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  • Nine ways cities can become more just and inclusive

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    These local actions for a fairer society are inspiring cities across the EU. Could they work in your city too?

    Disadvantaged neighbourhoods

    The New Leipzig Charter highlights three forms of the transformative city which can be harnessed in Europe to enhance people’s quality of life: the Just City, the Green City and the Productive City.

    URBACT’s latest publication is packed with sustainable solutions to address these three dimensions – all tried, tested and transferred between EU cities, with adaptations for each local context.

    To give a taste of the full stories in ‘Good practice transfer: Why not in my City?’, here are nine examples of local actions for Just Cities. We hope towns and cities of all sizes will be inspired to ‘Understand, Adapt and Re-use’ these ideas for working with communities to fight exclusion and help drive a just transition to a green economy.

    1. Boost social inclusion through music

    One way Brno (CZ) is tackling social exclusion in disadvantaged neighbourhoods and encouraging children to stay in school, is a music programme inspired by the innovative Municipal Music School and Arts Centre in L'Hospitalet de Llobregat (ES). Brno is one of six EU cities in the ONSTAGE network, which have adopted l’Hospitalet’s inclusive approach – with groups including a symphonic orchestra, big bands, pop-rock, and jazz groups. Working with teachers and parents, Brno launched its own group music activities in deprived areas, bringing people together, facilitating cultural exchanges, and even improving school results in maths and other subjects.

    2. Encourage volunteering

    Pregrada (HR) has found a way to awaken its volunteering potential and encourage more young people to get involved in helping others. Forming a diverse local group to connect relevant associations, council staff, and citizens of all ages, they introduced a new governance structure around volunteering, part of a participatory model for solving local social problems. The town, which already had many active volunteers, and close links between relevant boards and the council, based its new framework on the well-established Municipal Council of Volunteering in Athienou (CY) while also exchanging with six other EU cities in the Volunteering Cities network.

    3. Commit to inclusion and tolerance

    Hamburg’s Altona district (DE) has launched an anti-discrimination strategy, with a set of principles known as the ‘Altona Declaration’, co-developed by political leaders and residents: “We in Altona,… stand for a free and democratic society; like to encounter new people; represent diversity and engage against discrimination; encounter every person with respect and tolerance; believe in the equality of all people; recognise the chances that come with diversity and encounter every person openly and without prejudices.”

    Inspired by Amadora’s (PT) ‘Don’t feed the rumour’ initiative, through the RUMOURLESS CITIES network, Altona appointed local campaign ambassadors, and asked residents about community, democracy and equality – confirming a common desire to live in a society where people take care of each other.

    4. Celebrate local heritage through storytelling

    A movement to celebrate the built environment, promote active citizenship and fight urban isolation is growing up around a former radio station in a 1950s suburb of Pori (FI). Working with the city’s cultural department, an arts collective based on the site formed a local group and asked neighbours and radio enthusiasts to share their stories, in person and online, sparking new events, interest in local heritage, and the re-use of abandoned space in the old radio station. Pori based the initiative on good practice from Budapest’s annual ‘Weekend of Open Houses’, thanks to the Come in! network.

    5. Co-manage city assets

    The Belgian city of Ghent has a long history of policy participation, with council-appointed ‘neighbourhood managers’ supporting a variety of citizens’ initiatives. The Civic eState network helped Ghent learn from urban commons legislation in cities like Naples, Barcelona, Amsterdam and Gdansk, further boosting cooperation with residents – and bringing the city’s policy participation, real estate, and legal services to work together. Ghent applied these learnings in the re-use of the decommissioned Saint Jozef Church. Commoners, citizens, and nearby organisations formed a local group to jointly assign a local coordinator to ensure the building’s management and activities take into account the needs of its diverse neighbourhood.

    6. Empower neighbourhood partnerships

    A new initiative in the French metropole of Lille identifies local associations and their potential synergies in deprived neighbourhoods, in order to empower communities to propose and build their own joint social projects – such as linking up a retirement home with a neighbouring school. The idea is to support these projects on the road to self-sufficiency. Lille based their initiative on learnings from Lisbon’s (PT) Local Development Strategy for Priority Intervention areas, thanks to the Com.Unity.Lab network. Lisbon’s scheme tackles urban poverty and empowers communities by providing micro-grants to thousands of local projects, many of which become autonomous and create permanent jobs.

