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  • 10 times URBACT has driven change for Gender Equal Cities

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    10 times URBACT has driven change for Gender Equal Cities - COVER

    Throughout the years, URBACT has led the way towards gender equality. The experience from cities bears witness of change.

    Gender equality
    Women in a protest for human rights (Creative Commons)

    Creative Commons

    From urbact


    Every year on 8 March, International Women’s Day reminds us the progress yet to be made for gender equality at international, national, local and individual levels.

    To support this fight, URBACT has funded several city networks working on gender equality for which tools, guidance and inspirational examples are captured in the Gender Equal Cities URBACT Knowledge Hub. The current open call for Action Planning Networks is a unique opportunity for cities to join forces when it comes to this matter, no matter which urban topic they choose to tackle. From mobility to digital transition and even green jobs, any local policy will be more successful and sustainable if the gender dimension is taken into account. 

    Get a taste of 10 stories when it comes to a just transition. Whether you are applying to join an URBACT Network or not, read on – and take a trip down memory lane – to get some inspiration of what can be done for more gender equal cities.





    Umeå (SE)
    A gendered landscape


    Umeå is definitely a city that holds gender equality close to its heart. Besides having a municipal Gender Equality Officer working across different departments, the city has long been involved with URBACT when it comes to this subject. Back in 2011, the municipality joined the WEED Action Planning Network (2008 - 2011) as a Project Partner and, later on, became the Lead Partner of the Genderedlandscape Action Planning Network (2019 - 2022) with the objective to further work on this issue with other EU cities. The city has greatly contributed to both versions of the Gender Equal Cities report (2019 and 2022), both developed under URBACT Knowledge Hub activities. For now, let’s take a closer look at another accomplishment from this city: back in 2017, Umeå received the URBACT Good Practice label for providing guided bus tours to show “the local gendered landscape”.

    This is an innovative way of showing how working with gender equality takes form in a city. It exemplifies successful changes and work in the city, as well as illuminating remaining issues. In line with Umeå’s high ambitions on sustainability and gender equality, the gendered landscape method is the first of its kind in Europe. It’s not about traditional neighbourhood safety or security surveys, it’s about taking the city itself as the starting point, highlighting gendered power structures and how they can be understood and transformed, while educating and raising awareness of locals. There are several examples of how the initiatives of the bus tour have made an impact in the planning and development of the city. For example, the Umeå’s Street and Parks department permanently changed their methods for dialogues with citizens and gender-mainstreamed the content of steering documents. Another example is the monitoring done by the culture sector, which has observed a positive trend towards gender equality. For instance, in 2015 there were 45% women (out of 2 000 events) were main performers in the cultural stages in Umeå, a big increase in comparison to previous years.



    Celje (SI)
    A pioneering city for women's employment


    Under the tagline “Women, Enterprise and Employment in Local Development”, the WEED Action Planning Network (2008 - 2011) was URBACT's first gender-led funded project ever. Ahead of its time, it aimed at mapping and developing integrated local actions to improve women’s labour opportunities in 11 EU cities. Led by the municipality of Celje, its Local Integrated Action Plan was focused in the identification of service gaps – alongside the focus on women’s employment – proved to be an effective way to attract significant fund opportunities. Based on an initial analysis of the local households, unemployed women were the ones who lacked the most training and access to jobs and skills’ resources. That’s how the idea for a Centre for Information, Consultancy and Education came up. The proposal consisted of creating an educational programme that could support women and enable them to even work in the centre later, if they wished to. By the time the WEED Network was coming to an end, 300 000 EUR from the European Social Fund had been secured for the centre. Most recently, the city has taken part in the Genderedlandscape Network as Project Partner.



