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  • Global Goals for Cities

    Lead Partner : Tallinn - Estonia
    • Klaipèda - Lithuania
    • Braga - Portugal
    • Bratislava - Slovakia
    • Gävle - Sweden
    • Glasgow
    • Heraklion - Greece
    • La Rochelle - France
    • Manresa - Spain
    • Reggio Emilia - Italy
    • Schiedam - Netherlands
    • Veszprém - Hungary
    • Solingen - Germany
    • Mouscron - Belgium
    • Trim - Ireland
    • Ozalj - Croatia
    • Jihlava - Czech Republic
    • Dzierżoniów - Poland
    • Véliki Preslav - Bulgaria



    • Kick-off meeting
    • Participation at the 2022 World Urban Forum in Katowice (PL)
    • Localising Sustainable Development Goals Conference in Manresa (ES)




    • How EU cities can localise SDGs through integrated action planning

      Global Goals For Cities Lead Expert Stina Heikkila shows URBACT cities taking steps to link local and global sustainability goals.

    • Senioral policy in Dzierżoniów and the goals of sustainable development

      The Sustainable Development Goals have been defined by the United Nations (UN) in the document Transforming Our World: The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. This document lists 17 Sustainable Development Goals and related activities that are planned to be achieved by UN member states. The goals are achieved not only at the government level - the sectors of science, business, non-governmental organizations and ordinary citizens also have a great influence.

    • From Vision to Transformative Actions for the SDGs: co-creation of integrated actions in Manresa

      Around one hour and a half from Barcelona by train, in a hilly area of the Bages county, is Manresa - a small-sized city with around 78 000 inhabitants - one of several partners of similar size in the Global Goals for Cities network. On 21 April, I had the chance to stop by and attend one of Manresa’s URBACT Local Group (ULG) meetings organised by the local coordination team. Here, I share a few highlights of how the ULG and the participatory process is helping to shape the priorities of the Manresa 2030 Agenda and the integrated action plan that is currently in the making.  

    • Video from the transnational meeting in Gävle

      A very nice and colorful short movie showcasing our three full workdays in Gävle.
      Authors: partners from Mouscron, Christophe Deneve.

    • Insights from REGGIO EMILIA

      The city of Reggio Emilia (Italy) was the co-host of the 7th Transnational Meeting, which was held between 23-25 May 2022 in Sweden, along with the cities of Gävle (Sweden) and Dzierżoniów (Poland).

    • Video from transnational meeting in Solingen

      A short video of our first physical meeting in Solingen, Germany.
      The meeting was dedicated to the next phase of action planning and implementation on governance, partnerships, and policy coherence levels.

    • First face-to-face meeting in Solingen

      Together with the cities of Tallinn and Heraklion the TM#6 was hosted by Solingen and was held from April, 6 to April, 8 in the Theater and Concert Hall in Solingen. After one year of work in
      the GG4C project participants from 14 different countries took the chance to meet in person.

    • Insights from Heraklion, the co-host of TM6

      The city of Heraklion was the co-host of the 6th Transnational Meeting which was held between 5-8 April 2022 in Solingen, Germany along with Solingen and Tallinn.

    • SDG Story: Gävle

      Gävle and the other 18 cities (from 19 countries) of the EU URBACT pilot network ”Global Goals in Cities” (GG4C) are already one year into the 20 months project on localising the SDGs.

    • SDG Story: Mouscron

      Just halfway towards our goals following the marked route, the AGRI-URBAN Network (URBACT III Programme) held a transnational meeting in the Swedish city of Södertälje from 21 to 24 May 2017. A turning point in the agenda of this project, the meeting focused on the AGRI-URBAN topics linked to the experience of this city and also put the emphasis on shaping the Integrated Action Plans of all partners of the project with the participation of their respective URBACT Local Groups. Watching this video, produced after the visit, you can discover how inspirational was this Swedish city in the project design and later, fostering innovative actions in other partner cities involved in the development of local food systems.
    • SDG Story: Tallinn

      Guidelines for the implementation and monitoring of the sustainable development goals in the framework of Tallinn 2035 Development Strategy.

    • SDG Story: Jihlava

      Jihlava vision concept: aim is to be safe, socially cohesive, green and accessible city.

    • SDG Story: Bratislava

      Where are we coming from?

      Even though the first mention of Bratislava appears in 907, Bratislava is one of the youngest capitals in Europe (1993).

    • SDG Story: Reggio Emilia

      Where are we coming from? The city profile.

