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    Wondering where to find info and documents about our project? Check all the links here...

    City Branding

    They say all good things come to an end. It may well be true, but there are memories to share that cannot be cancelled... especially if they look towards the future, instead of simply dwelling on the past. Would you like to browse through the pages of our "UrbanGuide" handbook (available also on LuluPress)? Or would you rather sit comfortably on your chair and watch the video-documentary by Paolo Guglielmetti, telling you our complete and unabridged story?


    MAPS URBACT / A journey on the re-use of the former military assets


    If you don't have 17 minutes to spend all in one go, you can take it in smaller "doses" both on our YouTube Channel and Wordpress website: five episodes taking you - after a brief introduction to our project and an overview on the URBACT world - from the involvement of local stakeholders to the work of the ULG, from the local problems that needed be addressed to the themes developed, right to the lessons learnt during this adventure.

    MAPS project introduction (00:48)


    What about URBACT (01:41)


    Involve the local stakeholders (02:05)


    The work done by the ULG (01:54)


    How address the local issues (01:50)


    Themes developed (03:12)


    Lessons from the network (03:09)


    Wherever your choice leads you, what you'll find is more than a simple overview on two and a half years of work as partners of an URBACT network. There are feelings, expectations, plans and an essential philosophy: bringing dismissed military assets back to life means waking our cities up too. Maybe not with a prince's kiss, as in fairytales, but with a new approach to urban planning policies, which you may discover in each of our IAPs. You can find them all here, among the documents in our URBACT MAPS Library, which you can access directly from this page, or in the dedicated section of our Wordpress website: indulge and enjoy!

    Piacenza IAP / Former Pontieri workshop a place for the new social deal for the city: increase the urban population of the centre; building a reference model in the field of urban planning approach; reuse the area to increase sport, cultural, educational facilities in a sustainable city strictly connected to the river Po. For a synthetic reading of the IAP, look at the Piacenza posters!

    Serres IAP / The former military heritage as a cultural and social HUB for the entire city. A new narrative for the tourism development of the city: from “sun and sea” to “history, heritage and culture”. For a synthetic reading of the IAP, look at the Serres posters!

    Varazdin IAP / Former Optujska military complex as a new urban model (city sub centre) to balance the urban quality and life in all the sectors of Varaždin. For a synthetic reading of the IAP, look at the Varazdin posters!

    Szombathely IAP / Former Hussar Barracks: a new green city centre for the innovation (social, cultural, and for business) and for a sustainable lifestyle. For a synthetic reading of the IAP, look at the Szombathely posters!

    Telsiai IAP / Former Soviet Army camp: a place to drive business development (local or from other Countries) in close relation with the vibrant cultural and social core of the city. For a synthetic reading of the IAP, look at the Telsiai posters!

    Koblenz IAP / Fort Asterstein a new cultural HUB for the city. For a synthetic reading of the IAP, look at the Koblenz posters!

    Longford IAP / The Connolly Barracks: a new urban HUB to drive the city and the territory. The former military heritage as a driver to provide the link to the heritage and history of the town, improves the physical connections in the area, and provide a social dividend for the people of Longford. For a synthetic reading of the IAP, look at the Longford posters!

    Espinho IAP / The Atlantic Park. Sport, wellness, environment, culture and social integration: these are the ingredients used by the city of Espinho to support the reuse of the former military heritage. For a synthetic reading of the IAP, look at the Espinho posters!

    Cartagena IAP / Los Moros fortress: a reversing perspective for the city. The project of reuse of Los Moros fortress will be a reference model (integrated urban approach) for the surrounding neighbourhoods, and for the entire city: social cohesion, inclusion, local cultural offer and cultural reference in the Mediterranean Arc. These are the keywords from the city of Cartagena. For a synthetic reading of the IAP, look at the Cartagena posters!

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  • Rotterdam’s journey from URBACT to Urban Innovative Actions and beyond – the story of a city “in love with Europe”

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    Three of the cities selected in the first call of the European Commission’s Urban Innovative Actions (UIA) initiative are also working, or have worked, within URBACT on topics similar to their UIA bids: Turin, Bologna and Rotterdam.

