European cities face higher levels of Early Leaving from Education and Training (ELET) than their national averages, meaning that some urban areas have more ELET rates, than the countryside areas - contrary to the national trends of these cities' countires. This represents a serious challenge, as ELET has significant societal and individual consequences, such as a higher risk of unemployment, poverty, marginalization and social exclusion. Tackling this issue means breaking the cycle of deprivation and the intergenerational transmission of poverty and inequality.
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.
Kick-off meeting in June (Torun). Transnational meeting in September (Wolverhampton) about 'Making the case for investment in creative-tech talent' and 'How to make best use of Labour Market Information'. Transnational meeting and The role of culture.
'Transnational meeting about 'Smart Specialisation, Tech Hubs and Civic Tech Initiatives' transnational meeting in March (Coimbra); in July (Bologna) about 'Creative - Tech Talent Ecosystem Frameworks'.
City Development Forum in January (Poznan). Final event in April (Poznan).
Municipality of Athienou 2, Archbishop Makarios III Ave. 7600 Athienou Cyprus
Over the last decades, younger people have increasingly chosen to live in urban areas, whilst the share of older residents in cities has generally fallen. Nevertheless, the impact of wage levels and different unemployment rates across Europe has lead youngsters to move mainly to big cities. In this, sense this Action Planning network aimed on developing, attracting and retaining young local talent, particularly, the creative talent from the Generation Y - people who were born between 1980 and 2000 - within cities of all sizes.
Developing, attracting and retaining young local talent
In many European cities one of the positive side effects of the financial-economic crisis is the growth of innovative forms of solidarity and commitment at local level. This Action Planning network pioneered, in terms of bottom-up civic initiatives, by co-creating solutions for social challenges in an urban context. Cities are often perceived as a laboratory and governments are no longer the only actor to solve complex challenges faced in cities. Therefore, temporary use is a powerful tool to make our cities "future fit". Since the concept of temporary use is interacting with many other urban dynamics it creates the right environment for social innovation to develop by: exchanging and evaluating of local supporting instruments; ensuring long lasting effects of temporality; building a more flexible and collaborative public administration.
Reuse of vacant spaces as a driving force for innovation at the local level
The topic of linking public procurement and Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) becomes ever more important for cities when challenges are increasing and public resources are limited. So how can city leaders actively use strategic procurement to encourage businesses to fulfil their social and environmental responsibilities? Dr. Steffen Wetzstein, Lead Expert for the URBACT CITIES4CSR network, shares recent experiences from URBACT cities…
Linking up strategic municipal procurement and Corporate Social Responsibility
The link between strategic municipal procurement and Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) may seem complex. On the one hand, city governments are under pressure to procure important goods, services and works in the name of the public good, and on the other hand, CSR is about businesses donating and contributing to worthwhile ‘beyond-profit’ causes in return for publicity and marketing gains. But can city leaders actively and effectively use procurement processes and practices to make businesses fulfil their social and environmental responsibilities? And could this direct influence made our world a better place after all?
The answers to those questions are a resounding YES! Procurement can directly boost CSR outcomes by municipalities telling their local enterprises not just what they need, but how they want it to be made, delivered, built and implemented. This dual added value has not just inspired our URBACT Lead Partner team in Milan (IT), but really constitutes a great opportunity to both supporting our communities and saving our planet. But the idea is spreading slowly. Too many obstacles need tackling, ranging from unawareness, prioritisation issues and lacking competencies to legal constraints, missing management capacities and under-developed monitoring practices. Untapped potential everywhere!
But there is hope for change, because the European urban procurement communities and CSR communities have recently started to link up. Well-known experts representing these networks – Matthew Baqueriza-Jackson as Lead Expert behind the URBACT networks Procure and Making Spend Matter, and Valentina Schippers-Opejko on behalf of the EU Urban Agenda Partnership on Innovative and Responsible Public Procurement – have been sharing their experience and wisdom with URBACT cities. They both joined meetings with the 10 city partners in our URBACT CITIES4CSR network, the first ever URBACT network building municipal capacity for promoting urban CSR ecosystems and practices.
This article asks what – after two and a half years of dedicated URBACT project work – is the local state-of-play regarding municipal procurement, what has been achieved so far, and what kind of barriers had to be overcome.
Lessons from our URBACT partner cities
1. Budaörs, Hungary: room for advancing local practice
Two institutional procurement frameworks shape local decisions in Budaörs. There is the national Public Procurement Act that applies to purchases of goods/services above HUF 15 000 000 (about EUR 40 000), and construction investment above HUF 50 000 000 (about EUR 132 000). Decisions under this act are slow, heavily regulated, and come with a significant administrative burden. In contrast, the municipality's own management rules come into effect for purchases below the abovementioned thresholds. These are more flexible, perceived as transparent, accompanied by less administrative burden and enable faster operational processing. The current municipal management regulations are considered sufficient.
