POINT (5.979499 50.888174)
  • CityCentreDoctor

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

    Amadora launches a Guide on the welcoming of migrants

    Blue Economy Forum

    BluAct Toolkit

    BluAct: The Documentary


    Kick-off meeting in June (Heerlen). Transnational meetings in September (Medina del Campo) and November (Amarante).
    Transnational meetings in April (Nord sur Erdre), May (San Dona di Piave), July (Idrija) and September (Valmez).
    Final event in March (San Dona di Piave).

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


    Municipality of Santiago de Compostela


    Municipality of Udine (Italy)


    For any enquires into Tech Revolution, email:

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

    Follow our Twitter: @Tech_RevEu
    Follow our Linkedin:




    Av. Movimento das Forças Armadas

    2700-595 Amadora



    +351 21 436 9000

    Ext. 1801


    City of Rome

    Department of European Funds and Innovation

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



    Câmara Municipal de Lisboa

    Departamento de Desenvolvimento Local

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



    Laura González Méndez. Project coordinator.

    Gijón City Council


    Municipality of Piraeus


    City of Ljubljana

    Mestni trg 1

    1000 Ljubljana, Slovenia


    Project Coordinator Martin Neubert

    +49 371 355 7029



    Riga NGO House


    City of Antwarp
    Grote Markt 1 - 2000 Antwarpen

    Manchester City Council
    Manchester M2 5RT

    City of Rotterdam
    Coolsingel 40, 3011 AD Rotterdam

    City Council Bielefeld
    Bürger Service Center
    Phone +49 521 510


    City of Eindhoven
    Stadhuisplein 1, 5611 EM Eindhoven

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


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


    City of Ghent
    Stad Gent
    Botermarkt 1
    9000 Gent

    City of Genoa
    Via di Francia, 1 - XI floor. 16149 Genova


    City of San Donà di Piave Piazza Indipendenza, 13 – 30027


    The cities of this Action Planning network were challenged to identify the urban issues relate to their city centre, analyse perceptions and reality of those areas. All cities have a centre which historically and functionally brings residents, businesses, services and a range of social activities together. Thus, the involved cities shared ideas and practices, supporting each other to develop actions to strengthen the revitalisation of their city centres (which is often the nexus for social, cultural and, ultimately, economic local development).

    Revitalising city centres of smaller cities
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  • SIBdev

    LEAD PARTNER : Heerlen - Netherlands
    • Aarhus - Denmark
    • Baia Mare - Romania
    • Fundão - Portugal
    • Kecskemét - Hungary
    • Pordenone - Italy
    • Võru County - Estonia
    • Zaragoza - Spain


    CONTACT US: Municipality of Heerlen, The Netherlands - Team Policy, Domain Society
    mailbox 1, 6400 AA Heerlen, visiting address: Putgraaf 188 Heerlen



    • Phase I Kick-off event in Heerlen
    • Lead Partner & Lead Expert City Visits
    • Phase I Final Event in Fundao
    • Phase II Activation Meeting Online
    • Masterclasses 1-6 - Online & Physical
    • Transnational Meetings Sept 2021 - April 2022 in Voru, Pordenone, Zaragoza, Aarhus, Kecskemét, Baia Mare
    • Phase II Final Meeting in Heerlen

    Integrated Action Plan

    Võru County Integrated Action Plan

    Read more here !

    Võru County - Estonia
    Integrated Action Plan Baia Mare

    Read more here

    Baia Mare - Romania
    Kecskemét Integrated Action Plan

    Read more here

    Kecskemét - Hungary
    Pordenone Integrated Action Plan

    Rea more here

    Pordenone - Italy
    Fundão - Portugal
    Aarhus Integrated Action Plan

    Read more here !

    Aarhus - Denmark
    Zaragoza Integrated Action Plan

    Read more here !

    Zaragoza - Spain
    Heerlen Integrated Action Plan

    Read more here !

    Heerlen - Netherlands


    The goal of this Action Planning Network was 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 short-termism, 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.