      Reggio Emilia is renowned in educational circles, with the philosophy known as the “Reggio Emilia Approach”; for pre-school and primary school children developed in the city shortly after World War II. At the same time, contemporary art, ancient monuments, and exhibitions such as Fotografia Europea have made the city rich in culture and social change —supported by the business community, services and the university. The city is connected by high-speed train to Milan, Bologna and Florence, and is within 45 minutes’ reach to all those cities. Reggio is the city of relations with Africa, the city of cycle paths and of Parmigiano Reggiano.

    • SDG Story: Veliki Preslav

      The third newspaper of tomorrow is here and it's from Veliki Presav, Bulgaria.
      Very inspirational article of how the city looks like beyond 2030, and as they declare - Veliki Preslav will be the most sustainable small city in their land.

    • SDG Story: Klaipėda

      In the visioning phase of our network, partners worked hard to co-create their visions for localizing the SDGs in their cities. The stories tell their vision for how to localise the SDGs in their cities.
      Here you can get a glimpse of Klaipėda - vibrant, smart, inclusive.

    • SDG Story: Heraklion

      In the Visioning phase of our URBACT Global Goals for Cities network in the second half of 2021, partners worked hard to co-create their visions for localizing the sustainable development goals in their cities.
      We’re happy to launch our ,campaign showing the diversity and creativity of the 19 stories.
      First up: Newspaper of future Heraklion -smart, resilient and livable city.

    • The RFSC a relevant tool for the city partners of the GG4C network

      In the course of the life of the Global Goals for Cities (GG4C) network, the 19 city partners used an existing self-assessment tool: the RFSC, or Reference Framework for Sustainable Cities. Based on European principles for sustainable and integrated urban development, the tool available online was used during the diagnosis and visioning phase of the network (as an analytical tool), and partners will use it again in the planning phase (as a planning tool). What is the RFSC? And what did it bring to the network?

    • The Citizen Committee of the La Rochelle Territory Zero Carbon project: How to build trust?

      On January 25, La Rochelle Urban Community presented to the Global Goals for Cities partners its ‘La Rochelle Territory Zero Carbon’ (LRTZC) project towards 2040, highlighting the following main characteristics and innovations : a shared and multilevel governance, an evaluation and financing tool 'the Carbon Cooperative', and a citizen co-construction approach through the establishment of a Citizen Committee.

    • Debating the future of Schiedam

      The future of the city of Schiedam is a recurring topic in the city council and the executive board and, of course, also in the city. These views and discussions have been reflected in the city vision for some time now.

    • Jihlava's successful collaboration with developers

      Every new construction in the city burdens the surrounding area with growing demands on transportation, social and health infrastructure, and other needs for a functioning urban society. Such externalities can be relatively reliably quantified, predicted or simulated. However, cities often must develop and maintain the infrastructure themselves. Is there a method to share costs with private developers and collaborate to build more sustainably with the needs of the citizens in mind?

    • Glasgow’s Journey towards the 2030 Agenda

      Race to net zero and climate resilience: localising the SDGs through meaningful participation and co-creation.

    • Manresa 2030 Agenda: localising the SDGs through meaningful participation

      Since the end of 2018, Manresa is working on its local 2030 Agenda: an integrated sustainability strategy to respond to the environmental, social, and economic challenges of the current decade. A strategy whose design, implementation and monitoring must be shared with all the local stakeholders and citizens.

    • Awareness-raising around the SDGs – a practical example from La Rochelle Urban Community

      On 25 November, Stina Heikkilä had the opportunity to participate in an exciting event organised by our Global Goals for Cities partner La Rochelle Urban Community: the bi-annual Participatory Forum for Actors for Transition (Forum Participatif des Acteurs de la Transition). For this Forum, the team from La Rochelle Urban Community had planned an “SDG edition” with the aim of raising awareness about the 2030 Agenda and the SDGs among local stakeholders.

    • Ozalj best practices on meaningful participation

      The city of Ozalj was the co-host of the 4th Transnational Meeting which was held virtually between 24-26 November 2021 along with Manresa and Glasgow. Our main theme was Meaningful participation and co-creation and each co-host city shared best practices and introduced other cities to local customs.

    • Trim: Raising awareness of the SDGs

      The courthouse in Trim stands in the centre of the town, with the castle in the background, it is a reminder of the history and heritage of Trim. Both grey stone buildings have been here longer than us and could tell a story or two.