For its URBACT Small Scale Action – tree planting and ‘green’ public awareness and education – the current procurement framework was considered adequate. Less satisfying, however, is the fact that the municipality currently does not give any consideration, preference or advantage to companies that have demonstrated good CSR practices. Part of the problem is that there is no useful administrative system in place to meaningfully compare and evaluate companies’ CSR activities.
2. Nantes, France: successfully linking CSR and SDGs
For long-term CSR-directed procurement decisions, Nantesbuilds on three strategies. First, general social and environmental criteria are initially being determined to select companies during calls for tenders. Second, a responsible purchasing plan incorporating social and environmental aspects will be widely communicated to inform companies of expectations to be met. Third, and as indeed required by French and European law, social and environmental criteria will have to be adapted to fit into more specific and relevant purchasing families, such as building and public works, provision of services and so forth.
Nantes’ Small Scale Action, a digital observatory monitoring businesses’ performance concerning progress on achieving Sustainable Development Goals(SDGs), is currently being assembled utilising best practice procurement. Despite being below the necessary threshold, it was decided to proceed as a call for tender precisely to allow the promotion of good practices. Broad digital advertising was followed by constructing an objective analysis grid that besides social and environmental criteria also incorporated competency aspects, quality dimensions, costs and deadlines. Finally, the assessment of the offers from potential service providers was assigned to selected URBACT Local Group (ULG) members in the name of openness and transparency.
3. Guimarães, Portugal: learning to be alert and flexible
The ULG in Guimarãesseeks to build and run a digital platform that will connect the well-established economic development and social development networks. The almost autonomous operating municipality-managed platform is to become a modern, efficient and responsive digital mechanism to link organisations representing social and community needs with businesses that have vital resources to offer in response. Overall the project has progressed quite well, having attracted an initial municipal financial commitment of EUR 18 000 and reached its current advanced testing and feedback phase.
Yet, three lessons had to be learned along the way. First, keep your options open concerning your supplier. Early on, the project team noticed feedback issues and failed deadlines with their preferred supplier, and were eventually forced to work with an alternative organisation. Second, in the teams’ own words “one must have apolitical champion, for every project, and must try to stay ahead of the political changes”. Having unexpectedly lost their project champion, the Councillor for Economic Development, officers eventually had to convince the Mayor directly, but lost four weeks into the process. Third, project management has to try to keep ahead of the game by anticipating and responding swiftly and adequately to almost unavoidable delays triggered by the fiddly specificities of procurement procedures. Luckily, a dedicated administrative department successfully helped to navigate those tricky roadblocks.
4. Vratsa, Bulgaria: taking risk more seriously
The municipality of Vratsastated that the internal rules for managing the procurement cycle are prescribed by the Public Procurement Law. While this process is perceived as clear and smooth, the local project team problematised the inflation risks stemming from the long time lag between calculating project costs, and implementation time. Inflation – surely a vexing and pressing future topic globally – leads to budget inadequacies and, consequently a lack of participants and unabsorbed funds because of insufficient financial resources.
Reflections, recommendations and potential actions
CITIES4CSR case studies highlight at least three key lessons regarding effective municipal CSR-directed procurement.
Rigid and bureaucratic national procurement frameworks may hinder CSR-directed goal setting and implementation. Effective lobbying for more flexible national laws may help to innovate.
Local-level project management capacities need to match vision and aspiration, including adequate legal competencies and solid administrative skills. Awareness-raising, targeted training and good practice dissemination may improve this situation.
Politics both enables and restricts innovative approaches to embedding local economic, social and environmental considerations in procurement. So changes in political leadership may cause the biggest risk. Strategically anticipating and skillfully navigating these risks may prove essential.
Our divergent findings on how CSR-mediated municipal procurement has progressed locally reinforce one of Matthew Baqueriza-Jackson’sprimary messages: partners should take their time when using procurement to realise CSR outcomes, because it takes strategic foresight and incremental implementation to change the state-of-play. Our partner lessons also underscore a second of his messages: that any evolution of procurement activities requires inclusion of a range of stakeholders, including politicians, strategists, technical staff, procurement officers and contract managers. We may actually require a well-functioning CSR procurement capacity system across municipal departments.
Clearly, strategic municipal procurement and CSR capacity building belong together. Procurement is potentially a powerful tool to directly influence CSR-mediated actions, practices and outcomes. Municipalities really are in the driver seat. Boldly and creatively confronting key barriers promise two inter-related outcomes. Guimarães (PT) illustrates how we may aspire to achieve a local win-win between business/economic and social/community stakeholders in terms of responding to needs quickly, competently and effectively. Let’s call this ‘small win-win’. Yet, if we look to Nantes (FR), we can aim even higher. Eyes could be set at a ‘big win-win’ by aligning our collective urban practices with reaching our global Sustainable Development Goals.
