The Intercultural cities programme (ICC) supports cities in reviewing their policies through an intercultural lens and developing comprehensive intercultural strategies to help them manage diversity positively and realise the diversity advantage.
The Rumourless Cities transfer network is focused on the transfer of good practice established by the municipality of Amadora which addresses a need across all partners, namely how to counter growing negative attitudes towards a cross section of groups in society, which includes long established migrants (Third country nationals), Roma, recently arrived refugees, LGBTI people, and general homophobic stereotyping. This is an issue that is recognized at an EU level. The EU Fundamental Rights Agency in its 2018 report highlights how discrimination is still widespread within the EU . The report highlights that discrimination on the grounds of ethnic origin continues to be regarded as the most widespread form of discrimination in the EU (64%), followed by discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation (58%), gender identity (56%), religion or belief (50%), disability (50%), age (being over 55 years old, 42%) and gender (37%).
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.
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.
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.
Amarante (PT) - Balbriggan (IE) - Pori (FI) - Pärnu (EE) - Grosseto (IT) - Gabrovo (BG) - Heerlen (NL) - Kočevje (SI) - Medina del Campo (ES) - 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Digi Place is an Action Planning Network that 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 potential entrepreneurs.
How can we improve urban green spaces in order to promote mental and physical health for our communities? Health&Greenspace Action Planning Network links green infrastructure design and management to urban health policies and practices. The project focuses on physical and mental health benefits of urban green spaces, as well as their role in improving social health and air quality and reducing heat stress in cities. Actions targeted by the network are linked to both physical changes to the urban environment and the promotion of social activities such as community, cultural, education and physical activity programs in green areas.
Are we fully aware of the relevance of urban green spaces? We are hardwired in a way that our body and mind functions far better in natural environment. A growing body of empirical evidence indicates that exposure to urban green spaces has positive impacts on both our physical and mental health. But as cities expand and densify, our precious green spaces and urban vegetation are increasingly coming under threat.
Well planned and properly managed urban green spaces can contribute to healthy urban living, climate change adaptation and improved urban air quality. Yet despite their significant potential, the use of urban green spaces remains marginal, fragmented, and highly uneven within cities.
The URBACT Health&Greenspace Network was developed in response to the various health risks related to rapid urbanization and the densification of cities. The project launched in September 2019 promotes health-responsive planning and management of urban green spaces with an overall aim to bring health and well-being benefits for citizens across Europe. Zsófia Hamza, the Project Coordinator of Health&Greenspace, when touching upon the motivation of Budapest 12th District to initiate the project, highlighted that “For many years, the municipality has been working hard to protect green areas and improve health. The interconnection of these two fields, the interconnection of hitherto separate efforts can create a different quality and can dramatically multiply the achievements of the two sectors.”
Budapest 12th District leading the URBACT Action Planning Network will be teaming up with 8 other city partners – Breda (NL), Espoo (FI), Limerick (IE), Messina (IT), Poznan (PL), Santa Pola (ES), Suceava (RO), Tartu (EE). On the Kick-off Meeting, taking place in Espoo on 24-26 September, city representatives started to define the sub-themes of the project, and identified potential actions, learning needs and good practices.
Health and well-being benefits of urban green spaces
An analysis undertaken by researchers from the University of East Anglia that combined the results of multiple scientific studies, finds that increased greenspace exposure is associated with reduced blood pressure, better pulmonary and immune function, reduced risk of stroke, cardiovascular disease, and asthma.
Access to natural environments can also improve overall mental health. The impact of green spaces to mental health include reduces stress levels, improved general mood, reduced depressive symptoms, better cognitive functioning, improved mindfulness and creativity.
According to a study published in 2016, parks have notable cooling effects in the vegetated areas and also in the surrounding built environment. The oasis effect of parks will become ever more relevant for urban residents as climate change related heat waves presents a range of health risks, including potentially fatal heat stroke.
Vegetation has an important role also in improving urban air quality by removing pollutants through filtration, decomposition and assimilation.
Green urban areas also facilitate physical activity and relaxation and form a refuge from noise. Furthermore, parks and green spaces are places to connect with other people in the community and improve social well-being.
A range of actions in the spotlight
Local authorities can significantly influence how people use green spaces, as well as how to improve their potential to deliver health benefits. Actions covered by the network will be linked to both physical changes to the urban environment and the promotion of social activities, such as community participation in the design, establishment and maintenance of urban green spaces, and facilitated activities in parks. Health&Greenspace does not focus solely on parks, but also on street green and external building greens, such as green roofs and green façade walls.
