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  • Is citizen engagement a waste of time in policymaking? Never!

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    The URBACT Action Planning Network Action Planning Networks |  is all about unlocking the green potentials of citizen action. Being a network of city administrators, we know we need help. We need help to understand what green citizen action can look like and how we as an authority can co-create with our citizens. This is the reason why we have formed the network COPE. Together we will explore and test how we can engage with our citizens in making changes in our local environments in favour of the climate and biodiversity in a way that considers equity and justice. And not least how we can administrate these activities within our governance framework.


    The URBACT network COPE

    From urbact

    Participatory effect

    Lead Partner Øystein Leonardsen have a lot of experience in testing methods for citizen engagement and explains that “in the city planning COPE seek to strengthen the empowerment of the citizens and their individual ownership through engaging and co-creative methods”. 

    The COPE project seeks to push three levels of change: the structural, the individual and the societal. We do not only need to make the structural changes through policymaking and governance in a traditional top-down process. We have tried, but our societal challenges are getting more and more complicated and the traditional processes of finding solutions falls short. If we do not develop new methods going from looking at our challenges as something technical easy to fix with a simple technological solution, to looking at our challenges as so-called wicked problems with no clear single answer the risk is that we evoke opposition and conflict in the society.

    We cannot let the individual change stand alone either relying on a bottom-up transition. This can be overwhelming and create anxiety at individual level.

    In the process of policy making we need to create People's acceptance of inconvenience or cost and link this to their understanding of the importance and share the experience of ownership. We as human beings care more about the decisions and things we have contributed to or created ourselves. We call this the participatory effect. Read more about the participatory effect in relation to bottom-up collective citizen climate action on page 49 in “Omstilling på Vippen: Hvidbog om forbrug, adfærd og folkelig deltagelse i grøn omstilling” by DeltagerDanmark here (in Danish). It can be fuelled not only through information, but also through conversations, involvement, and co-ownership. We also use the term social tipping point when talking about this societal level, where the change is becoming a norm that people start to follow. In our COPE city Vilnius a bright example of the co-ownership transforming a local area into a vibrant and inspiring green area is the old hospital ground that through citizen engagement started with making urban gardening evolving into creating a place for gatherings, eating and experimenting with a green lifestyle and is now functioning as a solid local community creating new ideas and initiatives.  

    In COPE we aim to find methods for working towards positive social tipping points in favour of the just green transition where as many as possible feel included or represented in the decisions and solutions. Just as we aim to avoid negative social tipping points like we saw with the yellow wests in France for example.

    Building capacity – we learn from each other.

    Our city network COPE consists of A Coruña (ES), Bistrita (RO), Copenhagen (DK), Kavala (EL), Korydallos (EL), Pombal (PT), Saint Quentin (FR) and Vilnius (LT). Our cities are very different on all levels; political, cultural, and societal. We have quite diverse narratives about the interaction between our political institutions and the citizens. But all cities are very eager to work together and learn from each other sharing knowledge and experiences.

    In each partner city a group of local stakeholders and citizens have been put together in a so called Local URBACT Group with the local municipality functioning in a new role as facilitator. And particularly this role as facilitator in the local groups is something that COPE aim to mirror in the bigger picture on local level. Through participatory and deliberative processes, we seek to explore the interface between the citizens participation and the governance structures and culture. How do we as a municipality co-create with our local citizens? How do we make certain that we do not invite into processes that have no mandate, no power, and no real influence?

    Sustainable urban development – going very local

    As you see we have many questions, that we aim to find answers to during the project. Our approach for this ambitious goal is to zoom in on a local neighbourhood in the city. Through this place-based focus we will engage the local community; the citizens, the institutions and the industries and explore what is at stake in this neighbourhood. What hopes and ambitions do they have for their neighbourhood and how do they see themselves and their neighbourhood in the shift towards a more sustainable lifestyle? Do they agree on the needed actions? Do they need to agree, and can they reach a common understanding? How can they work on fulfilling their ambitions? What can be done today with local resources and what do the municipality need to plan and find funding for?