This article demonstrated the value of thinking and doing municipal CSR capacity building, and strategic municipal procurement, together. So mutual engagement, co-learning and shared capacity building should be intensified in challenging post-pandemic years. Improved two-way communication would be a starter and a more conceptually grounded debate desirable. Common initiatives may produce powerful shared messages to stakeholders and the wider public – perhaps already at our planned CITIES4CSR outreach event in Brussels on 30 June and 1 July 2022! Longitudinal and strategic project formats both locally and transnationally should be the ultimate goal. Let us unlock together the potential of strategic procurement for much needed social and environmental progress now!
Find out more about URBACT’s support to towns and cities looking for better ways to buy goods and services – with articles, practical advice, and a free online course on strategic procurement: URBACT strategic procurement Knowledge Hub.
The more complex life course of socially disconnected people, with longer periods of homelessness and insecurity, with addictions and other psychiatric problems, require new types of response.
The main objective of the project is to develop solutions based on 5 bridges: employment, housing and health, living together and empowerment towards inclusion of people in a situation of exclusion.
5Bridges is creating a social urban equipment included in a sustainable, multifunctionnal and liveable area, for: jobs (neighbourhood-restaurant, urban farm, solidarity-shop); housing (temporarily housing as well as social housing); health (low-threshold care, self-esteem activities, gardening); inclusion (active participation alongside solidarity-based involvement of neighbours), empowerment through involvement.
A key element of the project is that before the delivery of the building, 5Bridges has implement small scale labs to test and develop new services, methodologies and approaches that will be integrated in this first social urban equipment of this kind in Europe.
The experimentation of short term contracts is a real success, the first results are the following: out of 16 people affected, 14 people emerged positively to another type of contract. These positive exits took place after an average of 110 hours on the system.
The modern and innovative architecture is designed to allow everyone to feel confortable on the site and thus promote the mix of uses and public.
The innovative solution
Homelessness is one of the key challenges for cities in their fight against urban poverty. Nantes’ global aim is to be a green, innovative and liveable city FOR ALL. Social cohesion is at the heart of all its public policies. Today, the more complex way of living of socially disconnected people - including longer periods of homelessness and insecurity - requires new types of answers. Meanwhile, socially excluded groups feel socially stigmatised due to their difference.
5Bridges project experiment innovative solutions to tackle urban poverty: building an innovative urban equipment, a one-stop shop for different social groups where they can meet : a restaurant, an urban farm, a solidarity store, as well as solidarity-based housing, low threshold health care, and social services opened 24/24 and 7/7; developing an innovative approach: placing the user at the heart of the project's choices and including neighbours to facilitate the integration
A collaborative and participative work
The partnership is composed of 6 partners, each of them intervening in their own field of expertise. This partnership between public, private and associative actors has made it possible to carry out this innovative project (Ville de Nantes, Nantes Metropole - Organised Agglomeration, Association Les Eaux Vives – NGO, CDC Habitat - Public/Private Company, Société d’Aménagement de la metropole ouest atlantique (Samoa) - Public/Private Company, Association Emmaus 44 - NGO)
The project is planning to impact 2000 persons per year : homeless, badly housed or disconnected people, in Nantes and surroundings. During the years of experimentation, the target groups have been involved in the choices concerning the equipment.
The equipment now called “5Bridges solidarity village” will be managed by a NGO created by the occupants of the site.
The impact and results
The implementation phase of the project was characterised by two main activities: the construction of the equipment; and setting up small-scale labs to test and optimise the different designed answers that will be integrated in this social urban equipment.
The project had to face many hazards, particularly related to the construction of the building. The partnership's human resources and tools made it possible to meet the challenges related to financial or scheduling risks, sometimes by imagining more interesting solutions than the original proposal.
Results have been achieved regarding: empowerment and social inclusion through sustained active involvement of users; economic inclusion of users in small scale working labs, providing a work experience and short working contracts; sustainable housing solutions and satisfactory appropriation of mixed social housing; increased expertise of staff and users about support, based on the peer interventions of social workers, volunteers and users.
Why this good practices should be transferred to other cities?
The European Observatory on Homelessness reported in 2014, that homelessness is a growing issue in Europe. FEANTSEA (2010) stressed that the predominant model is that local authorities have the main responsibility for enabling and steering such services and NGOs are the main service providers, financed to a large extent by municipalities.”
