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  • REFILL@LILLE: Policy Design Labs and URBACT exchange networks

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    How civil servants from Lille Metropole benefited from the experience of URBACT REFILL network to shape a roadmap to set their temporary use policy. 


    The first part of this article (see REFILL@LILLE, PART 1) showed the policy design lab approach of the Metropole of Lille (FR) to kick-off support for a Working Group on Temporary Use. The second part focuses on how civil servants from Lille Metropole benefited from the experience of URBACT REFILL network.

    Learning from inspirational practices

    The field experience of settling a “temporary public policy design lab" only scratches the surface of the problem of more than 5,000 vacant spaces on the territory and the appetite local stakeholders have for temporary use. But, immersion is worth 1,000 words: the Metropole civil servants do not usually address a new project in this way! By acquiring a significant experience of the problem, they are ready to explore and analyse other temporary use experiences in France and Europe. A wealth of case studies awaits from sixty local and national examples, as well and many European references conducted across Europe for three years within URBACT "REFILL The City" including 10 European cities: Ghent (BE), Athens (EL), Amersfoort (NL), Bremen (DE), Cluj (RO), Helsinki (FI), Nantes (FR), Ostrava (CZ), Poznan (PL) and Riga (LV).

    A temporary roadmap

    Building on the Roadmap to temporary use tool (from the toolbox produced and made available by the REFILL network) helps the establishment of a practice of temporary use in cities. This roadmap represents the “city of REFILL”: a virtual city that would combine the best practices of the 10 participating cities.

    Different neighbourhoods represent the different major steps of the establishment of a temporary use practice: a "zone of cultural, social, entrepreneurial" candidates for temporary use; an "administrative district" dealing with legal, technical and safety; a "district with support services” to temporary use; etc.

    A circular road connects each of these neighbourhoods, suggesting about fifteen milestones as "mapping the vacant spaces":
    - "Analysing the supply and demand";
    - "Building the political support";
    - "Developing a new temporary use value creation model"; etc.

    Unlike a framed method, the REFILL Roadmap is like a tourist map suggesting different possible itineraries each city must choose, starting with the most pertinent actions, organising its progress in the local context and creating its own route.

    The forming lab ambassadors discussed the implications of each example, gathering in small groups to fill in an analytical framework. After the field immersion, the lab consolidated and enriched its understanding of temporary use.

    A pitch presenting a first rational of temporary use applied to the Metropole supported by a series of examples was recorded in the form of a short video. The film raised awareness about the many vacant spaces, the costs incurred for the public authority, and showcased temporary use as an opportunity with potential to host social, cultural, entrepreneurial initiatives - bringing people together, revitalising neighbourhoods, experimenting urban development projects and so on.

    Sparking political attention

    Thanks to experience and research, the Metropole forming lab had got a good idea of ​​the challenges and opportunities for temporary use public service, putting together a kind of "service desk" of knowledge open to all. To create a solid launching pad for the future service, the Metropole required a large-scale demonstration project, drafting and accelerating the service and likely to convince at political level.

    Inspiration then came from the city of Riga, REFILL network partner. Elected Capital of Culture in 2014, the city was experiencing a strong economic crisis and did not have the necessary infrastructure to host such an event nor the means to build them. The city made a collaborative agreement with a group of urban activists, squatters and actors of the cultural scene taken via the association Free Riga. The plan? To start a practice of temporary using vacant spaces to host the programming of its Capital of Culture! The urgency to find spaces to showcase the vibrant Latvian art scene helped to overcome the political cautiousness and set a precedent on which to build for all stakeholders.

    The European Metropole of Lille will be the World Design Capital in 2020. The Metropole’s application was selected because it offered an ambitious territorial transformation through design, based on a call for innovation projects by the design of a set of social themes and particularly the emergence of design applied to public policy.

    Although not comparable in all respects to the context of Riga in 2014, Lille Design World Capital 2020 seems to be a potential "launching pad" to install the practice of temporary use in the territory. More than 450 Proofs of Concept (POC) are announced in the territory for 2020. The POC is a key step in the design process allowing a light experiment to demonstrate viability of a concept before further developing the project.