    Boosting social impact - Investing in society with Social Impact Bond development
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  • Croatia earthquake: URBACT cities rally support for devastated Petrinja

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    Find out how its former URBACT partner cities are supporting Petrinja at its time of need.

    Urban Renewal

    Since the central Croatian town of Petrinja was destroyed by a series of powerful earthquakes in December 2020, partner cities from the URBACT CityCentreDoctor network (2016-2018) have reacted quickly to send emergency support – more than two years after working together to revitalise their city centres.

    “URBACT created personal relationships between people from different towns and created a living network that has brought vital support at this difficult time,” said Petrinja resident Nina Ficur Feenan who has been helping with communications between her town and URBACT partners. “Such solidarity is a bright light during what has been a very dark crisis.”

    “The 6.4 magnitude earthquake on 29 December 2020 literally shook us from our foundations,” Nina said. “Seven people lost their lives on that day and one rescue worker also died later. Thousands lost their homes. The town does not exist anymore. Hospital, ER, schools, shops, banks, hairdressers, florists, cafes, restaurants, market, museums, cinema, boutiques, bakeries, butchers... it's all gone.”

    “Everything that makes a town is gone. It is hard to perceive that level of devastation.”

    Petrinja main square after the December 2020 earthquake.

    Small-city solidarity

    Despite the Covid-19 crisis, Petrinja’s former network partners – all small cities roughly the same size – reacted quickly with solidarity, practical support and funds. “They have a connection with Petrinja and have walked on our streets that have been devastated by the earthquakes and can, maybe, better understand the situation we are in,” said Nina.

    In the Irish city of Naas, Mayor Fintan Brett first heard about the quake on the CityCentreDoctor WhatsApp group where the 10 partner cities still share news, ideas and encouragement on their town centre improvements. He decided to take action. “What do we do? Just look at them? Or get up and do something?”

    With support from the Naas ‘town team’ – a continuation of the URBACT Local Group formed during the URBACT project – Fintan worked closely with Majella O’Keeffe of Naas Access Group to launch a gofundme appeal for Petrinja’s municipal council. Donors include Irish ambassador Ruaidhri Dowling, who is supporting efforts in Croatia. They also went a step further, mobilising hundreds of Naas residents and businesses to donate food, warm clothes, building materials and other items requested by Petrinja, including goods for people with disabilities. With logistics support from the council, volunteers packed these into a 45-foot container for shipping.

    Volunteer local truck driver Paul Kennedy transported the donated goods to Croatia in the last week of January.

    Daniele Terzariol, Deputy Mayor of San Donà di Piave, the Italian city that led the CityCentreDoctor network, also reacted quickly to the WhatsApp alert. Helped by the Italian National URBACT Point, he launched a fundraising appeal to all Italian cities in URBACT networks, past and present, encouraging them to send funds directly to the Municipality of Petrinja. His municipality also decided to make a donation, as did URBACT local partners in Heerlen (NL). Meanwhile, Radlin – a Polish city with a population of under 20,000 – also sent a shipment of goods.

    Daniele sees Petrinja as a ‘sister city’ that “needs the support of all of us in order to make the reconstruction and support of citizenship as fast as possible”. He said: “The earthquake that hit Petrinja caused the devastation of the city centre and neighbouring villages: as colleagues, friends and partners we cannot sit still without actively supporting the people who live in those places.”

    Lasting positive URBACT relations

    This welcome response in a time of crisis is just one example of how URBACT cities across Europe often keep up close links beyond the completion of their networks. CityCentreDoctor URBACT Expert Wessel Badenhorst attributes this lasting solidarity to the way URBACT guides cities to work together through an intensive two-year process, while leaving flexibility for meaningful personal connections to develop. He said: “This earthquake crisis is an example of how resilience can be gained from being part of a network that took two years of intensive development.”

    “Today we’re still all friends and we’re happy to keep our relationships strong and vital,” said Daniele. “URBACT networks and all the European projects are based on the values of solidarity and union and increase mutual knowledge based on common roots.”