    Vienna (AT)
    A gender equal city

    URBACT Gender Equal Cities - Vienna street lights (2022)
    Street lights in Vienna (URBACT, 2022)


    The city of Vienna is an example that is showcased in both editions of the Gender Equal Cities report (2019 and 2022) and in the Gender-responsive Public Procurement module (2022). The city also hosted twice URBACT Knowledge Hub workshops, notably the one in 2018. In this occasion, the first policy report was conceptualised. Moreover, the city represented URBACT during an interactive workshop in the 11th World Urban Forum 2022, in Katowice (PL). It also took part in the sub>urban Action Planning Network (2015 -  2018) to rethink the fringes of its urban area. The city is a pioneer when it comes to gender mainstreaming in urban planning. It has one of the longest legacies of gender-sensitive planning with the Women’s Office opening in 1992 and the gender mainstreaming – which means the implementation of gender as a cross sectional issue – starting in 2005.

    Today there are gender experts and multipliers all over the city. Gender is integrated into the city’s strategies and all public space, that is designed and built by the municipality, is done so with gender in mind. The outcome is an urban landscape that benefits everyone: parks are lit effectively to provide safety and access, social housing is architecturally designed with flexibility for different family situations, pavements are wider for parents and the elderly, street crossings are longer and pedestrians are prioritised, among other interventions. In addition, the municipality counts with Gender Budgeting Unit, which works with the finance team to oversee the annual budget across all departments using citywide data. As a frontrunner, the city is keen to share its experience with other cities across the world. It has published guides providing practical advice, offering explicit tools and tips, including gender-sensitive language, data collection and advice on how to avoid gender-mainstreaming becoming a catch-all buzzword.



    Trikala (EL)
    Piloting childcare support


    The municipality of Trikala has been involved in a series of URBACT Networks, but in 2019 it joined its first gender-led project, the Genderedlandscape Action Planning Network (2019 - 2022). Led by the city of Umeå, this was the perfect occasion for the municipality of Trikala to strengthen and support the delivery of Greece’s National Action Plan on Gender Equality 2021 - 2025 (NAPGE).  Prior to this experience, the city had already signed the CEMR European Charter for Equality of Women and Men in Local Life. In May 2020, a municipal gender committee was established to advise public departments. Trikala was able to experiment with different activities, which were developed under the Genderedlandscape small scale actions. A successful experience was the creation of areas within municipal cultural centre and other facilities dedicated to childcare. Henceforth, women and men have a safe space in the heart of the city for breastfeeding or feeding their babies and children, changing diapers, playing and even resting. This story has been showcased in the latest version of the Gender Equal Cities report.



    Val-de-Marne (FR)
    Welcoming and integrating female migrants


    In September 2015, European cities witnessed the largest migration flow since the World War II. Around the same time, the ARRIVAL CITIES Action Planning Network (2015 - 2018) had just been approved. The cities involved in this network came together to stand against a backcloth of rising discrimination and prejudice against immigrants,  with the objective to ensure social cohesion and the migrants’ integration. Val-de-Marne (FR) was one of the cities that joined this fight for immigrants’ rights. But contrary to the majority of its peers and other French cities, Val-de-Marne saw a particular rise on the number of women’s migrants. Despite the fact that women immigrants counted for more than 51% of the total immigrants in Val de Marne, they were considered as a minority. It’s worth mentioning that 20% of the people permanently living in the county of Val-de-Marne were born outside of French territory, a rate 18% higher when in comparison to the average in the Parisian region. 

    The issue of social, territorial and gender inequalities have long been at the heart of political and civic commitments in Val-de-Marne. The ARRIVAL CITIES Network was the perfect occasion to further support the emancipation and empowerment of the migrant population. The main challenge when it came to integration and gender equality was the significant professional deskilling. The participation of this city in this URBACT Network has strengthened partnerships with different associations, including the support to the Internship and Training Programme for Women, meaning women could start the process of job integration from the moment they set foot in France. In addition, the Local Integrated Action Plan set out a series of activities for civil society capacity-building and participation, including a Kurdish Women’s Festival that was held in 2017 in partnership of a series of NGOs.



