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  • European cities driving change through URBACT Action Planning Networks

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    Illustration of several people in a city with the slogan "Read the latest updates on the Action Planning Networks" in the sky and the hashtag #URBACTacts.
    19/03/2024

    Get to know the areas of action and the latest updates of these 30 URBACT networks. 

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    Networks in numbers

     

    From 1 June 2023 to 31 December 2025, 252 individual partners from 28 European countries have embarked on 30 Action Planning Networks (APN), under the URBACT IV programme. Within their URBACT journey, they aim to build their knowledge and skills to co-design and develop long-term Integrated Action Plans (IAP) to tackle their local challenges. These plans will define the actions to be implemented, covering timings, responsibilities, costings, funding sources, monitoring indicators and risk assessments. 

    Each network is composed of a Lead Partner and another 8-10 project partners. Among the 252 partners, half are newcomers to the programme while the other half already has experience with URBACT III (2014-2020).  

    Networks approved by the URBACT IV Monitoring Committee. Source: URBACT 

    Networks approved by the URBACT IV Monitoring Committee. Source: URBACT 

    All the approved URBACT Action Planning Networks (2023-2025) are aligned with the EU Cohesion Policy and will contribute to its five specific Policy Objectives (POs): PO1 A more competitive and smarter Europe; PO2 A greener Europe; PO3 A more connected Europe; PO4 A more social and inclusive Europe; and PO5 A Europe closer to citizens. 

    Beyond their geographic diversity, the 30 networks also stand out for their wide variety of topics. The URBACT method, which all networks follow, ensures that an integrated approach is applied; stated simply, regardless of the topic, the social, economic, environmental and territorial aspects are considered.  

    To help you navigate the list, we have clustered them here by their main thematic areas: Participative governance; Urban planning; Local development; Climate action; and Social cohesion. 

     

     

    Participative governance 

     

    Networks under the participative governance thematic focus on a wide variety of topics, including citizen engagement, health, localising the Sustainable Development Goals and much more. 

    Led by Genk (BE), Agents of Co-Existence fosters innovative approaches to societal challenges and strives for inclusive local policies with active community involvement by strengthening the skills and competences of civil servants and creating new organisational structures and cultures

    Developing locally-adapted governance processes is the main objective of Cities for Sustainability Governance, with Espoo (FI) as the Lead Partner, but specifically by using UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as a strategic vehicle. 

    From the heart of Paris (FR), the European cities involved in CITIES@HEART work towards a balanced and inclusive city centre for all users, reversing the loss of attractiveness for cities of different sizes and backgrounds. 

    The One Health 4 Cities network, guided by Lyon (FR), aims to promote the integration of the One Health approach into urban strategies and projects, developing tools that empower decision-makers and operational teams to increase the positive impact of urban projects on the well-being and health of people, animals and the environment

     

    Urban planning 

     

    Urban planning networks address a range of hot topics such as mobility, accessibility, sustainability, public spaces, spatial linkages and territorial cohesion.  

    PUMA (Planning Urban Mobility Actions) helps cities such as Liepaja (LV), its Lead Partner, develop integrated mobility action plans in order to achieve climate-neutral and sustainable mobility in small and medium-sized cities. It is people-centric, prioritising the needs and well-being of individuals

    The S.M.ALL network is all about “Sharing urban solutions towards accessible, sustainable mobility for all.” Led by Ferrara (IT), they navigate the complexity of two URBACT mobility paradigms: inclusivity and sustainability. 

    Romagna Faentina (IT) is at the forefront of ECONNECTING - Greener & closer communities, a network that focuses on sustainable urban-rural mobility solutions within the 30-minute territory, designing and implementing proximity strategies for rural-urban functional areas. 

    SCHOOLHOODS puts children’s health and safety on the menu of a safe, green and happy way to school. Led by Rethymno (EL), the cities belonging to this URBACT network work hand-in-hand with pupils, parents and teachers to co-create solutions allowing pupils to actively go to school on their own.  

    From Balbriggan (IE) to the borders of Europe, the main goal of the EcoCore network is to accelerate the green transition especially in the work environments of the industrial areas of the partner cities, which are transitioning to low-carbon energy sources for transportation, heating and electricity. 

    In a mission to connect urban-rural communities, Creacció Agència d'Emprenedoria of Vic (ES) is currently leading the Beyond the Urban network, which promotes urban-rural mobility through the testing and implementation of sustainable, accessible and integrated mobility solutions, with a focus on intermodality, multi-level governance, inclusion, gender equality, and digital tools. 

     

    Local development 

     

    Local economy, territorial marketing and digital transformation are a few of the topics covered by the local development networks. 

    C4TALENT, whose Lead Partner is Nyíregyháza City with County Rights (HU), pursues the objective of building business & startup friendly environments in cities to lessen the effects of brain drain, attracting and retaining talented young professionals. 

    After the COVID-19 pandemic accelerated the transformation around how work is organised, Dubrovnik Development Agency (HR) initiated Remote-IT, a network that tackles the new challenges cities are experiencing connected to the future of work by facilitating the remote and hybrid work for thriving cities. 

    Another Croatian city is leading a local development action planning network. Sibenik (HR) is at the head of Residents of the future, which addresses the issue of urban depopulation within small and medium-sized cities.  

    With Fundão (PT) as a Lead Partner, METACITY’s main goal is to increase competitiveness of small and medium tech-aware cities, benefiting from the opportunity to enhance service efficiency and citizen satisfaction provided by the metaverse.  

