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  • Tropa Verde


    Kick-off meeting
    Final Conference

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


    Municipality of Santiago de Compostela


    Tropa Verde is a Transfer network to encourage environmentally responsible behaviour that empowers citizens to reuse and recycle. Combining web platform and low cost campaigns, it is considered as a "civic movement fully committed to sustainability and circular economy". Citizens get vouchers and exchange them for rewards from the City Council and local retailers. It connects places where disposing waste (green points, civic and social centres, etc.) with local businesses providing gifts or discounts.

    Rewarding recycling
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  • The CSR local legacies: New Understandings, Practices and Relationships to Build From

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    12 URBACT lessons learnt on CSR

    As URBACT Action Planning Networks conclude their work after three eventful years, it is time to take stock. In this last article, Lead Expert Dr. Steffen Wetzstein assesses local impact and improvements across our ten CITIES4CSR partner cities.

    From Endings to Beginnings   


    You are reading the last article of CITIES4CSR; the first URBACT Action Planning Network (APN) that has focused on Corporate Social Responsibility(link is external) as means to solve urban problems. After three long years, severally disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic and the recent War of Russia against Ukraine, our project officially comes to an end. Time to reflect on journey, achievements and transformations. I would like to particularly reflect here on noteworthy emerging practices and new understandings across our ten project partner cities. My hope is that by demonstrating the added value URBACT-methodology and support have created locally, other cities will be inspired to join one of the new networks of the next APN round in the quest for better urban and societal outcomes across our continent. 


    Rise of Good Practices 


    Some of our project partners joined CITIES4CSR with already well-established good practices in place. Three examples shall illustrate this point. Budaörs (Hungary) had enshrined the principle of Public Social Responsibility in local governmental practice; an interesting concept that calls for local and regional governments to ensure public service delivery in the name of common good and community values. Nantes (France), empowered and supported by their existing CSR-platform, had established state-of-the-art equal gender practices such as employment negotiation training schemes that have benefited thousands of women over recent years. And Molina de Segura (Spain) had created a strong stakeholder-inclusive local engagement culture. This advantage has been instrumental for immediate and intense URBACT Local Group action during URBACT Phase 1.


    Yet, numerous new and emerging practices and activities have been added locally during three URBACT years. Those pursuing environmental and climate-saving goals have become a network favourite. In Vratsa (Bulgaria), for example, emerging ‘green’ practices in the areas of waste collection and urban transport have the potential for broader nation-wide impact.  URBACT project efforts helped to accelerate the creation, diffusion, communication and management of these practices. A demonstrable local impact can also be noted for Budaörs (Hungary) where CSR-mediated communal tree-planting has been publicly communicated via a brand-new municipal ‘green’ Facebook page. Sofia, finally, created a new ‘green’ awards model including jury assessment details that will foster more environmentally sound urban and business practice for Bulgaria’s Capital in the future.     


    Not less invigorating for public-private-community partnering has been the urgent need to confront social inequality and deprivation. Rijeka (Croatia) has introduced and practiced the CSR-tool of local participatory hospitality events – for example hands-on cooking classes.  Beneficiaries, often passive receivers of donations only, can become active, involved and learning participants in the process. Our Lead Partner Milan (Italy), attempting to improve the attractiveness of municipal primary schools in disadvantaged neighbourhoods, mobilised CSR-actions for youth job orientation, science and technology skills promotion and digital upgrading. Molina de Segura brought together three separate social intervention strands - urban planning, socio-education and health/sanitation - in form of an integrated and innovative neighbourhood-centred project that holds the promise of informing city-wide CSR strategy development.    


    URBACT is centrally about local stakeholder engagement for the good of people and place. So, which promising new engagement practices have arisen under CITIES4CSR? Three examples. First, Kekava (Latvia) came up with the Hackathon model of shared brainstorming as an innovative technology-based addition to the suite of voluntary local mobilisation and prioritisation practices. Second, Milan showcased during our final Transnational Meeting a much-applauded relational engagement model in form of Networking Drinks. Simply a synthesis of traditional dinner with extensive mingling opportunities, it has convinced me and many network partners as effective means to meet and greet people without missing out on quality food. Third, Sofia (Bulgaria) utilised the power of organising in-person events for a comprehensive Stakeholder Roundtable during the Lead Expert/Lead Partner visit in URBACT phase 1. The inclusive invitation list and the open, dialogue-oriented format facilitated useful early project discussions that set the right tone for further action-and initiative planning.    


    New Mechanisms for Exchange and Collaboration


    One of the modern mechanisms for effective engagement under digital conditions are platforms. In CITIES4CSR, platform development has been an important topic right from the beginning. In fact, the local project teams of Molina de Segura and Guimarães (Portugal) got very inspired by Nantes’ platform history, and consequently developed their own versions. In Molina de Segura the platform has become an open digital tool for CSR-community building while in Guimarães it has been about creating a foundation for CSR-mediated resource exchange between economic and social actors. Meanwhile the URBACT Local Group in Nantes worked diligently to further develop their already successful model. Their concern has been with measuring firm behaviours in order to assess progress and remaining gaps towards achieving the Global Sustainable Development Goals(link is external).


    Why are platforms such hotly debated topics these days? In sum, as digitally mediated social and institutional enablers of transformations they not only create space for shared identity construction but are also promising capacity-building mechanisms for good practice development and exchange. Moreover, as problem-solving tools they help to respond efficiently to public and private needs and aspirations. Central remains the question of how to translate the technological possibilities of platform infrastructures into valuable local social collaboration!


    URBACT Cities4CSR - 12 lessons learnt


    Our network philosophy essentially builds on the notion that cities are better off if Municipalities successfully mobilise local CSR-ecosystems; in order to complement public services and good provision and/or by shifting business practice towards better social and environmental outcomes. However, this vision often crucially relies on a linking mechanism in the middle, a broker of exchange. It is therefore no surprise that Milan has thought hard about reconfiguring their municipal interface with business and non-profits. In Bratislava, intermediation has been an incentive to introduce a municipal business liaison officer position that has been coordinating the successful 10,000 trees planting campaign. Interestingly, this investment could be the first step toward an effective CSR-donation reception infrastructure for Slovakia’s Capital. In Rijeka, the pre-existing Association for the Homeless and Socially Vulnerable Persons (Oaza) has moved more centre stage as social gatekeeper and mediator under URBACT.


    On reflection, intermediaries in CSR-ecosystems are connectors, bridge builders and exchange accelerators; especially in respect to linking up Municipalities and CSR-stakeholders. For CITIES4CSR, this functional link has been imagined as taking the shape of existing or new organisations, fit-for-purpose entities such as one-stop-shops, new organisational positions or informal exchange mechanisms. Success, at the end of the day, will depend on how effectively we can overcome institutional inertia, constituency politics and cultural resistance that holds back innovation.


    Emerging Understandings and Awareness


    URBACT Action Planning Networks, in particular those that confront the ‘how’ of societal change, have traditionally performed best in the areas of thematic knowledge boosting, growing understandings and raising awareness. CITIES4CSR has been no exception. For local actors and citizens in Vratsa, for example, the theme of environmental protection has been promoted for the first time in a more systematic manner. Guimarães has learned valuable lessons about the ‘do’s’ and ‘dont’s’ of local procurement and the underlying legal constraints. Milan’s chief knowledge gain I would compare to a big mirror that reflects without distortion the current state of the interface between Municipality and CSR-community. Without doubt, awareness has grown across all cities about the capacities of municipal administrative systems to partner with business and other stakeholders to respond to local need and opportunity.