    • In Swedish: Gävle is developing urban sustainability

      Nätverket Global Goals for Cities arbetar med Agenda 2030 och de globala målen. Gävle kommun ska tillsammans med 18 andra städer i nätverket under kommande två år skapa och dela kunskap för att utveckla den urbana hållbarheten.

    • Klaipeda Case Study: Virtual hackathon “Unlock SDGs”

      To achieve Agenda 2030 and make sure that we leave no one behind, everyone needs to get involved in the work towards a more sustainable world. Youth continuously are an important factor in this work. The Klaipeda city has Forum of Youth Ambassadors, which is a new body put in place with the hope of creating lasting and strong youth engagement. The forum is designed to generate ideas for the Youth Affairs Council of Klaipėda, which consists of 7 youth representatives and 7 municipal representatives.  This process is in progress according to national law.

    • Mouscron: Story of Transnational Meeting

      On September 28th, the transnational meeting with the co-host cities of Trim, Mouscron and Klaipeda was held by videoconference (thanks to covid…). Nevertheless, it was an opportunity for us to practice our English. 
      Through this activity, we were able to learn more and discover local traditions. We were therefore able to introduce other cities to our customs and to share with them our culture. 

    • URBACT cities join forces in a quest for global sustainability

      A new URBACT network aims to lead the way in delivering on the UN SDGs in cities. Find out why this matters.

    The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its Sustainable Development Goals, adopted by all United Nations Member States in 2015 as a universal call of action to protect our planet, end poverty and ensure peace and prosperity for all by 2030. "Global Goals for Cities” is a pilot network and strategic partnership aimed at accelerating progress towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals in 19 cities of the EU, through peer learning and integrated action planning. The partnership is funded through the European Regional Development Fund's URBACT III European Territorial Cooperation programme.

    Strategic partnership for peer learning and planning to localise SDGs
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  • Railway Hubs: Changing track in stakeholder engagement

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    Railway station locations are increasingly being re-invented as vibrant, multi-functional, multi-modal urban attraction poles. This inspired the URBACT ENTER.HUB network to explore opportunities which the “Railway Hub” concept can bring to cities. This innovative transformation can also help in understanding new governance and participation models.


    Redefining a vital urban resource 

    When the railways came to our cities in the 19th century, few obstacles were laid in their path - yet only occasionally did this life-changing transportation infrastructure penetrate the very heart of existing urban centres (Koln, Edinburgh). The establishment of terminus, or through stations, on the edge of historic centres is a more familiar pattern, taken to extremes in the array of mainline termini built to serve major cities like London and Paris. The station became monument to a new age. Responsibility for development and management rested firmly in the hands of the “railway company” in a relatively simple relationship with city authority based on land ownership transactions, provision of mutually supporting services etc. Travel was the primary factor shaping the functional role of the station. With citizenry in the role of client, customer, consumer the new urban poles provided all that was required to support this progressive transportation experience – travel information/ticketing hall/offices, waiting facilities, restaurant, cafe, newsstands, hotels, connection to cabs and in best circumstances to other transport networks.

    Today these stations have mostly been swallowed up in the expansion of our urban/suburban landscapes. Over time they have adapted to accept changes in service provision (downsizing of counter facilities) and new functional opportunities, but generally remained key locations in the urban development dynamic. High Speed Train technology (underpinned by EU TEN strategy) encouraged fundamental re-assessment of the position of mainline stations – Euralille, St.Pancras, Frankfurt International Airport... and their societal role. Vocabulary changes, we talk of “Railway Hubs” which characterise a process of re-invention, adaptation and renewal.

    The Railway Hub: a complex meeting of interests

    The ENTER.HUB network focussed on added-value of the Rail Hub concept as an innovative force for integrated, sustainable urban and mobility planning (these two working in essential concert). Building on identity and fundaments of the past (urban, architectural icons), the station and its surroundings become a new central place in the city (paradoxically also if a hub is located on the edge or even outside the existing functional urban area). The Hub connects neighbourhoods rather than confirming railway infrastructure as a barrier (“the other side of the tracks”) and is no longer simply the domain of the traveller[1]. The offer of a network of services remains but is not limited to mobility, and can include commercial, housing, education, cultural, tourism facilities. This nodal point, urban interface repositions the station area as a “prime” location attracting new development, business and employment initiatives, and inhabitants, within a sustainable, multi-modal mobility and development logic. It is a public good where attractiveness and quality of life is reflected in the provision of public space with reduced dependency on the private vehicle - a connector, a gateway, red carpet, city lounge. (see Enter.Hub video)