Health&Greenspace will support actions linked to green space related interventions that directly improve the physical and mental health of urban citizens. Action to be addressed can include the development of therapeutic gardens, health-walk routes, and areas for relaxation. Actions can be linked both to preventative care and postsurgical medical treatment.
Health&Greenspace supports climate-responsive design of green spaces to increase the cooling capacity of urban areas. Urban authorities have a range of options to build on the cooling effects of vegetation:
the accessibility of public parks can be increased to provide shelter during heat waves,
the gardens of public parks can be opened for neighbouring residents,
cooling routes and cooling oases can be developed in the cityscape,
cold air corridors can be kept open in green spaces to improve ventilation.
The use of urban green spaces to improve air quality and mitigate noise from traffic is also one of the goals of the project. Vegetation barriers between road and pedestrians, specific green space design to provide ventilation to the city, vegetation structures functioning as sound barriers, and creation of quiet natural soundscapes in the urban fabric can be particularly effective in this regard.
Health&Greenspace is as much about social health and social cohesion as it is about physical and mental health benefits of green spaces. Designing green areas that function as outdoor community centres, organization of family days in parks, the development of recreational spaces can all serve to attract people to spend time in urban green areas and to strengthen social interactions.
Partners of the network represent a diversity of local contexts, entry points, and also struggle with diverse challenges. The starting position differs across cities. The 12th District of Budapest is struggling with the maintenance of large areas of green space. Espoo has a very high share of green areas but because of rapid urbanization the green network is narrowing down. Poznan has a unique ‘wedge-and-ring’ greenery system that needs to be maintained and upgraded. In Limerick the network of green spaces is relatively small and fragmented. In Messina and Santa Pola the urban areas are densely built-up. Tartu is preparing a new master plan for the development of urban green infrastructure that focuses on cooling solutions, the reduction of noise and air pollutant. Breda and Suceava are aiming for large-scale rehabilitation of green spaces.
Urban green spaces are becoming increasingly valuable, as artificial urban environment is rapidly expanding, and more and more people are forced to live in cities. The Health&Greenspace partnership will demonstrate to cities across Europe how the urban fabric can be transformed into a healthier environment for the benefit of its residents. Follow @Health&Greenspace and explore the details of the activities undertaken in the 9 partner cities!
We’re told that the future is smart; the future is digital. But what does it really mean to be a smart city? And how do we achieve the required digital transition in a way which really benefits those who live and work in our cities?
As we get ours hands on more and more urban data, better network connectivity, and more advanced technologies, we continually unlock new possibilities for digital or “smart” solutions to a wide range of urban challenges. From waste management, to transport and mobility, engagement with citizens, transparency and access to information, “Digital Innovation” provides a wealth of opportunities for cities and governments. With the aim of enhancing municipality management, local quality of life and improving urban sustainability, digital transition and the move to being “Smart Cities” is one of the major enablers helping cities in becoming modern places to live and work in the 21st Century.
Large cites like London, Barcelona, Amsterdam, Warsaw and Berlin have been trailblazers for the adoption of technology to transform how people live and work. But small and medium-sized cities are often struggling to make this transition as quickly or as effectively as their larger cousins.
Many small and medium sized cities need to close the gap with their larger counterparts, in terms of digital transition and capitalising on the opportunities offered by the smart city movement. The new URBACT network “Digi Place – Digital Innovation for Cities” will see cities working together and breaking down the barriers to digital transition, becoming smart cities that are inclusive and sustainable.
Led by the city of Messina (IT), the Digi Place network consists of eight city partners in total, including Oulu (FI), Ventspils (LV), Portalegre (PT), Roquetas de Mar (ES), Botosani (RO), Saint-Quentin (FR) and Trikala (EL). They are currently working through the development phase to define what they mean by a “smart city” and what their priorities are for their own digital transition work.
In many ways, the term “Smart City” has become generic and over-used. It means different things to different people. To understand how digital innovation is going to benefit people and places, we must first be clear about why we are seeking such innovation. How do we know when we are in a Smart City? How do the benefits manifest themselves? What are the results we are looking for?
The concept of smart cities has developed from the opportunities offered by technology, data and intelligent design. It often deals with things like smart lighting, intelligent transport systems and smart utility metering for electricity and water. These are core ways to enhance a city’s liveability, workability and sustainability. However, digital innovation can be applied to almost any urban policy theme. Hence becoming a truly “smart” city, in the broadest sense, also requires clarity of focus to use digital innovation in the right way for each particular place, population and economy.