    Collectively, we have learned a great deal about Corporate Social Responsibility in an urban context. Our four CITIES4CSR Masterclasses in 2021 highlighted different aspects of CSR-led local impulses; as activator of ‘helping your neighbour’ social changes, as kick-starter of ‘saving the earth’ environmental practices, as organising frame for strategic public procurement and as ingredient of shared urban value creation. What stood out for me was the fact that CSR nowadays incorporates not just larger businesses but entrepreneurs, public providers, non-profit organisations, citizen associations and many volunteers as well. In fact, CSR may not be the best term to describe this type of contemporary voluntary local alliances for improving the status-quo. So critically revisiting CSR-definitions and concepts may be a rewarding task for academics and researchers. What is clear, nevertheless, is the central role of Municipalities in activating, guiding, supporting and nurturing this collaborating ecosystem of local actors.


    Final Outlook


    Admittedly, we all felt a bit emotional at our last network outreach event several weeks ago in Brussels about the fact that three shared URBACT years are coming to an end. It is quite unlikely that we will work together again in an international project. Moments of farewell not seldom raise the question of legacy. Examining local progress and potential I suggest that there are grounds for optimism on this matter. After successful intra-network co-learning local implementation roadmaps and longer-term governance models are relatively robust, and in some cases already linked to sustainable finance. Also, there will be plenty of new opportunities for follow-up resourcing that will surely reach all cities and regions during the next EU-investment rounds. And concerning motivation and preferred topics for another URBACT network participation the local Budaörs team already indicated strong interest for a platform-building topic. One thing is sure, the first URBACT network on Corporate Social Responsibility will surely not stop having a measurable local impact after the official project ends in August 2022. I am absolutely convinced it will continue to make a positive difference in multiple and creative ways in the future. 



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  • Towards strategic municipal CSR procurement in Europe: lessons and inspiration from URBACT

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    URBACT cities are finding ways to unlock the potential of strategic public procurement to boost Corporate Social Responsibility.



    The topic of linking public procurement and Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) becomes ever more important for cities when challenges are increasing and public resources are limited. So how can city leaders actively use strategic procurement to encourage businesses to fulfil their social and environmental responsibilities? Dr. Steffen Wetzstein, Lead Expert for the URBACT CITIES4CSR network, shares recent experiences from URBACT cities…


    Linking up strategic municipal procurement and Corporate Social Responsibility

    The link between strategic municipal procurement and Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) may seem complex. On the one hand, city governments are under pressure to procure important goods, services and works in the name of the public good, and on the other hand, CSR is about businesses donating and contributing to worthwhile ‘beyond-profit’ causes in return for publicity and marketing gains. But can city leaders actively and effectively use procurement processes and practices to make businesses fulfil their social and environmental responsibilities? And could this direct influence made our world a better place after all?

    The answers to those questions are a resounding YES! Procurement can directly boost CSR outcomes by municipalities telling their local enterprises not just what they need, but how they want it to be made, delivered, built and implemented. This dual added value has not just inspired our URBACT Lead Partner team in Milan (IT), but really constitutes a great opportunity to both supporting our communities and saving our planet. But the idea is spreading slowly. Too many obstacles need tackling, ranging from unawareness, prioritisation issues and lacking competencies to legal constraints, missing management capacities and under-developed monitoring practices. Untapped potential everywhere!

    But there is hope for change, because the European urban procurement communities and CSR communities have recently started to link up. Well-known experts representing these networks – Matthew Baqueriza-Jackson as Lead Expert behind the URBACT networks Procure and Making Spend Matter, and Valentina Schippers-Opejko on behalf of the EU Urban Agenda Partnership on Innovative and Responsible Public Procurement – have been sharing their experience and wisdom with URBACT cities. They both joined meetings with the 10 city partners in our URBACT CITIES4CSR network, the first ever URBACT network building municipal capacity for promoting urban CSR ecosystems and practices.

    This article asks what after two and a half years of dedicated URBACT project work is the local state-of-play regarding municipal procurement, what has been achieved so far, and what kind of barriers had to be overcome.


    Lessons from our URBACT partner cities

    1. Budaörs, Hungary: room for advancing local practice

    Two institutional procurement frameworks shape local decisions in Budaörs. There is the national Public Procurement Act that applies to purchases of goods/services above HUF 15 000 000 (about EUR 40 000), and construction investment above HUF 50 000 000 (about EUR 132 000). Decisions under this act are slow, heavily regulated, and come with a significant administrative burden. In contrast, the municipality's own management rules come into effect for purchases below the abovementioned thresholds. These are more flexible, perceived as transparent, accompanied by less administrative burden and enable faster operational processing. The current municipal management regulations are considered sufficient.

    For its URBACT Small Scale Action – tree planting and ‘green’ public awareness and education – the current procurement framework was considered adequate. Less satisfying, however, is the fact that the municipality currently does not give any consideration, preference or advantage to companies that have demonstrated good CSR practices. Part of the problem is that there is no useful administrative system in place to meaningfully compare and evaluate companies’ CSR activities.


    2. Nantes, France: successfully linking CSR and SDGs

    For long-term CSR-directed procurement decisions, Nantes builds on three strategies. First, general social and environmental criteria are initially being determined to select companies during calls for tenders. Second, a responsible purchasing plan incorporating social and environmental aspects will be widely communicated to inform companies of expectations to be met. Third, and as indeed required by French and European law, social and environmental criteria will have to be adapted to fit into more specific and relevant purchasing families, such as building and public works, provision of services and so forth.

    Nantes’ Small Scale Action, a digital observatory monitoring businesses’ performance concerning progress on achieving Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), is currently being assembled utilising best practice procurement. Despite being below the necessary threshold, it was decided to proceed as a call for tender precisely to allow the promotion of good practices. Broad digital advertising was followed by constructing an objective analysis grid that besides social and environmental criteria also incorporated competency aspects, quality dimensions, costs and deadlines. Finally, the assessment of the offers from potential service providers was assigned to selected URBACT Local Group (ULG) members in the name of openness and transparency.


    3. Guimarães, Portugal: learning to be alert and flexible

    The ULG in Guimarães seeks to build and run a digital platform that will connect the well-established economic development and social development networks. The almost autonomous operating municipality-managed platform is to become a modern, efficient and responsive digital mechanism to link organisations representing social and community needs with businesses that have vital resources to offer in response. Overall the project has progressed quite well, having attracted an initial municipal financial commitment of EUR 18 000 and reached its current advanced testing and feedback phase.

    Yet, three lessons had to be learned along the way. First, keep your options open concerning your supplier. Early on, the project team noticed feedback issues and failed deadlines with their preferred supplier, and were eventually forced to work with an alternative organisation. Second, in the teams’ own words “one must have a political champion, for every project, and must try to stay ahead of the political changes”. Having unexpectedly lost their project champion, the Councillor for Economic Development, officers eventually had to convince the Mayor directly, but lost four weeks into the process. Third, project management has to try to keep ahead of the game by anticipating and responding swiftly and adequately to almost unavoidable delays triggered by the fiddly specificities of procurement procedures. Luckily, a dedicated administrative department successfully helped to navigate those tricky roadblocks.


    4. Vratsa, Bulgaria: taking risk more seriously

    The municipality of Vratsa stated that the internal rules for managing the procurement cycle are prescribed by the Public Procurement Law. While this process is perceived as clear and smooth, the local project team problematised the inflation risks stemming from the long time lag between calculating project costs, and implementation time. Inflation – surely a vexing and pressing future topic globally – leads to budget inadequacies and, consequently a lack of participants and unabsorbed funds because of insufficient financial resources.


    Reflections, recommendations and potential actions

    CITIES4CSR case studies highlight at least three key lessons regarding effective municipal CSR-directed procurement.

    1. Rigid and bureaucratic national procurement frameworks may hinder CSR-directed goal setting and implementation. Effective lobbying for more flexible national laws may help to innovate.
    2. Local-level project management capacities need to match vision and aspiration, including adequate legal competencies and solid administrative skills. Awareness-raising, targeted training and good practice dissemination may improve this situation.
    3. Politics both enables and restricts innovative approaches to embedding local economic, social and environmental considerations in procurement. So changes in political leadership may cause the biggest risk. Strategically anticipating and skillfully navigating these risks may prove essential.  