    Gender Equal Cities 2022 report cover

    Gender Equal Cities 2019 report cover














    Gdańsk (PL)
    Women in blue entrepreneurship


    The municipality of Gdańsk has taken part in countless URBACT Networks. Unsurprisingly, the city is also one of the key case studies that are showcased in the latest version of the Gender Equal Cities report. The municipality has developed an app to feature the changing role of women’s employment in its famous Shipyard, simulating experiences from 1945 to 1996 with photos, biographies and audio material. It also used archives and other records, including extracts from a documentary that was shot in 1968. The objective was to give a voice to women’s from the past, telling their everyday working experiences, while encouraging girls and women to reflect on their career development. It’s worth mentioning that the city is a Project Partner in the BluAct Second Wave Transfer Network (2021 - 2023) draws lessons from its previous edition, the BluAct Transfer Network (2018 - 2021). This time around, a big emphasis was put on how blue economy entrepreneurship could help achieving gender equality.



    Pordenone (IT)
    The city of the future?


    Following the success of the Playful Paradigm Transfer Network (2018 – 2021), a spin off network was approved: the Playful Paradigm Second Wave (2021 - 2023). While the first experience focused on gamification, public spaces and using “play” as a tool to re-think cities, the second time around allowed involved cities to look deeper at placemaking and building gender-sensitive places. During one of its meetings, this network decided to focus on the topic of “play for sustainable urban regeneration”, which resulted in a Gender Toolkit. Among the case studies, the city of Pordenone (IT) was showcased. This is a forward-thinking municipality that is always on the lookout of innovation – hence its involvement with the SibDev Action Planning Network (2019 - 2022). The story of how they used immersive techniques to explore gender and urban planning is also told in the most recent version of the Gender Equal Cities report. In Italy, women make up more than half of the national population, still they continue to live, move and work in urban contexts that were historically designed and coded by men. The gender gaps in participation and planning highlight persistent structural inequalities.

    The city of Pordenone sought to develop a participative format that could be applied in medium-sized cities to encourage the collective conceptualisation of how the future of the city might be. Their core question was: can we envision a better future from a gendered perspective? Their main goal in this process was to raise awareness among the population of the city and embed gender mainstreaming in planning and policy in the city. The city chose strategic areas to focus  – work, intergenerationality, time and spaces – and designed a treasure hunt through the city based on Live Action Role Play (LARP). A path was established, which included stops at schools, supermarkets, public buildings, the cinema etc. Female participants were instructed to answer questions at each stop and find an object from the past and the future. The next point in the path resulted from their answers and choices. The goal was to facilitate a new vision among the participants by disrupting usual scenarios and offering a new perspective on familiar spaces.



    Cesis (LV)
    Girls' school coding clubs


    URBACT Gender Equal Cities - La Rochelle hackaton (2022)
    La Rochelle hackaton (URBACT, 2022) 

    Up until today, the lack of girls and young women specialised in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) in school and universities is undeniable. Taking part in the TechTown Action Planning Network (2015 - 2018) to build more digital cities, the city of Cesis has quickly noticed this structural issue. The school curriculum is normally fully dedicated to other priority topics and cities, themselves, have little or no ability to influence children’s preferences. However, there are often possibilities to “hack” the programme. For instance, the municipality can suggest schools to add extra-curricular activities: coding clubs or “lunch and learns” – which target girls and provide strong female role models in STEM jobs.

    The Cesis branch of the Riga Technical University has created additional activities for students aged 12 - 19 and lego robotics classes the in Cesis Children and Youth centre. Even short interventions can make a big difference. Throughout its action-planning journey, inspiration was drawn from the in Latvia. This experiment showed that after only a two-hour workshop on STEM subjects, girls’ interest in studying coding switched from 2% to 13%. It’s also worth mentioning, that this is still a very current challenge. More recently, in the framework of the Genderedlandscape Action Planning Network (2019 - 2022), the city of La Rochelle (FR) – which is known for its heavy nautical and industrial sectors, with a vast majority of male workers – has developed a series of hackathons for school children and, more specifically, girls.