    While transportation is still core business of this broadened perspective, any transformation, new construction, densification or intensification of activity patterns can also generate negative impacts both in the short and long term. So when seeking to exploit the advantages of the Hub as a composite, inclusive element it is also necessary to forestall or at least mitigate potential adverse effects. In this situation affected populations (residents, shop-owners, travellers and commuters...) become privileged partners not only confined to the immediate locality but describing a much wider catchment area and broad range of interest groups. Also the Rail Hub as entity no longer corresponds to the conventional property limits of the station complex (rail company). Achieving new urban added value through integration of ancillary issues and functions - combined with smart, sustainable, inclusive growth and development ambitions - increases the complexity of the challenge facing policy makers. This requires involvement of a growing range of actors responsible for delivery of products and services (civil and network engineering, business and [private] investment, retail, [sustainable] mobility interchange management, culture, residential, public space and amenity).

    Of necessity, Railway Hubs have mobilised new forms of governance, based on joint-leadership, partnership and co-production, transforming the conventional “single driver” model. This has been accompanied by blurring of traditional relationships and roles, and a general trend towards engaging with civic society, citizens and end-users. Long established competence boundaries are put in question – where for instance the public authority becomes enabler rather than provider, the railway company is freed to act as property developer and the private sector is encouraged to contribute to enhancing the public realm... The Railway Company is key, if not dominant, stakeholder - main service provider, net coordinator, infrastructure manager and often principal landowner - but cannot independently deliver the comprehensive and coherent package of initiatives required to establish the Hub formula. ENTER.HUB partner experiences shed some interesting light on how cities are concretely addressing this complexity.

    URBACT cities connecting hubs to stakeholders

    In previewing its Hub project Creil Agglomeration highlighted the difficulty of having to work with 2 railway authorities SNCF (railway operator) and RFF (owner of the rail infrastructure) where exact division of responsibility is sometimes unclear or seems to overlap. It is however developing a core partnership to steer the process based on participation across 3 categories: land owners (railway, Agglomeration, municipalities, private property owner); transport providers (rail, regional, inter-city and local bus operators, Oise transport managing authority), and; urban planning authorities (Picardy Region, Creil Agglomeration, constituent and neighbouring municipalities). The aim is to produce a viable master plan (see diagram above) based on joint reflection around 8 working group themes (i.e. mobility, urban functions, public space...) where public consultation plays an integral role.

    In Germany the city of Ulm and Deutsche Bahn (German Rail) co-piloted the project “City Station Ulm” which is embedded in statutory planning policy at all relevant levels. Together they instigated an ideas competition (2011) targeting railway station renewal, and the city initiated a stakeholder forum structure. This permanent interaction with stakeholders and local society has been instrumental in bringing new ideas into the planning process which in turn can be validated and formalised into the system of legally binding land-use plans and building permissions.

    This sophisticated stakeholder participation (see diagram below) involves a cyclical round of consultation feeding input into different stages or critical moments in the decision-making trajectory. An integrated perspective is ensured by engaging  groups representing specific interests, operating as focussed think tanks and channelling ideas, information (even critical feedback/objection) to the steering group. These groups are activated to follow concerns and propositions raised in a wider public consultation (citizens plenary meeting), and then to arbitrate and formulate conclusions in a targeted round table discussion on particular development options. This format can be adapted to address distinct/key issues requiring resolution through time, where it is not essential that all fora are involved in all development issues or decisions. 

    The city has also instigated an internet forum recognising the potential which can be achieved through new (social) media opportunities.

    The extension of the “Station” into the “Hub” concept reaffirms the station, its surroundings and its multi-modal connections as a major civic asset. Conversely civic society has traditionally had very limited possibility to have a say in station development and organisation – a strategic matter, a question of technical infrastructure, a development led (finance, real estate, private or railway investment...) project. Ulm has shown that this no longer needs to be the case and the experience of Stuttgart[2] perhaps testifies that this must not be the case.

    The photo on the left shows a Rail Hub linear office development, located alongside the railway tracks. Underneath the whole length and breadth of this complex is a huge bicycle storage facility (photo below). The main entrance is 50 metres from the main rail platform, on the same level and has space to accommodate 4,000 bicycles, a rental and repair facility. This implies that the Hub management structure has a fundamental Bike garageunderstanding of the potential and needs of this specific user group and/or that cyclists, 2-wheel commuters, students have a direct input to the decision-making and master planning process. We might imagine similar levels of facility provision in Hub developments in cities in the Netherlands (Rotterdam or Heerlen), or in Copenhagen. But are we likely to see similar responses in Italy, Spain, France, Poland or the UK, all countries strongly interested in cycling as sport, recreational activity and as transport mode?