This is one of the main challenges for the partners in the Digital Innovation for Cities network: prioritising their actions for digital transition in line with their city’s real world priorities and needs.
A related issue many cities are highlighting is that of “fragmentation” of activity – where cities have many tech-based projects but with little or no connection and cooperation between them. The production of a focussed and prioritised Integrated Action Plan as part of this URBACT network will be a key enabler for the partner cities. Using that, they can move to a more deliberate and coherent digital strategy.
People vs Machines
The implementation of these digital strategies offers the opportunity to create more advanced and tailored services. The disruptive nature and impact of new technologies is clear, particularly for things like artificial intelligence, machine learning and big data, and these are already starting to transform cities, communities and businesses, reshaping industries and generating new economic opportunities.
Technologies like these are a major part of any digital transition. But they are the means, not the end. Being a truly smart city is based on people as much as technology. It is about how the population works with that technology to enhance the experience of living and working in a city. This includes residents, employees working in a city, as well as local government staff, politicians, universities and educational establishments, charities, businesses and so on. How we deploy and use technology, and how we think and act within our cities all contributes to a the “Smartness” of a place.
Linked to that is the skills and mindset of the staff working for the municipality and partners. For digital technologies to transform the way we work in our cities, the way we think about how we work and about how we develop new technologies also needs to be very different. This can be a major shift for some municipalities, and involves a new approach for both staff and citizens. This is partly about digital skills and competencies. But achieving a digital transition requires a “mindset transition” alongside it. To be successful, cities will need to carefully balance the “people” and the “tech” aspects of their strategy.
The Proof Is In The Pudding…
Even when we have established our priorities and balanced the people side of our digital transition with our technology streams, and developed the right skills pipeline, there will still be many challenges for cities to deal with. Management of data and considerations around privacy and cyber security continue to be hot topics. Cities are operating in a fast-moving landscape and will need to be able to adapt to keep up with the latest technologies and the latest regulations. Digital methods also have the potential to be divisive and further increase inequality, excluding those without ready access to digital devices or internet connectivity. Maintaining inclusion will be a challenges for all of us; smaller cities with fewer resources may find this particularly challenging.
Identifying the right digital tools will only be part of the puzzle in Digi Place. Taking the right approach to the transition will be crucial. Getting that right must start from the very beginning: the correct mindset and approach need to be hard-wired into the project from the start. But the integrated and participative nature of the URBACT method are perfect for this; ideal for bringing together technology and people in an integrated and participatory way. Here’s to an exciting digital journey…
Schools are vital neighbourhood hubs within which we can build more cohesive and open cities and promote the values of inter-culturalism. This article outlines how schools are playing a dynamic role in the implementation of city ‘anti rumour strategies’ particularly the early developments of a transfer of knowledge and experience from Amadora (PT) to Messina (IT) as part of the URBACT Transfer network Rumourless Cities.
The anti-rumour approach
The concept of an anti-rumour strategy first emerged in Barcelona (ES) in 2010 as part of the ten year intercultural plan and has subsequently been adapted by cities internationally. An ‘anti rumour strategy’ is a strategic plan to directly and assertively address the issue of diversity-related prejudice and misinformation through dispelling rumours and deconstructing stereotypes.
The approach is about much more than an information campaign to counter untrue rumours and incorrect/fake news. Numerous studies show that simple dissemination of objective data has a minimal impact in influencing perceptions and beliefs (a summary of some of these studies can be found here)
Importantly, the approach is founded on the basis that we must understand ourselves and acknowledge our own susceptibility to rumours and prejudice as a starting point for building more cohesive communities. A key part of the methodology is building a social movement at the grassroots to promote critical thinking and developing activities that work on a more emotional level- to encourage positive dialogue and interaction.
Naturally education and the involvement of younger generations is key to the success and development of this work and schools are important community spaces from which to grow grassroots initiatives. Mobilising children is crucial, not least because children have had less time to form entrenched beliefs and prejudices. However, they are highly susceptible to rumours spread through social media. In a world of fake news, social media echo chambers and rapidly spreading and unchecked opinions and information, children are in need more than ever to be equipped with the capacity and awareness to process and analyse information and opinions critically.
Thanks to its project Do not Feed the Rumour Amadora had a strong focus on schools. Pupils and teachers participated in anti-rumour agent training and took on leadership roles as ‘anti-rumour agents’ within their respective schools. Local teachers also became particularly active and vocal members of the anti-rumour network; while community artists developed creative workshops and methodologies in schools focused around the theme of rumours. The quality and extent of school involvement has been a key legacy programme and is an important pillar in the continuation and consolidation of this work in the city.
