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  • Action Planning -verkostohankkeiden hakukierros: OSALLISTU TIEDOTUSTILAISUUTEEN!

    Join [u]s logo for URBACT APN campaign

    Tilaisuus järjestetään tiistaina 7.2.2023 Kuntatalolla Helsingissä Toinen linja 14, neuvotteluhuone B3.3. Akaatti. Tilaisuuteen on mahdollisuus osallistua myös etänä. Ennakkoilmoittautuminen 2.2.2023 mennessä alla olevan linkin kautta.Tilaisuuden ohjelma:



    Aamukahvi + purtavaa​


    Tilaisuuden avaus ja tarkoitus​

    Petri Kahila, Spatia​



    Uusi URBACT IV -ohjelma ​

    Timo Hirvonen & Matti Fritsch, Spatia​



    URBACT IV –ohjelman APN -haku​

    Timo Hirvonen & Matti Fritsch, Spatia​



    Keskustelua ja kysymyksiä​

    Petri Kahila, Timo Hirvonen & Matti Fritsch, Spatia​



    Kaupunkipolitiikan kommenttipuheenvuoro​

    Olli Voutilainen, TEM​



    Kuntaliiton kaupunkipolitiikkatyö​

    Henrik Lönnqvist, Kuntaliitto ​


    URBACT IV-ohjelman Suomen yhteyspiste, työ- ja elinkeinoministeriö ja Kuntaliitto järjestävät 7.2.2023 tiedotustilaisuuden alkavan URBACT IV -ohjelman painopisteistä sekä Action Planning Networks hausta.

    National URBACT Point
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    Open to a wider public


    Kick-off meeting in June (Amersfoot). Transnational meeting in September (Cluj Napoca).
    Transnational meetings in March (Helsinki), September (Ostrava).
    Political event in March (Athens). Final event in April (Ghent).

    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

    In many European cities one of the positive side effects of the financial-economic crisis is the growth of innovative forms of solidarity and commitment at local level. This Action Planning network pioneered, in terms of bottom-up civic initiatives, by co-creating solutions for social challenges in an urban context. Cities are often perceived as a laboratory and governments are no longer the only actor to solve complex challenges faced in cities. Therefore, temporary use is a powerful tool to make our cities "future fit". Since the concept of temporary use is interacting with many other urban dynamics it creates the right environment for social innovation to develop by: exchanging and evaluating of local supporting instruments; ensuring long lasting effects of temporality; building a more flexible and collaborative public administration.

    Reuse of vacant spaces as a driving force for innovation at the local level
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  • High tech Aveiro’s new Citizen Card makes life easier

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    When a high tech town simplifies citizens’ access to public services thanks to the Card4All network.

    Digital transitions

    While launching a wealth of new tech initiatives including an interactive urban digital platform and 5G network, after a long history of digital innovation, the Portuguese town of Aveiro realised it was time to pause and simplify citizens’ access to public services. Inspired by Gijón (ES) and other cites in the URBACT Card4All network, municipal departments are working together to create a one-stop-shop citizen card for Aveiro.

    The small port-city of Aveiro in northwest Portugal has long been known not just for its picturesque street canals and colourful Moliceiros boats – but also for pioneering telecommunication research and digital transition.

    Since being named Portugal’s first “Digital City” back in 2003, the municipality has continued to develop as a digital territory for innovation, culminating in the current Aveiro Tech City. This includes a 5G testbed, supported by the Urban Innovative Actions STEAM city initiative (2019-21), in partnership with Altice Labs and other stakeholders to help the city “transition into a knowledge-based economy”.

    But one downside of adopting new digital solutions over the years is that Aveiro’s citizens – and the city administration – are having to juggle more and more cards, interfaces and information sources for services around the city, whether it’s to borrow a library book, catch a bus or manage school services.

    The new technological revolution with the wide adoption of a 5G infrastructure and IoT platform will transform the local innovation ecosystem,” says Miguel Sousa, Lead Expert for the URBACT Card4All network. Seeing this as an opportunity to simplify access to services and improve local governance, in 2018 Aveiro joined Card4All, an URBACT transfer network that helps small and medium sized cities learn from Gijón’s (ES) successful Citizen Card.

    In Gijón, citizens, businesses and tourists have been using a personalised card since 2002 to access multiple municipal services, reducing bureaucracy and saving time, while also promoting policies of social inclusion, sustainability, smart growth and sustainable mobility. The card acts as an electric wallet to pay for parking tickets, bus fares and access to sports facilities. Cardholders can also enter a personal code to access official documents and the status of applications. And Gijón’s municipal employees can even use their card to open certain council vehicles.

    Aveiro decided to start designing their Citizen Card by learning from three main public services that until now have their own separate cards:

    1. Schools, as currently children need two or three different cards as they move from kindergarten through to high school – for buying lunches and supplies, staying after school, or accessing certain buildings;
    2. Public libraries;
    3. An upgraded bike sharing system, due to launch in 2020.

    The card could also enable quick access to the museum, wi-fi, and sports bookings. And the system should allow more services to be added later, whether they are run by public or private entities.

    The aim is to have a first version of the one-stop-shop Citizen Card ready to test by mid 2020, and reach at least 35,000 of the region’s 40,0000 inhabitants in the first year.

