• Nine ways cities can become more just and inclusive

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    These local actions for a fairer society are inspiring cities across the EU. Could they work in your city too?

    Disadvantaged neighbourhoods

    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 full stories in ‘Good practice transfer: Why not in my City?’, here are nine examples of local actions for Just Cities. We hope towns and cities of all sizes will be inspired to ‘Understand, Adapt and Re-use’ these ideas for working with communities to fight exclusion and help drive a just transition to a green economy.

    1. Boost social inclusion through music

    One way Brno (CZ) is tackling social exclusion in disadvantaged neighbourhoods and encouraging children to stay in school, is a music programme inspired by the innovative Municipal Music School and Arts Centre in L'Hospitalet de Llobregat (ES). Brno is one of six EU cities in the ONSTAGE network, which have adopted l’Hospitalet’s inclusive approach – with groups including a symphonic orchestra, big bands, pop-rock, and jazz groups. Working with teachers and parents, Brno launched its own group music activities in deprived areas, bringing people together, facilitating cultural exchanges, and even improving school results in maths and other subjects.

    2. Encourage volunteering

    Pregrada (HR) has found a way to awaken its volunteering potential and encourage more young people to get involved in helping others. Forming a diverse local group to connect relevant associations, council staff, and citizens of all ages, they introduced a new governance structure around volunteering, part of a participatory model for solving local social problems. The town, which already had many active volunteers, and close links between relevant boards and the council, based its new framework on the well-established Municipal Council of Volunteering in Athienou (CY) while also exchanging with six other EU cities in the Volunteering Cities network.

    3. Commit to inclusion and tolerance

    Hamburg’s Altona district (DE) has launched an anti-discrimination strategy, with a set of principles known as the ‘Altona Declaration’, co-developed by political leaders and residents: “We in Altona,… stand for a free and democratic society; like to encounter new people; represent diversity and engage against discrimination; encounter every person with respect and tolerance; believe in the equality of all people; recognise the chances that come with diversity and encounter every person openly and without prejudices.”

    Inspired by Amadora’s (PT) ‘Don’t feed the rumour’ initiative, through the RUMOURLESS CITIES network, Altona appointed local campaign ambassadors, and asked residents about community, democracy and equality – confirming a common desire to live in a society where people take care of each other.

    4. Celebrate local heritage through storytelling

    A movement to celebrate the built environment, promote active citizenship and fight urban isolation is growing up around a former radio station in a 1950s suburb of Pori (FI). Working with the city’s cultural department, an arts collective based on the site formed a local group and asked neighbours and radio enthusiasts to share their stories, in person and online, sparking new events, interest in local heritage, and the re-use of abandoned space in the old radio station. Pori based the initiative on good practice from Budapest’s annual ‘Weekend of Open Houses’, thanks to the Come in! network.

    5. Co-manage city assets

    The Belgian city of Ghent has a long history of policy participation, with council-appointed ‘neighbourhood managers’ supporting a variety of citizens’ initiatives. The Civic eState network helped Ghent learn from urban commons legislation in cities like Naples, Barcelona, Amsterdam and Gdansk, further boosting cooperation with residents – and bringing the city’s policy participation, real estate, and legal services to work together. Ghent applied these learnings in the re-use of the decommissioned Saint Jozef Church. Commoners, citizens, and nearby organisations formed a local group to jointly assign a local coordinator to ensure the building’s management and activities take into account the needs of its diverse neighbourhood.

    6. Empower neighbourhood partnerships

    A new initiative in the French metropole of Lille identifies local associations and their potential synergies in deprived neighbourhoods, in order to empower communities to propose and build their own joint social projects – such as linking up a retirement home with a neighbouring school. The idea is to support these projects on the road to self-sufficiency. Lille based their initiative on learnings from Lisbon’s (PT) Local Development Strategy for Priority Intervention areas, thanks to the Com.Unity.Lab network. Lisbon’s scheme tackles urban poverty and empowers communities by providing micro-grants to thousands of local projects, many of which become autonomous and create permanent jobs.