    Basque Country (ES)
    Gender and regional law


    Although not an URBACT beneficiary per se, the Basque Country is not a “new face” to the URBACT community. Besides being showcased in both versions of the Gender Equal Cities report – brining to light matters from guidance to women who are elected officials to education to end gender-based-violence – a speaker from Emakunde (the Basque Institute for Women) was invited to take the floor during a plenary session “How gender equality creates sustainable cities”, during the URBACT City Festival in Pantin – Greater Paris. More recently, the city was showcased alongside Vienna as a key example for Gender-responsive Public Procurement. This new module of URBACT’s Online Course on Strategic Public Procurement was done in partnership with the Institute for Gender Equality (EIGE).



    In 1999, gender equality was first incorporated into regional law in the Basque Country. Since then Emakunde has worked alongside the Association of Basque Municipalities (EUDEL) to incorporate gender considerations into public policies and procedures, including into procurement. This collaborative approach has created enabling conditions, built capacity and supported local level actions. As a result, according to the latest available data, in 2020, 87% of public procurement included at least one gender equality clause. That is up from 67% in 2015, 42% in 2010 and 11% in 2005.  A concrete example is from Artziniega, a small Basque town, where the municipality contracted daycare services for elderly people in 2021 including specific criteria in the tender related to equal opportunities for women and men. To find out more about this experience, check out the URBACT Gender-responsive Public Procurement modules.



    Future Action Planning Networks' cities
    What URBACT IV holds for beneficiaries


    URBACT is committed to improving gender mainstreaming in all programme activities: in EU responses to urban challenges and in the planning processes of all URBACT cities. Unsurprisingly, gender is among the three crosscutting priorities for this programming period (2021 - 2027) – alongside the green and the digital themes. This doesn’t mean that, from now on, all URBACT Networks will exclusively work around these topics. On the contrary, the programme welcomes a bottom up approach where eligible cities can choose to tackle different urban challenges that are common to projects partners and which are fit to the local needs. Henceforth, gender should be considered as an underlying matter, from which solutions can be drawn to hindering issues. As the Cooperation Programme states:


    “Although URBACT operates a ‘bottom up’ principle to allow cities to identify their own challenges, the horizontal principles (EU Charter of Fundamental Rights, gender equality, non- discrimination, sustainable development, accessibility) outlined in Article 9 Regulation (EU) 2021/1060 will be addressed by all networks as part of the assessment criteria for selecting projects. The ongoing monitoring and evaluation of the networks will aim to highlight good practice in these areas. Specific training on gender equality, digital transition and climate action will be compulsory for all networks.  (…) URBACT IV will increase the capacity building offer linked to digital, green and gender as cross-cutting elements for all networks and activities of the programme.  (…) As part of the URBACT Knowledge Hub, thematic activities will allow cities to meet and exchange on topics cutting across URBACT networks, including green, digital and gender-inclusive’’.


    With the current open call for networks, you can already see some hints in the Partner Search Tool as to how cities plan to incorporate the equality spectrum to their proposals. At last, following the example from WEED and Genderedlandscape, some cities might see the potential of focusing their efforts directly in the core of this subject. This is the case of at least four project ideas and, maybe, many more that are not published online. The open call for Action Planning Networks remains open until the end of March and the URBACT team looks forward to seeing what comes next.





    URBACT Knowledge Hub


    After reading these 10 examples, we trust that you will be as inspired and galvanised as much as we are to continue fighting for true and concrete gender-led action across European cities, ensuring equity, diversity and inclusion to all.

    To find out more about Gender Equal Cities, be sure to check the URBACT Knowledge Hub!






    As cities continue to expand and change in size and shape, there is a need to protect, restore,  design urban ecosystems and make this available for all citizens.

    Identify the potential, which urban green infrastructure can offer to increase the resilience of cities to the impacts of climate change, to enhance well-being and quality of life  of citizens, and to conserve and manage urban nature and biodiversity together with the community.