    We need to make things more efficient, simple and clear for people,” says Aveiro’s Card4All project manager Maria Angela Cunho, responsible for the Economic development and innovation sub-unit. “The initial phase is connecting what already exists. Having one interface will simplify people’s lives.”

    Relevant municipal department chiefs met early on and agreed a structured plan for the two-year URBACT project. “It’s a huge thing to get them to work together on one card!” says Cunha.

    With the goal to “improve city performance, fostering technological development and innovation as a contribution for better policies and services”, this URBACT Local Group (ULG) meets every few months – sometimes with their Card4All European partners and URBACT expert. It includes people working on the following:

    - Mobility (for bikes, buses and parking);
    - Education;
    - Sports;
    - Culture (for libraries, museums, the theatre, youth and elderly, and tourism);
    - IT (for public wi-fi);
    - the Front Office that deals directly with citizens.

    Each department acts as an intermediary with their own stakeholders, often operators of external services such as transport, energy or food supply companies who may join the card later.

    Next transnational steps

    Armed with questions defined by the ULG, interviewers recently set off around the city to meet citizens face-to-face and understand their priorities for local public services. This insight will help Aveiro start working with external developers to prepare a public tender for the Citizen Card’s development. Then, early in 2020, members of the ULG – including the city’s tech department and external developers – will travel to URBACT Good Practice city Gijon for an intensive meeting with their peers there. That will help Aveiro finalise the public tender.

    I think it’s important to see Gijon’s experience because it shows that it’s possible. They’ve added lots of services, even external services. It helps to have a goal, something to look at,” says Cunha.

    The Municipality of Aveiro has a large experience in transnational collaborative projects where the city acquired knowledge and gained relevant experience in the design and implementation of strategic plans to support economic development and RD&I activities,” says Sousa, Card4All Lead Expert. “I believe that the transnational cooperation experience speed up the digital transition in Aveiro.”

    Avoiding digital pitfalls in local governance

    Providing access to essential services and listening to all voices in decision-making, including those of the less privileged and most vulnerable - these are just two fundamental elements of good local governance for cities to have in mind when developing digital tools. Others are to ensure the city has necessary IT skills in-house, and the resources to answer new messages from citizens.

    Christophe Gouache, Lead Expert for the URBACT ActiveCitizen network recently launched in Agen (FR) to promote better local governance, warns that for cities, “the biggest danger facing citizen participation and local democracy is to rush into the ‘digital promise’… and to suppress other, low tech, modes of participation”. By this he means collaborative events like neighbourhood meetings, or workshops with inhabitants. “Digital is only a tool, a complementary channel of connection with inhabitants,” he adds.

    Meanwhile, the Aveiro Tech City scheme includes the development of a single urban platform with multi-source data-collection to support decision-making by the mayor and elected representatives, civil servants, and citizens. André Costa, Head of Economic development and entrepreneurship, says the platform will be similar to those of larger cities like Dublin, Barcelona, Milan – and could take up to a decade to develop. “At any moment,” says Costa, “our mayor will be able to know the city’s level of revenue. He will be able to know the number of processes requested for the requalification of urban buildings. He will know the level of CO2 emissions that we are able to reduce once we’ve implemented electrical buses, electric engines in our municipal boats, and electrical ferry boats. And we’ll be able to inform our citizens so they know the results and the outcomes of the investments being made.”

    Aveiro’s Card4All will be designed to link in with this new urban platform. It would be technically possible to produce a mobile app to access public services virtually instead of printing individual cards for everyone. That would save costs, not just on producing the cards, but also acquiring, installing and maintaining card readers. But Cunha says a physical card is still necessary for children, the elderly, and other people excluded from technology: “I guess for now we have to have both solutions”.

    Summing up the project, José Ribau Esteves, Mayor of Aveiro, said, “The Card4All project is a part of our global initiative – Aveiro Tech City – that intends to support the City of Aveiro transition into a knowledge-based economy, while providing better services to our citizens and visitors. Economically, we aim at competing with the stronger national economic centres, being able to attract and retain the necessary talents for our economy to grow and produce more added-value, making Aveiro a more competitive city globally. Socially, we intend to provide better services to our citizens using digital tools, and Citizen Card will play a very important role in this regard.

    Further reading on urban governance
    A chapter from the Future of cities report by the European Commission’s Knowledge Centre for Territorial Policies.

    Many more URBACT cities are using digital tools to improve quality of life
    They include, Helsinki (FI), in the URBACT REFILL network; and cities in the new URBACT IoTxChange network, led by Fundao (PT).

    URBACT and Digital Transition:

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  • Digital Transition in cities – how can it benefit citizens?

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    Digitalisation is omnipresent in today’s social and urban life and URBACT cities are seizing the opportunity.

    Digital transitions

    Marcelline Bonneau, URBACT Thematic Programme Expert, says URBACT cities have seized their opportunity to develop local economies and governance models.

    Alison Partridge, Lead Expert of the TechRevolution transfer network, has been an advocate for cities to ‘adapt or die’ for many years: “cities of all sizes need to better understand the opportunities offered by digital and tech and jump on them to grow higher value jobs and start-ups for local people”. Indeed, at all levels of society and of governance, services and products are going digital: online availability, digital tools for access, compiling and using data to proceed to meta-analysis.