    We investigated what made these cities successful at being involved in the two European programmes, and asked whether there is – for these cities – something like a trajectory between URBACT and UIA.

    This article is the second of a series of three articles planned on the topic.

    It is based on an interview with Rotterdam’s Cleo Pouw and Hendrik-Jan Bosch. Cleo is Project manager Europe for the City of Rotterdam and lead partner of the URBACT Projects My Generation, My Generation at Work, and Resilient Europe. Hendrik-Jan works as a strategic advisor for the City of Rotterdam and has helped significantly shape the UIA project BRIDGE.

    Rotterdam and Europe: A Love Story

    City Branding

    Rotterdam’s love of Europe is measurable in the number of European projects and programmes it has been involved in. Cleo Pouw has been involved in various stages of European cooperation programmes and their administrative processes, in URBACT of course, but also in Life, H2020 and now UIA.

    The love story between Rotterdam and URBACT started about 14 years ago: Rotterdam was already leading an URBACT network in the first period of URBACT (2002-2006) on the theme of Security in Cities (Securcity – see final report here) and Cleo Pouw first worked on URBACT at that time.

    After this first experience with URBACT, Rotterdam went on and focussed on the themes of involvement of youth in policy making, and on jobs creation. At the time, Rotterdam was lobbying for the creation of the title of European Youth Capital and wanted to be the first City to hold the title, which then became an official European label.

    According to Cleo, My Generation was a success because URBACT offered a lot of freedom to experiment, to include young people and to work with other cities. Building on this valuable experience, Rotterdam decided to go on working on similar topics within the My Generation at Work project, which focussed on what cities can do to increase and promote the employability and employment of young people.

    Becoming a member of the Rockefeller 100 Resilient Cities (100RC) network, the City of Rotterdam has now decided to investigate, within URBACT, the issue of resilience in cities. The URBACT network is called Resilience Europe. Involving young people and getting them in the right jobs: a strong thematic link from URBACT to UIA.

    The commitment of Rotterdam to involving young people and getting them to access the right jobs is a strong one. In the frame of URBACT, Rotterdam was able to experiment solutions and methods that clearly inspired the design and framing of the proposed innovative action for UIA.

    With the UIA Project BRIDGE - Building the Right Investments for Delivering a Growing Economy, the city of Rotterdam aims to ensure that by 2020, 50% of secondary vocational training students in Rotterdam South will have chosen a career in one of the major growth sectors.

    This ambitious project brings together all 57 primary schools, 20 secondary schools and 3 vocational schools in Rotterdam South. The career and talent orientation programme will start in primary school (age 9) and end when students enter the labour market. The crucial element in the programme is the Career Start Guarantee: Employers will offer 600 pupils per year a Career Start guarantee (420 for technology sectors and 180 for healthcare) at the moment they enter secondary vocational education and need to make the most crucial subject and career choices.

    As scale of UIA project is very large, the project was not derived directly from the Local Action Plan designed in the URBACT My Generation at Work project. However, the thematic link between the two projects is extremely strong, so strong in fact that Rotterdam chose Eddy Adams, URBACT Programme Expert, as its main UIA expert, i.e. one of the key individuals who will accompany and guide the project towards success.

    URBACT provides the right tools to design innovative actions

    Cleo and Henrik-Jan highlight that URBACT provided a strong and useful theoretical background and privileged access to knowledge of other European Cities’ policies.

    According to them, URBACT allows the exploration of a broad set of possible interventions, and is a chance to acquire in-depth knowledge of an issue. It erodes the old ways of thinking, which provides a careful and structured way of learning.

    When reflecting on and framing the new project they used URBACT knowledge extensively, such as the report on jobs and skills Job creation for a Jobless Generation. They “read everything Eddy Adams wrote on the topic”, as well as the report co-written by Peter Ramsden, also an URBACT Programme Expert, for the OECD on Innovative Financing and Delivery Mechanisms for Getting the Unemployed into Work.