    Our divergent findings on how CSR-mediated municipal procurement has progressed locally reinforce one of Matthew Baqueriza-Jackson’s primary messages: partners should take their time when using procurement to realise CSR outcomes, because it takes strategic foresight and incremental implementation to change the state-of-play. Our partner lessons also underscore a second of his messages: that any evolution of procurement activities requires inclusion of a range of stakeholders, including politicians, strategists, technical staff, procurement officers and contract managers. We may actually require a well-functioning CSR procurement capacity system across municipal departments.

    Clearly, strategic municipal procurement and CSR capacity building belong together. Procurement is potentially a powerful tool to directly influence CSR-mediated actions, practices and outcomes. Municipalities really are in the driver seat. Boldly and creatively confronting key barriers promise two inter-related outcomes. Guimarães (PT) illustrates how we may aspire to achieve a local win-win between business/economic and social/community stakeholders in terms of responding to needs quickly, competently and effectively. Let’s call this ‘small win-win’. Yet, if we look to Nantes (FR), we can aim even higher. Eyes could be set at a ‘big win-win’ by aligning our collective urban practices with reaching our global Sustainable Development Goals.

    This article demonstrated the value of thinking and doing municipal CSR capacity building, and strategic municipal procurement, together. So mutual engagement, co-learning and shared capacity building should be intensified in challenging post-pandemic years. Improved two-way communication would be a starter and a more conceptually grounded debate desirable. Common initiatives may produce powerful shared messages to stakeholders and the wider public – perhaps already at our planned CITIES4CSR outreach event in Brussels on 30 June and 1 July 2022! Longitudinal and strategic project formats both locally and transnationally should be the ultimate goal. Let us unlock together the potential of strategic procurement for much needed social and environmental progress now!


    Find out more about URBACT’s support to towns and cities looking for better ways to buy goods and services – with articles, practical advice, and a free online course on strategic procurement: URBACT strategic procurement Knowledge Hub.


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  • 23 Action Planning Networks ready for Phase 2!

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



    The main objective of Action Planning Networks is to bring together between 7 and 10 cities across Europe to exchange their experience in a particular thematic urban development challenge and to share their ideas about possible solutions, during a period of over 2 years. The Phase 1 (from late June 2019 to February 2020) focused on the development of baseline studies, city profiles and the production of the Application Form for Phase 2.

    Following the Monitoring Committee's approval of the networks, cities are now ready to focus on the exchange and learning activities using a range of learning tools and approaches in line with the URBACT Method. Every partner city will consolidate an URBACT Local Group, which will co-design Integrated Action Plans for future implementation. The Phase 2 also presents a novelty for the projects, from now on cities are encouraged to undertake pilot actions (Small Scale Actions), to experiment with new ideas for projects gained from other network exchanges and in line with the cities’ network topic.

    As a consequence of the Covid-19 pandemic, the URBACT Secretariat will follow up with a series of adapted activities to support these networks and their partners, including the delivery of trainings using online formats and a 3 months extension of the network life-cycle, meaning that projects will run until August 2022. Thus, networks will respect the following calendar:


    • Activation Stage (May - December 2020): putting together an Integrated Action Plan roadmap
    • Planning Actions (December 2020 - December 2021): drafting the Integrated Action Plan
    • Planning Implementation (December 2021 - June 2022): finalising the Integrated Action Plan
    • Integrated Action Plans Finale (June - August 2022): sharing knowledge


    You can find all approved networks in the table below, the Lead Partner city is indicated is bold. To find out more about each one of the projects, check the network's webpages.
    Congratulations to the 23 approved projects!





    Research, technological development and innovation


    Leiria (PT)
    - Longford (IE)
    - Madrid (ES)
    - Mechelen (BE)
    - Michalovce (SK)
    - Parma (IT)
    - Pella (EL)
    - Unione della Romagna Faentina (IT)
    - Szabolcs 05 Regional Development Association of Municipalities (HU)

    Security and safety are two common goods and fundamental components of European democracy. This network intends to analyse strategies and concepts of urban design and planning, which could contribute to prevent segregation and anti-social behaviour. Additionally, this network wishes to co-create an integrated approach towards urban security focusing on improving citizens’ quality of life and the city’s smart, sustainable and inclusive growth towards a good living environment.

    Find your Greatness

    Alba Iulia (RO)
    - Bragança (PT)
    - Candelaria (ES)
    - Perugia (IT)
    - Wroclaw (PL)
    - Võru (EE)
    - Limerick (IE)
    - Budafok-Tétény 22nd district of Budapest (HU)

    The challenge is to build on the cities' opportunities. The partners of the project need to identify locally a strength, which was built as a sustainable mechanism generating urban development. The goal of this network is to explore and enhance the potential of the city, combining strategic marketing approach with innovative smart city tools.

    Access to and use of ICT

    (previously DI4C)

    Messina (IT)
    - Botosani (RO)
    - Oulu (FI)
    - Portalegre (PT)
    - Roquetas de Mar (ES)
    - Saint- Quentin (FR)
    - Trikala (EL)
    - Ventspils Digital Centre (LV)

    This network aims to set up an acceleration mechanism to enable cities to catch up the digitalisation opportunities in hard & soft infrastructure. Remove all the obstacles encountered by mid-sized cities in their digital journey: lack of strategic & global vision lack of technical and engineering capacities difficulties in incorporating the digital innovation. Municipalities need to guaranty the uptake of digital innovation by the local stakeholders: citizen and entrepreneurs.


    Fundão (PT)
    - Dodoni (EL)
    - Jelgava (LV)
    - Nevers Agglomeration (FR)
    - Razlog (BG)
    - Ånge (SE)
    - Kežmarok (SK)
    - Åbo Akademi University (FI)

    The objective is to encourage the creation of a network of European cities committed to the design of digitalization plans based on Internet of Things (IoT) solutions to increase the quality of life in small and medium sized EU cities, guiding us through a new age of digital transformation.

    Competitiveness of SMEs


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

    - Saldus (LV)

    This network aim to produce 10 different and unique robust economic development strategies, targeting their own genuine niches, and generating urban innovation ecosystems. City partners will focus on deepening the understanding of their own local economic strengths and establish strategic methods to revitalise their economy, adapt their city to the next economy and to future economic changes, establishing methodological bases for generate resilient cities.

    Tourism Friendly Cities

    Genoa (IT)
    - Braga (PT)
    - Rovaniemi (FI)
    - Venice (IT)
    - Utrecht (NL)
    - Krakow (PL)
    - Cáceres (ES)
    - Druskininkai (LT)
    - Dún Laoghaire Rathdown (IE)
    - Dubrovnik Development Agency (HR)

    This network aims to explore how tourism can be sustainable in medium-sized cities, reducing the negative impact on neighbourhoods and areas interested by different types of tourism to reach this ambitious aim, the project will create integrated and inclusive strategies which can keep a balance between the needs of the local community, in terms of quality of life and of services available, and the promotion of sustainable urban development at environmental, social and economic level.

    Low carbon economy in all sectors

    Urb-En Pact

    Clermont Auvergne Metropole (FR)
    - Bialystok Association of the Functional Area (PL)
    - CIM Alto Minho (PT)
    - Rouen Normandie Metropole (FR)
    - Elefsina (EL)
    - Galati (RO)
    - Palma di Montechiaro (IT)
    - Tampere EcoFellows (FI)

    Local authorities embrace the ambitious goal to become a zero-net energy territory within the next 30 years. Thus, the aim is to define the local action plans to become zero-net (ZNE) territory by producing and delivering local, renewable and regulated sources of energy by the implementation of an energy loop which gathers all the stakeholders of this circular economy, especially the consumers included in this fair trade business in and around the metropolitan area.