    7. Engage with citizens through play and games

    Cork (IE), is taking a ‘playful’ approach to improving the city for all, steered by a local group ‘Let’s Play Cork’ which includes the City Council, public bodies and associations across health, education, culture and sports. Applying good practice from Udine (IT) and other cities in the Playful Paradigm network, Cork’s actions so far include: pop-up play areas in the city centre, parks and libraries; play-based resources for festivals; toy-lending in libraries; and providing ‘street-play packs’ for neighbourhood events. This approach has been a catalyst for local groups and residents to start tackling societal challenges together, such as co-developing playful ideas for public spaces, including the permanent pedestrianisation of certain roads.

    8. Build municipality-NGO cooperation

    The ‘NGO House’ in Riga (LV) is a place for civil society organisations to hold events, develop sustainable cooperation with the municipality; and receive educational, technical and administrative support. The model inspired cities across the EU to boost their own synergies between NGOs, citizens and institutions – with support from the ACTive NGOs network. The Sicilian town of Siracusa, for example, has developed three new public spaces with local associations: Citizen's House on an abandoned floor of a school in a disadvantaged neighbourhood; Officine Giovani in a historic centre; and the Urban Centre, a recovered space, bringing the administration and community together in planning local policies.

    9. Welcome international talent

    Home to several multinational companies and a university, Debrecen (HU) is expanding support for professionals and students arriving from other countries to feel welcome and stay on as valuable members of the community. Debrecen is one of six cities in the Welcoming International Talent network, inspired by Groningen (NL) where a multidisciplinary team provides international residents with active support in housing, work, city living and communication. With improved stakeholder relations convincing local leaders to see social aspects of economic development, next steps include support for affordable accommodation, and encouraging local companies to recruit international talent.

    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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  • Every single house is interesting!

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    There is a little square two-minutes from your flat. You have seen it many times on your daily route. You perhaps even recognised that it is somehow unique. Nothing special, no outstanding architectural value, but lovely and always full of life. And would be great to explore once.

    A week-end of Open Houses initiated in Budapest (HU) (budapest100.hu)

    City Branding

    All of us are surrounded by places and buildings like this. All of us are excited what and who is there behind the doors. Who lives there now and who has lived there before and what stories they could tell. The ‘Come in! – talking houses shared stories’ URBACT Transfer Network is centred on the good practice entitled Weekend of Open Houses. It is an easily adaptable community festival in Budapest called Budapest100 celebrating the city’s built heritage and common values. This good practice might help the inhabitants of eight European cities to explore their own built heritage, those little squares only two-minutes from their homes and get local communities closer to each other along this journey.

    The Budapest100 community festival was started in 2011 by the Open Society Archives and the Contemporary Architecture Centre in Budapest, celebrating houses turning 100-years old that year during a thematic weekend. The event became a yearly festival, always celebrating buildings that were 100 years old in the given year. Since 2015 the celebration of 100-year-old buildings is not possible anymore due to WWI, so each year the focus is on different themes (2017: buildings along the Danube, 2018: buildings around squares).

    Exploring our community through our built environment

    Nevertheless, the main method is the same, expressed well by the festival’s motto: every single building is interesting and important. This is a two-day long festival co-organised by local residents and a massive group of volunteers to highlight values of the built environment as well as common values to decrease urban isolation. The main aim of the good practice is primarily not to protect buildings, but to encourage civilian power alongside the built environment as a catalyst. Its broad mission is to initiate a common discussion about urban revival and to inspire the establishment and strengthening of residential communities and to take action against urban social isolation by using cultural heritage and built environment as a tool.

    Each year approximately 20 000 visitors come to look behind the doors of 50-60 open houses of downtown Budapest, explore hidden treasures and listen to urban stories told and shared by local residents and volunteers. This rather attractive urban initiative is definitely not about money: the whole programme costs about 20 000€ each year including the development of a website and the salary of a part time employee.