    The transition to a society based on “virtual”, intangible, vectors, using computing techniques and algorithms – a digital transition - is on the up in European cities, meaning more intrusions in our daily lives.

    The use of new technologies to communicate and access information is changing the way society works”, states the Action Plan of the Digital Transition Urban Agenda Partnership because “citizens live an increasingly digital life both in the public and private sphere”.

    Beyond the digital divide issue, private data protection and free choice, this trend follows new consumption and production patterns, as well as interaction between people.

    Taking advantage of digital transition’s potential is an asset for cities, not only for business development and job creation, but also for city governance and getting closer to citizens, thus developing more integrated governance approaches at city level. That is the way URBACT cities have approached their Digital Transition over the last 15 years – as a means of driving change in cities.

    This article presents a few cases from URBACT cities and Urban Agenda Partnerships, which can inspire other cities.

    Digital transition as a goal: Transforming cities’ local economic development

    Cities are taking advantage of digital transition as a goal in itself. Indeed, the digital sector has been and should be developed. Creating “smart cities” is now appearing in more and more cities’ strategy as a way to achieve competitive advantage. Focussing on local economic development, as a new way of addressing emerging societal issues such as environmental and social ones, requires strong leadership, commitment and investments.

    For some URBACT networks, digitalisation of cities means the development of incubators, hubs and other platforms to support the development of jobs and skills. Featuring a wealth of examples about the ways in which cities support tech and digital economy, TechPlace showcases URBACT networks such as TechTown, GEN Y CITY and Interactive Cities. It shares content such as articles, videos, podcasts and presentations on the ways cities use social media, digital strategies, digital education, digital health, co-working environments, digital hubs, etc.

    Developing digital strategies is the starting point of the DI4C network, one of the 23 new Action Planning Networks. It seeks to support the creation of global vision and improve technical and engineering capacities by incorporating digital innovation, with both hard and soft infrastructures.

    Supporting digital growth and transformational economies is also the key focus of the TechRevolution network. Transferring the experience of Barnsley (UK) and its Digital Media Centre, a business support programme which nurtures an 'ecosystem' thanks to knowledge-based jobs and businesses across all sectors and industries.

    As for the skills needed to move towards more digital cities, URBACT has also contributed to the Digital Skills Map platform, as an outcome of the Urban Agenda Partnership on Jobs and Skills, presenting local know-how on digitalisation in vocational education and training.

    Digital transition as a methodology: A governance focus

    Digitalisation can, on the other hand, be seen as a methodology. The process, supporting societal and urban transition, has a strong impact on governance, and on how our everyday life is organised - as well as on the way we make the city work.

    Although the use of technology can lead to personalisation of services, “strengthening the barrier between the people and the services which their taxes fund”, as pointed out by Eddy Adams following URBACT City Lab 3, it is key to use adequate language which does not alienate people. Indeed, administrations and citizens need to get to know each other and adopt a language that is understandable by both sides. When used correctly, digitalisation and new technologies can be harnessed to transform cities into platforms of open innovation and develop digital urbanism. The ESPON working paper on the “Digital innovation in urban environments: Solutions for sustainable and fluently working cities” (draft Working Paper) backs the benefit for vertical and horizontal co-creation of cities.

    Digital transition can be supported by specific tools to make governance more inclusive, participatory and more efficient. As identified by ESPON, larger cities and Northern European cities are more advanced than the rest of European cities.

    Such a process, according to the Urban agenda Partnership on Digital Transition, can be supported by 4 frameworks: technological, organisational, institutional and by stakeholders (see figure). Indeed, what is of crucial importance to cities is not what technology is used but how it is used.

    Nele Leosk, 2019, DIGITAL TRANSITION ABC

    Creating a one-stop shop for citizens and ensuring the centralisation of citizens’ information is the core of the Card4all URBACT network transferring the experience Citizen Card System of Gijon (ES). The card enables using innovative services and technologies. Cities can thus gather information to improve their services and use it as part of a participative processes. This can be applied to promote social inclusion, local trade, urban mobility and sustainable living, creating a Smart City with Smart Citizens. Such a card can be used for access to citizens’ terminals (for public services), public transport, library, swimming pool, public toilets, car sharing, etc. The IoTxChange network also seeks to benefit from the Internet of Things (IoT) solutions to improve the quality of life in small and medium sized EU cities.

    At the same time, participation and citizens’ engagement is also increasingly relying on digital tools. The participatory budget of Paris URBACT Good Practice is an online process which combines offline and online promotion. The city of Agen (FR) has started a new network, ActiveCitizen, placing citizens at the heart of local democracy in small and medium-sized cities, developing new interactive platforms such as Agen’s Tell My City.

    Many other URBACT cities have developed digital solutions on a wider scale. For example, Helsinki (FI), within the REFILL network, shared its experiment with an online service, Flexi Spaces, allowing people to find and book spaces by the hour in the neighbourhood of Kalasatama.

    More insights into European cities’ digital transition this month!