    Zero Carbon Cities
    (previously ZCC)

    Manchester (UK)
    - Bistrita (RO)
    - Zadar (HR)
    - Modena (IT)
    - Frankfurt am Main (DE)
    - Tartu (EE)
    - Vilvoorde (BE)

    The network will support capacity building of cities to establish science-based carbon reduction targets and their Sustainable Energy Action Plans (SEAPs) aligned to Paris Agreement on Climate Change. Working with 7cities to adopt different approaches to carbon budgeting and science-based targets, the network will undertake a programme of capacity building in order to support their local activities and integrated action plan and influence Covenant of Mayors' signatory cities.

    Environmental protection and resource efficiency


    Barcelona Metropolitan Area (ES)
    - Porto Metropolitan Area (PT)
    - Krakow Metropole Association (PL)
    - Paris Metropolitan Area (FR)
    - Gdansk-Gdynia-Sopot Metropolitan Area (PL)
    - Amsterdam Region (NL)
    - Transport for Greater Manchester (UK)
    - Thessaloniki Major Development Agency (EL)

    The overall goal is to rethink, transform and integrate mobility infrastructure aiming at reconnecting people, neighbourhoods, cities and natural spaces. The project will develop planning strategies, processes, instruments and partnerships, fostering public transport and active mobility, reducing externalities and unlocking opportunities of urban regeneration with the objectives of structuring the territory, and achieving a more sustainable, equitable and attractive metropolis.


    Utrecht (NL)
    - Riga (LV)
    - Oeste CIM (PT)
    - Copenhagen (DK)
    - Granada (ES)
    - Munich (DE)
    - Kavala (EL)
    - Prato (IT)
    - Nigrad (SI)

    URGE (circUlaR buildinG citiEs) aims to design integrated urban policies on circularity in the building sector – a major consumer of raw materials – as there is a gap in knowledge on this topic. The result is an in-depth understanding of this theme and a first plan for a tailor-made methodology that allows the circular dimension to be widely integrated in the large construction tasks the URGE partnership is facing. URGE thus accelerates the transition towards a circular economy.

    Healthy Cities

    Vic (ES)
    - Anyksciai (LT)
    - Bradford (UK)
    - Alphen aan den Rijn (NL)
    - Falerna (IT)
    - Farkadona (EL)
    - Loulé (PT)
    - Pärnu (EE)
    - Malta Planning Authority (MT)

    This network aims to deepen the relationship between health and the urban environment, planning actions that focus on improving the population’s health, while developing a rigorous health impact assessment methodology around it. Urban Planning can become a health generator on many grounds, and this network of cities reflects the multiplicity of possible approaches to tackle the issue: green areas, mobility, social cohesion or promotion of sports are some examples.


    Mula (ES)
    - Belene (BG)
    - Cesena (IT)
    - Malbork (PL)
    - Roskilde (DK)
    - Heraklion (EL)
    - Šibenik (HR)
    - Ukmergè (LT)


    The ultimate goal is to represent a moment of change, improving the urban environment of cities involved, developing heritage-led urban regeneration. It will enhance the potential of heritage in small and medium cities developing strategies for economic and social cohesion, inclusion and sustainable urban development. This network fosters the transnational exchange of experiences to test an innovative policy framework, combining a sound integrated approach with a real transformation purpose.


    Resourceful Cities
    (previously UrbReC)

    The Hague (NL)
    - Bucharest 3rd district (RO)
    - Ciudad Real (ES)
    - Mechelen (BE)
    - Cáceres (ES)
    - Patras (EL)
    - Oslo (NO)
    - Opole (PL)
    - Vila Nova Famalicão (PT)
    - Zagreb (HR)


    This network seeks to develop the next generation of urban resource centers to promote the positive economic, environmental and social impacts for the circular economy. They facilitate waste prevention, reuse, repair and recycling. The centers also work as connection points for citizens, new businesses, researchers and the public sector to co-create new ways to close resource loops at the local level.

    (previously Rurban Food)

    Coimbra Region (PT)
    - Alba Iulia (RO)
    - Córdoba (ES)
    - Larissa (EL)
    - Szécsény (HU)
    - Bassa Romagna Union (IT)
    - Tartu Tartumaa Arendusselts (EE)
    - BSC Kranj and Gorenjska (SI)

    Recent experience suggests that it is necessary to promote a transition towards regional food systems. This network encourage the creation of a network of European cities committed to the design of food plans that extend from the urban and periurban areas through a corridor that facilitates urban-rural re-connection. This approach enhances production and consumption environments founded on a base of economic, social and environmental sustainability, integrated into development policies.


    Hegyvidék 12th district of Budapest (HU)
    - Espoo (FI)
    - Limerick (IE)
    - Messina (IT)
    - Breda (NL)
    - Poznań (PL)
    - Santa Pola (ES)
    - Suceava (RO)
    - Tartu (EE)

    As a response to the various health risks related to rapid urbanization and the densification of cities, this network project promotes health-responsive planning and management of urban green infrastructure with an overall aim to bring health and wellbeing benefits for citizens across Europe. The network applies a holistic approach that addresses the main functions provided by urban green infrastructure that deliver health and social benefits.

    Sustainable transport


    Bielefeld (DE)
    - Arad (RO)
    - Badalona (ES)
    - Nazaré (PT)
    - Turku (FI)
    - Guía de Isora (ES)
    - Panevèžys (LT)
    - Saint-Germain-en-Laye (FR)
    - Sérres (EL)
    - Valga (EE)

    This network improves quantity and quality of attractive public spaces in urban areas. For this, it tackles the main public space use being transportation in 3 aspects: improving user experience and adding space to pedestrian networks and (semi) pedestrianised places, upscaling intermodal hubs to urban centres of mixed use as well as reducing and optimising parking in public space. The project takes a user-centric approach by users assessing and creating future use and design of public space.

    Thriving Streets

    Parma (IT)
    - Antwerp (BE)
    - Igoumenitsa (EL)
    - Klaipèda (LT)
    - Nova Gorica (SI)
    - Oradea (RO)
    - Santo Tirso (PT)
    - Radom (PL)
    - Southwark London Borough (UK)
    - Debrecen Economic Development Centre (HU)

    This is a network that addresses the bottlenecks in sustainable urban mobility. The project will focus on the economic and social benefits of sustainable mobility, rather than on the widely demonstrated environmental effects. The network argues that working with local amenities and social networks at neighbourhood level could unlock the hidden demand for active mobility in cities, and thus act as enabler of behaviour change towards more resilient and liveable neighbourhoods.

    Employment protection and resource efficiency


    Heerlen (NL)
    - Aarhus (DK)
    - Baia Mare (RO)
    - Fundão (PT)
    - Kecskemét (HU)
    - Pordenone (IT)
    - Zaragoza (ES)
    - Võru Development Centre (EE)

    This network aims to explore how social impact bonds can be used to improve public service delivery in areas such as employment, ageing, and immigration. Often, the delivery of services is hindered by fragmented and siloed agencies and budgets, financial and political shorttermism, and an aversion to risk and difficulty creating change. The social impact bond is a promising model that ameliorates these issues by increasing collaboration, prevention, and innovation.

    Social inclusion and poverty


    Ghent (BE)
    - Braga (PT)
    - Glasgow (UK)
    - Thessaloniki (EL)
    - Liège (BE)
    - Odense (DK)
    - Poznań (PL)
    - Toulouse Metropole (FR)
    - Timisoara Department of Social Assistance (RO)

    This project aims to eradicate homelessness through innovative housing solutions at city level. It will exchange knowledge on how to gather accurate data and make the conceptual shift from the symptomatic management to the actual ending of homelessness, with Housing First and Housing Led as guidance model. This network will guide the partner cities towards integrated local action plans linked to the long-term strategic goal of Functional Zero (no structural homelessness).


    Agen (FR)
    - Bistrita (RO)
    - Cento (IT)
    - Dinslaken (DE)
    - Hradec Králové (CZ)
    - Santa Maria da Feira (PT)
    - Saint-Quentin (FR)
    - Tartu (EE)

    The aim of this network is to rethink the place of the citizens in the local governance by finding a balance between representative democracy and participatory democracy. This network of European small and medium-sized cities, with the same expectations and similar challenges, will notably take into account, to do this, new digital tools while integrating the issue of citizens away or not comfortable with digital tools.