    NextGen YouthWork, headed by Eindhoven (NL), is also contributing to the digital transformation, by going one step further and improving online youth work through innovative digital solutions at the city level.  

    Boosting no-tech and digital local communities, facing specific challenges in terms of diversity, gender equality and inclusion, is the objective of TechDiversity, a network composed of small and medium-sized European cities and guided by Trikala (EL). 

    Led by Mollet del Vallès (ES), DIGI-INCLUSION also promotes inclusion through digital tools, tackling social exclusion and boosting digital inclusion not only by granting access to technology but by enabling people to develop the necessary skills and to become sufficiently empowered to take full advantage of the opportunities offered by the digital world. 

    Life in cities continues even after dark. This is the main statement of the network Cities After Dark. Led by Braga (PT), this network promotes the 'Night Economy', through activities that are essential for a city to function 24 hours a day and play a significant role in the global economy.  

     

    Climate action 

     

    Climate action networks tackle several concerns; green transition, circular economy, green funding and reconversion of spaces, among other subjects. 

    The COPE (Coherent Place-based Climate Action) network, driven by Copenhagen (DK), unlocks the green potentials of citizen action through a place-based approach, recognising citizens and local action groups as fundamental stakeholders working to accelerate the green transition. 

    Led by Munich (DE), LET'S GO CIRCULAR! cities focus on the circular transition of cities. This network addresses all issues relevant to a holistic strategy of circular city ecosystems, fostering innovative solutions. 

    The BiodiverCity partners, with the support of Dunaújváros (HU) as Lead Partner, support and enable communities to plan powerful, nature-based solutions, foster pro-environmental citizen behaviours and draft Urban Greening Plans, contributing to the achievement of the EU Biodiversity Strategy. 

    In4Green is a collaborative network of industrial cities, headed by Avilés (ES), with a shared commitment: to implement the green transition in industrial areas/cities while remaining competitive and inclusive. 

    Restoring “forgotten” urban areas into valuable places for and with residents is the mission of GreenPlace. This Wroclaw-led (PL) network aims to restore urban spaces and make them friendly to both the residents and the environment, by optimising the use of existing resources in the context of ecological crisis, the financial and geopolitical situation. 

     

    Social cohesion 

     

    A variety of topics are addressed by the social cohesion thematic networks, from urban regeneration and place-making to gender, equality, diversity and inclusion. 

    Under the leadership of Clermont Auvergne Métropole (FR), the objective of FEMACT-Cities is to support the drafting of eight “Local Action Plans on Gender Equality” about the main challenges regarding women's liberty and empowerment, through protection, education, emancipation and economic autonomy

    GenProcure also addresses gender equality, focusing on Gender-Responsive Public Procurement, and it is headed by Vila Nova de Famalicão (PT). This network promotes gender equality through working purchases, supplies and services in the public sector.  

    Re-Gen is a European network of cities led by Verona (IT) that aims to support sustainable urban development and social inclusion thanks to the protagonism of secondary school students, aged between 10 and 18, from disadvantaged backgrounds. 

    The Cinisello Balsamo-led (IT) U.R. Impact prioritises social impact in urban regeneration, ensuring social inclusion and community development during urban renewal. They place citizens and their social, economic and environmental well-being at the centre of the processes. 

    The main goal of Breaking Isolation, a network driven by Agen (FR) that fights against isolation by creating social bonds and links between young and elderly and promoting social diversity. 

    In order to build more inclusive and resilient societies, WELDI empowers local authorities for a dignified integration of newly arrived migrants. In achieving this objective, cities of this network, led by Utrecht (NL), collaborate with migrants and other residents, as well as with local, national and international partners. 

    ARCHETHICS network brings together European cities that share the presence of heritage linked to a complex and controversial historical past (totalitarian regimes, contentious borders, etc), such as its Lead Partner Cesena (IT). Their goal is to transform the heritage into places for locals and visitors to share knowledge and come to multi-perspective understandings of the past and new visions for the future

     

    Follow the network journey

     

    This is just a snapshot of the URBACT Action Planning Networks, but stay tuned for more insights from the Lead Experts and partner cities, themselves! You can also follow the journey of these networks on their project pages and social media, benefit from the lessons learned and try them in your own city. 

     

     

     

     

     

  • Sipping coffee in Sligo: How a commitment to community and attention to detail turned things around for downtown—one cup at a time

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    Members of the Cities@Heart network
    06/12/2023
    07/12/2023


    The year is 2013 and few residents of Sligo, Ireland have heard of a BID, or Business Improvement District. Stakeholders in the local commerce sector operated independently and seldomly in cooperation with the County Council. Fast forward to December 6, 2023 when a group of 26 individuals from ten different countries all over Europe touched down in Sligo to glean best practices for city centre management. Sligo’s remarkable success story provided a fitting backdrop for the first transnational meeting of the Cities@Heart URBACT Action Planning Network.

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    Members of the Cities@Heart network and meeting attendees

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    Formed in 2023 and piloted by the Greater Paris Metropolis as Lead Partner, the network Cities@Heart brings together 10 different local governments working to create tools for the improvement of city centres. The first network-wide gathering since the URBACT IV launch in 2023, this transnational meeting was a new step in the network journey, an opportunity to exchange and to observe the policies of host partner Sligo County Council and Sligo Business Improvement District. Following 10 different Baseline Study Visits conducted by Lead Expert Mar Santamaria Varas, this meeting also represents the network’s shift from the preparatory to activation phase.