    Change of mindset - Knowledge to action

    No real change come from above alone. The changes we confront are so enormous, that we as individuals easily get caught in despair, hopelessness or anger and frustration and that we as governance institutions may give up and just follow the short-term populistic perspective.

    The next two years of 2024 and 2025 each COPE city will work on both local and network level to find and experiment with methods for working towards positive social tipping points in favour of the just green transition. Seeking to push for a shift in mindset, not only within political institutions and the governance and planning processes of our cities. But also, through acknowledging the local knowledge, hopes and ambitions of the citizens and local interests evoking trust and engagement. This, we believe, will foster sustainable change within our society – no more no less 😊

    Please follow our work and let us know if you find the Philosopher's Stone. We would love to engage and share!

  • COPE

    LEAD PARTNER : Copenhagen - Denmark
    • Kavala - Greece
    • Pombal - Portugal
    • Bistrița - Romania
    • Saint-Quentin - France
    • Coruna - Spain
    • Korydallos - Greece
    • Vilnius - Lithuania


    Core Network Meeting in Korydallos/ Greece.

    COPE Online Network workshop: Online tool 

    CORE Network Meeting in A Coruña/ Spain


    Lead expert and Lead Partner event in Paris


    Lead Expert



    A green and just transition in cities is key to achieving carbon neutrality in Europe by 2050. The COPE (Coherent Place-based Climate Action) network will unlock the green potentials of citizen action through a place-based approach, recognizing citizens and local action groups as fundamental stakeholders working to accelerate the green transition. By actively engaging communities that have traditionally been left out of climate action, COPE increases the scope and impact of municipal policies.

    Coherent Place-based Climate Action
  • URGE

    Lead Partner : Utrecht - Netherlands
    • Copenhagen - Denmark
    • Granada - Spain
    • Kavala - Greece
    • Munich - Germany
    • Nigrad d.o.o - Slovenia
    • Oeste CIM - Portugal
    • Prato - Italy
    • Riga - Latvia

    City of Utrecht - team Circular Economy & team External Funds



    • Phase 1: Kick-off and finalization meetings in Utrecht (NL) and Copenhagen (DK) (2019-2020)
    • Phase 2: Online transnational exchange meetings hosted by Munich (DE), Prato (IT), Oeste (PT), Copenhagen (DK), Riga (LV) and Maribor (SI) (2020-2021)
    • Phase 2: Coordination meetings in Granada (ES) and Kavala (EL) (2022)
    • Phase 2: Final event in Utrecht (NL) (2022)

    URGE, an abbreviation for 'circular building cities' is an Action Planning network on circular economy in the construction sector - a major consumer of raw materials. As there is a gap in circular economy principles' implementation in this sector, URGE brings together nine cities and their stakeholders to inspire and learn from each other in developing their integrated urban policy. This supports integration of circularity in the construction tasks, thus contributing to sustainable cities.

    Circular building cities
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  • URBACT cities are driving Europe’s acceleration towards a circular economy

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    Rising temperatures

    Urban circular economy solutions could keep global temperature rise below 2°C, writes Dr. Eleni Feleki, Lead Expert from the URGE Network.

    Temperatures raising, with a thermometer under the sunlight.
    From urbact

    Take a ride with us through memory lane. This article was first published in 2022, yet it still is as relevant as ever with the heatwaves and high temperature hitting European cities.


    Over past decades, humanity has breached two major milestones: the world is consuming 100 billion tonnes of materials every year and it is one degree warmer.


    The level of warming strongly depends on the reference period definition, the future time horizon and the level of greenhouse gas emissions. Among the various greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions produced by human activities, carbon dioxide contributes most to climate change, and is expected to continue rising if no action is taken. Specifically, climate neutrality by 2050 means achieving net zero GHG emissions for European countries, mainly by investing in innovative green technologies and enabling green transformation.