    The Metropole lab and the Working Group for Temporary Use have taken up the REFILL toolbox and co-constructed their own route towards the implementation of temporary use.

    • First, the creation of a series of temporary use spaces during the Lille Design World Capital 2020. To do this, the ambassadors of the forming lab and the Property department identified a first group of 20 potential spaces, visited and documented the most promising and put together a first online catalogue of options. In parallel, they explored contracts, which services to provide and how to assess the proof of concepts of temporary use during 2020.
    • Secondly, (after an assessment a year in) a policy of temporary use at the Metropole of Lille is to be established. This step includes the registration of "temporary use" in the territorial development and patrimonial valuation strategy of the Metropole, completing the online catalogue of vacant spaces and the establishment of a mediation service between supply and demand (technical and legal tools, financial support, etc.) internal or outsourced to a third party.


    This experience allows us to make some assumptions of mutual enrichment between the URBACT approach (networks of towns sharing at European level on a specific challenge in terms of public policy creating an action plan) and, secondly, the approach of co-construction a public policy design lab (based on an innovative action-training process based on pilot projects).

    The capitalised experience of 10 cities over a period of 3 years from REFILL network has accelerated the process of reflection of our Working Group for Temporary Use.

    The organisation of the network deliverables in the form of a modular toolbox, together with a wide range of case studies (all articulated in the form of an open roadmap) was immediately actionable by a third city. Mediation transfer by an actor involved in both REFILL and the Metropole’s lab is a facilitating factor.

    The existence of a public policies design lab in the Metropole’s administration helped seize the REFILL network’s experience faster and more efficiently.

    The lab’s ability to partially overcome the slow decision-making and reporting processes and at least initiate a first experiment extends the co-construction process to stakeholders, making it immediately actionable.

    The public policy design lab and URBACT methods have an integrated approach in common, as well as the involvement of an ecosystem of stakeholders committed to co-design and public policy programming. The lab approach adds field experimentation, a key step in the design process to simulate and test each action of an action plan before its deployment on the ground. Its benefit is on the one hand, to test and improve each action and on the other hand to involve the actors and trigger its implementation.

    The exchanges about a wide range of "inspiring cases" collected through REFILL helped initiate the strategic conversation among stakeholders in Lille and identify what they consider a good practice for their situation and seize an opportunity such as the Lille Design World Capital 2020.

    The examples of Ghent and Riga, even if they are from different socio-cultural contexts, comfort the actors in the idea that if it is not a given, it's possible since others have already done it.

    Finally, the partnership with the European Metropole of Lille proves the usefulness of lessons capitalised by an URBACT network such as REFILL. It validates the methodology and tools developed for the workshop: “Make your own path to the temporary use” at the URBACT Festival in Lisbon in September 2018. It also heralds the arrival other REFILL development processes, like the one initiated with the City of Brussels and Brussels at the end of 2018.

    Know more about reusing vacant spaces on!

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  • 4 ways cities are breathing life back into empty spaces

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    URBACT’s new online resource Remaking the city presents a selection of space-related city solutions:


    Cities across Europe are looking for ways to make better use of their empty buildings and spaces. Many have found simple, innovative approaches to bring people, businesses, and variety back into unused office buildings, former industrial sites, and mono-functional districts.


    URBACT’s new online resource ‘Remaking the city’ presents a selection of such space-related city solutions. Cases can be found depending on their stage in the urban planning process, and by type of problem: empty or underused buildings; underused areas; rundown segregated areas; mono-functional areas; and unsustainable areas.

    Urban expert Ivan Tosics set up the site together with Nils Scheffler from the URBACT 2nd Chance network, François Jégou from the URBACT REFILL network and Maarten van Tuilj from the URBACT sub>urban network. Here, Ivan shares four ways cities are connecting better with residents and other stakeholders to breathe life back into neglected buildings and spaces, one step at a time:

    1. Organise cultural activities to put vacant land back on the map

    The harbour area of Caen (FR) became a no-go area after the shipyard closed. A first step towards redevelopment was ‘territorial marketing’ to attract people back – at least to safe parts of the site. The city set up artistic and cultural events, such as drawing walks, bike rides, canoeing tours and guided site visits. Thanks to growing popular interest, temporary uses then sprung up in former industrial buildings.