    Network Map

    Meeting in the Land of Heart's Desire

    The first transnational meeting provided project partners the opportunity to obtain feedback on their baseline study visit in the form of the presentation of an overarching methodology to ground the study and set the course for the following two years of inter-european collaboration.

    To kick off the first morning of workshops, participants shared their experiences in the realm of public-private partnership. In Krakow (PL), the city approached the Wesoła District’s revitalization with workshops on prototyping solutions for shared spaces to build a sense of community and responsibility for its development among citizens. In Celje (SI), a vacant storefront was left to the use of local stakeholders, providing a successful brick-and-mortar testing ground for new ideas or projects. Back in Sligo, the public-private partnership has proved to be fruitful: the business perspective encourages an objective data-driven approach and the public sector can intervene to implement holistic policy improvements.

    Project partners participating in a morning workshop

    If we can make it in the city centre, we can make it anywhere

    A city centre is a microcosm of social functions and represents the most intricate iteration of urban complexity. While each project partner experiences their city centre in a different way, the network Baseline Study represents the structure of all city centers using a matrix contrasting 7 challenges with 5 indicators.

    From metropolises like Greater Paris (FR) or Krakow (PL)  to smaller cities like Fleurus (BE), for each partner, the diverse challenges may be more or less acute depending on the local context and the means available. Indeed, an imbalance in one of these topics or challenges can greatly aggravate the local context in the city centre, as evinced by the diagrams below.

    Network tool

    To showcase Sligo’s strengths and best practices, the meeting focused on the management of data and local commerce in the city centre. Sligo is a lovely town nestled in a blustery corner of northwest Ireland, minutes from the Atlantic Coast and known for being a literary “land of heart’s desire” with poet W.B. Yeats as a native son. Yet, none of these attributes bring to mind words like “innovation” or “world renowned”. Public policy in Ireland is centralised in Dublin and towns “west of the Shannon” are considered out of the purview of the national stage. In fact, Sligo had historically been “left behind” by urban development schemes deployed elsewhere in the Republic of Ireland.

    Urban solutions with a human approach

    This brings us back to the coffee anecdote… After living and working abroad in the U.S.A. and Australia, Sligo native Gail McGibbon decided to return home. In order to start what would become Ireland’s fourth BID, Gail McGibbon went to work in a seemingly slow way: meeting for a cup of coffee with likely every single business owner in the town, having no other overt objective than sharing a chat. In her seminal work, The Death and LIfe of Great American Cities, Jane Jacobs posits, “there must be eyes upon the street, eyes belonging to those we might call the natural proprietors of the street." While this declaration has taken on a “big brother” connotation since the book’s publication in 1961, the principle rings just as true today. In every city centre, there is a need to be aware of what is happening in the street and with our neighbors or shopkeepers to make sure all are safe and provided for. Indeed, neighborliness proved to be the perfect ingredient to kick-starting the town’s transformation.

    As Chief Executive Officer Martin Lydon explained, in a post-pandemic society, Sligo is leveraging cultural shifts to become a destination for young professionals, students and families seeking proximity to nature and a high level of services. Looking to attract a pool of potential inhabitants keen on finding property in the more affordable western coast of the country, Sligo has invested in a place branding campaign, infrastructure to increase connectivity and the tourism sector, inaugurating their National Surf Centre and a network of cycle paths.

    Turning the local economy around

    Now in 2023, the Sligo BID is healthy and counts 758 members. The BID and Sligo County have worked together tirelessly to introduce innovative measures for data collection, property management, tourism policy and event nightlife. Sligo has developed a Welcome Ambassador Programme, won the Purple Flag Award for night time economy, the label of Coach Friendly Destination and continues to attract international visitors curious about the town’s policies. In the end, Sligo’s shortcomings would eventually become strengths. The lack of urban sprawl meant that the town and county could promote closeness to nature and life at a human scale. The local counter-culture turned out to be a good thing for the health of the town’s high street district.

    Project partners visit the city centre


    The human-ness at the origins of Sligo’s strategy is well reflected in the national Irish Town Centre First strategy which is based at the LGMA and places pragmatism and open dialogue at the forefront. One of the measuring tools of the programme, the Town Centre Health Check Programme, is a public document that serves as an objective evaluation of the town’s progress in implementing best practices. National Coordinator Mairead Hunt presented the country’s policy at the transnational meeting in Sligo and highlighted three core principles: understanding the place, defining the place and enabling the place. The national meeting of Town Regeneration Officers shies away from speeches by elected officials and focuses on peer-to-peer learning.

    Soft approach, hard data

    And yet, Sligo’s strategy didn’t stop at a friendly chat. The county and BID got to work monitoring, measuring and adapting their strategies. Brían Flynn, Town Regeneration Officer, presented the town’s creative use of data in developing their policies. In 2023 the Irish business platform GeoDirectory released data on commercial vacancy in the country. At 25.4%, the rate in Sligo was listed as the highest in the country. In order to curb the negative press and further investigate the truth behind this report which seemed incomplete to local officials, the town decided to collect its own data in the form of a comprehensive land-use policy survey. The study is still being carried out but the town has already gained valuable knowledge on the vacancy profile of downtown property and 16 landowners have discovered the national Croí Conaithe scheme for refurbishment of vacant buildings.

    Brían Flynn presents Sligo’s data policies

    In turn, after witnessing Sligo policies first-hand through a series of site-specific visits and presentations, the network conducted a workshop on the subject of information gathering to address issues all along the chain of data management: identifying data sources, collecting data and data governance. While obtaining data can be simpler than expected, data-driven policy requires vision and advanced planning in order to identify independent sources of information and a successful, manageable tool for translating data into actionable proposals for city improvement.