    Badly damaged by war in the 1990s, as Petrinja sets out on a battle to rebuild yet again, Nina Ficur Feenan says: “We appreciate all the help and support we can get from our friends and partners as well as from strangers and friends we haven't met yet.”

    Interested to support Petrinja directly?  Find details of how to donate on the official city website.

    Cover photo by Nina Ficur Feenan on Flickr


    From urbact
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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!

    From urbact
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  • Social Impact Bonds: the secret tool for effective public services?

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    In times of financial constraints, total government expenditures on public services are decreasing, while citizens expect more and more effective services. Social Impact Bonds may be the tool for providing funds and overcoming short-term focus, fragmentation of services and lack of innovation.


    Total government expenditure in the EU-28 decreased from 50% of GDP to 45.8% between 2009 and 2017. Similarly, local government spending fell from 12% of GDP to 11% between 2009 and 2015. Still, demands on services have remained intense, and spending on social protection as a proportion of total expenditure increased from 38.8% to 41.2% and spending on health increased from 14.7% to 15.3% in the same period. Cities provide many of those services, -and doing so while running on tight budgets causes significant strain.

    Besides shrinking budgets, providing effective services fail because they are often split between different departments, and a holistic approach is lacking. Cities are pressured to allocate resources to solving crisis-point situations instead of spending on prevention. In such a context, decision-makers opt for the business-as-usual approach without risking relatively unknown interventions that have a severe upfront cost.

    In the meantime, the idea of ‘socially responsible’ or ‘impact investment’ is emerging amidst a low interest rate environment. The trend of investing in the social environment has become a way for investors to give back to the community. Very often, companies are trying to expand their social responsibility. As a result, a growing number of investors are looking for forms of impact investments as a way to stand up for their beliefs and also make a profit.

    The relatively new tool for bringing together the investor and the public sector is the Social Impact Bond (SIB). It is a contract whereby the public authority or governing authority pays for better social outcomes in certain areas and passes the savings achieved to investors. Unlike a bond, the repayment and the return on investment are contingent upon the achievement of desired social outcomes. If a project meets the pre-agreed results, i.e. an improved social outcome that generates a cost-saving, the government (this can be local or national) pays the investors. If a project does not achieve its contracted results, the investors lose their money, and the government pays nothing.

    1. Figure: Social Impact Bonds’ theory of change. Source: University of Oxford, Government Outcomes Lab - An Intro to SIB.

    A Social Impact Bond may have many beneficial effects for cities, as Government Outcomes Lab states in its Evidence Report titled ‘Building the tools for public services to secure better outcomes’. It encourages collaboration by building on cross-sector expertise and bringing together multiple commissioners and multiple providers. It unlocks future savings by investing more up-front, enabling cities to focus on prevention and early intervention services that might otherwise not get funded. A SIB may inspire innovation by allowing new interventions and more flexibility. It also levels the field for involving voluntary, community and social enterprise organisations. Last but not least, a SIB can improve performance management and provides a better quality of evidence.

    Many critics are contesting these benefits, saying that a SIB does not encourage genuine innovation. Investors will be looking for low-risk models that have been proven to deliver, as they want their money back. Moreover, a SIB is expensive to develop and leads to the financialization of the public sector, which is – for many - incompatible with the public service ethos.

    With evidence on both sides, Social Impact Bonds need more experimentation and evaluation. And despite these circumstances of austerity, some cities try to use the momentum to shift their approach towards this new tool. That is why 10 cities joined their forces in URBACT SIBdev Network to jointly explore how Social Impact Bonds, can improve public service delivery. The tool and the URBACT methodology, namely coproduction through multi-stakeholder local support groups and the development of local action plans fit perfectly.

    The network will examine service delivery concerning employment, ageing and immigration. Employment is an obvious choice since SIB is particularly well-suited to it, as demonstrated by the fact that it is the most common type of SIB worldwide. Ageing is the most massive pressure on social spending in Europe and affects a growing number of people, while immigration is the primary concern at the EU level (according to Eurobarometer).