    7. Engage with citizens through play and games

    Cork (IE), is taking a ‘playful’ approach to improving the city for all, steered by a local group ‘Let’s Play Cork’ which includes the City Council, public bodies and associations across health, education, culture and sports. Applying good practice from Udine (IT) and other cities in the Playful Paradigm network, Cork’s actions so far include: pop-up play areas in the city centre, parks and libraries; play-based resources for festivals; toy-lending in libraries; and providing ‘street-play packs’ for neighbourhood events. This approach has been a catalyst for local groups and residents to start tackling societal challenges together, such as co-developing playful ideas for public spaces, including the permanent pedestrianisation of certain roads.

    8. Build municipality-NGO cooperation

    The ‘NGO House’ in Riga (LV) is a place for civil society organisations to hold events, develop sustainable cooperation with the municipality; and receive educational, technical and administrative support. The model inspired cities across the EU to boost their own synergies between NGOs, citizens and institutions – with support from the ACTive NGOs network. The Sicilian town of Siracusa, for example, has developed three new public spaces with local associations: Citizen's House on an abandoned floor of a school in a disadvantaged neighbourhood; Officine Giovani in a historic centre; and the Urban Centre, a recovered space, bringing the administration and community together in planning local policies.

    9. Welcome international talent

    Home to several multinational companies and a university, Debrecen (HU) is expanding support for professionals and students arriving from other countries to feel welcome and stay on as valuable members of the community. Debrecen is one of six cities in the Welcoming International Talent network, inspired by Groningen (NL) where a multidisciplinary team provides international residents with active support in housing, work, city living and communication. With improved stakeholder relations convincing local leaders to see social aspects of economic development, next steps include support for affordable accommodation, and encouraging local companies to recruit international talent.

    Find out more about these, and many more, sustainable city solutions – in the new URBACT publication ‘Good practice transfer: Why not in my City?’.

    Visit the Good Practice database for more inspiration.

    From urbact
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    Kick-off meeting

    Thirteen years ago, the EMMCA was founded in L'Hospitalet as a new model of music school that uses music as a tool for inclusion and social change. The ONSTAGE Transfer network follows the Good Practices, which has an innovative methodology engaging civic society. Making a difference from traditional music schools, the project gives equal opportunities to all inhabitants of L’Hospitalet to access music courses, involves primary schools and creates a space for social cohesion, tackling local issues such as exclusion, youth unemployment and school dropout.

    Music schools for social change
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  • On Stage! Music and arts for social change

    L'Hospitalet de Llobregat

    The sound of education: how music and performing art can bolster social inclusion

    Raül Brenchat
    Project Coordinator
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    254 804
    • Adapted by the ONSTAGE Transfer Network


    On Stage! is a model to democratise the access to and the production of music and art with an integrated, cohesive and participative approach. The Transferred Practice is based on EMMCA (Escola Municipal de Música-Centre de les Arts) a public Municipal Arts Centre and Music, Drama and Dance School in L'Hospitalet de Llobregat, a city in the Metropolitan area of Barcelona.

    The solutions offered by the good practice

    Ordinary arts practice and training programmes are usually out of reach for most disadvantaged groups. The objective of EMMCA is inclusion and uptake for all in Hospitalet, not just for one homogenous group or income bracket. With a population of over one-quarter million, the highest rate of population density in Europe and almost 30% of its population with a migrant background, L’Hospitalet faces several challenges in social, economic, physical and cultural terms. A twist happens in 2004 when people in the street, picketing the city hall, demand a public music school. While the model initially though was that of a traditional music conservatory, the socio-economic condition in the city demanded an innovative approach which could tackle the cultural divides. In 2005 the EMMCA school was opened as a new school for participative cultural and artistic expression. EMMCA offers group classes to all citizens, carries out curricular performing arts activities in primary schools, borrows instruments to its students, grants special prices to those who cannot afford to pay full fees. Since its opening, over 50.000 people participated in school’s activities. This is also the yearly average audience of the performances. An average of 4500 students take part to the EMMCA’s activities each year. The Symphony Orchestra of the EMMCA is honoured to count 29% of performers with a migrant background, the same rate of people from non-EU origin living in the entire city.