    Network partners enjoy a performance of traditional Irish music at the Tourism Bureau

    An inaugural meeting for the network and for new URBACT participant Sligo, the event was opened by Cllr. Gerard Mullaney, Cathaoirleach of Sligo County Council and attended by Irish National URBACT Point Karl Murphy and Kristijan Radojčić of the URBACT Secretariat. The meeting was drawn to a close with a hike to glimpse the breathtaking vistas at the summit of the Knocknarea rock formation, providing a bird’s eye view of the Atlantic coast and the Sligo town centre.

    Network partners hike the Knocknarea rock formation

    With one meeting completed and the new year well on its way, the URBACT Cities@Heart network has three transnational meetings planned in Granada (ES), with the Quadrilatero Urbano Association (PT) and in Cesena (IT). Ensuing transnational meetings and those of Urban Local Groups (ULGs) will allow the network to share learnings and experiment small-scale actions over the next year.

    Network members :

    • The Greater Paris Metropolis, France
    • The City of Cesena, Italy
    • The City of Granada, Spain
    • The City of Osijek, Croatia
    • Amfiktyonies, a business development organization representing the City of Lamia, Greece
    • The City of Celje, Slovenia
    • The City of Fleurus, Belgium
    • The City of Sligo, Ireland
    • The Krakow Metropolis Association, Poland
    • The Quadrilátero Urbano Association, Portugal

     

     

  • Falling in love with downtown: the URBACT Cities@Heart network is here!

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    As a part of the URBACT IV European Programme, ten European urban areas come together to form Cities@Heart, a network dedicated to sharing best practices and innovations for improving city centre management.

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    Osijek, Croatia

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    Having a chat with your neighbourhood baker, running into an old friend, finding all you need in one place: these are just some of the reasons why we feel so attached to our city centres. However, today in the 21st century, city centres are facing more than just a little competition. From the rise of big-box stores and franchises to the omnipresence of online commerce, downtown areas have lost some of their edge. A result of urban sprawl and rising property values, the spatial fragmentation of our cities further strains the resilience of the high street. Amid all these challenges, city centres are well worth understanding, defending and improving. That’s where the URBACT Cities@Heart Action Planning network comes in.

    A programme supported by ERDF funds from the European Union, URBACT promotes sustainable urban development in Europe’s cities, both big and small. This year marks the beginning of URBACT IV, the fourth iteration of the programme with the launch of 30 Action Planning Networks throughout Europe and IPA countries. Harnessing an understanding of governance and recognizing the transverse coordination between the public, private and civic sectors as a driver for change, Cities@Heart partners will work together with a data-driven approach to plan, monitor and evaluate the implemented policies in the urban core. For the next 2.5 years, Cities@Heart will mobilise ten European urban areas. Network partners will work together to understand the way city centres function and create new monitoring tools to be used in city centre improvement initiatives.


    The Greater Paris Metropolis (Métropole du Grand Paris, France) coordinates the network in the role of Lead Partner. With a strong track record in downtown revitalisation policy, The Greater Paris Metropolis is a public entity representing 131 cities in the French capital region including the city of Paris. Endowed with extensive experience in local economy, architecture and urban planning, Barcelona-based Mar Santamaria Varas will assist the network as Lead Expert.

    The ten network partners include:

        The Greater Paris Metropolis, France (Lead Partner)
        The City of Cesena, Italy
        The City of Granada, Spain  
        The City of Osijek, Croatia
        Amfiktyonies, a business development organisation representing the City of Lamia, Greece
        The City of Celje, Slovenia
        The City of Fleurus, Belgium
        The City of Sligo, Ireland
        The Krakow Metropolis Association, Poland
        The Quadrilátero Urbano Association, Portugal

    Celje, Slovenia

    Each partner in the network is facing their own challenges: loss of inhabitants to the peripheries or the metropolitan areas, underdeveloped local commerce networks, conflicts generated by the intensive use of public space, the transition to walkable and carless environments, gentrification and over-tourism, gender equality and inclusion... Yet, all partners can agree on one thing: city centres are unique places and not just because they hold a certain affective charm: they truly are the lifeforce of our urban societies. Keeping the heart of downtown healthy is key to ensuring the vibrancy of local economies and the well-being of inhabitants.

    During the network’s lifespan, project partners will have the opportunity to travel throughout the European Union to see first-hand examples of city solutions driving change for better cities as they take part in transnational meetings hosted by the different project partners. To kick things off, the URBACT Secretariat hosted Summer University in Malmö, Sweden this past 28-30 August. Here, project partners met for the first time to discuss the framework of their networks, building capacity and learning more about the URBACT methodology for better cities. 

    Over the course of the autumn months, Lead Expert Mar Santamaria-Varas has travelled with the Greater Paris Metropolis to visit the ten project partners spread out across the European Union. From Poland to Greece, from Croatia to Portugal, the recent mobilities have provided a wealth of insight for this network of urban areas. The first transnational meeting of the network is planned for 6-7 December in Sligo, Ireland. After completing the Baseline Study Visit with Project Partners, the findings will allow the network to go from knowledge to action, laying out the roadmap for the next two years.

    With activities well underway, Cities@Heart is off to an exciting start. Check in regularly with the LinkedIn Page and the URBACT network webpage to stay up to date on project mobilities and findings!