Here are some targeted local issues:
2337 persons have never been accommodated in 2014 in Nantes
Lack of coordinated social support services 24/24 and 7/7
Existing structures do not always properly match social/healthcare/housing offers with the users' needs, and their geographic dispersal creates an “organised wandering” throughout the city.
5Bridges project can be duplicated by other European cities as:
It provides a solution to a situation they also face: mismatch between the offer (outdated accommodation, dispatched social services, lack of integrated answers) and the growing and changing needs, which require a integrated and comprehensive answer to homelessness.
It relies on a mix of competences and expertise (social work, health care, citizen participation, urban planning) and a portfolio of local stakeholders (NGOs, health services, social housing promoters…) that can be activated by all European cities.
Many documents and reports have been produced during the implementation of the 5Bridges project and can be provide to other cities willing to duplicate the project.
Throughout 2020, UIA and URBACT have explored how cities can design housing policies and practical solutions to implement the right to housing.
We have collected stories and concrete examples from European cities already implementing the right to housing that others can take inspiration from.
Three questions were leading this work:
What are the most innovative practices at city level concretely delivering the right to housing?
What can cities do to ensure that everyone – particularly the most disadvantaged groups - have access to safe, adequate and affordable housing?
How can the EU and member States create an enabling environment for cities to innovate?
The ultimate goal is to push the agenda on the right to housing EU wide and to further enrich the work done by the EU Urban Agenda.
The launch of the joint initiative happended during the Cities Forum on 31 January 2020. Experimenting new housing models and governance structures, designing strategies for those locked out of the housing market, and implementing anti-speculation measures were some of the main themes arising from the discussions regarding the role of municipalities.
A series of webinars and more digital outputs were delivered on the following themes:
Beyond the cities working with UIA and URBACT on this topic, the success of this knowledge activity relies on the contribution of key stakeholders representing housing practitioners, administrations, EU wide organisations, academia and civil society initiatives.
To receive more information and get involved, click here.
More activities are planned for 2021. Videos, podcasts and more inspiring content will be available through a new platform soon to be launched.
URBACT has prompted cities across Europe to embrace temporary use, saving abandoned heritage buildings, helping co-design new plans for former industrial sites, and boosting creativity and entrepreneurship in disadvantaged neighbourhoods.
Ostrava (CZ) and Caen (FR) are two towns where URBACT’s temporary use legacy lives on, creating new opportunities from pop-up cultural events and venues for creative start-ups, to urban gardening. Ostrava is a post-mining town that was part of the URBACT REFILL network, and Caen was a port city partner in the URBACT 2nd Chance network. Nearly two years after the REFILL and 2nd Chance networks closed, it’s time to take a look at how temporary use is evolving in these two cities.
First, what is this thing called temporary use?
Deindustrialisation, redevelopment battles, failing businesses, real-estate speculation, the draw of a bigger city... These are some of the factors fuelling local authorities’ growing struggles with empty, deteriorating buildings and heritage sites. URBACT champions temporary use as an answer. In other words, facilitate free or cheap access to empty heritage for creative, artistic associations and start-ups, in exchange for light maintenance. Later, if the project takes off, consider extending the deal or raising the rent.
François Jégou, Lead Expert for the URBACT REFILL network helping cities reuse empty sites to drive local innovation (2016-18), recalls: “Cities started the project thinking that vacant spaces were a problem they should solve, and they finished saying vacant spaces are an opportunity they should use!”
So much so that in Nantes (FR) – where grassroots activists drove the transformation of a former shipyard into a valuable creative neighbourhood – when one last vacant heritage building remained, a former Alstom factory, the city renovated it as purposefully empty space for temporary projects. Nantes values vacant buildings because they “need space for inventing the city”.
Not all local authorities, however, share the enthusiasm. “It’s a bit complex and counterintuitive to the mainstream way of thinking: that your main interest is to make money out of spaces,” says Jégou. “But what we see is that giving an opportunity to people who are economically not strong, to access certain urban places that aren’t always in an ideal situation, it’s a really strong positive dynamic for cities.”
Ostrava: agency Refill junior
First stop Ostrava, where the URBACT REFILL network boosted the municipality’s collaboration with active citizens, sparking several cultural events in vacant buildings. Thanks to popular initiatives, such as holding the 2017 Ostrava Kamera Oko international film festival in the iconic old Grossman’s Villa, more people in the city started seeing temporary use as a valuable tool for urban development.
As a direct result of Ostrava’s involvement in the URBACT REFILL network, Lenka Hochová and Tomáš Zetek were recruited in June 2018 to run the city’s new, aptly-named, Refill Office, via the cultural centre Cooltour. “Under URBACT, the REFILL project became known among Ostrava’s politicians, activists, cultural organisations… It really resonated among the group that we target, so we decided to call it Refill,” says Hochová.