    The Come in! URBACT network is led by Municipality of Újbuda, the multifaceted 11th district of Budapest, a district whose downtown area is usually very active in Budapest100. The municipality also has a strategic relationship with the Contemporary Architecture Centre to boost local dynamics of the creative sector. Using the Budapest100 good practice as a method, Come in! focuses on mobilising residents and raising their awareness towards the values of their built, mainly residential environment, which is not necessarily protected by law, and not necessary old, but where there is an intangible identity, spirit or story behind, on which a community building process can be strongly built. This is to be done by involving volunteers to make research on houses to be involved (collecting facts, stories and histories about houses and their residents), as well as residents putting together the programme (organising for example walks or programs with residents of the houses).

    Promoting engagement with cultural heritage

    The Weekend of Open Houses is about creating an opportunity for citizens to uphold cultural values and traditions and to promote positive societal change. The aim is to “allow and encourage individuals to become more active in every aspect of cultural heritage. A thorough understanding of local culture and environmental issues will render any participation more effective.” says the Turku Manifesto 2017 (Taking part in cultural heritage matters, European Heritage Congress, 2017 Turku), which is also the main philosophy of the good practice and of the Come in! URBACT network. This highlights the fact that it is really in line with contemporary trends of cultural heritage management and integrated urban development in the EU.

    Europe is celebrating its diverse cultural heritage at all levels in 2018 through the European Year of Cultural Heritage, the aim of which is to “encourage more people to discover and engage with Europe's cultural heritage, and to reinforce a sense of belonging to a common European space”. The slogan for the year is: Our heritage: where the past meets the future.

    Historic Urban Landscape approach of the UNESCO as a backbone for action

    Come in! is taps on an important thematic field: perceptions of cultural heritage in Europe – which is extremely rich in cultural values - is changing. It is not anymore seen as a financial burden, but increasingly recognised as an asset, which can provide a catalyst for enhanced growth and wellbeing. Since the adoption of the Historic Urban Landscape (HUL) approach by the UNESCO’s General Conference in 2011, cultural heritage is a very important reference point and crosscutting field in urban policies both on global and European level. The UNESCO’s HUL Recommendation seems to be the alpha and omega regarding cultural heritage, and indeed most urban policies are rooted in that framework which stresses the importance and urgency of involving communities in the valorisation and conservation of the built environment.

    Residents and Volunteers: keys to success of Budapest100

    The widest possible participation and interaction with residents and communities is a priority both for cultural heritage agendas and social innovation policies. A community festival celebrating a given city's built heritage and common values clearly contributes to relevant EU priorities and is in line with the Historic Urban Landscape approach as well. The good practice provides a rather simple model to mobilise residents as well as volunteers to engage with their own cultural heritage and communities while also helps to decrease social isolation.

    Of course Budapest100 does not stand alone, there are many similar concepts in Europe and worldwide. The most well-known initiatives are perhaps Open House and the European Heritage Days. But there are two crucial differences between Budapest100 and other similar initiatives: the involvement of residents and initiators of activities supported by volunteers and having a strong social focus besides the architectural one. For Budapest100 every house is interesting, not only those with outstanding architectural value or the ones protected by law.

    The combination of the three pillars (built environment, but not only outstanding values, strong involvement of communities supported by involvement of volunteers) makes Budapest100 unique in the EU context.

    Budapest100 for everyone: the Transfer Potential of the good practice throughout Europe

    The ‘Come in! – talking houses shared stories’ network provides exchange and learning activities for a number of cities and their stakeholders coming from different corners of Europe and having a residential area with strong spirit, to understand the good practice, prepare local plans for its adaptation and test its reuse on small-scale.

    On the one hand, as the good practice is really not complex (it is “just” a two-day event) it could be easily replicated in almost every residential environment of any European city having a strong local ‘identity’ the community festival can be built on. Searching and analysing these identities behind residential areas of candidate cities was the most important factor while building up the partnership. The good practice will be adapted in various built environments, e.g. in the historical centre in Gheorgheni (RO) with its unique and mostly unexploited Armenian heritage; in Forlì (I) focusing on its sensitive rationalist heritage or in Varaždin’s looking at its (HR) untapped modern buildings just next to the beautiful Baroque city centre, and will be even tested in newly built environments as well (e.g. in modern housing estates in Újbuda (H) or Pori (SF)).