    Amsterdam (NL)
    - Dublin (IE)
    - Lisbon (PT)
    - Riga (LV)
    - Sofia (BG)
    - Tallinn (EE)
    - Vilnius (LT)
    - London Greater Authority (UK)

    This network addresses the importance of inclusive cultural policies. A challenge all cities in this project face is that culture does not enrich or empower all people equally. We need to gain a better understanding of our communities in order to engage all citizens in our cities. We have identified four topics to work on that will enable us to gain that understanding and support us in reaching all population groups in the participating cities from the west, east and south of Europe.


    Umeå (SE)
    - Frankfurt am Main (DE)
    - Panevèžys (LT)
    - Trikala (EL)
    - La Rochelle (FR)
    - Barcelona Activa SA (ES)
    - Celje JZ Socio (SI)

    Creating conditions for gender equality through a holistic understanding of how gender inequality is created in the specific place. This network creates an exchange on challenges faced by cities with an understanding of gender inequality that is globally understood but locally contextualised.

    Education, skills and lifelong learning


    Milan (IT)
    - Bratislava (SK)
    - Budaörs (HU)
    - Guimarães (PT)
    - Molina de Segura (ES)
    - Nantes Metropole (FR)
    - Rijeka (HR)
    - Kekava (LV)
    - Sofia (BG)
    -Vratsa (BG)

    Through intensive capacity building of local actors, the network will increase collaboration among municipalities, businesses and the civic society in order to promote sustainable, inclusive & innovative urban change. The project aims at increasing the role and added value of companies’ CSR activities at local level, towards urban regeneration and social innovation, with a special emphasis on education, in order to better address emerging and unmet local needs.




    Interested in finding more about the approved networks and what they will do? Watch the URBACT Method video and check out the Action Planning Network's infographic!

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  • Attention all urban decision-makers! Did you know that you can do business without money?

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    We all want urban services to be efficient, redevelopment exciting, civic events colourful and new urban initiatives really able to make a difference! But how do you do this when many European cities - especially after the hard-hitting crises of the last decade - lack funding, resources, knowledge and the connections that make such vibrant governing work? One answer may surprise you. We can turn to our corporate and business communities. Because there is something called Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR).

    Cross-border cooperation

    CSR, in short, can be broadly defined   as the "the responsibility of enterprises for their impacts on society" (European Commission, 2019). The idea is that enterprises integrate social and environmental concerns into their mainstream business operations on a voluntary basis. So they respect human rights wherever they produce their goods and services, they treat staff well, don’t pollute the environment and are not corrupt. In a nutshell: responsible business. Sounds familiar, but where is the link to our cities, communities and civic services?

    This is where our brand new URBACT Action Planning network comes in. Fancily named ‘CITIES4CSR’, this 10-city pan-continental project is in a unique position to explore in practical ways how CSR can make a difference to our urban societies. Using the proven URBACT-principles, methods and tools - it sets out to support building, testing and implementing ‘comprehensive municipal strategies to foster and stimulate corporate responsibility in urban areas’. In other words, we aim to work towards realising a new vision across our European continent: cities not as places where local administrations rule top-down, but as sites where government and business are sharing urban responsibilities! We want to show how Corporate Social Responsibility can be lifted to a new level: Corporate Urban Responsibility.

    What makes our approach somewhat unique compared to other networks is the fact that what binds our cities together is not foremost a concern with changing one particular urban outcome. Rather, it is all about building purpose-designed local CSR-toolboxes that help to challenge the local status-quo in very different policy realms. Just like a building company may use its machinery, people, experience and know-how to build a train station in one city, a TV-tower in the next one and a shopping centre in another city, our joined efforts may trigger beneficial transformations in different policy areas in different cities. Actually exactly there where cities feel need is most pressing.

    So value could be added in urban regeneration, environmental protection, social cohesion or educational policies; you name it. The glue between cities, and the common concern, is the focus on how the aspirations, resources and leadership of the local corporate sector - in partnership with government and other stakeholders – will be the in the heart of change. 

    Corporate social responsibility is surely not a new concept. Academic debates link the ascent of CSR to five societal transformations: more affluent societies, growing sustainability concerns, intensified globalisation, stronger role of the media and the rise brands (Chandler and Werther, 2013). CSR can be implicit, embedded in the values, norms and rules of societies, or explicit, encompassing voluntary programs and strategies by corporations based on their discretion (Matten and Moon, (2008). And, across Europe there seems to be a CSR-gap as more progressive policies in Western Europe, Scandinavia and the Anglo-Saxon countries have not been equally shared by governments in Central and Eastern Europe (Steurer, 2015). µ

    The good news is that we don’t have to wait for business to come forward in urban affairs; local governments can be incredibly proactive. Our toolboxes are already filled with a variety of proven CSR policy instruments, from awareness-raising that can spread the word about CSR to procurement strategies that require suppliers to meet certain environmental and social criteria. So no reinventing the wheel. Yet, finding the right CSR-solution may mean confronting deep-seated trust issues between public authorities and corporate actors and differences in terms of everyday languages, work habits and planning horizons. In other words, we should not be surprised to encounter gaps of various kinds, misconceptions and stumbling blocks in our project.    

    So who are the ten cities that take on this challenge? Lead Partner is Milan (Italy), a city with profound experience in managing European projects. Partners are: Sofia and Vratsa from Bulgaria, Kekava municipality from Latvia, Rijeka from Croatia, Molina de Segura from Spain, Guimarães from Portugal, Budaörs from Hungary, Bratislava from Slovakia and Nantes Metropole from France. The network covers different geographical parts of Europe relatively well, and incorporates varying sizes of local government. Excitingly, we are proud to have in our midst the 2019 European City of Innovation (Nantes) and the 2020 European City of Culture (Rijeka). 



    Our network has plenty of opportunity to build institutional bridges. For example with the United Nations Global Compact that constitutes the world's largest corporate sustainability initiative. Its urban arm, the UN Global Compact Cities Programme, promotes city and regional governments collaborating with the private sector and civil society in order to address complex global challenges on the local level; implementing the so-called Melbourne Model. CSR-initiatives can also be directly related to the European Urban Agenda and the European Commission.  Finally, CSR Europe’s vision is that by 2030 the European urban population, or three quarters of the total population, will be living in sustainable cities that will provide them with economic opportunities, reliable infrastructure and high standard of living.


    The Melbourne Model – Cross-sectoral collaboration to address complex urban challenges (Source: UN Global Compact Cities Programme)




    The work has already begun. Our network kicked-off in gorgeous Milan in September, where well-organised site visits taught all participants much about local corporate initiatives that in very practical ways help local communities. Currently the various local baseline study visits are getting under way, problem analyses are being conducted, and first ideas about solutions and small scale actions are being developed. Local multi-sector stakeholder groups are slowly emerging.

    ”As SMEs we are so busy, so focused on our businesses and on making money – but we can’t do it without having a focus on the outside world. It is crucial to look outside, and around you.”

    Jean-Marc Barki  - Executive Director, Sealock, French SM

    It is already clear that one of the policy focus will target the small-and medium sized enterprises (SME), a sector that often forms the backbone of European urban and regional economies but so far is rather seldom considered as member of the CSR-community. Neighbourhood upgrading appears to be another objective for corporate urban engagement. We are very curious where local path-finding will lead to. One thing is for sure: cities can gain a lot when they turn to their corporate stakeholders. Doing meaningful urban business without spending money does not have to be a fairytale!



    The author acknowledges the creative input from Lead Expert Project team in Milan, with special thanks to Giusy Chierchia for coming up with the title for this article!


