procurement by public / anchor institutions in order to bring additional economic, social and environmental benefits to the local economy and its citizens. This will be achieved by transferring the Good Practice developed by Preston in this area.

    Changing Procurement - Changing Cities
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