    URBACT brings a wealth of knowledge and practical cases into the European Urban Policy debate – helping develop and share new innovative solutions creating smart cities – and through its involvement with the Urban Agenda Partnership. URBACT cities are making the best out of the Digital Transition for their citizens.
    Discover more on the topic this month, with an editorial highlight on Digital Transition in cities. All articles will be published on Thursdays!

    Keep your eyes peeled and check the URBACT Digital Transition page.

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  • REFILL@LILLE: Policy Design Labs and URBACT exchange networks

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    How civil servants from Lille Metropole benefited from the experience of URBACT REFILL network to shape a roadmap to set their temporary use policy. 

    Abandoned Spaces

    The first part of this article (see REFILL@LILLE, PART 1) showed the policy design lab approach of the Metropole of Lille (FR) to kick-off support for a Working Group on Temporary Use. The second part focuses on how civil servants from Lille Metropole benefited from the experience of URBACT REFILL network.

    Learning from inspirational practices

    The field experience of settling a “temporary public policy design lab" only scratches the surface of the problem of more than 5,000 vacant spaces on the territory and the appetite local stakeholders have for temporary use. But, immersion is worth 1,000 words: the Metropole civil servants do not usually address a new project in this way! By acquiring a significant experience of the problem, they are ready to explore and analyse other temporary use experiences in France and Europe. A wealth of case studies awaits from sixty local and national examples, as well and many European references conducted across Europe for three years within URBACT "REFILL The City" including 10 European cities: Ghent (BE), Athens (EL), Amersfoort (NL), Bremen (DE), Cluj (RO), Helsinki (FI), Nantes (FR), Ostrava (CZ), Poznan (PL) and Riga (LV).

    A temporary roadmap

    Building on the Roadmap to temporary use tool (from the toolbox produced and made available by the REFILL network) helps the establishment of a practice of temporary use in cities. This roadmap represents the “city of REFILL”: a virtual city that would combine the best practices of the 10 participating cities.

    Different neighbourhoods represent the different major steps of the establishment of a temporary use practice: a "zone of cultural, social, entrepreneurial" candidates for temporary use; an "administrative district" dealing with legal, technical and safety; a "district with support services” to temporary use; etc.

    A circular road connects each of these neighbourhoods, suggesting about fifteen milestones as "mapping the vacant spaces":
    - "Analysing the supply and demand";
    - "Building the political support";
    - "Developing a new temporary use value creation model"; etc.

    Unlike a framed method, the REFILL Roadmap is like a tourist map suggesting different possible itineraries each city must choose, starting with the most pertinent actions, organising its progress in the local context and creating its own route.

    The forming lab ambassadors discussed the implications of each example, gathering in small groups to fill in an analytical framework. After the field immersion, the lab consolidated and enriched its understanding of temporary use.

    A pitch presenting a first rational of temporary use applied to the Metropole supported by a series of examples was recorded in the form of a short video. The film raised awareness about the many vacant spaces, the costs incurred for the public authority, and showcased temporary use as an opportunity with potential to host social, cultural, entrepreneurial initiatives - bringing people together, revitalising neighbourhoods, experimenting urban development projects and so on.

    Sparking political attention

    Thanks to experience and research, the Metropole forming lab had got a good idea of ​​the challenges and opportunities for temporary use public service, putting together a kind of "service desk" of knowledge open to all. To create a solid launching pad for the future service, the Metropole required a large-scale demonstration project, drafting and accelerating the service and likely to convince at political level.

    Inspiration then came from the city of Riga, REFILL network partner. Elected Capital of Culture in 2014, the city was experiencing a strong economic crisis and did not have the necessary infrastructure to host such an event nor the means to build them. The city made a collaborative agreement with a group of urban activists, squatters and actors of the cultural scene taken via the association Free Riga. The plan? To start a practice of temporary using vacant spaces to host the programming of its Capital of Culture! The urgency to find spaces to showcase the vibrant Latvian art scene helped to overcome the political cautiousness and set a precedent on which to build for all stakeholders.

    The European Metropole of Lille will be the World Design Capital in 2020. The Metropole’s application was selected because it offered an ambitious territorial transformation through design, based on a call for innovation projects by the design of a set of social themes and particularly the emergence of design applied to public policy.

    Although not comparable in all respects to the context of Riga in 2014, Lille Design World Capital 2020 seems to be a potential "launching pad" to install the practice of temporary use in the territory. More than 450 Proofs of Concept (POC) are announced in the territory for 2020. The POC is a key step in the design process allowing a light experiment to demonstrate viability of a concept before further developing the project.

    The Metropole lab and the Working Group for Temporary Use have taken up the REFILL toolbox and co-constructed their own route towards the implementation of temporary use.

    • First, the creation of a series of temporary use spaces during the Lille Design World Capital 2020. To do this, the ambassadors of the forming lab and the Property department identified a first group of 20 potential spaces, visited and documented the most promising and put together a first online catalogue of options. In parallel, they explored contracts, which services to provide and how to assess the proof of concepts of temporary use during 2020.
    • Secondly, (after an assessment a year in) a policy of temporary use at the Metropole of Lille is to be established. This step includes the registration of "temporary use" in the territorial development and patrimonial valuation strategy of the Metropole, completing the online catalogue of vacant spaces and the establishment of a mediation service between supply and demand (technical and legal tools, financial support, etc.) internal or outsourced to a third party.