Zetek adds, “The key decision to establish Refill Office was on Ostrava politicians. Without URBACT, the politicians’ consent, and money from the city, we wouldn’t be here now.”
Now part of a new city-funded organisation focused on urban development and planning (MAPPA), the Refill Office monitors Ostrava’s vacant places, then links up owners with users who might bring places back to life: creative non-profit and commercial initiatives, particularly start-ups. “Refill focus is on reviving the city through reviving empty spaces,” says Zetec.
One example is Atelier Umeni, a painting studio founded on the long-empty ground floor of an art deco building in a quaint, but relatively unpopular area, near the station and factories. “They wanted to be in the centre, but we managed to persuade them to go to this building. It’s quite safe along the main street,” says Hochová. Once Refill had connected them, the owners and users signed a temporary contract, with rent rising slowly from zero to low.
Another is RAPZZZ Place. Here, the administrators of an empty music club and adjacent former bakery agreed to lend space to a group selling rap music-related products. After a year’s free use, the building’s administrators and the RAPZZZ community will consider next steps together.
By making it easier to launch new projects locally, whether or not they are successful in the longterm, Refill Office hopes more young people will find work and inspiration in Ostrava, rather than heading for Prague or Brno.
Hochová and Zetek have so far registered over 100 vacant places in a database, and received over 60 project applications. Two long-term projects are up and running, and one three-month project has been completed, along with eight short-term events, from one-day pop-up activities to week-long artistic exhibitions.
“By creating the right conditions to spin the process, temporary use has evolved from random informal interventions organised by groups of individuals to a concept supported by the city,” explains Katerina Bonito of City of Ostrava’s Strategic Development Department.
But she says temporary use is still “not that big” in Ostrava due to various legal and administrative obstacles.
“We still have to fight for the idea of temporary use,” says Zetek, “Not everybody agrees on it.” With no legislation or tax incentives to do otherwise, private owners can be reluctant to give their property for free, even temporarily. They choose to leave it empty and focus on other more profitable buildings. Certain district-owned buildings also stand empty. So Refill raises awareness about the financial and social advantages of keeping buildings occupied, taking hundreds of visitors on pop-up tours round abandoned heritage.
The agency is also working with city council lawyers to make Ostrava’s temporary use process more efficient and accessible. Their aim, as a trusted partner, is to vet temporary users for both private and district-owned public spaces, selecting projects with potential benefits for owners, users and other city residents.
“An effective temporary use requires the owner and the temporary user to build a common strategy,” says Jégou. To help parties clarify possible longer term developments and other key elements together, the URBACT REFILL network proposed a Temporary Use Value Creation Plan tool.
Caen: green city experimentation and territorial marketing
Temporary use has also created new opportunities in the northern French city of Caen (who by the way will be at the upcoming Cities Forum 2020). Here, a 600-hectare harbour area near the city centre was abandoned for decades after the shipyard closed. It became a wasteland scattered with derelict buildings. As redevelopment preparations were being launched, the city used “territorial marketing” to revive interest in the Peninsula. Temporary artistic and cultural events have so far included sketching walks, bike rides, canoe tours, children’s workshops – and the renowned Palma street art festival.
A new tram station and huge library have been built, and housing construction has begun. If all goes to plan, homes will be ready for people to start moving in from 2021 onwards, with a total of 461 homes completed by 2025.
“Caen’s harbor area was unused and unknown,” said URBACT 2nd Chance network Lead Expert Nils Scheffler. “Through different activities the city drew attention to the site, getting people there so they could see how it could be used.”
Thanks to growing popular interest – and an URBACT Local Group (ULG) of activists, councilors, business people and the Greater Caen District Council – more temporary uses sprung up in former industrial buildings.
From 2016 to 2018, the ULG met regularly in “Le Pavillon”, a former steam-ferry terminal, and the site’s first building to be reactivated. Since 2014, the city has used Le Pavillon to exchange with citizens about the Peninsula’s redevelopment, and showcase wider aspects of architecture.
“Waking up the peninsula: yes we Caen!”
During 2nd Chance, the ULG worked with city residents and other stakeholders to select top buildings to preserve for their heritage value, potential, and location. As a result, in March 2017, Caen City Council bought an old prefab concrete factory, named The Tunnel, to be renovated for cultural groups. The aim is to bring new uses and footfall to a district otherwise avoided by city centre inhabitants. Managed by the Culture Department, the project benefits from European Structural Investment Funds and will be completed by 2025.
The council also signed a temporary agreement with the owner of a former 1410 m² warehouse, The Barrels, allowing free use of the land for three years. This gives time to test pilot urban farming, seek funding and define future uses – with support from a 2018-20 URBACT transfer network Ru:rban, and a 30-strong local stakeholder group.