    With global warming showing no signs of slowing, the 2016 Paris climate agreement was a step towards changing some of our unsustainable practices, processes and behaviours. But even if all 194 countries that pledged climate action as part of the Paris Agreement fulfil their emissions-cutting promises, the rise in temperatures is still forecast to hit 3.2°C this century.


    We need to do more to fight global warming fast, and – as the recent URBACT City Festival demonstrated – cities across Europe are taking action, changing policies and mindsets, together with major stakeholders and citizens.



    Circular economy helping meet Paris Agreement commitments to slow global warming


    We are presented with a significant opportunity not only to achieve our climate goals, but also to future-proof our economy: The circular economy.


    Sustainability forerunners started looking towards circularity as an alternative to the traditional and still widespread linear economic model of producing and using goods and services – take, make, dispose) – which relies on large quantities of cheap, easily accessible materials and energy.


    The circular economy is a model of production and consumption that involves sharing, leasing, reusing, repairing, refurbishing and recycling existing materials and products as long as possible. In this way, the life cycle of products is extended.


    In practice, it implies reducing waste to a minimum. When a product reaches the end of its life, its materials are kept within the economy wherever possible. These can be productively used again and again, thereby creating further value.


    Circularity has great potential to overcome global sustainability challenges, reducing the use of raw materials and keeping materials in the loop as long as is feasible. This reduces and minimises the ecological footprint of every human-made product and thus helps mitigate climate change.



    Circular economy and the role of cities


    The role of cities in this circular transition is critical.


    Cities are growth engines in need of supervision and control. They are major contributors to climate change, responsible for up to 76% of carbon emissions. Even though they occupy less than 2% of the Earth’s surface, they account for 75% of natural resource consumption and 50% of global waste production. On the solution side, cities are also magnets for creative potential and thus facilitators of societal transformation towards more sustainability in the public as well as the private sector.


    Cities are among the most important actors that can positively influence development by embracing the circular economy.


    According to the Circularity Gap Report(link is external), we need to reach an average of about 18% circularity rate – share of material resources used which come from recycled waste materials, thus saving extractions of primary raw materials – to limit global warming to well below two degrees.


    To date, this rate at global level is only 8.6%. And the worst is that in 2018, circular rate at the global level was 9.1%, thus the trend is going down. The good news: we need to only roughly double the current rate of 8.6% to limit global warming to well below two degrees.

    At European level, things are slightly better. In 2020, the EU’s circularity rate reached 12.8%.  This means that almost 13% of material resources used in the EU came from recycled waste materials. This information comes from data on circular material use rate published by Eurostat. Compared to 2019, the circularity rate increased by 0.8%.


    Even if the EU seems to be complying well in relation to the globe as a whole, we are still lagging behind in reaching the average of 18% circularity rate. At the same time, it is obvious that the performance varies a lot among Member States. These differences are due not only to varying commitments to recycling in each country, but also on a range of other issues, including structural factors in national economies, levels of understanding and awareness of the circular economy notion, legislation and institutional barriers, and lack of infrastructure.


    How can we improve that?



    URBACT Action Planning Networks in the fight to help this transition


    Local governments in many towns and cities are discovering the urgent need to enhance their sustainability and resilience, and contribute to the fight against climate change. By implementing circular economy strategies, they are moving forward without straying from their low-carbon commitments.  


    Acknowledging these needs, the URBACT III programme financed 23 Action Planning Networks through its January 2019 call aiming to find solutions to common urban challenges. These brought together partners from towns and cities in different European countries to share experience and learn from each other. All partners produced an Integrated Action Plan and had the opportunity to test some small-scale solutions in their cities.


    Among these, two URBACT networks have had a particularly strong impact on boosting circularity in European cities – URGE: Circular building cities, led by Utrecht and Resourceful Cities, led by The Hague.