    Is SIB going to be the new secret tool for providing adequate public services? Maybe it will be, maybe not. But it certainly is a promising new form of commissioning social services. If you are interested in Finance and/or Social Services, follow URBACT SIBdev Network to learn about how SIB might work for you!

    1. Photo: Harrie Lambrichts

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  • iPlace


    LEAD PARTNER : Amarante - Portugal
    • Gabrovo - Bulgaria
    • Medina del Campo - Spain
    • Saldus - Latvia
    • Heerlen - Netherlands
    • Kočevje - Slovenia
    • Balbriggan - Ireland
    • Grosseto - Italy
    • Pärnu - Estonia
    • Pori - Finland

    Integrated Action Plans

    Gabravo Integrated Action Plan

    Read more here !

    Gabravo - Bulgaria
    Amarante Integrated Action Plan

    Read more here !

    Amarante - Portugal
    "The time is now" Pori Integrated Action Plan

    Read more here !

    Pori - Finland
    Pärnu Integrated Action Plan

    Read more here !

    Pärnu - Estonia
    Saldus Integrated Action Plan

    Read more here !

    Saldus - Latvia
    Kočevje Integrated Action Plan

    Read more here !

    Kočevje - Slovenia
    Medina Del Campo Integrated Action Plan

    Read more here !

    Medina Del Campo - Spain
    Heerlen Integrated Action Plan

    Read more here !

    Heerlen - Netherlands
    Grosseto Integrated Action Plan

    Read more here !

    Grosseto - Italy
    Balbriggan Integrated Action Plan

    Read more here !

    Balbriggan - Ireland

    iPlace is a journey where the partner cities are fellow travellers who are always seeking to find niches appropriate for their cities, while deepening their understanding of the nuances that make their cities special, with the determination to use the knowledge they gained for nesting new ideas that will sprout more sustainable local economic development.

    Finding our niches for sustainable local economic development
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  • How residents and businesses are re-energising their city centre

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    Many in Heerlen (NL) wanted change, but didn’t know how to effect it. Following a wealth of inspiration, participation and activation through URBACT, things are now looking up.

    The challenge: revitalising Heerlen’s (NL) city centre


    Located in the far south-east of the Netherlands, close to the cities of Aachen and Maastricht, Heerlen was once a thriving centre for the coal mining industry — but suffered economically after the mines closed. The last few decades, however, have seen cultural sector investment and a growing service industry. Heerlen has been proactive in promoting urban revitalisation: in 2013, it set up Heerlen Mijn Stad (Heerlen My City), bringing various stakeholders together to work on improving the city’s attractiveness.

    Heerlen’s goal in joining the URBACT CityCentreDoctor Network was to transform ambition into action, and stimulate greater civic participation. In 2016, drawing members from Heerlen Mijn Stad, the city set up an URBACT Local Group and conducted a thorough place analysis and resident survey. They identified the city’s main challenges and aspirations: citizens felt there was no coherent, compact city centre of activity; vacant units were disliked; improved public realm and green meeting places were desired.

    The municipality together with local stakeholders developed 26 ambitions for change, including: transforming vacant real estate for creative industries; redesigning city squares; enhancing greenery; restoring building facades; supporting street art; enabling year-round public events; and investing in a ‘city lab’. The URBACT Local Group was involved in executing the 26 ambitions.

    Testing change with the Hotel Park Urbana

    With CityCentreDoctor’s support, Heerlen set up short-term prototypes, or beta actions, to test out potential features of its Integrated Action Plan. The most prominent was Hotel Park Urbana in summer 2017. The local group drew public space inspiration from CityCentreDoctor cities including Medina del Campo (ES), Nort-sur-Erdre (FR) and San Donà di Piave (IT), using Nort-sur-Erdre’s ideas market tool for project idea generation.

    Hotel Park Urbana was a free, open-air, pop-up hotel and park created in the city centre, on ‘de Vijf Pleintjes’ (the Five Squares). Coordinated by the URBACT Local Group, working with neighbouring businesses, the project drew crowds of people to enjoy extensive greenery, a restaurant, piano bar, nightclub, special tents to stay in, and a wellness spa. Feedback was so positive that an official foundation was formed to organise future activation of public spaces. Residents and businesses gave an ‘ambition document’ to the Alderman (Mayor), asking for more permanent greenery in de Vijf Pleintjes. The Alderman promised that improvements would be addressed and the design phase has now started.