    Involving and empowering communities and end-users

    As a first step to define its hub strategy, the city of Orebrö (Sweden) is attempting to assess the opinions, desires and needs of its, institutional, private and community stakeholders. The aim is to create a new linear development ranged along the rail line infrastructure fringing the centre of the city. How does the railway connect with the rest of the city (centre and suburbs), is it opportune to exploit the existing two station polarity or re-centralise around a main Hub facility? These are fundamental choices to be made by the city, its development partners and citizens. Orebrö is using media to inform and invite participation initially through presentation of a video film programmed on local television, setting out possible options and points for discussion.

    A full consultation process is foreseen but initial focus is attempting to assess public opinions, using interviews at travel and shopping centres and through questionnaires circulated by social media and available in more conventional locations (schools, libraries, municipal offices). Already it has produced some unexpected results which need to be taken into account, for instance that 30% of respondents were unsure of how to make the connection between station and city-centre.

    The approach of Reggio Emilia supporting the development of the  Mediopadana Hub (regional - greenfield location outside the city) responds to the duality of technical/development actors in combination with wider stakeholders and civic society. A system of roundtable events functions to confront a “core group” with broader issues and aspirations raised by citizens, educational institutions, SMEs, cultural and touristic sectors etc. The URBACT Local Support Group method has helped to strengthen this dialogue. The scheme adopted can be read from a centripetal point of view (all needs, concerns, ideas are conveyed towards one or more common objectives and relevant solutions to be adopted by the core group), but also via a centrifugal perspective (decisions and projects raised through transversal exchange provide concrete answers/solutions responding to the needs and expectations of interest groups and even individual actors).

    Recognising the essential added value of stakeholder input – relevant stakeholders addressing publicly relevant issues

    Ultimately it is the citizenry, travellers, users of the Hub who are the beneficiaries and so the participative aspect is a key weapon in the armoury of an adapted management structure. However ENTER.HUB partners recognised that an effective leadership structure is essential in this type of large-scale complex initiative. It can be plural form of leadership or single agency driven - based on the concept of partnership but capable of taking critical decisions and putting these into operation. The Ulm (and Stuttgart) experience remind us that the final decision still rests with the appropriate elected authority while an Orebrö  partner remarked “One has to be sitting in the driving seat, but plenty of others need to be in the vehicle and say where they would like to go”. Public authorities can take an exemplary lead in developing high performance co-operative working in this sense i.e. between region and city, between neighbouring municipalities, between rail and other public transport companies (bus, tram, even car-sharing), and by translating this into a wider and effective consultation framework.

    Where participation is genuinely intended to inform, engage and co-produce then again according to Ulm – “it has to be incorporated from the outset and with a perspective of continuity”, but the Łódź position also has validity in that “not everyone needs to be involved everywhere” or at all times on all issues in this complex exercise. If however a participative structure is only introduced at a later stage or when difficulties arise there is real risk of obstruction, costly delay or even conflict which finally contradicts the principle of governance. In parallel, as Orebrö demonstrates how to build a strong (inter-active) communication strategy (incl. social media), Ulm suggests that the real challenge in this is to be transparent, setting out what is possible in terms of stakeholder contribution and exactly what the limits of the planning and participation process are.  

    The Railway Hub experience may never be fully community-led but it describes a trajectory far removed from conventional top-down intervention, traditionally defended by technical and capital considerations. ENTER.HUB partners have clearly demonstrated that the wider community should and can have a highly significant role to play in developing this civic asset.                 


    Photo references:

    1. Łódź (Poland) – The Board of the New Centre of Lodz. Construction of Fabryczna Station

    2. Creil Agglomeration (France) – Anticipating HST

    3. The Ulm Stakeholder Forum (Germany)


    [1] Estimates suggest that more than 20% of people using modern station complexes are not travellers

    [2] Intense citizen protest against the Stuttgart 21 mega station project (50,000 people on the street in September 2010) forced a referendum in the Landtag Baden-Wurttemburg in 2011 – critical consequences at national level, in political terms and major impact on budget and timing. 



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  • View from the Top: When Women Run Cities...