    Cities are "hotspots" (i.e., a significant reservoir) of biodiversity because of their diverse structure and meso- and micro-climatic characteristics. In general, all forms of urban biodiversity can be subject to conservation and management that can range from the preservation of natural fragments and traditional cultural landscapes to designed parks and gardens to urban-industrial nature. These urban spaces remain under high pressure from construction activities in the process of re-densification.

    In order to reach a real green transition we need to explore and adapt the human-centred approach. This approach aimed and still aims to highlight the multiple benefits that humans in general but urban citizens in this case can gain from ecosystems, while highlighting the value and cost-effectiveness compared to conventional technical solutions.

    One of the main areas to which urban ecosystem services can be linked is climate change adaptation. Ecosystem-based approaches are increasingly being used to increase the resilience of the urban fabric where the intention behind Nature-Based Solutions (NBS- solutions) is based on the certainty that old-style planning, including soil sealing and ecosystem destruction, has increased the vulnerability of cities to hazards and made them more vulnerable to the effects of events that can no longer be called extraordinary.

    Well-being and quality of life are increasingly recognized and sometimes highly valued not only by local governments but also by citizens. Human well-being is increasingly becoming a primary goal of urban sustainability projects, and green spaces play an important role in terms of increasing quality of life.

    In addition to the personal health benefits in terms of well-being, urban green space is also a factor in improving the attractiveness of cities competing for specialists and young talent, and this is evidenced by the economic and social growth of those cities that have focused on improving the quality of green areas in the past and are still investing significant amounts of money on large-scale projects.

    Since cities are social-ecological systems with the highest density of human population interacting with various types of ecosystems, ranging from natural fragments to new urban ecosystems in relatively small areas, green spaces are crucial for environmental education and knowledge transfer about ecological processes.

    On the contrary, to seek sustainable pathways, current developments and different approaches need to be explored together with the communities. The strategic goal is a long-term appreciation of the potential and greater consideration of urban green spaces as nature-based solutions in city planning and development.

    Anna Ulian
    Municipality of Pordenone
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  • URBACT e la sperimentazione di nuove forme di finanza a impatto sociale: l’esperienza di SIBdev

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    I Social Impact Bond (SIB) si stanno diffondendo in tutto il mondo e hanno raccolto sempre più l'attenzione di governi e autorità pubbliche, investitori, terzo settore e ricercatori negli ultimi anni. Di cosa si tratta? L'esperienza del Network SibDev

    From urbact

    Di Nicole Mercurio

    I Social Impact Bond: di che cosa si tratta?

    I Social Impact Bond (SIB) si stanno diffondendo in tutto il mondo e hanno raccolto sempre più l'attenzione di governi e autorità pubbliche, investitori, terzo settore e ricercatori negli ultimi anni.
    Di cosa si tratta? In generale il Social Impact Bond è un meccanismo di finanziamento innovativo in cui i governi o i soggetti incaricati della gestione stipulano accordi con fornitori di servizi sociali, come imprese sociali o organizzazioni non profit, e con gli investitori per pagare la realizzazione di determinati progetti a beneficio sociale. L’innovazione generata da questo strumento risiede nel meccanismo di partnership tra il pubblico e il privato, concetto sul quale a seguito della crisi economica e sociale generata dal periodo pandemico non è mai stato così importante investire.

    SIBdev: il Network URBACT

    Riconoscendo il potenziale ruolo rivoluzionario dei SIB come motore di cambiamento sociale, il programma URBACT ha finanziato la rete “SIBdev - Social impact bond development for improved public service Delivery”. Il network ha promosso l’utilizzo dello strumento finanziario dei social impact bond per migliorare i servizi pubblici di interesse locale e quindi migliorare i risultati delle aree occupazione, educazione, salute e inclusione sociale.
    Spesso l'erogazione dei servizi è ostacolata dalla frammentazione e dalla segregazione delle agenzie erogatrici, dalla mancanza di tempestività finanziaria e politica, dall'avversione al rischio e dalla difficoltà di creare cambiamenti. Il Social Impact Bond, dal punto di vista di URBACT, è un modello ambizioso che permette di sormontare questi ostacoli, potenziando la collaborazione in rete locale, la prevenzione e l'innovazione.