Learning from Amadora’s experience and transferring practice to other European cities
In order to transfer skills and learning from Amadora’ experience, Rumourless Cities has developed a programme of local professional development training. Each city will host a workshop bringing together local teachers and educational professionals with trainers from Amadora including Elisa Moreira (a teacher specialised in using creativity and art in education) and Marina Palacio (an illustrator, artist-educator and animation film director) to explore practical and creative classroom anti-rumour activities. The 5 cities within the network will be involving schools in a variety of innovative ways and one good example is the Together on Air project in Messina.
Messina: A participatory anti-rumour campaign for young people
The city of Messina decided that the most effective way of approaching the issue of prejudice locally is by working with young people, for two reasons; firstly children of school age are more open and therefore more likely to change and secondly, their generation is most susceptible to social media rumours. The city has brought together school representatives, education professionals, psychologists and media specialists to co-develop a plan of action rooted in education and steer the anti-rumour programme. In Messina, schools will be the production hubs of the anti-rumour campaign with children and young people acting as the city’s agents.
For the Together on Air project school children with be both creating and publishing media content and managing their broadcast channels. Content will be produced for radio and TV and aired via radio and on YouTube. A key part of this process will be managing and responding to comments and discussions emerging online from the content. Messina will build on past experience of working with film to challenge perceptions of migration on an emotional level - a good example is here:
The process will kick-start in December 2019 with an event involving schools across Messina on the subject of ‘Prejudice and digital information’. This will be followed with a programme of training in school with a focus on creating effective and attention grabbing multimedia content. The training and ongoing support will be provided by media specialists and cultural mediators who will both train up children in the production of media content and also explore the issues around prejudice, rumours and media misrepresentations which strongly contribute towards these issues.
In order to track the impact and effectiveness of this approach, a baseline survey will be carried out amongst school pupils (in schools and online) at the beginning and will be repeated once the project has been implemented after the media content has had time to circulate and be experienced by young people - in June 2020.
Conclusion: It’s all about taking the lead
Developing a “sense of agency” is key to the education work in both Amadora and Messina. In both cases, children are the agents of change, not passive participants. They are empowered to take the lead and become more vocal members of the school and wider communities.
The real value of this transfer network is the creation of a coaching role for the lead city. Instead of transferring the Amadora project into the Messina context, the network has supported the transfer of an ethos, a confidence and ‘way of doing’ which has added depths and a wider dimension to a locally grown (and youth led) initiative.
These were some of the rumours found to be circulating in Amadora… not unfamiliar comments heard in many cities across Europe.
Indeed, immigration continues to be one of the most prominent political issues in Europe. In recent years the exceptional migratory flows together with the global economic crisis have inflamed political extremism and led to growing distrust from local communities towards migrant populations - both established and new. Voters in many countries consider immigration to be one of the most pressing challenges facing their country, and ‘radical right’ political parties who oppose immigration continue to find support in many countries
Amadora, a dynamic and multicultural municipality located in Lisbon’s North Metropolitan area decided that it was time to do something about these unfounded rumours. A local network of people and organisations set out to spread more positive and factually accurate messages about the city and it’s inhabitants.
Do Not Feed the Rumour was the communications campaign and programme of integration activities developed and implemented by Amadora in 2014-15, through participation in the Council of Europe (CoE) project “Communication for Integration: social networking for diversity (C4I)” - a network of 11 cities from 7 European countries. Based upon practice originally developed in Barcelona, Amadora produced their own bespoke and holistic approach to an anti-rumour strategy. This approach directly and assertively addresses the issue of prejudice and misinformation through dispelling rumours and deconstructing stereotypes. It also emphasises the potential and positivity of cultural diversity, both promoting inclusion and strengthening community cohesion.
Amadora firstly undertook a process of local intelligence gathering in order to discover what were the most common rumours being spread locally and to compile the factual (counter-rumour) information. Based on this research, they developed a targeted anti-rumour strategy composed of a viral communications campaign with a strong visual identity, public actions, community discussions, participatory art and theatre workshops and a schools programme. 28 local people attended specialised training to become ‘anti-rumour agents’ and these people acted as advocates for the programme, becoming trainers in their own organisations, cascading knowledge and skills throughout local communities. A perception change evaluation was built into the programme in order to measure the effectiveness of the activities.
All of this was underpinned by the creation of a strong local network and process of co-production with local stakeholders active in the planning and implementation of the campaign. The project in Amadora involved 75 organisations and reached about 2,500 people. Local participation and political support were key to the success of the campaign.