As part of this new project, possible urban garden experiments on The Barrels’ land include the upcoming testing of a farm bot, gardening workshops for schoolchildren, and catering using products grown onsite.
Meanwhile, a two-year trial composting scheme yielded its first compost in November. “We’re trying to collect bio-organic waste from city centre inhabitants who don’t have their own garden, compost it on our site, and share it with the city,” explains Camille Varin, European Project Manager, Greater Caen District Council. Waste is collected by bike, thanks to Toutenvelo, a “Cooperative and participative society”. Compost will go to local urban gardens, and city inhabitants who ask for it.
For URBACT expert Jégou, temporary use is “a form of laboratory for city-making”. He says, “It’s a way to experiment urban planning to try out how the area could be redeveloped in a certain direction.”
Varin adds, “I would say temporary use is very valuable because it raises awareness and brings more opportunities, and agility: you can go forward step by step, which is great, and you can design projects with the city inhabitants.”
From organic school gardens and innovative teaching methods, to community courses and better links with families, health specialists or local businesses, URBACT is improving kids’ chances with innovative approaches to education.
Education is central to sustainable urban futures. Whether it’s to fight inequality and social exclusion, boost a town’s attractiveness, or help young people protect the environment, its vital role in building better cities is reflected in many URBACT networks past and present.
Let’s take a look at what some of these cities are doing…
The city as an orchestrator
Why are city authorities well placed to improve education policy? “Because the municipality has proximity to the citizens,” says Mireia Sanabria, Lead Expert for the URBACT transfer network ON BOARD – Connecting cities through education. “They can directly understand, visit, dialogue with communities to know their specific needs. And they have a brokerage role.”
As well as providing technical or financial support, space and equipment, cities can coordinate groups of local education stakeholders – schools, families, companies, associations, researchers, municipal departments and higher government. One example is Viladecans (ES), whose Education Innovation Network (EIN) approach is being adopted by five ON BOARD partner cities. This partnership inspired Nantes (FR) and Albergaria-a-Velha (PT) to develop new student wellbeing initiatives to improve academic results through happy, engaged learning. “We can provide schools with help, resources, and protection so they can dare to do things differently,” adds Sanabria.
“Recent estimates show under 17s to be the most vulnerable to risks of poverty, particularly children from ethnic minorities or with migrant backgrounds. In 2018, 20 000 unaccompanied minors applied for asylum in Europe in 2018, 40% of them in Germany and Italy,” says Colini. “This is why, the way the education system handles inequalities in family backgrounds can have an enormous impact, due to the crucial years pupils spend in schools.”
“The question of children and education should be treated with a holistic perspective, involving families and schools,” Fintan Farrel, Director of the European Anti-Poverty Network, said in an interview for the EU Urban Agenda poverty partnership (Colini & Tosics 2017).
This is just the sort of integrated approach that URBACT champions. During the URBACT StayTuned network, for example, the Ampelokipi - Menemeni municipality in Thessaloniki (EL) formed a strong team that works closely with school directors and local Roma people, deepening the administration’s understanding of Early Leaving from Education and Training. This led the municipality to adapt its courses, information and support to the needs of Roma children and parents, both in schools and in a new easily-accessible Community Centre. “Through the collaboration and exchange of experience with partners, the way the municipality understands its problem and role, as well as the methodology for managing challenges in the field of education and training, has changed,” says Magdalini Rousseti, Ampelokipi – Menemeni’s Director of Social Policy, Education, Sports & Culture.
As for Groningen (NL), with an aging population and jobs to fill, the city teamed up with its universities, academic hospital, citizens, employers and cultural institutions, to help international students and professionals “come, stay and be active”. Six medium-sized cities are now learning from this experience in the URBACT Welcoming International Talent network, including Bielsko-Biala (PL) who were recently inspired to open their own “Centre for Integration of Foreigners” MyBB.
Macerata (IT), won an URBACT Good Practice label in 2017 for its co-regeneration of urban green spaces around inclusion and children’s education. The Pace neighborhood green space has since become a place for meeting, education and social inclusion for the whole community – grandparents, parents, teenagers and children. The Les Friches NGO behind the scheme says, “Our participatory action has given positive effects. There’s now a new and integrated community that lives in the common space.”
Of URBACT’s many networks set up to help cities fight exclusion, here are just three more examples linked with education: Prevent – “Involving parents in the prevention of early school leaving”; ONSTAGE – “Music schools for social change”; and Rumorless cities – “Prevent discrimination, strengthen cohesion”, led Amadora (PT), where cities work with art and theatre to prevent discrimination and rumours against children with migrant backgrounds.