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  • Cities4CSR


    LEAD PARTNER : Milan - Italy
    • Bratislava - Slovakia
    • Sofia - Bulgaria
    • Vratsa - Bulgaria
    • Molina de Segura - Spain
    • Nantes Metropole - France
    • Rijeka - Croatia
    • Budaörs - Hungary
    • Kekava County - Latvia
    • Guimarães - Portugal


    • October 2019 | Kick-Off Meeting
    • September 2019 - March 2020 | Phase I: Action Planning Network Development
    • May 2020 | Start of Phase II
    • June 2020 | Kick-Off Meeting Phase II
    • January 2021 - December 2021 | Development of a methodolgy and Small Scale Actions Implementation
    • January 2022 - June 2022 | Transfer of Knowledge Period: IAP Local Dissemination events
    • June 2022 | Final Project Event in Bruxelles
    • Project end date

    The project’s main aim is to unlock opportunities in order to improve our cities. The Action Planning Network of CITIES4CSR has identified in Corporate Social Responsibility actions the opportunities to unlock and improve municipal strategies and local plans, discovering and exploiting the value of partnerships with the private sector and relevant stakeholders at local level. Co-financed by the European Regional Development Fund, CITIES4CSR network involves ten European cities throughout Europe, each of them focusing its activity on specific local challenge and theme of CSR, according to local needs and municipal priorities. At the same time, at network level, the project provides a valuable opportunity of good practices sharing on CSR actions and experiences carried out locally by cities, reaching a common understanding of the importance of Corporate Social Responsibility for municipal development and the improvement of local policies.



    Unlocking opportunities, improving cities
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  • Tropa Verde: recycling - the gift that keeps on giving

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    Yvan Corbat, URBACT Lead Expert, says rewarding good behaviour still works! Case in point, in Santiago de Compostela (ES) local citizens are rewarded for recycling.

    As part of the “Tropa Verde” Good Practice, encouraging environmentally responsible behaviour, citizens recieve  gifts and discounts from local shops, restaurants or public services from different local sponsors through a multimedia platform.

    Carbon neutrality

    Recycling and the circular economy

    The European Union’s fundamental values include the respect of human dignity and human rights, freedom, democracy, equality and the rule of law. Furthermore, looking back in time to the creation of a united Europe (after WWII and further to the creation of the European Coal and Steel Community), I like to bear in mind that the promotion of peace and of economic growth is also among key European values.

    Lately, further to different political, economic and migrant crises - Brexit included - many people are arguing about the meaning of European values? I, myself, am not sure I have a clear answer to this question, but am quite convinced that, one of the key differences between Europe and the rest of the world is the awareness of its citizens with respect to the protection of environment and cultural heritage. Within that framework, the different efforts and challenges towards waste management and recycling are also clear examples of real commitment from European citizens and their public and local administrations.

    Urban waste management: common objectives for European cities

    Waste management is typically a local competence and therefore local actions are critical for an effective implementation of the “EU Waste Strategy”. This strategy, which has been developed by different EU regulations and guidelines. It has evolved towards the prevention of waste, the increase of product re-use and the improvement of waste separation as well as recycling in order to reduce the volume of waste and increase the efficiency in the use of resources.

    As part of Europe’s effort to transform its economy into a more sustainable one, in January 2018 the European Commission has adopted the so called “Circular Economy Package”. A concrete and ambitious EU Action Plan that  covers the whole cycle: from production and consumption to waste management and the market for secondary raw materials.

    Among the package’s targets, several are challenges that directly affect Urban Waste Management (UWM) and, consequently, the citizens and neighbourhoods, among them:

    • Recycling 65% of municipal waste by 2030
    • Recycling 75% of packaging waste by 2030
    • Reducing landfill to a maximum of 10% of municipal waste by 2030
    • A ban on landfilling of separately collected waste
    • The promotion of economic instruments to discourage landfilling

    The Tropa Verde Good Practice and experience from Santiago de Compostela (hereafter, “Santiago”) (ES) contributes to reach these common European objectives. The transfer of Good Practices between cities could significantly contribute to reach these goals, especially for some waste streams, such as used cooking oil and electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE).

    But what is Tropa Verde, the “St James Way to recycling”?

    Background information

    Like many European cities, Santiago has been committed to improving the environment of its inhabitants and developing green campaigns and strategies for several decades, including through public awareness activities to improve its ratio of recycling. Despite its efforts, in early 2015, the municipality carried out a survey that highlighted, among other conclusions, that:

    • 36,6% of citizens do not recycle due to a lack of habit
    • A lack of information and environmental motivation was clearly palpable

    It was considered that these attitudes damaged the beginning of the recycling chain, promoting low recycling rates and increasing the costs of Urban Waste Management. “Tropa Verde” was born in May 2015 to achieve the goal of creating a more sust

    ainable city focussing on optimising the management of waste.

    It was awarded the URBACT Good Practice Label in June 2017, and selected in December 2018 together with another 23 Transfer Networks, to be transferred to other European cities.

    Santiago then built partnerships (networks) with the district cities of Zugló (HU) and Pavlou Mela (EL), and extended it to the Municipality of Guimarães (PT), the Agglomeration of Opole (PL) and the Metropole of Nice Provence Côte d’Azur (FR).

    Tropa Verde defined

    It is important to highlight that the idea of Tropa Verde was created and promoted first by a local technological spin-off, Teimas. The company’s CEO Miguel Varela would define it as “an online gaming platform that aims to promote recycling and environmental responsibility among the citizens by rewarding good environmental practices”.

    Although technology is essential to implement this Good Practice, from the municipal perspective, Tropa Verde is to be considered as a “civic movement fully committed to sustainability, environmental awareness and the circular economy, where citizens and local partners cooperate”, according to Xan Duro Fernández, Local Councillor for Environment, Coexistence and ICT.

    Both definitions are correct, and in fact complementary. In Spanish, “tropa” means “troop” and “verde” means “green”. We are indeed talking about the creation of “green troopers” promoting recycling habits monitored and rewarded through an online platform, where citizens can accumulate “stars” (equivalent to “points”) to be exchanged against vouchers, and use these vouchers for rewards from public and private offers (mostly, municipal services and local retailers, shops and restaurants).

    How does it work?

    The existing website connects the three axis necessary to achieve the objective:

    • Citizenship
    • Collecting points
      (the places where citizens can deposit their waste and be rewarded, such as green points, civic and social centres, recovery points, etc.).
    • Shops and other local businesses and services that collaborate providing gifts or discounts

    Once the citizen/user has registered in the platform, he/she can start to “play and win” (recycle, get stars and use vouchers). But since a human check of what is being recycled is necessary, so far and as far as Santiago is concerned, it has to be underlined that the practice is only possible when the material is deposited in collecting points, where collaborators can control the kind, volume and quantity of waste being recycled.

    Santiago has established a growing network of some 30 collaborating “collecting points”, with different levels of collaboration, depending on their storage capacity (e.g. to collect paper, cardboard, batteries, used vegetable oil, plastic caps, etc.). The network includes different kind of partners, such as the 2 official waste collection points, a mobile green point (an adapted vehicle that collects small domestic waste that cannot be recycled in public bins), local NGOs, sports and educational facilities and, above all the 19 socio-cultural centres distributed within the municipal geography.

    In Santiago, for each waste delivery, one cheque (either 30 or 50 stars) is given, regardless of the number of waste and type, always respecting the minimum quantities specified in the following table:


    Minimum quantity*

    • Used oil

    1 litre

    • Batteries

    10 units

    • Plastic caps

    1 full bag

    • Papercardboard

    1 large paper bag

    • Toners

    3 units

    • Clothes

    6 large garments or 12 small garments

    • Green points (almost any kind of waste, incl. WEEE Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment )

    Min. 0,5 kg of waste

    For the transferability of this Good Practice, however, it is important to stress that the platform allows a certain flexibility: different rewarding criteria (and kind of waste) can be applied, depending on the necessities and priorities of the promoters.