    URGE, standing for 'circUlaR buildinG citiEs' is an URBACT Action Planning Network on circular economy in the construction sector – a major consumer of raw materials. As there is a gap in circular economy principles' implementation in this sector, URGE brings together nine cities, from nine EU countries, to inspire and learn from each other on developing integrated urban policies. This supports the integration of circularity in construction tasks, thus contributing to sustainable cities.


    In the construction sector, building renovation quickly imposed itself as an obvious immediate win, combining a local activity boost with a necessary efficiency upgrade. Construction is one of the sectors that offers the ground for transformational change towards a greener economy.


    At the same time, the need to introduce infrastructure to store, reprocess, and innovate with different kinds of materials, is high. Not only for construction materials, but also for materials coming from other industries, such as electric and electronic equipment, or textiles, which not only produce a lot of waste but also demonstrate high opportunities to use spare parts and create new, upscaled products.


    In this direction, Resourceful Cities, a network of nine cities from eight EU countries, has been seeking to develop the next generation of urban resource centres, so they can serve as catalysts, promoting the positive economic, environmental and social impacts of the local circular economy. Facilitating waste prevention, reuse, repair and recycling, the centres 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, putting people at the heart of the circular transition.


    Both networks used the URBACT Method and URBACT Toolbox to bring interested local actors together to promote the circular economy.



    Good examples from the URGE: Circular Building Cities and Resourceful Cities networks


    By exchanging knowledge, trailing small scale solutions, drafting Integrated Action Plans – and much more – partners in the Resourceful Cities and URGE networks achieved results that will live on beyond the official close of the networks in August 2022. The cities celebrated examples of such successes during a session dedicated to acceleration of circular economy at the 2022 URBACT City Festival. Here are just a few:


    Governing circular economy: Copenhagen (DK)


    The four themes of focus of the URGE Network

    The circular economy is all about connecting the outflows of one industry or process, to another one to develop innovative value chains. But to obtain that, we need to have a place to keep materials,  process and transform them into something else, that is still useful and economically valuable.


    Apart from that, another big barrier to reusing materials and resources is linked to lack of incentives, weak policies and, inconsistencies in legislation that hamper the widescale use of recycled products.


    Copenhagen, partner in the URGE network, has revealed the importance of establishing an operational and institutional framework, in order to be able to put forward innovate value chains, boost business innovation and raise citizens’ awareness.


    The city proposed four key actions on governance to boost circularity in the construction sector:


    1. Produce a handbook on circular procurements.
    2. Support national (and international) legislation in order to allow and incentivise for the use of secondary materials.
    3. Develop infrastructure not only for the city (such as urban resource centres) but for the whole region.
    4. Promote citizens’ awareness through urban renewal projects, in a sense of urban living labs, where the residents co-design, co-create the neighborhoods, applying circular economy approaches.



    Urban resource centres: Mechelen (BE)


    Since 2020, the city of Mechelen has set a firm goal to reduce its material footprint by 30% by 2030, in order to reach its climate goals and foster a competitive green economy across the region, in which growth is decoupled from resource use. In close dialogue with local actors and by analysing the circular and social potential of specific urban value chains for the development of the economy in the region, Mechelen chose to focus on four urban resource centers in the short and medium term (scope 2030):


    1. A food hub where wasted food is collected and redistributed to vulnerable families or transformed.
    2. A material bank or several hubs for the reuse of construction materials.
    3. A textile hub where clothes and fabric are collected (mainly postconsumer) and redistributed for reuse, reworked, or recycled.
    4. A community hub which brings together all of the different actors and offers inspiration and room for experimentation.

    The circular community hub model of Mechelen, designed for the Resourceful Cities Network



    The role of local authorities in supporting of SMEs towards circular transition: Ciudad Real (ES)


    A very natural role for local authorities in the circular economy is in networking, matchmaking or bringing together different parties for cooperation. Local authorities need to work closely with industrial players in order to make them aware of the changing environment and incentivise SMEs that will in turn help to raise demand for circularly-made products.