    Il partenariato è composto dalle seguenti città europee: Herleen (NL), Coordinatore del progetto; Baia Mare (RO); Fundão (PT); Kecskemét (HU); Võru (EE); Asrhus (DK); Zaragoza (ES); Pordenone (IT).

    Le esperienze di Fundão e Aarhus

    Dall’approvazione nel 2019 fino a settembre 2022 che ha visto la conclusione del progetto, SIBdev ha portato le città partecipanti a dei risultati significativi in termini di impatto sociale urbano.
    Un esempio sicuramente da menzionare è quello di
    Fundão, una città portoghese di 26.000 abitanti soggetta negli ultimi decenni una grave perdita di popolazione e un alto tasso di disoccupazione, soprattutto tra i giovani. La strategia progettuale nell’ambito di SIBdev è stata mirata alla creazione di posti di lavoro e allo sviluppo di un ecosistema favorevole all'innovazione. Il Comune di Fundão ha creato un concept innovativo per investitori e dipendenti chiamati LivingLab, spazi che promuovono uno stile di vita locale unico identificando luoghi stimolanti e mettendoli a disposizione delle aziende.
    E’ un esempio di come una città ha fatto suo il progetto leggendo il proprio territorio, identificando le problematiche specifiche e sfruttando le potenzialità offerte da SIBdev.
    Un altro esempio degno di nota e che ben rappresenta un contesto completamente differente è il comune di Aarhus, in Danimarca. Ciò che collega le due città è il coinvolgimento di SIB nella politica sociale, che nel caso di Aarhus è stato realizzato nell'area dei giovani senzatetto. Le iniziative seguivano il concetto di “housing first”, una speciale logica di intervento che affronta contemporaneamente le problematiche di alloggio, salute mentale e lavoro.
    La peculiarità del SIB danese è da individuare nell'entità del coinvolgimento pubblico: le iniziative abitative sono state finanziate da due istituzioni pubbliche e da un fondo filantropico i quali sono stati rimborsati su un periodo di 5 anni, in base ai risultati ottenuti nella riduzione dei costi di alloggio e di disoccupazione.










    SIBdev in Italia: Il caso di Pordenone
    Tra le città partner del progetto, Pordenone ha sviluppato una serie di azioni in grado di rimettere lo strumento dei social impact bond al centro del dibattito tra esperti, accademici e amministratori locali.
    Grazie alla partecipazione a questo network, Pordenone sta sperimentando nuove misure di finanza ad impatto sociale per garantire e sviluppare servizi di welfare e contrastare la povertà urbana.
    Considerato il proprio tessuto socio-economico ma anche demografico, la città si è impegnata nella realizzazione di un progetto pilota di finanza ad alto impatto sociale nell'ambito dei servizi legati al social housing per anziani e all’inclusione dei medesimi nelle dinamiche sociali locali.

    PordenoneInfatti Pordenone presenta una percentuale di popolazione urbana anziana di circa il 24%, un numero consistente di persone che richiede servizi specifici e su misura e che è stata inoltre la fascia più colpita dagli anni di pandemia.
    Nel quadro del progetto, dopo un’attenta prima fase di analisi e individuazione dei bisogni, la città ha lavorato sotto la guida dell’Assessorato alle Politiche sociali con tutti i soggetti che sono stati coinvolti nel Gruppo locale Urbact (ULG), quali i partecipanti all'osservatorio anziani e le organizzazioni giovanili locali.
    Le modalità di inclusione degli anziani, beneficiari stessi dei progetti, all’interno del design e della realizzazione delle azioni co-disegnate sul territorio, rappresenta un grande esempio significativo di collaborazione tra diverse generazioni di residenti, per affrontare alcune delle sfide più urgenti del territorio.
    Nel quartiere di Vallenoncello, ad esempio, il Comune di Pordenone in collaborazione con la cooperativa Itaca ha creato una “casa delle attività”, uno spazio di quartiere in cui sono attivi laboratori di diverso genere: dalla fotografia all’uso di smartphone e social media per coinvolgere anziani e giovani sperimentando forme di cohousing tra diverse generazioni ed estrazioni sociali.
    Gli anziani dunque, come categoria che va protetta e tutelata anche nell'aspetto delle relazioni sociali e affettive, ritrova in questa maniera una propria dimensione in città, dando al contempo una possibilità lavorativa ai giovani inoccupati.