Methodology and tools for better learning
URBACT not only helps cities solve urban problems by strengthening cross-sector participation locally while learning from peers across the EU – it also brings municipalities new skills and methodologies. For some networks this is the main focus. The URBACT Playful Paradigm network for example, seeks new ways to engage stakeholders better in urban development. The eight partner cities use games to promote “social inclusion, healthy lifestyles and energy awareness, intergenerational and cultural mediation, place-making and economic prosperity”. Klaipėda City Public Health Bureau (LT), wants to work with more schools to introduce more playful, physical activities for schoolchildren, adapting techniques from their EU partners. “The network is a good framework to generate new ideas, spread the good practice,” says Laura Kubiliutė, Head of Klaipėda’s public health monitoring and projects department. One such idea is a playful Wednesday afternoon for young and elderly people at the county library, with quizzes and board games, helping strengthen links between generations, tackle loneliness, and foster social inclusion.
Small-but-powerful responsible citizens
From helping children enjoy nature to rewarding schools that lower their carbon footprint and support local organic farmers, cities of all sizes are helping shape the next generation of healthier, environmentally-conscious citizens.
“Working with schools is fundamental to collectively learn about rights and values in social, environmental and economic terms, because through schools one can reach out not only children but parents, families, the wider community, also those that are not active in civil society,” says Laura Colini.
Torres Vedras (PT), is a good example here. They have a rapidly expanding sustainable food school programme with 11 school organic gardens growing tomatoes, beans, peppers and other fruit and veg. Children already learn about food production, seasonality – and identifying the organic food label in shops. Still, the URBACT BioCanteens network has brought new ideas, including “freshness” criteria to improve public procurement for suppliers, and Mouans-Sartoux’s (FR) food-waste reduction scheme that covers extra costs of healthy, organic school meals. “For us it was: ‘wow!’, a very great idea, because we’d never thought about this before!” says Paula Rodrigues, Responsible for managing biocanteens and school gardens for the municipality.
Torres Vedras launched a pilot project in a school whose vegetable patch is the size of 10 parking spaces, and World Food Day celebrations last a whole month. Here, having followed the food from planting to harvesting and delivery to the school kitchens, 150 six-to-ten year-olds are now learning to reduce food waste and weigh their leftovers so menus can be adapted. For Rodrigues, their new understanding of food waste is the “golden key to close the cycle”. The city will expand the scheme to nine more schools this year to reach a total of 1200 children.
Why are children good ambassadors for a sustainable future? “Because they are the future!” says Rodrigues.
There are many more stories of cities that have developed innovative, sustainable solutions involving education and children:
The field experience of settling a “temporary public policy design lab" only scratches the surface of the problem of more than 5,000 vacant spaces on the territory and the appetite local stakeholders have for temporary use. But, immersion is worth 1,000 words: the Metropole civil servants do not usually address a new project in this way! By acquiring a significant experience of the problem, they are ready to explore and analyse other temporary use experiences in France and Europe. A wealth of case studies awaits from sixty local and national examples, as well and many European references conducted across Europe for three years within URBACT "REFILL The City" including 10 European cities: Ghent (BE), Athens (EL), Amersfoort (NL), Bremen (DE), Cluj (RO), Helsinki (FI), Nantes (FR), Ostrava (CZ), Poznan (PL) and Riga (LV).
A temporary roadmap
Building on the Roadmap to temporary use tool (from the toolbox produced and made available by the REFILL network) helps the establishment of a practice of temporary use in cities. This roadmap represents the “city of REFILL”: a virtual city that would combine the best practices of the 10 participating cities.
Different neighbourhoods represent the different major steps of the establishment of a temporary use practice: a "zone of cultural, social, entrepreneurial" candidates for temporary use; an "administrative district" dealing with legal, technical and safety; a "district with support services” to temporary use; etc.
A circular road connects each of these neighbourhoods, suggesting about fifteen milestones as "mapping the vacant spaces": - "Analysing the supply and demand"; - "Building the political support"; - "Developing a new temporary use value creation model"; etc.
Unlike a framed method, the REFILL Roadmap is like a tourist map suggesting different possible itineraries each city must choose, starting with the most pertinent actions, organising its progress in the local context and creating its own route.
The forming lab ambassadors discussed the implications of each example, gathering in small groups to fill in an analytical framework. After the field immersion, the lab consolidated and enriched its understanding of temporary use.
A pitch presenting a first rational of temporary use applied to the Metropole supported by a series of examples was recorded in the form of a short video. The film raised awareness about the many vacant spaces, the costs incurred for the public authority, and showcased temporary use as an opportunity with potential to host social, cultural, entrepreneurial initiatives - bringing people together, revitalising neighbourhoods, experimenting urban development projects and so on.