  • Cities@Heart: an URBACT Network proposing solutions for city centres, the testing ground for addressing future urban challenges

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    Baseline Study visit in Charenton-le-Pont, France

    In spite of urban sprawl and a franchise economy, city centres are on the rise! Cities@Heart is here to defend proximity and mixed use, making downtown more accessible and appealing for new generations.

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    Baseline Study visit in Charenton-le-Pont, France

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    Cities@Heart is an URBACT Action Planning network bringing together ten urban areas from all across Europe. With three different time zones, contrasting demographics and over 12 official languages, the Cities@Heart network draws upon a diverse pool of urban professionals, civil servants and citizens dedicated to improving their downtown areas. Taking the form of an observatory, the network employs a broad approach to improving city centres. Rather than focusing on one aspect of local economy or urban planning, Cities@Heart is working to develop a tool to measure factors contributing to the success of city centres in places as diverse as Sligo, Ireland or Lamia, Greece, two of the project partners.

    A network to rethink public policies, governance models and decision-making tools for city centres

    As a response to this multifaceted challenge of city centre management, Cities@Heart proposes the creation of a shared methodology applicable to different types of urban contexts. Relying on a bottom-up approach integrating data management, this accessible, user-friendly framework will support decision-making processes as well as the implementation and efficiency of cross-cutting sustainable urban policies.

    The Cities@Heart methodology is based on five fundamental pillars:

    Governance: exploring existing models of town centre management (public vs. private, formal vs. informal) and new paradigms of participatory agreements among stakeholders in the form of multi-level partnership

    Integrated Public Policies: deploying policies that cut across multiple policy domains (housing, public services, mobility, public space, commerce, etc.)

    Decision-Making Tools: integrating data and indicators to support the analysis, formulation, and monitoring of implemented actions

    Sustainability: ensuring urban centres can adapt to climate change despite facing greater difficulties in comparison to the rest of the city (such as scarcity and limited space in public areas, a poorly maintained built environment, household incomes incapable of coping with transformation, etc.).

    Inclusion: providing optimal living conditions for all residents (regardless of gender, age, or background) and promoting personal autonomy through inclusive care

    Lamia, Greece

    The ten network partners include:

        The Greater Paris Metropolis, France (Lead Partner)
        The City of Cesena, Italy
        The City of Granada, Spain  
        The City of Osijek, Croatia
        Amfiktyonies, a business development organisation representing the City of Lamia, Greece
        The City of Celje, Slovenia
        The City of Fleurus, Belgium
        The City of Sligo, Ireland
        The Krakow Metropolis Association, Poland
        The Quadrilátero Urbano Association, Portugal


    The Cities@Heart Baseline Study

    Within the context of the URBACT methodology, each Lead Partner must conduct visits with the different partners comprising the network. These study visits allow the Lead Partner and Lead Expert to better understand the local context for each project partner all while revealing the commonalities shared across the network. During this phase, from June to December 2023, each partner in the network had the opportunity to host a visit in order to highlight their best practices but also their challenges: gentrification and over-tourism, adaptation to climate change, overuse or conviviality in the public space, improvement of local commerce networks and integration of new habits of consumption, creating a sense of belonging and identity, coordination between the public and private sectors or bolstering efforts for more inclusion and gender equality in the public space.

    Over the course of the Baseline Study, the network has also identified innovative solutions to these challenges in addition to methods for capacity building and scaling actions: collaborative models of town-centre management, data observatories and sectorial indicator tools, strategies to renovate listed buildings, greening initiatives for the public space, monitoring of tourism, revitalisation of vacant premises, night-life economy initiatives, creation of new commercial polarities around local markets or enlivening the city centre through festivals or citizen-based initiatives.

    Contextual Examples from the Network

    City centres have undergone significant changes in the past century. To understand the context of Cities@Heart, it is important to provide a brief historical background. With the advent of industrialisation, the early 1900’s witnessed the rapid growth of cities in Europe. These new metropolises developed and  gradually endowed themselves with new, more modern infrastructure and services. By the mid-20th Century, a phenomenon of urban sprawl could be observed, with peripheral, “sub-urban” areas offering a higher standard of living than the historic centres, then perceived as dense, unhealthy, and obsolete.

    However, starting in the second half of the 20th century, an awareness of the importance of historic centres began to emerge. European urban centres became a prominent target for urban regeneration initiatives. City centres started to be recognised for their crucial role in urban dynamics and social cohesion. From the 1970s, city management started directing resources to the historic centre. These oftentimes obsolete and abandoned central spaces gained prominence in spite of contradictory policies encouraging unlimited urban development in the preceding decades. In response to the renewed concern for urban areas, city centres are now poised to become the focus of urban transformation and revitalization initiatives.

    Today, city centres still represent an opportunity to address structural challenges in the transition to new urban models fuelled by the green transition and grounded in the principles of  proximity. As proposed by urbanist Carlos Moreno in the 15 minute-city paradigm, town centres have the potential to provide most essential services within a short walking distance: community-scale education and healthcare, retail, parks for recreation, working spaces and more. This hyper-local framework has the potential to generate dynamic local growth, stronger communities, viable businesses and commerce, active mobility, and in turn reduced emissions.

    However, the configuration of contemporary city centres also creates conflicting urban realities where several functions coexist in permanent tension. Transition can come at a price. A high quality of life in the city centre also requires healthy environments, efficient infrastructure, and easy access to amenities. In addition to basic everyday amenities , citizens also need to have opportunities to develop economic activities that increase wealth and social mobility. City centres are tasked with providing housing to a diverse population, prioritising affordable housing, catering to diverse socio-economic groups and fostering inclusivity, all while ensuring accessibility to public spaces that enrich communal bonds, promote well-being and create a sense of belonging.