    Finally, the voucher received will include a code that, uploaded on the registered account of the citizen-user, will accumulate the “stars” that can be used as rewards. The kind of rewards available can be checked on the platform, and can vary from a free coffee in a restaurant to a free haircut, free shoe repairs or discounts in a dance academy,  dental treatments - among other gifts offered by over 125 sponsors.

    Some key data/results of the Good Practice in Santiago
    (after 2 years of implementation)

    • Good citizen participation, with over 3 000 users subscribed
    • 125 sponsors, 3 000 rewards offered, more than EUR 20 000 in prizes and rewards
    • 29 centres and 1 mobile centre issuing vouchers: Over 23 800 vouchers given and over 1 400 rewards delivered
    • Several workshops for children: Recycle, Reutilise and play with the Tropa Verde to commemorate the European Environment Week
    • 100% growth of used oil recovery on civic centres during S1-2017, when compared to S1-2016
    • 12% increase in the number of visitors in the waste collection or green points

    The Municipality itself offers attractive gifts against Tropa Verde “stars” as well, including tickets for its Concert Hall, Theatre or European Film Festival (CinEuropa). But from the launch of the initiative, the most requested gifts are free invitations for 20 environmentally engaged citizens, to sit at the VIP “lounge”, together with the public authorities, and enjoy Santiago’s Apostle’s Fireworks, that take place on the 24th July at night!

    … and who knows? Hopefully thanks to the exchanges and learning activities among the Tropa Verde Transfer Network partners, green troopers from Guimarães will get discounts to support their local football team “Vitória” in the stadium thanks to recycling their batteries; citizens from Zugló will have free access to enjoy a relaxing spa session at Szechenyi Thermal Bath against the re-use of furniture; students from Pavlou Mela will collect used olive oil and be invited to the cinema, while kids from Opole will get an entrance to the local zoo thanks to their campaigns to recycle plastic caps, while neighbours from Nice who are alpine skiing aficionados might get a free lift pass to reward their re-use of Electrical and Electronic Equipment Waste…

    What we know for sure is that they will all contribute to the European initiative of protecting our environment!


    Visit the network's page: Tropa Verde

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  • From nature lovers to nature activists

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    How cities are reclaiming nature for citizens (and vice versa)

    Last Saturday I fell asleep in the park, basking in the unexpected rays of sunshine. I was grateful for this small patch of green, right in the centre of the city, and – judging by the crowd of people around me, with their kids, picnic blankets and Frisbee discs – I was not alone. Most city dwellers would agree that nature in the city is precious. Trees and parks, rivers and ponds, birds and butterflies – they all make our hearts sing (and real estate prices soar) but are we ready to turn our appreciation into action?

    Not all nature lovers are ready to be nature activists. Luckily, there is a lot local governments can do to support this shift, reaping not only environmental but also social and economic benefits. The research on ecosystem services and nature-based solutions confirms that nature is key to addressing many societal challenges, including e.g. human health and well-being, resilience and climate adaptation or food security. However, the tasks of protecting, managing and restoring nature should not be left to experts alone.

    Engaging with people, in a true URBACT spirit of participation and co-creation, can bring new ideas, resources and opportunities. That is what four URBACT Good Practice cities, Bologna (Italy), Guimarães (Portugal), Ljubljana (Slovenia) and Strasbourg (France) have proven during the “Nature in the City” panel at URBACT City Festival 2017 in Tallinn.

    (Crowd) funding a greener city in Bologna?

    Carbon neutrality

    The city of Bologna (Italy) showcased their ambitious resilience strategy, looking to prepare the city for the impacts of the changing climate. Raffaela Gueze, responsible for sustainable development in Bologna, explained how the process of developing the strategy, combining long-term planning with quick-win experiments, benefited from broad stakeholder involvement. The audience in Tallinn was especially interested in Bologna’s experience with OpenGAIA, a crowd funding platform that allows citizens to sponsor the planting of new trees in the city.

    The platform was an experiment, building on an earlier experience involving private companies as sponsors for new urban green in exchange for carbon offsets. As people behind the most successful initiatives emphasize, the main win of the “crowd-funding” campaign is not necessarily the funding but rather the crowd, in this case a group of people committed to greening the city. It would be interesting to see whether more cities follow in Bologna’s footsteps, inviting citizens to co-sponsor urban greening initiatives, and what the long-term impact of those initiatives is.

    A number of cities are currently experimenting with crowd funding tools for sustainability-related initiatives, e.g. the city of Ghent (Belgium) that used its municipal crowd funding platform to support projects addressing climate adaptation, offering match funding from the city to those that were most popular.

    However, citizens cannot be the only ones investing in urban nature. In order to build new resilient infrastructure, new financial instruments are needed and also here Bologna’s experience can inspire others. Thanks to its work on the strategy, the city was able to access the Natural Capital Financing Facility technical assistance to prepare a feasibility study for climate resilient infrastructure in the city.

    The superpowers of citizen scientists in Guimarães

    Guimarães (Portugal) has succeeded in building a strong partnership for biodiversity, involving public authorities, private sector, research institutions and – perhaps most importantly – citizens, especially the youngest inhabitants of Guimarães. How did they manage to do it? According to Carlos Ribeiro, Executive Director of Laboratório da Paisagem, an important element was addressing citizens as co-producers of knowledge thanks to a custom-designed app. Biodiversity GO! allows everyone to document existing species of plants and animals. By inviting people to become so called “citizen scientists”, Guimarães managed to turn the exercise of inventorying local species into a fun, community-based activity.

    Citizen science, the idea of involving the public in scientific research, is not new. It has been long used also for environmental projects, e.g. collecting bird migration records or tracking marine debris. However, recent years have seen a surge in its popularity, with new digital tools opening up exciting possibilities to facilitate especially data collection and analysis.

    Just as crowd funding is not merely about money, citizen science – as promoted by Guimarães – is about much more than knowledge. In addition to the community building effect of the inventory exercise, playing with the app turns an abstract concept of biodiversity into a personal encounter with local plants and animals. It is also a clever response to our culture’s obsession with digital tools. Instead of complaining that kids spend hours staring into screens of various sizes, why not show them what hidden superpowers their smart phones have?

    The value of crowd sourcing it that it allows to look for knowledge beyond that of local administration and academia. For instance, the representative of Sheffield (UK), awarded with an URBACT Good Practice label for their Urban Waterways Strategy and Action Plan, emphasized the contribution of anglers and kayakers, everyday users of Sheffield waterways, to developing a successful strategy.

    Ljubljana : A capital of bees

    Personal encounters with nature are part of everyday experience of the inhabitants of Ljubljana, the 2016 European Green Capital. The proximity to nature is one of the Slovenian capital’s greatest assets. Rural areas cover 2/3 of Ljubljana’s total area, including 826 active farms. In recognition of this close relationship, the city - as probably the only capital in Europe - employs a special advisor for rural development, Maruška Markovcic who was our guest in Tallinn. The project that Maruška introduced, Bee Path, is an excellent example how nature protection can be a starting point for addressing community cohesion, education, food security, economic development and tourism, as well as urban design and planning.

    The initial premise of the project was simple: protect the bees to safeguard biodiversity. However, in a city with a strong commitment to sustainable development and a vibrant beekeeping culture – including approx. 300 active beekeepers! – the idea quickly snowballed. Initiated by the city administration, the project now involves a long (and growing) list of partners: beekeeping associations and other civil society organizations, universities and research institutes, private companies, schools, cultural institutions, as well as individual citizens.

    How do you involve museums in biodiversity protection, make beekeeping a tourist attraction and get architects to design open source beehives? The secret to this cooperation is pursuing a common goal of safeguarding Ljubljana’s beekeeping culture, while respecting differing interests of each of the partners. Bee Path is not about involving others in the implementation of a plan, devised by local government or external experts. On the contrary, everyone is invited to contribute their ideas and activities in support of a broadly defined shared goal. The openness, while requiring a lot of facilitation effort from the side of the local government, results in the involvement of unusual suspects and brings about fresh ideas.