    On the other hand, the other two pillars (community engagement and volunteering) of the good practice highlight serious challenges related to the overall transfer potential of the good practice, simply because it can be difficult to boost these factors as they are deeply

    rooted in the socio-economic environment and cultural attitudes of the given country. Tackling a strong local spirit (‘our heritage’) linked to a partly unexploited heritage, positioning and marketing the theme in a contemporary way fitting urban trends, incentivising volunteers and residents, especially young ones and putting the theme into a broader context seem essential in the transfer process to overcome those challenges around community engagement and volunteering.

    Last, but not least, for adapting this community-led initiative we need municipalities that are able to facilitate bottom-up developments without controlling what is uncontrollable, act as matchmakers, and harvest and accelerate the results of such a community festival by crossing silos (the cultural department is most likely the one responsible for the festival, but its potential spill-overs refer to social and other departments too).

    Proper motivation tools, team and capacity building for URBACT Local Group members to overcome resistance and create quick wins is also essential for Come in! partner cities.


    Visit the network's page: Come in!

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  • Community festival of open houses

    Budapest Ujbuda

    Community festival mobilising citizens, fostering civilian power and urban stewardship through raising awareness towards the values of built heritage to decrease social isolation

    Rita Szerencsés
    Project Leader in Budapest100
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    149 000


    People from all over Budapest (HU) take part in the city's Weekend of Open Houses – Budapest100, a festival that opens the gates of 50-60 houses and institutions each year. The event has become a tradition since its launch in 2011, with attendance reaching 20,000 visitors during the weekend.
    Between 2011 and 2015 it was organised as a community-building initiative celebrating 100-year-old Budapest buildings, with the cooperation of citizens, NGOs, public institutions and district municipalities. Its main aim is to draw attention to local buildings, their architectural value and history - and to the civilian power that organises residential communities and holds them together. Since 2016, the event has been structured around a given theme or location.
    The broad mission of Budapest100 is to initiate a common discussion about revival and inspire the establishment and strengthening of residential communities.

    The solutions offered by the good practice

    The solution offered by Budapest100 is threefold. It contributes to reforming urban community co-existence, to change the relationship between residents and the city and to help people become more responsible citizens. The weekend of open houses initiates common discussion about urban revival, underlines the values of the built environment and takes action against social isolation. Throughout Europe there are similar initiatives, but with a much lower social impact. The examples are mainly concentrating on the built environment, letting the audience enter a building and sharing with them the most important data, collected and presented by experts. Budapest100, on the other hand, adds the factors of community-building and creating value. In the apartment blocks joining the programme, residents prepare in a self-organized way (with the help of volunteers) exhibitions, cultural events, concerts and give building-history tours for the visiting audiences. The strength of the event lies in creating a demand to share and value transfer. The easiest way of social mobilisation is to create emotional engagement. The festival creates a platform for telling the stories behind closed doors and to start dialogues. Budapest100 has highlighted the possibilities of a cleverly organised, friendly city involving the residents.

    Building on the sustainable and integrated approach

    Through its strong community development focus, its link to informal education, social isolation and nurturing of local organisers, Budapest100 essentially includes the social aspect related to integrated urban development. Both economic and environmental aspects of urban development are tackled by the fact that residents form communities within the programme and are more alert to physical degradation. Many apartment blocks started repeating community action in a self-organising way after Budapest100, resulting in renovations and smaller architectural changes, not to mention self-organised actions. Besides mobilising internal efforts (local people caring more), Budapest100 also draws the attention of tourists, local businesses and municipalities. The real economic impact potentially achieved through these actors is significant, even if indirect. Budapest100 not only addresses the city-loving audience, but a wide range of professionals, namely architects, landscape architects and urban planners, and initiates a common discourse on the themes affecting the city and its people. During the months of the preparations for the weekend festival a significant number of volunteers are involved and trained, who get in touch with the buildings which respond to the open call. In line with the above progress of the initiative, in 2016 the festival departed from the historical aspect of celebrating 100-year-old houses (because as a consequence of WW1 there were no buildings to celebrate) and has started to be organised around a theme. In 2016 the topic was the Grand Boulevard of Budapest, in 2017 the Danube quays, in 2018 the squares of the city while in 2019 the Bauhaus heritage.