    Ciudad Real, partner in the Resourceful Cities network, identified a need to support the business sector, made up mainly of SMEs, in understanding the circular economy and the opportunities it presents. Examples of actions:

    1. Local award for the most circular entity to promote the adoption of the circular economy among businesspeople
    2. Circular economy training for entrepreneurs to contribute to the generation of new companies that incorporate elements of circularity from their earliest stages, thanks to the training and awareness of Ciudad Real entrepreneurs
    3. Organisation of hackathons for entrepreneurs from Ciudad Real tο generate new business ideas focused on solving real challenges related to the circular economy


    The role of industrial partners: Nirgrad d.d.o, Maribor (SI)


    During a so-called ‘small-scale action’ for the URGE network, Nigrad d.d.o, a utility company from Maribor, produced micro-urban fixtures out of recycled aggregates that can be used as benches with a bicycle rack.


    Benches combined with bicycle racks are a stylish and practical solution for decorating a city park, city centre or areas around schools or kindergartens. Old benches, are deconstructed and the concrete is transformed into ‘green’ concrete, used in the benches. Reusable wooden parts and scrap metal, are also being tested.      



    URBACT cities and communities are already seeing positive impacts of their circular economy actions: Opole (PL) and Kavala (EL)


    Opole, partner in the Resourceful Cities network, opened their Urban Resource Centre (URC) in an empty shop building in the city centre. The main aim of their URC was to have a central physical space to promote resource reduction, reuse and repair and to raise awareness and participation levels of residents in the circular economy. In one month, 7.1 tonnes of resources were brought to the centre and 6.4 tonnes of resources were taken for reuse. There were 7200 visitors in total. The local authority also won two national awards relating to the ReUse shop for innovative local government. They are now looking to extend their services to include a repair cafe for electronic equipment and to source a location for the reuse and repair of bulky goods.


    The Municipality of Kavala, in northern Greece, is partner in the URGE: Circular Building Cities network. Building on experiences gained in the URBACT Making Spend Matter Network, Kavala wanted to explore the topic of public procurements in the construction sector, through the lens of the environmental and economic dimensions of sustainability and circular economy.



    Municipal departments worked in a participatory and integrated approach together with Ministries, regional authorities, local market players, academia – and the Technical Chamber of Greece, which plays an important national role in proposing technical specifications for the reuse of construction materials and influencing regulations. In the end, they drafted a tender for the restoration of access of a rural road network, using secondary materials.


    Kavala is now ready to launch the tender that includes circular economy criteria, which is a huge step at national level towards changing mindsets and considering alternatives to common, linear, practice.  


    Looking ahead: URBACT’s lasting local legacy


    URBACT has provided the opportunity to initiate links between 18 European cities experienced in finding circular economy solutions.


    URGE and Resourceful Cities have agreed to keep on working together after their URBACT networks officially end. Partners of both networks will continue to meet digitally, in order to seek common solutions and implement their Integrated Action Plans. Fundraising will be one of the most important issues for all cities. A solid basis has been formed to achieve the intended results. Most importantly, partners of both networks acknowledge the importance of working in an integrated, participatory approach. They are exploring opportunities to keep their URBACT Local Groups alive, and further, to keep expanding the networks. Several ideas exist to achieve this, by embedding the URBACT Local Group into the local governance ecosystem.


    Both networks are also pursuing to generate impact outside their project boundaries.


    Utrecht, Lead Partner of the URGE network, organised a political event in July 2022, in which URGE local coordinators responsible for the development of Integrated Action Plans in each of the nine partner cities called on politicians to support the aim to become circular by 2050 or even sooner. The URBACT Local Group coordinators signed a list of URGE recommendations, and highlighted the need to present them to various levels of government – local, regional, national and European – and other relevant stakeholders.


    In the same sense, Resourceful Cities lead partner The Hague is preparing a policy roundtable to coincide with the European Week of Regions and Cities in October 2022. This will link up with a study visit to one of the city's new Urban Resource Centres, the Impact Factory in Mechelen.