    The Next Steps for the Cities@Heart Network

    The URBACT framework enables the transfer of knowledge on transnational and local levels, promoting capacity building activities, the development of local action plans together with stakeholders (the ULG or Urban Local Groups) and the dissemination of results with the aim to transfer this evidence-based and integrated approach to other urban contexts.

    An interdisciplinary, complex subject matter, city centres are certainly worth observing. Observing the core of the city provides insight to broader national and global trends. Addressing social and urbanistic issues in the city centre may in turn yield more positive effects on the greater urban area, creating more spaces for people to meet and create engagement in their communities. As the Cities@Heart Baseline Study comes to a close, the network partners are looking forward to two more years of collaboration, using the road map generated by the findings of this investigatory period.

     

  • ARCHETHICS 

    LEAD PARTNER : Cesena - Italy
    • Kazanlak - Bulgaria
    • Krakow - Poland
    • Gdańsk - Poland
    • Vila Nova de Cerveira - Portugal
    • Bétera - Spain
    • Leros Island - Greece
    • Leipzig - Germany
    • Përmet - Albania

    Timeline

    First Transnational meeting in Cesena (IT) on 30 November to 1 December 2023.

    Second Transnational meeting in Gdansk from 9th to 10th April 2024

    Library

    Lead Expert

     

     

    ARCHETHICS network brings together nine European cities that share the presence of heritage linked to a complex and controversial historical past (totalitarian regimes, contentious borders, etc). Architecture, People, History and Ethics will be the four project dimensions to activate urban community labs to transform this heritage, composed of formerly abandoned spaces, into places for locals and visitors for sharing knowledge and coming to multi-perspective understandings of the past and new visions for the future.

    ARCHETHICS_identity
    Dissonant European heritage as labs of democracy
  • Cities@Heart

    LEAD PARTNER : Métropole du Grand Paris - France
    • Kraków Metropolis Association - Poland
    • Granada - Spain
    • Osijek - Croatia
    • Associação de Municípios de Fins Específicos Quadrilátero Urbano - Portugal
    • JZ Socio Celje - Slovenia
    • Sligo - Ireland
    • Cesena - Italy
    • Fleurus - Belgium
    • Lamia - Greece

    Timeline

    First Transnational Meeting 6 and 7 December 2023 in Sligo, Ireland. 

    Second Transnational Meeting 6 and 7 Mars 2024 in Granada, Spain. 

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    Lead Expert


     

    Cities@Heart brings together ten European urban areas with diverse profiles but with one common goal: achieving a balanced and inclusive city centre for all users. By gathering relevant indicators and using a common methodology, this network aims to create a holistic policy framework for lasting and meaningful change in the heart of the city. Working hand in hand with local stakeholders and users, Cities@Heart is here to develop tools that foster happy, healthy and harmonious places.

    www.linkedin.com/showcase/cities-heart

     

    Towards a balanced city centre
  • Read all about the achievements of the BeePathNet Reloaded network in our last newsletter

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    23/12/2022
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    As the project is coming to the end, it is time to unwrap all the presents that are our achievements. There are many and you can read all about them in the last newsletter. To just mention a few – we have launched a new network Bee Path Cities, published a shortened version of the guidelines that were first published in the first partnership BeePathNet. The original extended version of guidelines is also available online. To spread a lot of inspiring ideas for urban development, we have issued thematic newsletters in all partner languages as well as English and every partner city has a Bee Path with which citizens learn more about bees and pollinators in the city.

    If cities wish to join the mission of pollinator well-being we have provided extensive information on how to do it on the webpage www.urbact.eu/bees. To learn all about this is and much more, please read our newsletter.   

     

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    The newsletter is available in English and all 5 partner languages:

    БългарскиEnglishHrvatskiItalianoPolskiSlovenščina

    Sign up to the BeePathNet mailing list and never miss our newsletter again! HERE

    If you want to read previous editions of our newsletter, go HERE

    Find out more on the Bee Path Cities network and how to join – go to https://urbact.eu/bees

     

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  • Guidelines for cities to evolve into a Bee Path City

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    15/12/2022

     

    XS guidelinesWe developed guidelines – tools for cities that would like to evolve into a Bee Path City. There is a short edition “Evolving into a Bee Path City” (issued in 2022) where we summarise all key aspects of our transfer journey. It is meant to encourage new cities to follow our steps and, hopefully, read the full version of the guidelines. With special support of URBACT it was translated into 12 languages.

     

    guidelinesFull guidelinesThe evolution steps toward a Bee-friendly city’” (issued in 2020) is a comprehensive almost five times thicker manual for urban authorities that would like to take action on sustainable environment and biodiversity management that is based on pollinator protection. It is available just in English.

     

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    In addition to Ljubljana’s (Slovenia) practice of urban beekeeping and its ‘Bee Path’ the full guidelines contain case studies and inspiring examples from five BeePathNet project partners cities (2018 – 2021; Amarante, Portugal; Bydgoszcz, Poland; Cesena, Italy; Hegyvidek, XII District of Budapest, Hungary and Nea Propontida, Greece). In the shortened pocket addition we added short information on activities of additional four BeePathNet Reloaded project partner cities (2021 – 2022; Bansko, Bulgaria; Bergamo, Italy; Osijek, Croatia and Sosnowiec, Poland).