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    In this next article in the series on gender equality and female leadership in cities we hear some personal views directly from a number of women city leaders and urban experts. The first article of this series that you can read  HERE, presented a review of data on the levels of female political representation at city level in in Europe. 


    Disadvantaged neighbourhoods






    Lib Peck


    Lib was elected to Lambeth Council in London in 2001 and has been Leader since 2012. She gave her views during a panel debate at the Women of the World Festival.

    “I grew up in the 1980s very inspired by feminism and peace and disarmament movements. The collective power of the Greenham women challenged traditional ways of political protest. I got into local politics later as a result of putting down roots and wanting to be active in shaping my neighbourhood.

    I feel very proud and privileged to now be the Leader of Lambeth Council in an incredibly diverse part of London. Lambeth has a population of over 300,000, a turnover of £1.2 billion and over 3000 people working for us. It’s a serious and complex job to lead the authority.

    I think female leadership in cities brings a different prioritisation and greater urgency to some of the problems we face. For example issues like equal pay, childcare, adult social care and safety go to the top of the list and I think faster progress could be made if we had more female politicians.

    Why are we holding consultation meetings at the Town Hall? Why are we assuming that’s where people are?

    My experience has been that female chairs of planning committees bring different experiences to bear in policy-making that challenge things in a very different way about, for example, what accessible space means. We need to be moving away from formal traditional methods of engagement and the kind of bureaucracy that comes with planning, and away from the legal language that actually pushes people away rather than draws them in. We have to pay attention to the language that we use, the tone we are trying to create, also the techniques. Why are we holding consultation meetings at the Town Hall? Why are we assuming that’s where people are? And if there are 5 people in the audience it does not mean that the community is not interested. That assumption that has been prevalent in city political systems for too long. We need to turn it on its head and go to where people are. Talk to people where they are active. I went out during our last elections to the Portuguese bars in Stockwell and had a very nice evening! I spoke to a lot of people I wouldn't have come across any other way. There are other examples that are less enjoyable but you go out and you communicate.

    So female leadership is in part about tone and the kind of communication we engage in. It is not always screaming at people, but it’s working with people and I genuinely feel that that the female leaders I've come across (and I'm not just talking about women in politics) do have a greater tendency towards collaborative partnership working, which is incredibly important. It’s about how the party and the council operates and how we work with the community-the kind of decision making and inclusivity. I also think it's a bit about reclaiming language and having a very clear definition of what a strong political leader is. For me, that means being effective and decisive as well as inclusive.

    So female leadership is in part about tone and the kind of communication we engage in.

    There is also a different perception of a woman leader from others. For instance, some people feel more comfortable coming to me to have a moan, which I am told they didn’t do with previous male leaders.

    In terms of challenges I still walk into too many rooms which are full of men. Too many dinners that I go to are predominantly male. I think if we had more women leaders this that would become even more unacceptable, as well as providing a huge inspiration for younger leaders of the future.

    I do feel additional pressure being a woman in a leadership role, to be a good example and succeed. I feel a sense of responsibility as a role model in the way that I go out and conduct business, the way I talk to my staff. I feel a need to show that politics isn’t boring. It’s not the annoying thing that occasionally comes on the TV with men arguing. It’s about the absolute every day fabric of our lives, making decisions about our area.”


    Anna Lisa Boni


    Anna Lisa is the Secretary General of Eurocities, the network of major European cities. She has 20 years of professional experience in EU public affairs in the field of local and regional government. She previously worked for the city of Bologna in Italy, and has extensive experience with international and European networks and the European Parliament.

    Here are some of her reflections about female leadership in cities.

    “First of all leadership styles are linked to personality, whether it is a female leader or a male.  And of course it is difficult to generalise. But in my professional career I have made some observations on gender differences.

    In all our leaders, be they men or women, we need a good balance of skills and values.

    When I was younger there were less women in politics and in positions of leadership. The few that made it were in a way seen as harsher because they had had to fight more  than  their male colleagues to get there....they would have had to have a more dominant personality or adopt more "aggressive" manners to be there. Now I feel there is more  space for  female leaders. But it is also due to the imposed quotas in selection procedures and the fact that political parties have maybe changed the way their representatives  are recruited  and supported. I am thinking also about young people, and therefore young female politicians. The crisis traditional parties are going through is pushing younger people, and  younger women, to propose new ways of doing politics, outside the mainstream, and therefore be active in politics.