    Dagli esempi riportati, risulta evidente l’importanza del Social Impact Bond come motore di cambiamento, soprattutto se integrata in reti innovative come quelle che URBACT è capace di generare a diversi livelli. Il SIB rappresenta dunque una modalità alternativa di avere impatto sulla società rendendo partecipe anche il mondo della finanza privata, attraverso la quale è possibile garantire maggiori investimenti in progetti di questa natura pur mantenendo il ruolo di condivisione del rischio delle istituzioni pubbliche.
    Grazie ad URBACT con il progetto SIBdev e alle reti urbane europee attente al tema della finanza innovativa per migliorare i servizi di welfare nelle città, gli esempi come quello di Pordenone mettono in luce come sia possibile utilizzare questo strumento, accompagnato dalla propensione a lavorare in modo sperimentale e competitivo in città, per generale un cambiamento che non sia solo ideale e contestuale, ma concreto e  sistemico.

  • SIBdev

    LEAD PARTNER : Heerlen - Netherlands
    • Aarhus - Denmark
    • Baia Mare - Romania
    • Fundão - Portugal
    • Kecskemét - Hungary
    • Pordenone - Italy
    • Võru County - Estonia
    • Zaragoza - Spain


    CONTACT US: Municipality of Heerlen, The Netherlands - Team Policy, Domain Society
    mailbox 1, 6400 AA Heerlen, visiting address: Putgraaf 188 Heerlen



    • Phase I Kick-off event in Heerlen
    • Lead Partner & Lead Expert City Visits
    • Phase I Final Event in Fundao
    • Phase II Activation Meeting Online
    • Masterclasses 1-6 - Online & Physical
    • Transnational Meetings Sept 2021 - April 2022 in Voru, Pordenone, Zaragoza, Aarhus, Kecskemét, Baia Mare
    • Phase II Final Meeting in Heerlen

    Integrated Action Plan

    Võru County Integrated Action Plan

    Read more here !

    Võru County - Estonia
    Integrated Action Plan Baia Mare

    Read more here

    Baia Mare - Romania
    Kecskemét Integrated Action Plan

    Read more here

    Kecskemét - Hungary
    Pordenone Integrated Action Plan

    Rea more here

    Pordenone - Italy
    Fundão - Portugal
    Aarhus Integrated Action Plan

    Read more here !

    Aarhus - Denmark
    Zaragoza Integrated Action Plan

    Read more here !

    Zaragoza - Spain
    Heerlen Integrated Action Plan

    Read more here !

    Heerlen - Netherlands


    The goal of this Action Planning Network was 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 short-termism, 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.

    Boosting social impact - Investing in society with Social Impact Bond development
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  • 23 Action Planning Networks ready for Phase 2!

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



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

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

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


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


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





    Research, technological development and innovation


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

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

    Find your Greatness

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

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

    Access to and use of ICT

    (previously DI4C)

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

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


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

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

    Competitiveness of SMEs


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

    - Saldus (LV)

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

    Tourism Friendly Cities

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

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

    Low carbon economy in all sectors

    Urb-En Pact

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

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

    Zero Carbon Cities
    (previously ZCC)

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

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

    Environmental protection and resource efficiency


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

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


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

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

    Healthy Cities

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

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


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


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


    Resourceful Cities
    (previously UrbReC)

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


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

    (previously Rurban Food)

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

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


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

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

    Sustainable transport


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

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

    Thriving Streets

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

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

    Employment protection and resource efficiency


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

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

    Social inclusion and poverty


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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

    Education, skills and lifelong learning


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

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




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

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  • Social Impact Bonds: the secret tool for effective public services?