    Waving the right flag in Strasbourg

    The question of mobilizing around a common goal and winning support from others is key. How to convince organizations and people, sometimes those sitting across the corridor from us, that working to protect nature can help them reach their goals, whether it’s social cohesion, better image of the city or new business opportunities?

    A good case in point was the story of “All united for biodiversity” charter, initiated by the Eurometropolis Strasbourg (FR) in 2012 and now gathering 75 signatories, mostly from the private sector. Susanne Brolly, project manager for Zero Pesticide Strasbourg and Nature in the City portfolio, recalled that the charter beginnings were not easy. It turned out that biodiversity protection was not high on the agenda of locally based companies producing shoes or chocolate and it was difficult to convince them to sign the charter. However, Brolly quickly learned that what companies appreciated was an opportunity to involve their employees in team building activities and, seen from this perspective, tree planting, nest building or bee keeping were obviously very attractive proposals. Today 88% of signatories involve their staff in biodiversity-related activities which in turn contributes to more people becoming aware of nature-friendly management practices.

    The charter signatories are not only companies but also public institutions. For instance, Strasbourg is now embarking on a project with the local prison to offer gardening workshops to women prisoners, providing them with new skills, improving their mental health and wellbeing, as well as contributing to better management of green spaces within the city. This is another illustration of multiple benefits related to nature in the city, easily accessible to cities all over Europe.

    These examples provide the opportunity to look at nature in the city from a different perspective, beyond technical solutions, environmental impact assessments or sustainability indicators. These are all important and often addressed by local, national and European projects but I wonder if, by outsourcing environmental debates to experts, we have lost something valuable.

    The four cases are all in different ways trying to reclaim nature for citizens (and vice versa), while bringing in scientific expertise to support those efforts. Focusing on crowd funding and crowd sourcing knowledge, as well as on building coalitions where each partner chooses their own path to move towards a common goal, we were reminded of the power that nature has in bringing us together. This power can be harnessed by each and every city, regardless of their size, geographical location or financial capacities, and URBACT Good Practice cities are here to help you.

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  • Protection and promotion of biodiversity


    A strategic biodiversity planning composed of six different but interrelated actions that can be used by a city to valorise urban biodiversity and preserve natural heritage

    Jorge Cristino
    Councilman's assistant
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    The city of Guimarães (PT) has created a strategic plan which protects and promotes biodiversity in urban areas. The plan emphasizes the importance of indigenous species and their added value. The main objective is to sensitize and educate citizens and local stakeholders through strong leadership.
    The P2GREeN good practice comprises two main steps. Each step includes three different but integrated actions that can be implemented in any city in order to promote and valorise biodiversity:
    1) Diagnostic/Characterisation: Alien Species Plan Control; Environmental Education and Reforestation (indigenous species); Creation of a Biodiversity Database;
    2) Valorisation of natural routes; Promotion of species observation; Improvement of Nature Tourism.

    The solutions offered by the good practice

    The P2GREeN good practice (holistic approach) comprises different but integrated actions, which can be implemented by other cities, envisaging to protect/promote biodiversity: 1) Diagnostic/Characterization 1.1 Invasive Alien Species Plan Control An initiative laying in characterising, combating and monitoring invasive plant species was implemented. 1.2 Environmental Education – (Re)forestation (autochthones species) An Educational/Environmental Awareness Program was developed in which children are invited to plant trees and protect them during all its growth stages. Private companies wanted to be a part of the project buying trees to be planted. 1.3 Creation of Biodiversity Database A mobile app - “Biodiversity GO” - was created aiming to increase the capacity to create a biodiversity database of the city also promoting nature tourism. 2) Valorise 2.1 Natural Routes: Biodiversity routes were created for enjoying the biodiversity of the region, promoting natural heritage, involving school community. 2.2 Promote species observation The Guimarães Ornithological Observation Centre was created with the purpose of educating and raising awareness of the community to the importance of protecting biodiversity. 2.3 Improvement Nature Tourism Potential areas become more attractive for locals/tourists. Foster the number of sports events and new activities can lead to the creation of new and sustainable jobs. Promote touristic nature-related activities relating nature and cultural events.

    Building on the sustainable and integrated approach

    The P2GREeN good practice is fully aligned with the URBACT values as it provides a sustainable and integrated approach that tackles urban challenges. P2GREeN integrated actions are in line with “Green City” momentum as they propose a series of strategic objectives defined for the protection of potential urban areas as defined by Europe’s biodiversity strategy 2020, fully implement birds and habitats directives, maintain and restore ecosystems and their services, increasing the biodiversity and combat invasive alien species. New European Strategy for Biodiversity establishes the need for local actions contributing to averting global biodiversity loss. The strategy recognises the importance to take into account economic and social benefits deriving from nature's contribution, emphasising the importance of multidisciplinary projects to promote/preserve biodiversity and, consequently, to encourage employment and to promote tourism. In this context, P2GREeN is also an integrated/participative approach by promoting a horizontal integration combining physical, economic, social and environmental dimensions. In 2014, an environmental assessment of the city allowed to develop and define a program to engage and raise awareness among the citizens towards a sustainable territory. Educating local stakeholders and scholar community through a strong leadership was achieved by promoting the cooperation between all levels of government and local players (promoting a vertical integration).

    Based on a participatory approach

    All actions developed and implemented under P2GREeN are based on a participatory approach, promoting public/private interactions, recognizing the importance of citizens’ science concepts and community engagement. The PEGADAS environmental program unites more than 30 partners from different fields, contributing to the P2GReEN holistic approach. The PEGADAS partners have the responsibility of organising actions in a school context aiming to educate students on sustainable behaviours. The mobile app Biodiversity GO! was made under the citizens’ science concept, where people were invited to create the municipal biodiversity database. The reforestation program is per se a participatory process comprising two interrelated levels, from education to private engagement. It is a program aiming at sensitising the community to the importance of native species. Technical information about indigenous species was produced by technicians from City Hall. The information comprised procedures about seed identification and collection, growing and plantation. Students were invited to collect seeds from the schools’ neighbours. Afterwards, at school they planted and took care of their own tree. Later City Hall launched a campaign for individuals so that they also could participate in planting trees. Finally, the promotion process including the biodiversity routes or the species observations are also participatory, as citizens and students are encouraged to participate.

    What difference has it made?

    The environmental program PEGADAS comprises more than a hundred activities involving more than three dozen partners reaching all schools in the country. In the first year of implementation PEGADAS took the environmental debate to all students of Guimarães. The forestation program allowed the planting of more than 15,000 trees in Guimarães. Also, other initiatives generated from PEGADAS – such as Youth EcoParliament – allow students to propose solutions for biodiversity improvement. The mobile application Biodiversity GO! also allows the creation of a database of species found in Guimarães. Natural routes were already identified and integrated in the city routes system. The routes were tested with citizens’ participation, and to achieve that, several events were developed. Taken together, these results contributed to the promotion of biodiversity in Guimarães.

    Why should other European cities use it?

    The importance of promoting and preserving urban biodiversity is being highly discussed by the international conservation community. Researchers working in this field confirm that urban areas are often places of great species richness and can be centres of local and regional biodiversity. In this context, it has been highlighted not only the importance of conservation of rare species and habitats but also the importance of managing the range of habitats in and around where people live, work, and play. Thus, it is our firm belief that P2GREeN good practice is of great interest to other EU cities, in particular, those wishing to develop an integrated Urban Biodiversity Plan to protect and promote the biodiversity of their urban green areas. The implementation of P2GREeN Good Practice can help cities to shape the pattern and distribution of urban biodiversity, contributing also to specific social goals, such as community-based management, sustainable development and poverty reduction in cities. The Good Practice is divided into a hierarchy of planning phases. Strategic planning is conducted to make decisions about sustainable harvest levels, plantation of local species while taking into account legislation and policy issues (reference). In addition, it also comprises a series of actions to foster nature-based tourism and promotes participation of the citizen.

    Is a transfer practice
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