    Participating in the URBACT networks URGE: Circular Building Cities and Resourceful Cities has been a truly valuable, challenging and worthwhile experience for all involved. Valued relationships have been born and while the networks may be officially coming to an end, their work will continue both independently and collaboratively as they strive for a more inclusive, fair and sustainable system of consumption and production.



    Interested by the topics of circular economy and green transition? Check out URBACT's recently approved Action Planning Networks!


  • 23 Action Planning Networks ready for Phase 2!

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



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

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

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


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


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





    Research, technological development and innovation


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

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

    Find your Greatness

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

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

    Access to and use of ICT

    (previously DI4C)

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

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


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

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

    Competitiveness of SMEs


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

    - Saldus (LV)

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

    Tourism Friendly Cities

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

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

    Low carbon economy in all sectors

    Urb-En Pact

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

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

    Zero Carbon Cities
    (previously ZCC)

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

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

    Environmental protection and resource efficiency


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

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


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

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

    Healthy Cities

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

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


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


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


    Resourceful Cities
    (previously UrbReC)

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


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

    (previously Rurban Food)

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

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


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

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

    Sustainable transport


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

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

    Thriving Streets

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

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

    Employment protection and resource efficiency


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

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

    Social inclusion and poverty


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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

    Education, skills and lifelong learning


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

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




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

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  • Transition to circular economy: the ‘’power’’ of the building sector towards better cities

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    What does circular economy in the building sector mean to you in theory and where are we standing today? Which are the key challenges, the needs and how can we meet them starting from acting locally and upscaling our achievements towards better cities? The URGE APN project attempts a first dive into the issue of circularity in the building sector, aiming to impact importantly local policies and contribute to the achievement of the ambitious European goals and objectives.



    The URGE APN project


    The URGE (Circular Building Cities) project, approved in the frame of URBACT III Action Planning Networks (APNs), aims to design action plans on circularity in the building sector. URGE is thus accelerating the transition to the circular economy. The network consists of large cities such as Copenhagen and Munich, medium sized cities such as Utrecht and Riga and smaller cities such as Maribor (represented by Nigrad), Kavala and Comunidade Intermunicipal do Oeste, a regional cooperation of smaller municipalities. It is led by the City of Utrecht.

    In the frame of Phase I, a more thorough investigation will be made into each city’s case, to raise the needs and draw a tailored-made action plan to smoothen difficulties exploit opportunities and come up with solutions that will boost circularity in the building sector.

    What is a circular building?

    ‘’A building that is developed, used and reused without unnecessary resource depletion, environmental pollution and ecosystem degradation. It is constructed in an economically responsible way and contributes to the wellbeing of people and the biosphere’’.

    Circular buildings impact positively on Materials, Energy, Waste, Biodiversity, Health and Well Being, Human culture & society. Additionally, they may produce multiple forms of value.

    Where is the global economy in terms of circularity standing today?

    Our global economy is only 9% circular. 8.4 Giga tons of materials are cycled input, versus 84.4 Giga tons coming from extracted resources. Out of the materials not cycled, the majority is lost beyond recovery - either dispersed in the form of emissions or unrecoverable waste. Housing, Nutrition and Mobility together represent more than 82% of the total material footprint.

    Within the next 30 years, it is estimated that the amount of new construction will equal the amount, which is already built today. The rapidly growing construction sector is currently among the world’s largest producers of waste: every year, 1.3 billion tons of construction and demolition waste is generated worldwide and half of it comes from construction.

    Consequently, there is a crucial need for new circular solutions, especially in the building sector.



    The case of Europe

    The building sector in Europe is strategic for the economies of most countries.  Around 4 out of every 10 houses in Europe were built before 1960, a time when building practices were poor by today’s standards. The priority is to sustain and preserve what is already built, and in case renovation or demolishment is needed, the idea is to proceed using circular process, where materials can re-enter the construction sector and be re-used appropriately.