    Both also mention that URBACT provided Rotterdam with the self-confidence needed to shape and propose a truly innovative action to UIA on the topic. They insist that “the professionalism and confidence they gained through URBACT” helped them dare to think, conceive and propose an innovative action, as well as providing them with all the methodological tools needed to respond to the selection criteria of UIA. They say it also helped in building a strong and reliable local partnership.

    Exchange and transfer of results of real life experiment: A possible path leading from UIA to URBACT

    European Cities help and assist each other. For instance, based on the collaboration initiated within URBACT, Rotterdam recently made a presentation to 20 Polish cities on how to apply to UIA.

    But the wheel goes in two directions, and the UIA experience will also provide ground for more exchange with other European cities.

    Experiences of collaboration so far have shown Cleo and Hendrik-Jan the difficulties of replicating an urban solution and transfering it without having in-depth knowledge on how the other cities work. Therefore, starting from its UIA experiment, Rotterdam would consider continuing with URBACT to transfer the experience effectively to other cities.

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  • ‘Migrant crisis’: what can cities learn about new service design?

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    A message from Sicily

    There’s been a lot of recent talk about the additional pressure new migrant arrivals place on public services. There has been less discussion about how cities – and it is mainly cities – are coping with this. And less still about what we are learning and the implications for future public services.

    This was the focus of a recent Social Innovation Europe event in Siracusa Sicily. Meeting on one of Europe’s front lines gave us the chance to see what’s happening and to hear about lessons emerging from our recent experiences. We were particularly interested to examine the range of social innovations emerging to meet new service demands.

    This article shares some of these new service examples. It also considers what they tell us about the new service design dynamics they reflect. Finally, we conclude with reference to Ezio Manzini's call for a new narrative around migrants, aligned to a design-led approach to service development.

    Digital transition

    What can be done to address negative perceptions?

    Today in Europe, the narrative around migrants is almost unceasingly negative. Fear of terrorism; Islamophobia; the ongoing Global Financial Crisis: all contribute to a climate of anxiety which shapes the debate. Too often, facts are not allowed to get in the way of this debate. Like the fact that some EU countries will be reliant on immigration to keep the economy going, due to demographic changes in Europe. EU forecasts show for example that Germany’s population will drop from 81.3 million to 70.8 million by 2060 without immigration. Poland’s population is expected to drop by almost 14% in the same period.

    Despite the facts, the fears remain. Too often those fears are based on prejudice and rumour, rather than fact. This can be an insidious problem – especially when much of the media has an anti-migrant undertone.

    One city challenging the rumour mill is Amadora in the metropolitan Lisbon area, which is the Lead Partner in the URBACT Arrival Cities network. The municipality has embarked upon an innovative way to tackle malicious anti-migrant rumours and to help make sure that its citizens know the facts. Don't Feed the Rumor is a communications campaign that initially started in one of the city’s secondary schools. Its aim was to tackle unfounded rumours in a city where 10% of the population has a Lusophone African background. Unfounded assumptions about their school performance, social customs and attitudes were barriers to effective integration.
    The pilot campaign involved recruiting and training 60 pupils of Seomara da Costa Primo secondary school as anti-rumour agents. Armed with facts and trained to challenge rumours when they arose, these students were part of an effective pilot that is now being scaled across the city.

    How can we support access to public services?

    New arrivals need access to information on public services. They often arrive with few resources, limited host language skills and different cultural perceptions. As a result, they can easily tie up large amount of front-line service time in their new host cities. Finding efficient ways to help them access information directly is therefore in everyone’s interest.

    Consequently, there is a wave of i

    nnovation related to improving access to information for migrants. Perhaps the best-known and field leader is Mobilearn, a web solution initially developed in Sweden. Established as a social enterprise by people with first-hand migration experience, it is now being rolled out in other parts of Europe. Acknowledging the widespread use of smartphones amongst refugees, Mobilearn provides a survival guide to local services in a variety of languages.