    Building on the sustainable and integrated approach

    Projects such as On Stage! (EMMCA) allow culture to be placed at the centre of cities’ social change, to bolster links between their citizens, boosting cohesion and tackling urban segregation. This practice responds to the Sustainable Development Goal 11 by measures that aim to recognise and promote cultural diversity for cities, to integrate culture to counter urban violence, and to ensure investment to enhance culture, cultural heritage and creativity in urban planning. On Stage! practice also approaches issues included in the European Urban Agenda such as inclusion of migrants and refugees and Culture and Cultural heritage. It responds to various priorities of the ERDF esp. 9-10) and it is an excellent practice enriching the debated in the New European Bauhaus and related initiatives. Regarding cross-cutting basic objectives, this good practice promotes equal opportunities, equal treatment and equality between men and women. Of the EMMCA’s pupils as a whole, 46.46% are women and 53.55% are men. The principle of equal treatment is applied to the group from childhood to adolescence, in relation to academic underachievement and possible isolation in the job market. The value and sustainability of this practice is also documented by its results: according to the 2015-2016 data, students involved in the EMMCA program had better results in 7th grade exams than those in similar schools not participating in the programs. Higher grades were recorded in most statutory subjects, and especially math. Regarding cross-cutting basic objectives, the most important aim is to promote equal opportunities founded on two principles: equal treatment and equality between men and women. Of the EMCA’s pupils as a whole, 46.46% are women and 53.55% are men. The principle of equal treatment is applied to the group from childhood to adolescence, in relation to academic underachievement and possible isolation in the job market.

    Based on a participatory approach

    The participatory approach is central to allow people who visit EMMCA every week to play, sing, dance, rehearse and learn come from all backgrounds and origins. In order to achieve that everyone has to be involved from social workers, the families, teachers, students. The main players involved in the process are the eight primary schools where the project is developed, and where the educational community of parents and teachers work together. The project has managed to promote the creation of parents’ associations in the eight schools where it is developed. At an institutional level, also participating as project partners alongside with the L’Hospitalet Local Authority are the Government of Catalonia, the Barcelona Council and the Fondation Daniel et Nina Carasso and other UlG members.

    What difference has it made?

    Taking on the leadership of the URBACT transfer network brought new improvements to the EMMCA approach. In particular the exchange of knowledge among cities in On Stage network, the dialogues created among ULG members, especially teachers, across Europe prompted fresh understanding of the EMMCA work. The core objective of a two-year improvement plan resulted in further investing in the engagement between the school and the population of L’Hospitalet. In order to achieve this goal the Lead Partner acted on three levels of actions in terms of skills, involvement of specific target groups, and reaching out the wider community strengthening local networks. The concrete actions focused on: 1. Extending the EMMCA offer to children aged 0-3, young people and those experiencing mental health issues. 2. Improving EMMCA projects in primary schools. 3. Commissioning a research study on the impact of EMMCA within the community with an external impact assessment by ESMUC, the Catalan College of Music. The study focuses on how to a)increase the number of people that practice arts in L’Hospitalet, b) reach all social sectors, including those more likely to be excluded for arts practise, c)use arts as a means to social cohesion d)To use arts as a means to school attainment Notably, the coordination of the Onstage network has improved the collaboration among the school team and EMMCA approach has consolidated its centrality in local government.

    Transferring the practice

    Transferring the practices has had a tremendous impact both in creating seeds of transformation and social change in the partner cities and in re-evaluating the works done so far in EMMCA. The quantitative results show that through On Stage 28 schools have been directly and indirectly involved in the transfer, through the work of 120 people active in ULG across the ON Stage cities. 735 people have been involved in the demo-action ( such as studies, new pilot projects for children and youth) including students, families, stand, teachers, researchers, experts and municipal staff. Despite the pandemic impeded most of the exchanges, the visit of the teachers of L’Hospitalet to Katowice has been crucial to reflecting, reimagining and innovating the Lead Partner role and to rethink EMMCA knowledge of primary school projects with new initiatives.

    Is a transfer practice
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  • Gastronomic Cities


    Project launch
    Project completed

    Five cities working together to promote gastronomy as a key urban development.

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    Project launch
    Project completed

    NeT-TOPIC is addressed to medium sized (intermediate) cities located close to a major city within a metropolitan area. As a result of their location, these cities face today some common challenges, such as territorial fragmentation or the need to adapt to the new demands for uses and activities in the process of post-industrialisation and of new tertiary activities.

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