Sparking political attention
Thanks to experience and research, the Metropole forming lab had got a good idea of the challenges and opportunities for temporary use public service, putting together a kind of "service desk" of knowledge open to all. To create a solid launching pad for the future service, the Metropole required a large-scale demonstration project, drafting and accelerating the service and likely to convince at political level.
Inspiration then came from the city of Riga, REFILL network partner. Elected Capital of Culture in 2014, the city was experiencing a strong economic crisis and did not have the necessary infrastructure to host such an event nor the means to build them. The city made a collaborative agreement with a group of urban activists, squatters and actors of the cultural scene taken via the association Free Riga. The plan? To start a practice of temporary using vacant spaces to host the programming of its Capital of Culture! The urgency to find spaces to showcase the vibrant Latvian art scene helped to overcome the political cautiousness and set a precedent on which to build for all stakeholders.
The European Metropole of Lille will be the World Design Capital in 2020. The Metropole’s application was selected because it offered an ambitious territorial transformation through design, based on a call for innovation projects by the design of a set of social themes and particularly the emergence of design applied to public policy.
Although not comparable in all respects to the context of Riga in 2014, Lille Design World Capital 2020 seems to be a potential "launching pad" to install the practice of temporary use in the territory. More than 450 Proofs of Concept (POC) are announced in the territory for 2020. The POC is a key step in the design process allowing a light experiment to demonstrate viability of a concept before further developing the project.
The Metropole lab and the Working Group for Temporary Use have taken up the REFILL toolbox and co-constructed their own route towards the implementation of temporary use.
First, the creation of a series of temporary use spaces during the Lille Design World Capital 2020. To do this, the ambassadors of the forming lab and the Property department identified a first group of 20 potential spaces, visited and documented the most promising and put together a first online catalogue of options. In parallel, they explored contracts, which services to provide and how to assess the proof of concepts of temporary use during 2020.
Secondly, (after an assessment a year in) a policy of temporary use at the Metropole of Lille is to be established. This step includes the registration of "temporary use" in the territorial development and patrimonial valuation strategy of the Metropole, completing the online catalogue of vacant spaces and the establishment of a mediation service between supply and demand (technical and legal tools, financial support, etc.) internal or outsourced to a third party.
This experience allows us to make some assumptions of mutual enrichment between the URBACT approach (networks of towns sharing at European level on a specific challenge in terms of public policy creating an action plan) and, secondly, the approach of co-construction a public policy design lab (based on an innovative action-training process based on pilot projects).
The capitalised experience of 10 cities over a period of 3 years from REFILL network has accelerated the process of reflection of our Working Group for Temporary Use.
The organisation of the network deliverables in the form of a modular toolbox, together with a wide range of case studies (all articulated in the form of an open roadmap) was immediately actionable by a third city. Mediation transfer by an actor involved in both REFILL and the Metropole’s lab is a facilitating factor.
The existence of a public policies design lab in the Metropole’s administration helped seize the REFILL network’s experience faster and more efficiently.
The lab’s ability to partially overcome the slow decision-making and reporting processes and at least initiate a first experiment extends the co-construction process to stakeholders, making it immediately actionable.
The public policy design lab and URBACT methods have an integrated approach in common, as well as the involvement of an ecosystem of stakeholders committed to co-design and public policy programming. The lab approach adds field experimentation, a key step in the design process to simulate and test each action of an action plan before its deployment on the ground. Its benefit is on the one hand, to test and improve each action and on the other hand to involve the actors and trigger its implementation.
The exchanges about a wide range of "inspiring cases" collected through REFILL helped initiate the strategic conversation among stakeholders in Lille and identify what they consider a good practice for their situation and seize an opportunity such as the Lille Design World Capital 2020.
The examples of Ghent and Riga, even if they are from different socio-cultural contexts, comfort the actors in the idea that if it is not a given, it's possible since others have already done it.
Finally, the partnership with the European Metropole of Lille proves the usefulness of lessons capitalised by an URBACT network such as REFILL. It validates the methodology and tools developed for the workshop: “Make your own path to the temporary use” at the URBACT Festival in Lisbon in September 2018. It also heralds the arrival other REFILL development processes, like the one initiated with the City of Brussels and Brussels at the end of 2018.
Local Governments are leverages of educational innovation. We are aware of the opportunities & the needs in the city, we have a privileged knowledge of the stakeholders and, above all, we grow the future citizens. Thus, we should play an active role as educational policy-makers. ON BOARD Transfer network aims to help local governments to build new partnerships to co-create policies to empower younger people with the necessary skills to become active & engaged citizens able to face the challenges of new societies.