    Guidelines:

    - Evolving into a Bee Path City – short guidelines (EN, SI, BG, DE, EL, ES, FR, HR, HU, IT, PL, PT)*

    - The evolution steps toward a Bee-friendly city’ - Full guidelines (EN)

    - Bee Path Cities Philosophy (EN, SI, BG, EL, FR, HR, HU, IT, PL, PT) 

    Comments: In addition to the English and Slovenian language version the short guidelines will be available in several other EU languages shortly.

     

    If your city is seeking to understand, adapt and re-use the inspiring ‘Bee Path’ practice of Ljubljana (Slovenia) and other principles described in the guidelines, then the next step is for you to join the Bee Path Cities network. It was launched in October 2022 to continue the exchange and learning opportunities for cities beyond URBACT support. It is now open to all urban authorities in Europe and across the world. Find out more on www.urbact.eu/bees.

     

  • BeePathNet Reloaded Transfer Network Meeting in Sosnowiec

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    13/12/2022

    The fourth thematic transfer meeting took place in September 2022 in Sosnowiec, Poland and focused on new products and services. Partners from Ljubljana, Bansko, Bergamo and hosts from Sosnowiec meet in person, and partners from Croatia participated virtually.

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    The partner city representatives were greeted by Anna Jedynak, Mayor’s Plenipotentiary for External Funds and Social Matters. She highlighted important accomplishment directly resulting from this project such as 20 URBACT local group members deeply involved in environmental protection, establishment of a biodiversity park, also new municipality legislation on beekeeping, implemented educational programme and several new products. The city of Sosnowiec is already introducing these solutions across Poland. In her opinion the best impact of this project is a change in Sosnowiec citizens behaviour and their way of thinking.

    Partners presented the progress they made with their Bee Paths and how they deal with new products in their cities. Bansko (Bulgaria) and Osijek (Croatia) are focusing on marketing aspects. Bansko, wants to introduce bee products such as honey, pollen, wax … in different forms. One of their most unusual products is a tea made of dead bees as a source of different microelements, acids and chitosan. The city of Osijek highlighted good marketing possibilities of honey vinegar and their intention to promote apitherapy as a rather unknown service in Croatia. Bergamo (Italy), a UNESCO site of gastronomy, successfully established synergies among beekeepers and cheese producers. They matched their nine special types of cheese, protected with EU label Protected geographic origin, with regionally specific honey types. On the other side, Sosnowiec focuses on awareness raising. They encourage restaurants to use honey in cooking, organised various pollinators and environment protection related events and celebrations with an excellent citizens response, awareness building for children in Zaglebie Media Library … They also made a bee mascot.

    This meeting was also an opportunity to discuss the final outputs that need to be produced as well as the work on partner’s mid to long-term urban beekeeping plans. One of the most important aspects of the meeting was the finalisation of preparations for the network final conference and launch of the Bee Path Cities network which will occur at the same time. In discussion on issues related to the future the first five partner cities representatives (BeePathNet) also joined us via zoom.

    The most inspiring part of the meeting was the visit of the Sosnowiec Bee Path where we learnt of different approaches the city employs to bring bees closer to residents. In the Katowice special economic zone, Agnieszka Glińska (Anna Kopka) of the Sosnowiec and Dabrowa subzone presented their work, which was followed by a presentation by Bożena Wroniszewska-Drabek from Humanitas University on how to use marketing support for new products. Among the points visited were Sielecki Castle, Schoen Museum, Zaglebie Media Library, Honey Comb Charity Shop, Museum of Medicine and Pharmacy and many more.

  • Final conference: EU cities – good for BEES is good for PEOPLE, a transformation into green sustainable cities and launch of Bee Path Cities network

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    24/11/2022

     

    The final conference titled 'EU cities - good for BEES is good for PEOPLE, a transformation into green sustainable cities’ was the conclusion of the transfer of sustainable urban beekeeping knowledge from Ljubljana to nine EU cities (BeePathNet and BeePathNet Reloaded). The event that took place in Ljubljana (25th October 2022) joined residents of over 45 cities and 17 different countries worldwide either in person or virtually. It was also the official launch of the international network of Bee Path Cities – the movement that will continue to promote the vision of creating cities that are “good for pollinators and therefore good for people” beyond the project. Conference presentations and videos including the Philosophy of Bee Path Cities and guidelines for new cities to implement the movement are available on network web page.

     

    Final words of Maruška Markovčič Ljubljana BEE PATH’s initiator, the Queen Bee of urban beekeeping knowledge transfer and Bee Path Cities international network, from the City of Ljubljana:

    “I see this as a new beginning of new times!

    Everybody is a spokesperson. Take the Bee Path Cities Philosophy and invite cities to join.

    Thank you for swarming with us!”.

     

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    The article is available in English and all 5 partner languages:

     

    БългарскиEnglishHrvatski, Italiano, PolskiSlovenščina

     

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    The final conference titled 'EU cities - good for BEES is good for PEOPLE, a transformation into green sustainable cities’ was the conclusion of a year and a half long journey of the BeePathNet Reloaded project. On the 25th October 2022 we met in hybrid form where we were joined by residents of over 45 cities and 17 different countries worldwide.

    The conference was opened with a welcome speech by Dejan Crnek, deputy mayor of the City of Ljubljana and Peter Kozmus, Slovenian Beekeepers’ Association and the vice president of Apimondia.  Maruška Markovčič, the project initiator and coordinator presented the journey from Ljubljana’s BEE PATH to the BeePathNet Reloaded partnership.