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    In times of financial constraints, total government expenditures on public services are decreasing, while citizens expect more and more effective services. Social Impact Bonds may be the tool for providing funds and overcoming short-term focus, fragmentation of services and lack of innovation.


    Total government expenditure in the EU-28 decreased from 50% of GDP to 45.8% between 2009 and 2017. Similarly, local government spending fell from 12% of GDP to 11% between 2009 and 2015. Still, demands on services have remained intense, and spending on social protection as a proportion of total expenditure increased from 38.8% to 41.2% and spending on health increased from 14.7% to 15.3% in the same period. Cities provide many of those services, -and doing so while running on tight budgets causes significant strain.

    Besides shrinking budgets, providing effective services fail because they are often split between different departments, and a holistic approach is lacking. Cities are pressured to allocate resources to solving crisis-point situations instead of spending on prevention. In such a context, decision-makers opt for the business-as-usual approach without risking relatively unknown interventions that have a severe upfront cost.

    In the meantime, the idea of ‘socially responsible’ or ‘impact investment’ is emerging amidst a low interest rate environment. The trend of investing in the social environment has become a way for investors to give back to the community. Very often, companies are trying to expand their social responsibility. As a result, a growing number of investors are looking for forms of impact investments as a way to stand up for their beliefs and also make a profit.

    The relatively new tool for bringing together the investor and the public sector is the Social Impact Bond (SIB). It is a contract whereby the public authority or governing authority pays for better social outcomes in certain areas and passes the savings achieved to investors. Unlike a bond, the repayment and the return on investment are contingent upon the achievement of desired social outcomes. If a project meets the pre-agreed results, i.e. an improved social outcome that generates a cost-saving, the government (this can be local or national) pays the investors. If a project does not achieve its contracted results, the investors lose their money, and the government pays nothing.

    1. Figure: Social Impact Bonds’ theory of change. Source: University of Oxford, Government Outcomes Lab - An Intro to SIB.

    A Social Impact Bond may have many beneficial effects for cities, as Government Outcomes Lab states in its Evidence Report titled ‘Building the tools for public services to secure better outcomes’. It encourages collaboration by building on cross-sector expertise and bringing together multiple commissioners and multiple providers. It unlocks future savings by investing more up-front, enabling cities to focus on prevention and early intervention services that might otherwise not get funded. A SIB may inspire innovation by allowing new interventions and more flexibility. It also levels the field for involving voluntary, community and social enterprise organisations. Last but not least, a SIB can improve performance management and provides a better quality of evidence.

    Many critics are contesting these benefits, saying that a SIB does not encourage genuine innovation. Investors will be looking for low-risk models that have been proven to deliver, as they want their money back. Moreover, a SIB is expensive to develop and leads to the financialization of the public sector, which is – for many - incompatible with the public service ethos.

    With evidence on both sides, Social Impact Bonds need more experimentation and evaluation. And despite these circumstances of austerity, some cities try to use the momentum to shift their approach towards this new tool. That is why 10 cities joined their forces in URBACT SIBdev Network to jointly explore how Social Impact Bonds, can improve public service delivery. The tool and the URBACT methodology, namely coproduction through multi-stakeholder local support groups and the development of local action plans fit perfectly.

    The network will examine service delivery concerning employment, ageing and immigration. Employment is an obvious choice since SIB is particularly well-suited to it, as demonstrated by the fact that it is the most common type of SIB worldwide. Ageing is the most massive pressure on social spending in Europe and affects a growing number of people, while immigration is the primary concern at the EU level (according to Eurobarometer).

    Is SIB going to be the new secret tool for providing adequate public services? Maybe it will be, maybe not. But it certainly is a promising new form of commissioning social services. If you are interested in Finance and/or Social Services, follow URBACT SIBdev Network to learn about how SIB might work for you!

    1. Photo: Harrie Lambrichts

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