    This experience allows us to make some assumptions of mutual enrichment between the URBACT approach (networks of towns sharing at European level on a specific challenge in terms of public policy creating an action plan) and, secondly, the approach of co-construction a public policy design lab (based on an innovative action-training process based on pilot projects).

    The capitalised experience of 10 cities over a period of 3 years from REFILL network has accelerated the process of reflection of our Working Group for Temporary Use.

    The organisation of the network deliverables in the form of a modular toolbox, together with a wide range of case studies (all articulated in the form of an open roadmap) was immediately actionable by a third city. Mediation transfer by an actor involved in both REFILL and the Metropole’s lab is a facilitating factor.

    The existence of a public policies design lab in the Metropole’s administration helped seize the REFILL network’s experience faster and more efficiently.

    The lab’s ability to partially overcome the slow decision-making and reporting processes and at least initiate a first experiment extends the co-construction process to stakeholders, making it immediately actionable.

    The public policy design lab and URBACT methods have an integrated approach in common, as well as the involvement of an ecosystem of stakeholders committed to co-design and public policy programming. The lab approach adds field experimentation, a key step in the design process to simulate and test each action of an action plan before its deployment on the ground. Its benefit is on the one hand, to test and improve each action and on the other hand to involve the actors and trigger its implementation.

    The exchanges about a wide range of "inspiring cases" collected through REFILL helped initiate the strategic conversation among stakeholders in Lille and identify what they consider a good practice for their situation and seize an opportunity such as the Lille Design World Capital 2020.

    The examples of Ghent and Riga, even if they are from different socio-cultural contexts, comfort the actors in the idea that if it is not a given, it's possible since others have already done it.

    Finally, the partnership with the European Metropole of Lille proves the usefulness of lessons capitalised by an URBACT network such as REFILL. It validates the methodology and tools developed for the workshop: “Make your own path to the temporary use” at the URBACT Festival in Lisbon in September 2018. It also heralds the arrival other REFILL development processes, like the one initiated with the City of Brussels and Brussels at the end of 2018.

    Know more about reusing vacant spaces on!

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  • Bringing (more) sustainability to cities: 5 golden rules

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    How are cities putting sustainable urban development into practice?

    Here are 5 golden rules from URBACT's City Lab.

    Leipzig Charter

    The second URBACT City Lab took place in Brussels (BE) on 2nd and 3rd July 2019: “How are cities putting sustainable urban development into practice?” wa

    s the core question that drove us through general and specific considerations in the fields of Air Quality and Mobility, Energy Transition and Climate Adaptation and Sustainable Food Systems. When seeking to feed into the work of the updated Leipzig Charter, it appeared that on the one hand sustainability is still a complex paradigm to get into and embed for a city, but on the other hand, cities are leading the way in what can be done.

    Here are 5 golden rules for cities to become sustainable.

    1. Sustainability is polysemic

    Angeliki Stogia, Councilor at the City of Manchester (UK) asked us: “what do you, what do we, actually mean by sustainability?”. Although its official definition from the 1992 Brundtland Report is unambiguous, but, what does it mean and how should cities approach it? The realm of participants showed a variety of understandings. For example, for Filipa Pimentel from the Transition network it is for society to become more resilient, which in turn would make our ecosystems more resilient. From a people-based approach, to a planning-based one, focusing on regeneration (or the inclusion of environment in local policies) can only bring in consensus and a chance for all stakeholders to adjust their visions and priorities.

    2. Sustainability should be tackled at all levels

    Our discussions started with Thomas Béthune from DG REGIO, European Commission, stating his needs to be in touch with cities themselves to feed sustainability into European policies. They were wrapped up by Filipa Pimental who expressed the leadership of citizens who become actors of change. In between the two, the Leipzig Charter is focusing on neighbourhoods and Alicja Pawlowska, Head of EU projects and mobility management at the City of Gdynia (PL) stressed the importance of this in their daily work. Cities are where changes take place and these considerations stress the need for territorial and contextual approaches. This would be impossible without the collaboration and inputs from member states, as Olli Maijala, Adviser at Finnish Ministry of the Environment suggested.

    3. Sustainability requires a new mindset

    Experimenting in cities is not new, yet they need to keep on being innovative, combining social and technological innovation (e.g. Urban Innovative Actions (UIA) Vilawatt project in Viladecans (ES), developing market-based instruments (e.g. Stockholm’s successful congestion charges), in addition to nature-based solutions (e.g. Chinese sponge cities, which mainstream urban water management into the urban planning policies and designs), and consumption-based approaches (e.g. URBACT BioCanteens network) and to focus on processes.

    Increasingly, cities need to change their vision, and to think out of the box and take risks. The inner change needs to look beyond traditional city-makers, including other profiles such as psychologists (as strongly supported by the Transition network and already tested in Gdansk (PL).

    4. Sustainability applies to all

    Sustainability applies to jobs and skills creation such as a Food Innovation Hub in Milan (IT) within the UIA OpenAgri project, as well as to the city of Gdynia seeking to make freight transport more effective in cities within URBACT FreightTails. Not to mention the H2020 Ruggedised where Rotterdam (NL) experiments smart city developments.