    The ambition of the European Commission is to accelerate the transition towards a circular economy, enabling EU cities to lead the international system beyond the current outdated take-make-dispose model. As circular economy is a complex and far-reaching concept, the European Commission has established in December 2015  a unique comprehensive strategy referred to as the “circular economy Action Plan”. The action plan is an effective response to the 2030 Agenda, since it empowers public authorities and stakeholders to accelerate the circular economy transition. After four years of successful implementation of the Action Plan, one White Paper on circular economy of the Word Economic Forum (2018) and a lot of published reports, the European Commission could identify needs, towards acceleration of circular economy:

    1) Circular economy is complex. Therefore, a comprehensive strategy to close the loop and targeting strategic sectors is the best tool to address all its aspects.

    2) There are short and long-term benefits in making circular economy a priority across departments inside a public institution. Services dealing with environmental protection, industry, research, international cooperation, and potentially many others, can contribute to mainstream the concept within and outside the institution.

    3) Circular change is faster when economic actors and civil society are directly involved. An effective public policy on circular economy needs support from business and civil society in order to maximize its benefits for the environment and for the economy.

    The building sector itself is aware that it must change its management model to turn circular and that it can comply with the new approach to the ‘sustainable use of resources’ set out in the European Building Products Regulations.

    However, there is still a lot to be done at local level.

    Acting locally

    A holistic approach and integration of the views in local action planning to meet the ambitious EU goals on circularity, is the key.

    A common success factor in circular building design is stakeholder engagement from the very beginning. Indeed, early co-design processes with end-users, technicians, suppliers and communities, and taking everyone’s needs into consideration overall, is crucial in creating a holistic design. Moreover, public procurement regulation can be a powerful driver with the power to play a significant role in mainstreaming circularity practices. In terms of knowledge dissemination, finished building projects and reuse of buildings and areas can serve for further awareness raising and experience sharing. Additionally, communication of public data through city portals, including the discussion and open data in relations to indicators, is a powerful tool towards the engagement and motivation of related stakeholders including citizens. An open knowledge and competence building portfolio, comprised of training pack, indicators, data, good practices, integrated with specific tools’ application guides, like Pay-as-You Throw (PAYT) systems, could enhance the implementation of circular economy principles at local level. All that would not be effectively realised if not integrated within a holistic roadmap for urban resources management.

    These topics have been raised and discussed among the partners of the URGE APN project, during a fruitful kick-off meeting in Utrecht, on the 15th and 16th of October. A lot is about to come, in order to fully exploit opportunities and really make use of this strategic sector as an enabler to meet circularity objectives and goals at local and EU level, so stay tuned!!


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  • Making Spend Matter

    LEAD PARTNER Preston
    • Bistrița - Romania
    • Kavala - Greece
    • Koszalin - Poland
    • Pamplona - Spain
    • Schaerbeek - Belgium
    • Vila Nova de Famalicao - Portugal


    April 2018 – September 2018 | Phase 1: Transfer Network development

    4 December 2018 | Start of Phase 2

    January 2019 – March 2019 | Transfer Planning Period: development of the Good Practice transfer, tools and training on spend analysis methodology

    April 2019 – December 2020 | Transfer Learning Period: transfer of the Good Practice in partner cities, bilateral activities on the themes of Advanced Spend Analysis, SME Engagement, Social and Environmental criteria in Public Procurement.

    January 2021 – May 2021 | Transfer Sharing Period: National/Regional Good Practice Transfer Events

    March 2021 | Final Network Event

    4 June 2021 | Project End Date

    Making Spend Matter Transfer network explores how to use spend analysis as an evidence tool to enhance the impact of procurement by public / anchor institutions in order to bring additional economic, social and environmental benefits to the local economy and its citizens. This will be achieved by transferring the Good Practice developed by Preston in this area.

    Changing Procurement - Changing Cities
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