     I also think that female leadership at work and in politics depends also on the national context and on what degree women are allowed to combine their family commitments  with  their professional life and involvement in politics. In my home country, Italy, this is difficult without close family support networks. In this sense you still have  discrimination in  Europe, due to the different countries' regulations, working conditions, childcare systems. 

    In terms of impact, it’s in part up to personality but also up to female politicians' capacity to lead by looking at policies from a "woman’s” point of view. Very often men lack this  capacity and are therefore incapable of developing more balanced public policies... as said by others it's like looking at the world through only one eye, so you miss out a lot.

    female leadership at work and in politics depends also on what degree women are allowed to combine their family commitments  with  their professional life and involvement in politics

    I don’t appreciate the fact that female portfolios are still too often culture, education, social affairs.....they are based on traditional gender segregated patterns of study and work.  

    Very generally many women have higher expectations about their capacity to deliver and sense of responsibility, they are more likely to think ‘I can’t become the transport member, because I don’t know enough about it.’ Men take it on, whereas women don’t feel qualified enough... you can't generalize this but it does happen.

    In all our leaders, be they men or women, we need a good balance of skills and values. It has to be someone who can listen, who is open and democratic, that uses emotional intelligence but that is also strong, decisive, sure of what they want to achieve and their capacities. I think we have a lot of female talent that still remains invisible or just a potential and only if we will create better conditions for women to express their talent and views on the world, could we start looking at it with both our eyes.”


    Mariam Khan


    Mariam Khan is the youngest councillor on Birmingham City Council, the largest local authority in Europe. She gave her views during a panel debate at the Women of the World Festival.

    “I was 21 years old when I was elected to represent Washwood Heath on Birmingham City Council in 2011. My uncle was elected when I was 11 years old and politics was part of my life growing up. At the age of 14 we received a letter from the local MP for a residents’ meeting and I remember bugging my mum saying ‘We have to go to this because we can't complain about the problems we have unless we talk to politicians when they invite us’.  I went to the meeting alone and sat there looking around. There were hardly any women and definitely no other young people. From then on I got heavily involved with the youth service, with activism. Some clever person somewhere decided to give the youth panel the opportunity to spend annually £1000 to give grants to other young people.  That responsibility made me feel valued and important, that somebody trusted us enough to make the right decisions. It helped me grow as a person and realise that I can play a really positive role in my area.

    It seems to me it's more our way, a women’s way, to look ahead and think outside of the box, to see how we can deal with something longer term, how we can engage with services on the ground

    I remember the youth workers always said ‘You’re going to end up in politics Mariam, definitely’. I used to say ‘I'm never ever going to join a political party because they're all liars and all make fake promises and if you tie yourself down to a political party you can't have a voice’. I was into community action. Then my uncle realised I was committed and he started to encourage me and say ‘If you want to make a difference, which you clearly do, why don’t you join one of the three mainstream parties to have an influence at a different level inside the council?’

    Washwood is a predominantly Asian area. It is very, very male dominated. The only way I managed to get elected was because the Labour Party decided that we should have all women shortlists. Some feminists completely disagree with this because women should be able to stand and be selected on equal terms with men. I'm biased, because to God's honest truth, if it wasn't an all women shortlist I would not be here today. It would have been very difficult for me to even get a foot in the door in local politics in the area of Birmingham I come from. There is an idea that women don't need to get involved, don't have a reason to. Some women I meet have never voted in election before.

    In Birmingham City Council we have to make huge cuts and I sometimes think we are not really thinking very far ahead, just tackling it year on year. It seems to me it's more our way, a women’s way, to look ahead and think outside of the box, to see how we can deal with something longer term, how we can engage with services on the ground, with different organisations, involving different communities that are doing work already. In my role as Chair of Social Cohesion and Community Safety I involve lots and lots of local organisations to give me their views. So when you have evidence sessions for an enquiry, instead of just inviting people from strategic level and directors of different departments and the assistant chief constable in to give you the stats and figures about what's happening and how to deal with XYZ, I get as many local people from different organisations coming in telling us what they are doing. A forward thinking approach is to realise that we've got local people and third sector organisations that don’t just need financial support. We have to keep them involved in the way the council functions and make partnerships. So in terms of long-term thinking if we get more female leaders, I think they’ll be more likely to sort out the problems by using innovative approaches.