    Mobility. Energy. Food. Air quality. Digitalisation. Health and well-being. Urban planning. Sustainability should be a transversal approach, and “business as usual” as Angeliki Stogia phrased it. In order to support this process, city governance should be rethought to be bold and to be participatory, with citizen scrutiny.

    New forms of involvement and partnerships should be promoted as with the engagement of citizens in air quality control within Helsinki’s (FI) UIA Hope project; the public-private-citizen partnership for energy production in Viladecans’ UIA Vilawatt project; or the use of culture and arts to mobilise citizens to address climate change in the URBACT C-Change network.

    Sustainability also requires cross-departmental collaboration such as in the City of Schaerbeek (BE) cross-cutting solutions which tackle social environmental and neighborhood issues within an action-research project on organic waste transformation, Phosphore.

    5. Sustainability requires strong leadership

    Leadership for sustainability can happen at all levels of cities. Angeliki Stogia from Manchester, Gilles Perole from Mouans-Sartoux (FR) (lead partner of BioCanteens) and Laura Rodrigues from Torres Verdas (PT) (2015 Green Leaf Capital City) are the elected representatives who took part in this second URBACT City Lab, confirming their city’s commitment to this challenge. This is just the beginning of a global movement of awareness and action towards more sustainability in cities.


    Read on the first City Lab: URBACT’s City Labs on Participation: Refreshing Europe’s urban policy principles

    The key principles of the original Leipzig Charter provided the focus for each URBACT City Lab.

    Explore the related outputs on Participation, Sustainability, Integration and Balanced Territorial Development.

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  • From non integrated to integrated urban development: an illustrated story

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    There are many ways to explain what integrated urban development is, or should be. One of the ways is to show examples on the opposite, i.e. on non-integrated solutions for urban development. Here we bring up three examples in the areas of poverty, ageing and economic development and reflect further on what integrated urban development is and how to put it into practice. 



    In some European countries on can find threatening examples of extreme poverty and area deprivation.  
    The first picture below shows such a situation at the edge of Sofia. 
    Many governments and municipalities want to act on such situations, putting the poor people under better conditions. However, very often such efforts are taken in non-integrated way, leading to very limited results.
    The picture in the middle above shows a container settlement at the edge of Belgrade, to where Roma families, who were living in shacks under a bridge close to the center, have been moved to. Although their housing situation might have been improved a bit, they were in practice expelled from the inner city (which gave them some possibilities to earn their living) to the remote periphery. 
    There are much better, more integrated solutions possible to handle extreme poverty.
    The picture on the right above shows the case of a Hungarian village, Sirok, where Roma families were living in caves at the edge of the village. In the framework of a national programme on the elimination of ghetto colonies a foundation has set up an integration strategy, bought some houses within the village and the families could move from the caves into normal housing in integrated environment (one of the houses was just opposite to the house of the mayor of the village).
    Besides radically changing the housing conditions the programme also included ’soft elements’, such as training for the adults and help to get in employment, orienting the children into non-segregated school classes, setting up Roma associations to continue the integration beyond the programme.
    Key elements of the success were the national framework programme ensuring the integration of hard and soft aspects and also delivering financing; and enthusiastic NGO-s on the local level, implementing the programme.


    European cities are ageing. In some cities it becomes quite visible, as for instance on the picture on the left below, showing a square in Barcelona. 
    The challenge of ageing can be handled by direct, one-dimensional interventions, such as building moving escalators (picture of the middle above, Barcelona). 
    Besides such non-integrated (though quite useful) interventions also other, more integrated solutions can be suggested, such as the idea of intergenerational housing cooperatives where elderly people live together with young adults in order to help each other (Picture on the right above).
    The management of ageing-related risks through intergenerational housing schemes can promote longer, healthier and more independent ageing, while having also a positive impact on the cost of healthcare policies for both the families and the public authorities.

    Economic development

    As a consequence of globalization, the sharpening economic competitiveness requires cities to attract the most modern technologies and talents. The first picture below shows a workplace in a modern factory in Hungary. 
    In the last decades the answer of cities on the economic-scientific challenge was the erection of science parks, usually as own urban entities, situated out of town with poor public transport links and extensive car parking. The picture in the middle above shows the science park of Oeiras in the periphery of Lisbon. 
    There are many externalities to one-sided solutions such as science parks. Segregated science parks are ’soaking out’ highly qualified people and students from the inner parts and normal life of the city, reducing social mix, creating huge car traffic, etc. 
    A more integrated answer on such economic challenge is for instance the development of knowledge districts within - or linked to - the already built-up parts of the cities, aiming for mixed-use. 
    The picture on the right above shows the Arabianranta mixed-use area of Helsinki. There many different functions can be found: coworking spaces, incubation, finance, SME support clubs, cafes, bars, restaurants, 24 hour life, walking, cycling, tram (but less parking), creches and local services. The area is home for 10,000 people, a workplace for 5,000 and a campus for 6,000 students and know-how professionals. As a residential district, Arabianranta is heterogeneous, with different types of housing: modern loft buildings, city villas, homes for groups with special needs such as community housing for active elderly people and residence for mentally disabled juvenile.
    From these examples it can be seen that the main problem with the non-integrated, one dimensional, sectoral solutions lies in the externalities, the sometimes very serious negative consequences along other dimensions. In the poverty example the container camp improves somewhat the housing conditions of the Roma but their (formal or informal) job/survival opportunities decreased radically with the peripheral location, from where the inner city became unaccessible. The science parks separate the higher qualified people from the city and it is not even sure that they feel/work better in such sterile environment than in ’normal’ mix used urban areas. 