    2. Create an agency to help start-ups and families move into unused buildings

    In Bremen (DE), the municipality contracted an NGO to act as an intermediary agency connecting owners of empty properties with entrepreneurs and other people who could use the space. The agency now initiates and supports temporary use projects city-wide, helping local business, developing deprived neighbourhoods, and cutting running costs.

    Chemnitz (DE) created a public consulting agency to connect owners of historic apartment buildings with investors to provide affordable homes and workspaces. Grants are channelled to buildings that need it most, and contracts signed with new owners prevent speculation.

    3. Support NGOs matching temporary cultural projects with empty properties

    In Riga (LV), while many hundreds of buildings were left empty and uncared-for after the 2008 financial crisis, the cultural sector was booming and needed space. There were just a few local temporary use projects, unknown to most property owners. But, Free Riga activists worked increasingly with the municipality – and the Free Riga NGO emerged as a go-between organisation, scouting cultural projects to match up with vacant spaces offered by public and private owners.

    4. Bring students in to renovate social housing – and learn new skills

    Porto (PT), launched a summer school for architecture, design and construction students to refurbish homes, cultural centres and public spaces. The educational programme combines the theory of sustainable architecture with hands-on construction work. One summer, 40 international students refurbished a large property whose owner couldn’t afford renovation work – providing new, affordable family housing. Close cooperation between the public administration and social services was vital before, during and after the renovations, as well as a non-speculative contract with the owner.

    Visit Remaking the city website and watch Ivan Tosics' interview about the project.

    The show must go on

    Do you know an interesting example of a European city improving the use of empty spaces or abandoned properties? URBACT is looking for contributions! The idea is to expand Remaking the city and inspire urban practitioners to make changes for better cities. Contribute to Remaking the city now!

    More on Culture and Heritage on URBACT Website:

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  • ACTive NGOs: platforms for public-civic cooperation

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    Levente Polyak looks at the pros and cons of Riga’s NGO House in Teika (LV), sharing its story from its inception to its five year anniversary.


    On an early afternoon in May, I was sitting in a taxi, heading to Riga’s semi-peripheral Teika neighbourhood. Trying to hail a taxi in the wrong place at the wrong time, I was late for my meeting with Selīna Vancāne, the representative of the neighbourhood association Sveika Teika. When I arrived to our meeting place: the NGO House, she was working in her office. “This place is perfect for us,” she told me. “As all our activities are concentrated in this neighbourhood, the NGO House is a great help for our organisation.”

    The corridor was quiet, but as Selīna took me around, noise emerging from behind closed door revealed many activities: a group of artisans working on clay objects, members of a youth association discussing plans, representatives of newly born NGOs learning about administrative tasks at a seminar and piano music filled just one of the building’s corridors. For a Wednesday afternoon, the building proved to be full of activities!

    An exercise in building trust

    Public civic cooperation has never been as important for European cities as it is today. Fading trust between public administrations and society, rising authoritarianism and deteriorating services all make urban life harder, especially for the most vulnerable social groups. In turn, sharing resources and responsibilities between municipalities and civil society actors has helped cities increase participation in urban development issues but also cooperation in co-producing urban space and co-creating urban services.

    Riga’s NGO House is one of the pillars of the municipality’s recent attempts to build bridges with civil society. Opening in 2013, the NGO House was the manifestation of a broader will to strengthen the city’s civil sector. In 2010, with the help of the Latvian Civic Alliance, the Municipality began organising the Citizen Forum, taking place yearly aiming to expose the needs of NGOs. The idea of the NGO House was indeed born in the first Citizen Forum: civil society organisations expressed their need for a building where they could pursue their activities. In the same year, the City Council established an Advisory Board on Social Integration Issues, and in 2013, the municipality signed a Memorandum of Cooperation with 138 NGOs.