    In the following session eminent speakers Adele Bucella (URBACT), dr. Fani Hatjina (APIMONDIA) and dr. Danilo Bevk (National Institute of Biology) talked about different aspects of sustainable urban development. Participants then discussed different aspects of urban beekeeping with the aim of ensuring sustainable and environmentally friendly cities.

    After the break project partners from BeePathNet Reloaded presented the work they did on their bee paths and the challenges they faced. Ivan Doktorov (Bansko, Bulgaria), Mara Sugni (Bergamo, Italy), Helena Kolenić (Osijek, Croatia), Edyta Wykurz (Sosnowiec, Poland); and Branka Trčak and Nina Ilič (Ljubljana, Slovenia) all shared their experiences with the transfer of the good practice.

    All 9 cities, that transferred Ljubljana’s urban beekeeping good practice, obligated themselves to keep on implementing pollinators friendly activities also after the official project’s end and to spread the movement round Europe. To set the common understanding and role of this partnership, Vesna Erhart, network communication officer presented the key principles and aims of the Bee Path Cities international network philosophy. The network was officially launched by Nataša Jazbinšek Seršen, head of the department for environmental protection in the City of Ljubljana. With this all EU cities are invited to join the international network of Bee Path Cities and follow in founding members’ footsteps.

    In the round table all 9 partner cities (BeePathNet and BeepathNet Reloaded) presented the situation regarding pollinators and the effects the project had on their cities. It was moderated by Klemen Strmšnik, URBACT lead expert, and Ed Thorpe, URBACT expert and its key point was discussion of future plans at city level and common activities of the newly established network Bee Path Cities. In Ljubljana we were joined by Maruška Markovčič (Ljubljana, Slovenia), Attila Varga (Hegyvidek, 12th District of Budapest, Hungary), Elisavet Papoulidou (Nea Propontida, Greece), Tsvetanka Obetsanova (Bansko, Bulgaria), Mara Sugni (Bergamo, Italy), Helena Kolenić (Osijek, Croatia) and Edyta Wykurz (Sosnowiec, Poland). Joining us online were Justyna Olszewska (Bydgoszcz, Poland), Elena Giovannini (Cesena, Italy) and Ana Lirio (Amarante, Portugal).

    More info is available on the following webpages:

     

    Key final conference and BeePathNet Reloaded outputs:

    Comments: In addition to the English and Slovenian language version the short guidelines will be available in several other EU languages shortly on the international network webpage www.urbact.eu/bees.

     

    Conference videos and presentations:

    You can choose between videos in English and Slovenian language. Link to the presentation is under speaker’s name.

     

    Welcome speech
    • Dejan Crnek, deputy mayor of the City of Ljubljana (EN, SI)
    • Peter Kozmus, Slovenian Beekeepers’ Association (EN, SI)
    • From Ljubljana’s BEE PATH to the BeePathNet Reloaded partnership. Maruška Markovčič, Ljubljana BEE PATH initiator and BeePathNet Reloaded project manager, City of Ljubljana (EN, SI)
    Sustainable Urban Development for Pollinators and Citizens
    • URBACT – the Honeypot for European Cooperation. Adele Bucella, Head of Unit in the URBACT programme secretariat (EN, SI)
    • How Urban Development Focusing on Nature can Help Humans and Bees; Examples and Lessons Learned; Dr. Fani Hatjina, the President of APIMONDIA’s Bee Health Scientific Commission and the ULG coordinator for Nea Propontida (EN, SI)
    • No Pollinator Diversity Means no Food Security. Dr. Danilo Bevk, researcher at the Department of Organisms and Ecosystems Research, National Institute of Biology (NIB) (EN, SI)
    • Discussion (EN, SI)
    Transfer of Ljubljana’s Good Practice on Urban Beekeeping to EU Cities (EN, SI)
    • Bansko Bee Path – Where Heritage meets Education. Ivan Doktorov, the Municipality of Bansko, Bulgaria
    • In Bergamo, Citizens and Institutions Act Together for a ‘Bee and Pollinator-Friendly’ City. Mara Sugni, Botanical Garden, the Municipality of Bergamo, Italy
    • The New Cradle of Beekeeping. Helena Kolenić, the Municipality of Osijek, Croatia
    • Bees for Dummies. Edyta Wykurz, the Municipality of Sosnowiec, Poland
    • Recent Evolution of Ljubljana’s Bee Path. Branka Trčak, the City of Ljubljana, Slovenia
    • Api-Education Programme in Ljubljana. Nina Ilič, Institute Eneja, Slovenia
    Bee Path Cities Philosophy and Bee Path Cities network launch (EN, SI)

     

    Vesna Erhart, network communication officer

     

    Maruška Markovčič, Ljubljana BEE PATH initiator and BeePathNet Reloaded project manager, City of Ljubljana

     

    Nataša Jazbinšek Seršen, head of Department for Environmental protection, City of Ljubljana

     

    Round table: Pollinators and Citizens – A Friendly Evolution of EU Cities (EN, SI)

     

    Moderator: Klemen Strmšnik, URBACT lead expert and Ed Thorpe, URBACT expert

     

    Representatives of Amarante (Portugal), Bansko (Bulgaria), Bergamo & Cesena (both Italy), Bydgoszcz & Sosnowiec (both Poland), Hegyvidek (Budapest, Hungary), Ljubljana (Slovenia), Nea Propontida (Greece) and Osijek (Croatia).

     

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