    Evaluations show that Heerlen’s city centre has become greener since joining the CityCentreDoctor network — and more people are using public spaces. “This year we focus on possibilities for urban sports in the public space together with the young sporters” says Richard van Beek, Project Manager Urban Experience for Heerlen. Stakeholder engagement and participation has increased, as well as urban pride. Heerlen has presented its experiences at various conferences, and was labelled as an URBACT Good Practice for supporting street art. The challenge now is to maintain community momentum and political will, and secure funds. In addition to regular meetings, the local group plans to have annual inspirational trips to other cities.

    Learning from transnational city walks

    Visits to cities of the network were vital in informing ideas. “On every visit, we did city walks and looked at the nice things of the partner cities, but also confronted the challenges,” says Yvette Petit, City Centre Liaison for Heerlen Municipality, and URBACT Local Group Coordinator. “Together we were able to find guides for solutions.

    Heerlen learned from network partners like Amarante (PT) that greening public space can make cities both more lively and more climate-resilient. Medina del Campo (ES) gave Heerlen new ideas for hosting creative entrepreneurs in vacant buildings; as a result, 5 000 m2 of vacant real estate in Heerlen had been transformed for creative industries by the end of 2017.

    Partner cities’ visits to Heerlen also brought new insights. “The feedback that the visiting cities gave us was a great help in focus and creativity,” explains Douwe Dijkstra local group member, and Heerlen Mijn Stad Business Group Leader.


    Read Vitality of Smaller Cities Report

    Watch Vitality of Smaller Cities Video

    Discover Cities in Action - Stories of Change

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  • Street art murals for urban renewal


    Building community engagement, fostering urban regeneration through mural street art

    Sven Portz
    Culture Policy Advisor, Municipality of Heerlen
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    Heerlen (NL) is marked by a number of degenerated areas due to the collapse of the mining industry in the Limburg region. To foster social and urban regeneration in these areas the municipality uses community art as a tool to engage with communities and improve the image of depressed neighbourhoods. By capturing the potentials of a bottom-up mural art movement being developed in Heerlen over the last few years, the city facilitates its further development. All murals have been created through community engagement, in which citizens, entrepreneurs and artists co-created and took co-ownership in the works. This builds long-lasting and reciprocal social engagement. Moreover, the movement contributes to Heerlen’s positive city image both inside and outside: The city is now able to attract more and more visitors.

    The solutions offered by the good practice

    Heerlen Murals is a community art form that is based on the creation of mural artworks in the city through community involvement to counter social and urban degradation. Heerlen Murals’ success is in line with and based on the spreading urban trend of place making. People care about public places they use when they are emotionally connected to them, and this can contribute to sustainable use of public spaces. Community art, especially murals, is a strong and effective tool to inject life into abandoned public spaces. Artists create the murals on raw walls and derelict buildings selected with their owners. The murals reflect on local contexts of people, neighbourhoods and the city’s history. Murals are created in cooperation with citizens, local businesses and schools, as well as community organisations through a process of co-creation. By doing so, the local identity is increased, leading to an improved sense of well-being. The mural street art movement nurtured by the city of Heerlen serves as a spark for additional activities such as workshops, community events, as well as projects about green development. Moreover, the Street Art Foundation, which is an important link between mural arts and urban redevelopment, develops mural walking routes for tourist. By attracting tourists and increasing local attractiveness, Heerlen is also able to increase its economic performance.