    Riga is the natural centre of Latvia’s civil society. About half of the country’s 23,000 NGOs are based in Riga, contributing to a strong and diverse civil sector. However, the lack of available space for citizen initiatives has been an issue with many buildings standing empty due to the city’s decreasing population and demographic reorganisation. While some civil initiatives were looking into privately owned, abandoned residential and industrial complexes across the city, the municipality refurbished one of its properties, an unused school building in the city’s Teika neighbourhood.

    The NGO House was inaugurated in September 2013 by members of the Riga City Council and municipal officers. A platform of public-civic cooperation run by the Department of Education, Culture and Sports, the NGO House offers space for the NGOs daily activities and events, but also helps them develop activities on site. It was designed to suit its users needs: making use of its ten different premises including a large event space for over 200 people, several offices, seminar rooms, workshops and a computer room. The House organises consultations, conferences, trainings and seminars for its users and the wider community.

    Let the stats do the talking

    The NGO House’s numbers are impressive: since 2013, over 50,000 people from over 500 organisations have visited events in the building. In 2016 only, there were almost 1700 events organised by the community of the House, including over 100 capacity building events. These numbers speak for themselves: the NGO House responded successfully to the need for a civic space articulated by citizens and has become a reference for citizen initiatives in need of support. Moreover, through its twinning and networking programmes that have created long-lasting partnerships between organisations, the NGO House also contributed to a denser, more interconnected civil sphere in Riga.

    The NGO House’s challenges

    Despite attempts by the NGO House staff to broaden the building’s audience, they have not yet managed to reach the whole spectrum of NGOs in Riga. Unlike Sveika Teika, the neighbourhood association that found its natural habitat in the building, for many organisations, the Teika area is out of the way and they do not find it particularly useful to organise their meetings there. “Others, mostly elderly residents, are ready to travel there from other parts of the city” explains Zinta Gugane, NGO House project coordinator, “but this is not an option for many active organisations.”

    The solution? “Every neighbourhood would need an NGO House,” concludes Guntars Ruskuls from the City Development Department.

    There is another limitation to the appeal of the NGO House. With spaces having to be reserved in advance, and only available for specific activities but not permanent use, the NGO House currently does not address more established NGOs that are cornerstones of the city’s civil society and have their own spaces and organise their own events. “When they’re too big, they go on, leave the structure and continue somewhere else,” acknowledges Zinta Gugane. It appears the NGO House is most useful for a specific segment of civil society.

    European initiatives

    The Riga Municipality is not alone in its quest to create closer links with civil society. The challenges Riga faces in creating new interfaces for public civic cooperation are shared by many other municipalities across Europe. For instance, the city of Santa Pola in Southeast Spain is looking to include new buildings into its network of spaces accessible for citizen activities. Dubrovnik in Croatia is in the process of building a new governance structure for its former quarantine complex, linking it to other spaces across the city. Siracusa in Sicily is about to relaunch its Citizens House and Youth Centre and link them in a network with the freshly opened Urban Center. Espoo in Finland is looking for ways to improve the capacity of NGOs working with migrants and refugees, while Brighton and Hove in the Southwest of the UK is seeking to create more straight links between municipal services and civil organisations.

    In 2017, the NGO House was selected as an URBACT Good Practice. In the coming years, within the URBACT Transfer Network ACTive NGOs, the Riga Municipality will engage with the cities of Brighton and Hove, Dubrovnik, Espoo, Santa Pola and Siracusa to share with them many elements of the good practice, the NGO House and the whole set of policies that were created by the municipality to support NGOs. Meanwhile, experiences from all cities will be shared with each other, allowing for the knowledge exchange to go beyond a uni-directional learning process.

    Conceiving the NGO House as part of a platform for public-civic cooperation, ACTive NGOs will focus on a number of dimensions that contribute to a stronger civil society.

    • Space, like in the case of the NGO House, allows NGOs to organise meetings and their regular daily work.
    • Capacity building programmes help NGOs to further develop their work, improve their profiles and potentially scale up or multiply their activities.
    • Mapping initiatives and organisations, as well as understanding their possible links will help in building cooperation among them and strengthening local civic ecosystems
    • Funding programmes targeted to encourage cooperation will help networkbuilding on the neighbourhood and city scales.
    • New governance structures will allow the shared management of spaces and resources, connecting a variety of different organisations, institutions and spaces across the cities.
    • Digital platforms will be conceptualised and used to enable better communication and decisionmaking among these entities.
    • Innovative economic models will be considered and experimented with to provide economic sustainability both for civic spaces and citizen initiatives.