According to Carla Tavares, Mayor of Amadora, "It is a project that is intended to continue in a natural and informal way throughout the city. All of us - local authorities, associations and citizens - have some work to do to demystify the many rumors that still exist in our society"
"School communities, associations and groups in our municipality now have a better awareness regarding the diversity and individuality of each one of us. Even if outsiders do not look at Amadora differently, at least those who are here are proud of their city and realise that this difference we have is what distinguishes us and distinguishes positively. So, in this way the campaign was a catalyst to a new approach to inter-culturality."
Do Not Feed the Rumour has been recognised by URBACT as a good practice and now Amadora is very excited to be sharing experiences, ideas and a passion for the practice with other European cities through the URBACT Transfer network, Rumourless Cities - a partnership of seven cities - Amadora (PT) (Lead Partner), Cardiff (UK), Hamburg-Altona (DE) , Warsaw (PL), Alba Iulia (RO), Ioaninna (GR) and Messina (IT). Rumourless Cities is one of 25 transfer networks approved by URBACT to support the understanding, adaption and reuse of good practice from cities across Europe through process of peer support and capacity building.
According to Dina Moreira, programme manager of Do Not Feed the Rumour, “We in Amadora have had such a successful experience with positive results. We are keen to take the opportunity to continue sharing with other cities facing similar challenges and problems and at the same time develop and improve what we are doing in our own territory.” Indeed it was intended that an outcome of the C4I programme would be that participating cities would subsequently form new partnerships and networks to transfer and share anti-rumour strategies. This is becoming a reality through Rumourless Cities.
While Amadora focused on countering rumours around immigration and immigrants, this network will see the approach adapted and reused to counter existing and growing negative attitudes towards a wider cross section of groups in society which includes long established migrants (Third country nationals), Roma, recently arrived refugees, LGBT people, and general homophobic stereotyping.
In addition to learning from and adapting practice from Amadora, partner cities will be bringing their own approaches and innovation to anti-rumour activity. For example, Warsaw aims to develop an app and city game focused on combatting prejudice and Cardiff aims to tie in an anti-rumour campaign with developing a new and inclusive narrative for the city. In fact, all partners will bring their own unique contexts, expertise and initiative to the network to create a web of experience and ideas sharing.
Rumourless Cities will create a rich learning and exchange programme for cities to learn from the good practice Do Not Feed the Rumour and to thereby address some urgent challenges facing cities around cohesion, inclusion and the rise of fake news. It deals with some of the critical challenges of our time:
How to build cohesive and open cities
How to counter the false stereotypes that lead to racist caricatures and growth of far right groups
How to balance the needs of new arrivals with “native” citizens experiencing difficulties
How to communicate truth in a “post fact” context that is generated by popular mainstream media
Despite European anti-discrimination legislation being among the most extensive in the world, the findings of the EU Fundamental Rights Report (2018) confirm that discrimination and unequal treatment on different grounds remain realities in key areas of life throughout the EU. Discrimination on the grounds of ethnic origin continues to be regarded as the most widespread form of discrimination in the EU (64%), followed by discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation (58%), gender identity (56%), religion or belief (50%), disability (50%), age (being over 55 years old, 42%) and gender (37%).
According to a Eurobarometer survey (2016), Europeans as a whole consider immigration the second (after terrorism) most important issue facing the bloc. A 2016 YouGov poll showed that 52% of Italians, 47% of French 44% of Germans and 38% of Spaniards agree that their country “doesn’t feel like home anymore”. The majority of Belgian, French, German and Italian people support the idea of ending migration from all mainly Muslim countries.
The issue of community cohesion has become a hot issue not just because there has been a steep increase in numbers of migrants but it is also linked to the growing concerns regarding security, which in turn is linked to the rise of extremism. With high levels of labour migration to many western European countries, as well as continuing pressure to accept refugees and asylum seekers from war zones around the world and a future of rising climate change induced migration, this topic is unlikely to lose its significance in the foreseeable future.
It is more important than ever that cities join forces look beyond their own limits in order to find already worked out solutions to these difficult issues and work together to maintain peaceful, open societies.
In September 2015, at what was the height of migration flows witnessed in the Europe since the Second World War, this Action Planning network began its activities. As a result of this global flow, one can observe a rapid change in the population
structure and interactions between individuals and social groups: cities of migration are places of inclusion and exclusion. In this sense, Arrival Cities took place against a backcloth of rising discrimination and prejudice against immigrants. The network's cities have had to tackle the new and old challenges to ensure the migrants' integration.