    The development of integrated urban development and types of integrated approaches

    No wonder that the issue of integrated development came to the forefront in the last decade or so, not only in local matters but also regarding the key questions of urban development at large. This was the starting assumption of the European Commission Cities of Tomorrow report (2011): the very diverse challenges ahead the European cities, ranging from ageing, climate change, through globalisation till the rising inequalities and socio spatial polarisation, can only be tackled with integrated interventions. This means that each of these challenges can only be handled in ways which do not increase the problems in regard of other challenges. 
    One of the first mention of the idea (with other words) was the issue of sustainable development in 1987, when the Brundtland report called for the integration of economic, environmental and social aspects. In the following decade integrated development gained ground in the EU and step-by-step the URBAN programme has been developed with the aim to integrate hard (physical) investments with soft (social) measures in urban regeneration.
    Despite the fact that URBAN was only an optional Community Initiative with low level of financing (compared to the mainstream Structural Funds programmes), it became one of the most successful EU programmes. The integration of the two main aspects was required on the case of deprived neighbourhoods in the cities, via the compulsory cooperation between the different sectoral departments of the city hall.  
    In the course of the URBACT programme a more precise understanding of integrated urban development has been developed, distinguishing three different aspects of integration:
    • horizontal integration: cooperation across the different sectoral policies and departments (e.g. infrastructure, housing, education, social matters, culture, environment …) to address jointly a specific challenge; all sectoral decisions should be controlled regarding their effects on other sectors, recognizing that integrated development might require sub-optimal solutions along each dimension in order to reach good balance between all dimensions
    • vertical integration: cooperation between the different levels of administration, i.e. between the vertical chain-links of government to ensure coherence; higher levels of government can influence the outcomes at the lower level, while cities can achieve more with the support of regional and national frameworks.
    • territorial integration: cooperation between the adjacent municipalities in functional urban areas/metropolitan areas to ensure that negative externalities are not passed on across the administrative border of the city and to avoid displacement whereby problems are solved in one area but pop up elsewhere.

    The chapter written by Peter Ramsden on Disadvantaged Neighbourhoods in the first edition of the URBACT Project Results discusses many URBACT projects as good examples on horizontal and vertical integration: Co-Net, LC-Facil, NODUS, Reg-Gov

    Theoretically all aspects of integration should be applied at the same time in harmony with each other. This is, of course, impossible – cities and mayors even with the best ideas have to face political realities and can only achieve their ideas with unavoidable compromises.
    The above discussion of integration refers to the level of the municipality (urban area). It is also possible to raise the issue of integrated approach in regard of a programme or a project: whether the applied solution considers all of the economic, environmental and social aspects, not favouring too much any of these at the expense of the others. 
    Now let us see some examples on the different approaches to integrated development.

    Integrated urban development at the level of the city or of the urban area

    Most cities have long-term strategic development plans. There are huge differences, though, on how integrated these plans are and to what extent they steer urban development in reality. 
    The STEP 2025 Urban Development Plan adopted in 2014 by the city of Vienna can be taken as an example of a well developed integrated vision. 
    In the Plan, as a starting point, the scenarios for population development until 2025 are analysed. The most probable version forecasts 170.000 population increase by 2025. It envisaged that, taken into account demolition, 120.000 new housing units should be built. 
    Vienna is a good case for integrated urban development within the city but less so regarding territorial cooperation with settlements outside the administrative border.
    This can be seen in STEP 2025, which deals with the urban development and housing aspects of cooperation with the surrounding area only quite briefly and only lists the tasks to solve, without concrete plans. Territorial integration seems to be weak – at least regarding the narrow vicinity of Vienna (the plans for the broader Centrope metropolitan area are more developed). Thus the city has to solve the urban and housing aspects of the urban growth challenge more or less within its administrative borders. 
    Regarding the city territory, development targets have been calculated for different parts of the city (historical inner city, brownfield areas, peripheral built up areas, new areas to be built in), applying the criteria of growth management and compact urban development. Due to the substantial growth challenge, it is unavoidable to use areas outside the already built up structure of the city. For the new urban quarters STEP 2025 raises a series of conditions: to offer urban quality and diversity, be affordable and comply with all sustainability aspects, e.g. with regard to energy efficiency and mobility. 
    Another important requirement towards the new areas is relatively high density (as the city can not influence growth outside the city borders). Urban density is calculated in relation to the level of public transport service. The plan mentions that „Future urban expansion projects for development axes along high-level public transport corridors should therefore predominantly reflect densities of a minimum net floorspace ratio (NFSR) of 1.5; in the vicinity of high-level public transport, the minimum NFSR should be 2.5. With especially positive location factors, higher densities are possible on a case-by-case basis in some areas in the context of high-rise developments”. This is a special application of the transit-oriented development (TOD) principle, initiating higher densities in areas better served by public transport.
    The biggest new development outside the already built up structure of Vienna (but within the administrative border, see on the map on the left below) is Aspern Seestadt, a new residential quarter on a former airfield. The details of this development have already been discussed in an earlier article
    The recent picture about the already built up part of Seestadt (Picture on the right above, taken from a drone) illustrates that the TOD principle has been taken seriously – high density has been created as the quick and convenient metro connection to the city centre is already in place. Besides the high urban quality and energy efficiency also diversity is aimed at. The size of the new flats ranges between 45 and 160 square meters, and half of the units are subsidized public rental flats. This is to ensure a good social mix as the larger and owner occupied flats will obviously attract middle class families. 
    As mentioned, the limit to consider Vienna as a good practice in integrated urban development is the low level of territorial integration.
    Working together across the administrative border is a difficult issue, not easy to handle if municipalities have high degree of freedom in regulatory and financial matters and there is a lack of higher level (regional or national) policy to initiate metropolitan cooperation.
    In this regard France is a much better example than Austria, as in France several national laws (e.g. the Chevènement Law of 1999) have been passed to foster the cooperation between municipalities of the same functional urban area. As a result, all urban areas in France with more than half a million inhabitants (except for Paris) are urban communities, having according to the law joint administration for the core city and surrounding smaller settlements. This 'conseil communautaire' (community council), composed of a proportional representation of members of municipal councils of member towns, has the responsibility to decide in the most important policy fields of the larger urban area: strategic planning, transport, housing, etc. 