    Half a decade of hindsight

    In September 2018, only a few days before the NGO House celebrated its fifth birthday, representatives of cities from across Europe have gathered in Riga. The perfect occasion for the hosts to tell the story of the institution to a few dozen municipal officers from Brighton and Hove, Dubrovnik, Espoo, Santa Pola and Siracusa!

    Besides sharing Good Practice, the event also created room for critical feedback and open new ways to improve the Good Practice itself. Public-civic cooperation is always changing and evolving, and municipalities must simultaneously guide and follow their civic partners towards real citizen empowerment.


    Visit the network's page: ACTive NGO

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  • Give unused residential buildings a second chance!

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    Haven't you ever experienced this: You are in a city with beautiful old buildings and many of them are empty and dilapidated? And you ask why?

    Many cities in Europe are facing this problem: vacant residential buildings (even in growing housing markets), which start to deteriorate and lose their function, even in inner city locations. This often is due to a shrinking population, suburbanisation processes or legal issues. Often older, outdated buildings are affected, which at the same time are important for the inner urban structure, the cityscape and identity of the city.


    Reasons are manifold for the neglect and vacancy of these buildings, among them difficult ownership situations such as unresolved ownership status, limited ability or willingness of owners to invest, multiple changes of ownership, speculation, bankruptcies of real estate developers, large communities of heirs, mortgage debt or ownerless properties.

    The neglected vacant buildings become increasingly a problem: Partly they constitute a public security hazard; they effected negatively the neighbouring properties; the demolition of the buildings threatens the inner urban density, the functioning traditional urban structure and the historic cityscape. This also reduces the identity-forming effect of the inner city for the citizens.

    However, such residential buildings, in particular with heritage values are increasingly seen as a positive quality, not only in their intrinsic qualities as spacious and valued places to live but also in terms of their potential for modern, accessible and affordable inner-city living and to provide space for needed functions in the city.

    Chemnitz’s solutions!

    Chemnitz (DE) has been facing this problem. More than 18 % of the housing stock had been vacant. It concerned in inner city locations in particular the buildings that had been built during the city’s boom years in the industrial era before World War I. The demand for modern and newly-constructed homes, the oversupply in the historic tenement sector and other reasons contributed to the severe neglect and disrepair of many of those old buildings. This in turn led to the high vacancy rate and even demolition of these buildings. The free real estate and financial markets had failed to give these buildings a second chance!

    But the City of Chemnitz reacted: In 2006 based on a research project for the cost-effective renovation of old buildings through user-owner cooperation in Chemnitz, the ‘Agentur StadtWohnen Chemnitz’ (CityLiving Agency Chemnitz) was found. The goal was in particular to coordinate relevant stakeholders and support alternative housing projects in order to enable the sustainable development of unused historic apartment buildings in need of repair.

    In fact, the ‘Housing agency’ is a consulting service (project) for interested owners of neglected and/or vacant properties, potential investors and users with an interest in common forms of living and creative ideas for the subsequent use of buildings. From the outset of the ‘Housing agency’, its task was to function as a coordination body, which connects owners, potential users, investors and local authorities and provides them with free-of-charge consulting services for the reactivation of the vacant apartment buildings in the extended inner city where the free real estate market had failed.

    The services are carried out by a local private urban development company, which received this task through a public tender by the city. The ‘Housing agency’ fulfils tasks that had not been foreseen within the city administration. At the same time through the private company (WGS mbh) additional know-how and work capacities are obtained.

    Given the fact that the City of Chemnitz usually does not directly get involved in the housing market, the privately run ‘Housing agency’ presented the possibility for the city administration to informally influence the development of buildings that are a priority for different reasons for the city.