    Mobilearn has been extensively evaluated and is building an important data bank on the hours (and resources) saved to local authorities as well as the social impact created by the service. In some respects, this work is similar to that of other cities who are developing online ‘Welcome’ services for new arrivals. Dresden, which has faced challenges with anti-migrant protests, launched an app to welcome new arrivals in 2015. Here again, the basic service enables migrants to register for health and other support services.

    What do these developments tell us about emerging service demand? First of all, they underline the ubiquity and importance of smartphones. Migrants arriving with next to nothing will either arrive with one or make it one of their earliest purchases. They also reflect the shift already under way from providing face-to-face public services towards those that are online and available 24/7. This trend is only going to grow further.

    What housing solutions are emerging?

    Many of Europe’s cities face a crisis in affordable housing, one of the reasons why this has been identified as an initial priority theme within the EU Urban Agenda.

    For new arrivals, housing is clearly a top priority, but the current situation can make this difficult. In Germany, where the pressure is perhaps most acute, a recent Robert Bosch Foundation report concluded that there was a need for up to an additional 125,000 dwellings. In response, a range of initiatives have been undertaken to find solutions. These have ranged from establishing temporary accommodation, piloting shared schemes and (controversially) utilising empty former East German housing estates.

    Again, ICT is emerging as a key part of the solution. The Refugees Welcome site, inevitably labeled as ‘Airbnb for refugees’, matches accommodation seekers to potential hosts. Operating across much of Europe, as well as Canada, the service has so far matched over 600 refugees.

    Working on the same lines the UK’s Shared Lives model might offer possibilities to build upon. Aimed at supporting vulnerable people to live within communities, it matches host families to seeking individuals. Although the initial focus has been on health, the principals could be applied to support newly arrived migrants.

    How can we meet the demand for education and employment?

    A high proportion of migrants to the EU are younger people, aged under 34. In 2015 88,700 of them were unaccompanied minors. For many, their education has been disrupted. For example, of the young Syrians arriving in Europe, 25% were in education before their lives were turned upside down. Meeting the educational aspirations of these young people is another of the challenges receiving cities face.

    There is widespread evidence of the educational barriers  that face migrants coming into Europe. These include a lack of familiarity with the host language which prevents participation in the education system. Another is the frequent lack of equivalence between qualifications gained in third countries. In addition, many refugees arrive with few possessions, and often lack the evidence of qualifications even if they have them.

    In Germany, Kiron learning centres have created an innovative access framework linked to the country’s universities and aimed at refugees. Plugging into a network of higher education providers, Kiron offers online learning programmes via MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) as well as language support provision through established providers like Babbel. Kiron has crowdfunded around €500,000 allowing it to offer almost 500 scholarships. The response has been very positive and Kiron is expanding rapidly since its inception.

    For adults looking to fast track into employment, education may not be the priority. Acquiring and demonstrating competencies with labour market value may be a bigger issue. For those who already have skills, but who may lack paperwork or host-country experience the growing area of microcredentialism is proving to be helpful. This reflects a growing demand from employers to have a very specific understanding of the skills people have, due to trends of generic job descriptions. Linked In recommendations are a good example of this development, labelled ‘technologies of expertise’ by Beth Noveck.

    For those refugees with high skills in demand, a number of specialist services are emerging. One of these is the Refugee Doctors Programme designed by the Bridges Project in Scotland. This seeks to support qualified refugee doctors to fast track into employment within NHS Scotland. The programme is also open to dentists and pharmacists.

    What conclusions can we draw from this early intensive experience?

    It’s way too early to draw any hard and fast conclusions from European cities’ early experience of meeting migrant needs. The picture is so varied and messy that making generalized observations is a risky business. However….on the basis of some early feedback, here are some very early potential implications for our governance models.

    The migrants’ arrival is generating demand for new services

    The flow of people from the world’s most troubled corners is creating a market for services. Some of these are provided illegally, like the traffickers who charge a lifetime’s savings to take a chance crossing the Mediterranean in a flimsy dingy. Others are legal and, at times, core public services, such as the provision of housing and education for those at risk. In the middle is the growing market of hybrid services such as the smart apps which help migrants navigate the new systems and realities they encounter.