    Integration on programme and on project level

    The easiest understanding of the integrated approach is that economic, environmental and social aspects are all considered when looking for a solution and neither of these becomes dominant over the others. However, it is not simple to determine what are the criteria for a project to be integrated. In a normal case the inherent project logic usually goes for sectoral, non-integrated solutions, thus some special aspects are needed to push the process towards considering integration.
    Below, I try to summarize some aspects which might help those who want to alter the usual project development processes towards more integration. 
    Projects which are part of an integrated planning framework get good chances to become integrated themselves.
    Higher level integrated redevelopment frameworks for urban areas, such as the EU URBAN Community Initiative (1993-2006), the German Soziale Stadt programme, the UK New Deal for Communities (1997-2007) paid high attention to define their approach towards integration, on the basis of which projects were selected. 
    The New Deal for Communities programme was launched in the UK 1998 with the aim to reduce gaps between deprived urban neighbourhoods, in which decades of classic regeneration policy had not showed many effects, and the rest of the country. The core budget for the ten year period was 2 bn GBP for 39 programme areas. Key fields of intervention were work, security, education and training, housing and the physical environment – with a compulsory but locally determined mix between these social and physical measures. There were also Local Strategic Partnerships to be formed to promote cooperation across relevant public, non-governmental and private actors. (Tosics, 2015
    Individual projects, not being part of any vertical integration scheme, have to aim for horizontal integration. To achieve a balance between economic, environmental and social aspects needs special efforts. Probably the best is to raise an extra impetus for the integration of sectoral aspects: either concentrating on deprived areas (as URBAN), or aiming for sustainable development or requiring innovation, e.g. more efficient (less costly) public services as a reaction on the financial crisis. 
    Regarding urban regeneration, a potential measure of integration has been developed by Claude Jacquier.
    The picture on the left shows how he analysed the options for public intervention in a deteriorating building (or area) from non-intervention, leading to further deterioration (A1) to the most costly intervention (A3), leading to gentrification. The difficult task is to find and apply the A2 or, even better, the A4 options, i.e. those levels of public interventions into regeneration which stop physical deterioration or even bring some improvement, without significant gentrification. These are the solutions integrating the economic/physical and the social aspects. 
    Sometimes even the best ideas for integration face difficulties to reach the final aim. An interesting example for that could be found in the Magdolna Quarter social regeneration programme in Budapest.
    As part of the area-based programme planners faced the dilemma of what to do with a derelict building, consisting of 40 small one-room flats with no conveniences at all. Finally they opted for an integrated solution: to upgrade the building for the same, very poor tenants. Thus the tenants have been moved to temporary accomodation and the building was renovated and modernized: all flats got a toilet and a small shower.
    The picture below of Magdolna Quarter in Budapest shows a building before and after the modernization.
    Source: RÉV8, György Alföldi.
    After the completion of the renovation the original tenants were offered to move back but to the greatest surprise of the planners, most of them rejected this. The reason was the missing link between physical modernization and social affordability: for the poor tenants the introduction of flushing water into their homes created a new cost item (the expensive water charge) to pay for which they did not get any income-related compensation from the social security system. In this case the bottleneck for reaching an integrated outcome was outside the remit of the local planners: the lack of a comprehensive social protection system. 
    Integrated urban development is not an easy business – but is the only way to go to deal with the complex and interwoven challenges our cities face nowadays. 
    Some ideas and illustrations come from joint work with Peter Ramsden.
    From urbact
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