    7 key activities

    To fulfil the task of the ‘Housing agency’ they concentrate on seven key activities:

    1. Identification of focus areas and buildings in need of investment
    2. Collecting relevant data of the buildings/ monitoring
    3. Contacting the owners of buildings
    4. Marketing the building
    5. Site visits with interested people
    6. Connecting owners and potential buyers
    7. Accompanying buyers to liaise with municipal departments and other relevant stakeholders

    Although the services are free of charge, the Housing agency “pays off” for the city as through the reuse and revitalisation of the buildings modernised living space is created, neighbourhoods upgraded, tax revenues increased and substitution measures by the city avoided.

    Over the past six years, the ‘Housing agency’ has become the central collector and distributer of information on vacant tenement buildings in the extended inner city of Chemnitz. It has helped, disseminated and connected in ways that neither public authorities nor private actors alone could have achieved – through continuing communication with official partners from different segments of urban government and the informal, pro-active approach of the owners, local initiatives and players in the real estate market.

    Thus, in June 2017, the ‘Agentur StadtWohnen Chemnitz’ was labelled as “URBACT Good Practice” under the title “Housing agency for shrinking cities”. The URBACT programme justified this as follows:

    Many cities face the problem of deteriorating built heritage with vacancies and functional loss. The ‘Housing agency’ as a public project carried out by a private company offers a flexible and proactive approach to connect owners, potential investors or users and public authorities for the revitalisation of those buildings. Positive effects are the activation of owners or the change of ownership and the channelling of public grants to places where they can be used most effectively”.

    This Good Practice represents therefore not only a topical improvement for cities which are suffering from inner-city vacancies, but also a good example of new forms of cooperation and intermediate structures between government bodies, civil society and business which can be transferred to a variety of contexts.

    The URBACT Transfer Network ALT/BAU

    Six cities in Europe (Constanta, Riga, Rybnik, Seraing, Turin and Vilafranca) have join the URBACT Transfer Network ALT/BAU, lead by the good-practice city of Chemnitz, to transfer and adapt the good-practice model of Chemnitz’ housing agency to their local context. For this, the city partners will develop and implement within 24 months Transfer Plans of the good-practice model to their city. The intention is to help reactivate empty residential buildings in need of repair, located in or close to the inner city. This by connecting and coordinating owners, potential investors, users and public authorities through innovative partnerships.

    So in 24 months to come at least 6 more cities in Europe will be ready to give unused residential buildings a second chance to:

    • increase the building stock for affordable housing and inner city living;
    • support a social mixture and integration of inhabitants,
    • prevent further degradation and loss of cultural heritage,
    • reduce the negative impact on the cityscape and neighbourhood by neglected buildings.


    Visit the network's page: ALT/BAU

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  • NGO house


    NGO House and the power of the civic ecosystem

    Zane Biteniece
    Project communication
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    To respond to the lack of coordination and communication among the many social organisation in Riga, the NGO offers a new model of civic-ecosystem creation. Operating since 2013, the NGO House is the virtual and physical space of collaboration and support for non-governmental organisations, and the place where volunteers, representatives of NGOs and citizens can engage in socio-cultural activities, learn, explore and create.

    The solutions offered by the good practice

    The solutions offered by the Riga good practice are oriented towards the creation of a democratic and inclusive society based on solidarity, sustainability and equal access to civil, social, economic and cultural rights. While the idea of a hub for civic oriented organisations was born in 2010 for the capital city of Latvia, it is in September 2013 that the Riga City Council established the NGO House. The scope is to address the challenges of participation in the activities of the municipality, to achieve social integration for people of different ages, social groups and nationalities, by supporting NGOs promoting citizens' awareness of local affairs. The Riga NGO House is a platform for cooperation , but also a physical space located in a five-storey high white brick building in one of the neighbourhoods of Riga, 20 minutes ride away from the city centre. The place is meant for meeting among organisations to receive educational, technical, administrative and information support. The NGO House is a place for organising informative and practical seminars for the representatives of NGOs for free, offering an opportunity to get new, useful knowledge on various topics, important for the operation and development of NGOs. Furthermost The NGO House organises events, thematic talks to address current societal issues and challenges.