    Many of these demands reflect trends already taking place in our cities

    The emerging services mentioned in this article are mainly targeted at new arrivals. However, they reflect service needs already evident in our cities, such as:

    • The need for a counter-narrative to the growing poisonous rumours aimed at society’s most vulnerable people. (Thought leaders like Julia Unwin have written about the increasing tendency to blame the poor and vulnerable for their own situations.)
    • The demand for wider-access to higher education that is free and available 24/7
    • The challenge to provide affordable housing – and in particular the need for new supported housing models for the most disadvantaged people in our societies

    The scale of the migrant challenge has galvanized community responses…which traditional funding sources have struggled to support

    As nation states have deliberated and city administrations have wrung their hands, across Europe ordinary citizens have stepped into the breach to offer support to Europe’s new arrivals. This compassionate groundswell of public support has been one of the few chinks of light in this otherwise dark period of Europe’s history.

    Yet, often our established funding models have struggled to find ways to adequately support these grassroots movements, which are often co-ordinated by unconstituted groups of volunteers. Take for example, the case of Options FoodLab in Greece, which is supporting a wide range of food-related activities bringing refugees and locals together. Yet, due to Greece’s inhospitable climate for social enterprises, they have struggled to evolve and scale.

    Yes, times are tough and there is less money to go round. But this is the very time when we need creativity, energy and social innovation – and the modest financial resources to initially oil the wheels.

    And finally…

    At the SIE event in Siracusa, Ezio Manzini, based at the Politecnico di Milano and the University of the Arts in London, gave a stimulating keynote which touched on these questions. Adopting a design-perspective, he stressed the need to reframe the narrative around migrants, and the need for a more human-centred approach. Instead of this loaded term, he suggested ‘people on the move’. He also suggested a paradigm for service redesign based on different dimensions of that experience – work that he is currently developing and that we will follow with interest.

    At the high policy level, the EU and Member States are exploring solutions – such as the recent controversial Turkey deal. Meanwhile, on the ground, it’s in our cities that the practical solutions are being forged. That’s because most migrants head for urban areas, where their support networks lie and where they are most likely to find work.

    In the coming months there is a growing pipeline of activity and resources relating to how our cities best accommodate and support these people on the move. Although stuck in the old lexicon, this reflects the urgency of the situation and a real commitment to learn, find and share solutions. Some of the key components of this include the EU Urban Agenda’s identification of Migrant Integration as one of its initial four priority themes. Another is the Urban Innovative Actions Programme, one of whose four initial call strands was migrant integration. Alongside this, the recently closed call for the European Social Innovation Competition focused on this theme.

    In the coming months we will be reporting back on these developments. However, a clear message from the SIE event is that the challenges the “Migrant Crisis” presents are mere reflections of the fundamental ones our cities face in these turbulent times. They also act as potential catalysts for new service design and innovation, encompassing themes addressed by some of the new URBACT networks, including CHANGE!, Boostino and Interactive Cities.

    URBACT also recently published an article on refugees and migrants inclusion from the European perspective - The Urban Agenda for Europe: 'Inclusion refugees and migrants' partnership


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  • EUniverCities


    Project launch
    Project completed

    Improve the university-city nexus. By applying to the URBACT programme, they want to learn from each other's experiences and practices, and move forward as successful and inclusive knowledge cities to realise Europe's 2020 strategy.

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    Project launch
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    The challenge set out by the Leipzig Charter may seem vast; nevertheless, it is only through joint efforts that we can truly aspire to better new housing developments – good, green, safe, and affordable – which will eventually give birth to the cities we want for the future of our continent. Hopus Group brings together five universities and one city administration, each working on different aspects of housing: from the urban to the building approach, from building regulations to construction technology, from environmental quality to energy certification: a multi-faceted and interdisciplinary vision, trying to cover a wide range of different problems, joining theory and practice.

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  • UNIC


    Project launch
    Project completed

    A strong tradition in the ceramics industry and for two years they shared their experiences and developed local policies adapted to this changing economic context in order to make ceramics an asset for their territory in terms of innovation, cultural dynamism and attractiveness.

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