    Based on a participatory approach

    Budapest100 was launched by the Open Society Archives and is organised by the Hungarian Contemporary Architecture Centre, an NGO dedicated to the dissemination of architectural practices. Budapest metropolitan and district municipalities aid the organisation by financial and in-kind support (human resources, data, communication). Since the 2011 beginning, the event has been performed with a constantly growing infrastructure and press attention, with many partners joining the initiative. The festival uses already successful methods in a further developed way: recruiting a network of 150 volunteers and involving researchers. Their composition is mixed across ages and professions, including students, retired people, architects, employees of companies and artists. There is no declared hierarchical relationship among the various actors, the structure is transparent, with open communication. Residents and volunteers are realising community programmes together alongside the principles articulated by the core team of Budapest100: culture development, information transfer, preservation of values and community cooperation. Along with the programmes in the houses, workshops and discussions on urban planning also take place attracting professionals and decision-makers. The core team pays attention to the residents and makes sure they are getting involved in these discussions, so they have the opportunity to offer their own opinions and ideas.

    What difference has it made?

    In the past ten years, Budapest100 has opened the gates of 50 to 60 houses and institutions yearly. Based on the feedback from involved residents, the weekends were full of experiences and lessons learnt. Many of them have highlighted that they would never have thought that so many people would be interested in their lives or their neighbourhoods. In an indirect way the festival offered them the feeling of uniqueness and importance and created conditions for neighbourhoods working together towards a common goal, making the residents’ voices heard. Local communities became stronger through the access to knowledge that helps them get closer to their own stories, their buildings and through that their cities, making them feel responsible. A more concrete success is that many apartment blocks started repeating community actions in a self-organised way following Budapest100, resulting in renovations and smaller architectural changes or organising a yard picnic or concert. The festival also got international reputation: in 2013 the Guardian chose the festival as one of the most interesting programmes of the continent, and it also received one of the prizes in “The most beautiful city feast” by Lebendige Stadt Stiftung, Hamburg. Besides the URBACT good practice label Budapest100 has become a part of the Cultural Heritage in Action Programme too.

    Transferring the practice

    After being awarded the URBACT Good Practice title, Újbuda was able to create the Come In! Transfer Network to which six European cities (Gheorgheni RO, Forlì IT, Varaždin HR, Pori FI, Plasencia ES, Targówek/Warsaw PL) were invited. Actually, Újbuda itself also used the method of Budapest100 in another target area, Őrmező, a prefabricated housing estate. Equipped by URBACT with a toolkit, the cities could learn from each other. The transfer process was not one-sided, during the transnational meetings the existing practices of some of the transfer cities inspired Újbuda and contributed to the development of ideas to further improve the Good Practice in the following ways. 1. Organisation of spin-off activities besides the annual big festival (like the event in the Castle District of Budapest). This has partly been inspired by the Come in! project partners which transferred the good practice in neighbourhoods and not in fragmented houses through the entire city centre. 2. Reflection on modern built environment during the annual festival. It already happened that the topic of prefabricated housing estates was one among the potential topics. Most likely one of the next BP100 festivals will reflect on modern heritage. 3. Budapest100 was inspired by the Forli website as well. In Budapest there is a massive database of houses involved in the last years, but the Italian website is very professional in terms of highlighting storytelling. This was one of the key themes of the Come in! network: describing the stories of the places (in a website and on the spot) can extend the effect of the festival, making it permanent, not only one-off event. 4. Using design thinking workshop methods as a further motivation for the volunteers. 5. Moving forward from celebration to joint placemaking actions on super local level (e.g. building an inner garden in a patio).

    Is a transfer practice
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