    Building on the sustainable and integrated approach

    It is well known that when culture is used for urban development, social issues are being touched upon automatically, as culture makes dynamic use of the internal energies of communities that automatically evokes social dialogues and linkages. Boosting creativity in a city can lead to leapfrogging in terms of social and economic development in small and mid-size towns. As each mural is created following a bottom-up initiative and through a co-creation process, by bringing local entrepreneurs, citizens, schools and community organisations together to co-create, the Heerlen Murals ultimately aim to create stronger local communities. By doing so they contribute to the social integration. Underlined by various bottom-up spin-offs, such as local events and workshops, community building is indeed characterised by sustainability. By increasing the attractiveness and liveability of neighbourhoods, Heerlen Murals have a positive influence on businesses as well. Visitors are attracted by the development of mural walking tours that increase the potentials of the tourism industry. Murals are also used in the process of redesigning public spaces and add to their economic value by attracting new businesses. Environmental integration is backed by experiments with the re-use of materials and the creation of murals that use green patches, this leads to an increased environmental consciousness.

    Based on a participatory approach

    All murals are created through local participation. Several examples can be mentioned: citizens and school children provide city stories and names to the murals, local businesses provide financial contributions. Several housing corporations and businesses started to provide space for murals on their properties and financially support the creation of these murals, as well as cooperating with their tenants and the Street Art Foundation. Moreover, the national trade union FNV donated a mural dedicated to the mining history of the city, inviting former miners to related ceremonies to build cohesion between citizens and Heerlen’s history. A number of murals have been realised along with the refurbishment of public areas to increase livability. The Street Art Foundation cooperates closely with the Tourist Information Centre in the creation of mural walking routes and maps for visitors. A number of murals have been realised through community financing. The cardiology department at the local hospital worked on the creation of a mural in the hospital, with the aim of strengthening its connection with the city. Weller, a local housing corporation, donated one of its properties to create an urban gallery of mural. For the mural “Heerlen Herlon”, an initiative by several creative entrepreneurs, a separate crowd-funding campaign has raised 13 000 euros in a few weeks’ time.

    What difference has it made?

    The Heerlen Murals project has led to the development of a total number of 67 artworks spread out over Heerlen, all co-created by artists, local citizens and businesses. It has also led to a significant increase in public and private engagement in Heerlen, as well as an increased sense of well-being. Moreover, Heerlen Murals clearly increased the attractiveness and image of the city. In 2016, the city won the Dutch Street Art Award, confirming it the “mural capital” of the Netherlands, creating the image of an innovative cultural city also on international level, known for its street art scene. Therefore, the city is developing its reputation as an internationally recognised laboratory for the development of a street art genre. Also, the Parkstad Region won the Tourist Tomorrow Award in 2016, in which Heerlen Murals played an important part. These all result in an increase of visitors coming to Heerlen. Based on estimates of the Tourist Information Centre in Heerlen, it amounts to a few thousand more visitors in 2016 compared to 2013. Public figures from the liveability statistics provided by ABF research for the city of Heerlen for 2012-2014 show that the local perception of the physical surroundings in Heerlen turned more positive in the majority of the city’s districts. Although there are no later statistics available, it shows a sign of an increased positive perception of liveability in the city. Heerlen Murals contributed to the process.

    Why should other European cities use it?

    Many European cities have recently started mural-painting activities (e.g. Belgrade, Kaunas, Gdansk, Antwerp, Ostend, Bristol, Malmo, Reykjavik, Budapest, Waterford). One of the most important motivations of these cities is to make neighbourhoods more attractive. Many of these cities also deal with problems of deprivation in neighbourhoods often characterised by high-rise apartment blocks, or open spaces and raw walls in between historical buildings. However, to connect and engage local communities, to inject life into depressed neighbourhoods and to foster social and urban renewal, so to maximise the potential impact community art-based mural paintings can generate is often missing. Also, in the majority of cases, a clear city-wide effort to facilitate the process is missing. Moreover, Heerlen is engaging with other cities in the Euregio, such as Liège. These cities are highly interested in the manner by which Heerlen was able to rapidly use street art to formulate answers to issues of social and urban deprivation. It is also worth mentioning that hundreds of cities in former Communist countries are painting high-rise blocks in the frame of isolating projects, but without any concepts behind colouring and targeting community engagement. This could create great interest for Heerlen’s good practice.

    Is a transfer practice
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