    It’s really important to encourage women, and all young people to get involved in how the city runs

    Safety for females is important. The first thing I did as Chair of Social Cohesion and Community Safety was to decide that relationship violence would be the focus of our annual enquiry. It had not been on the agenda before, not because my colleagues don't want to work on it. It’s just that thinking wasn’t automatically there. We, as women, recognise it. Much of my casework is around relationship violence, which often links to housing issues. My area had all male councillors for over 20 years, but now that I am elected more women have felt comfortable speaking out about domestic abuse and violence.

    It’s really important to encourage women, and all young people to get involved in how the city runs. Every time I get a chance to speak to women or young people, I make sure that they can contact me, to come and shadow me and learn more.”


    Serena Foracchia


    Serena Foracchia was appointed Deputy Mayor of Reggio Emilia in Italy in 2014. Reggio Emilia has been an active city in the URBACT II programme, most recently leading the ENTER HUB network.

    “I am finding the role of Deputy Mayor both fascinating and rewarding. You get an overview of the city working on a daily basis. I spend a lot of time in meetings, out and about in the city, and sometimes don't have enough time to sit and record my thoughts. But it's important to be visible and for citizens and stakeholders to feel that they are able to speak to you.

     I have observed that female politicians can bring a greater sensitivity and depth of analysis to the decision-making

    Reggio Emilia had a female mayor for 10 years in the past and she was the one who pushed for the now famous Reggio Children initiative and laid the ground for ou

    r work on international relations and peace. I have observed that female politicians can bring a greater sensitivity and depth of analysis to the decision-making.

    My portfolio includes community cohesion, and after the Charlie Hebdo attacks in Paris I approached the local mosques, with whom I have a permanent dialogue, and was invited to speak in the male part of the building. We had a minute’s silence for the victims. I think this is a very important part of my job.

    In terms of the challenges I have the feeling that, as women, we have to work harder to gain the same respect as men. Some decisions are still made by men in informal settings, over dinner for instance, to which women are not always invited. And when we are invited the setting is not one that is necessarily comfortable for us.

    I also find that people come to you as a female politician on different matters that they think you are responsible for as a woman. So there is a perception out there of what women city leaders deal with, whether it's true or not.

    I think it's important that there is a balance among decision-makers. At the moment we are 50-50 on the executive team of the Council, and that is a good thing. I have had experience of all-female settings that are not necessarily healthier.”


    Tricia Hackett


    Tricia is an expert on open innovation at The Young Foundation, and works on the URBACT Genius: Open transfer network. She talked about an innovation project in Syracuse in Sicily during the panel debate at the Women of the World Festival.

    “The City of Syracuse decided it wanted to focus their urban innovation project on a particular disadvantaged neighbourhood. It's a no go area for the police and suffers from all kinds of high-level deprivation: unemployment, poor sanitation, old infrastructure, schools with broken windows. However it also has some amazing assets. It is next to the sea and has a strong woman who has been involved in the community for the last 30 years who is constantly pushing for change. The city’s programme manager is also female - an architect and planner. So with funding to kick off a process there was a double advantage of two passionate women leaders; one at city level and one working with the community.

    social innovation is a female process

    The first time the city staff went to the community there they were nearly attacked. There was complete distrust. Fast forward 15 months and there has been a transformation in the relationship between the city and the neighbourhood, achieved by including people in an open way, asking what are some of the things that we can do differently? What are things we can do with not a lot of money and make a positive change?

    The city manager was the first woman ever in that post. She loves this project. She has put it on the city's agenda and in fact on the national agenda. It is amazing to see how two female leaders have been the force for change. Their fresh energy combined with the external funding impetus has shifted quite entrenched relationships and created a crack for positive things to start happening. None of it would have happened without the trust from the community inspired by the local activist. It has also led to comments within our URBACT city network that social innovation is a female process.

    I think in general terms urban planning has changed to be more participative in the last 10 or 15 years. Planning is traditionally very top-down, technical. The change is to include people, and with more women in planning, to think about space differently. We need to keep involving people, not making a design without asking people what they think of it. I think these changes are in part thanks to work by gender planning experts like Caren Levy at University College London, and there is more work to be done.”

    Watch out for the next feature on European policy initaives on gender inclusive cities, and the links with URBACT.




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  • Creative Clusters


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    The starting assumption of the project is that creativity can act as a driving force for economic development of small urban centres and not only of big cities. Thus, the main value-added that the work of the Creative Clusters network can produce is to transfer the “creative city model” (too much focused on big and middle-sized metropolis) to low density urban areas. In other words, to transfer a range of so far considered urban attributes (accessibility, cultural life, technological facilities, competitive clusters, global networking, etc.) to middle-sized and small towns.

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