    Building on the sustainable and integrated approach

    European cities have committed themselves to providing integrated and quality services and cooperation possibilities for citizens to ensure their active integration into society. The cities adapt to citizens’ expectations and needs and not vice versa. Targeted and appropriate investment in urban integration, participation and social inclusion processes will result in economic and social betterment. The founding and operation of the Riga NGO House is based on a participatory approach. The cooperation model of the Riga municipality, non-governmental organisations and citizens is focused on sustainable long-term activities, and the NGO House serves as a tool for this cooperation model. Members of NGOs are the most active part of society, bringing together people of all ages, professions and nationalities. NGOs help citizens to make their voices heard, express their creativity, represent and defend their interests. The role of the non-governmental sector in the development of civil society is growing alongside the support of the municipality for joint projects and activities. There's also increased participation of NGOs and citizens in implementing various municipal policies and proposals put forward by citizens. The founding and development of the NGO House demonstrate the interest of the Riga government in bilateral cooperation as it provides a significant long-term support system for NGOs' activities, henceforth a sustainable society and integration policy development direction.

    Based on a participatory approach

    The NGO House was set up at the request of the inhabitants of Riga. Organisations' needs are taken into account in the development of services, and the city conducts regular consultations. Since the opening of the NGO House, more than 47,000 people have visited it and attended the events organised by the NGO House or NGOs. In 2016 the number of visitors doubled compared with the first two years of operation. In the course of three years 140 NGOs have organised 2,920 events. Every year we witness the growth of the number of events: in 2014 there were 400 events, in 2015 830 events, and in 2016 1,690 events. Representatives of more than 500 organisations have participated in the events organised by organisations themselves or municipalities. Some 104 informative, educational seminars or practical workshops attended by representatives of more than 410 NGOs have been produced by NGO House staff as support measures. Twinning and networking events of 18 organisations drew more than 1,000 participants.

    What difference has it made?

    Through the participation in Active NGO, the city of Riga took the opportunity to expand the NGO House potentials beyond the physical walls of the House itself. Riga has 58 neighbourhoods and NGos are spread all over the city. Thanks to the Active NGO leadership, Riga could embark in an improvement plan that launched several actions of the “NGO House outside the House”. The scope was to reach out more people in a more capillary way in the entire city area. The partners in the network .( Siracusa IT, Santa Pola ES, Dubrovnik CR, Espoo FI and Brighton and Hove UK have been excellent advisors providing fresh new ideas. For instance, inspiring was the case of Brightong and Hove, with the initiative “Hawks Community Cafe” for informal meetings and the programme “Active Life”, with events offering possibilities of voluntary work or joint walks taken by the councillors and residents in the neighbourhood to highlight the issues that need to be solved within communities. As response Riga organised a similar events and other festivities in peripheral neighbourhood of Riga, reaching out places where the presence of community based activities was sporadic ( further info here). While operating I, the life time of the network Riga was able to organise also ad hoc seminars in project management, public speech, personal data protection directed to almost 600 NGO members, employees and volunteers. During the heights of the pandemics the NGO House practice resulted crucial in providing support to most in need and adapting their activities to this time of crisis.The NGO House became a point of contact, exchanging information and providing distance seminars to guide people in the digital environment with advices on how to reorganise work and private life . NGO House was closely cooperating with the voluntary movement “Stay Home” born in Latvia, which, by using technologies – an application with tasks and Hotline phone number, provides help to those most in need of it. The work was focused on providing help in e.g. delivering groceries and other purchases, taking pets for a walk, thus allowing people to stay at home.

    Transferring the practice

    Riga’s learning was supported by exchange visits in cities part of the network which contributed to expand the wealth of ideas and practice of the initial NGO House. These international visits brought together different members of the ULGs, allowing municipal officers and their civil counterparts to establish new connections and partnerships, thus strengthening their local ecosystems. In addition, Active NGO closely collaborated with Civic Estate and Comm.unity Lab Urban network for exchange of practices and knowledge sharing. In terms of transfer, the Riga NGO House is a specific model that is strongly rooted in its own local administrative, policy, economic and social environment. At the same time, the Transfer of learning from Riga’s NGO House and the local experiences of other partner cities could bring specific, custom-made knowledge to each municipality and local stakeholder group.The final outcome of the Network is in form of a book The Power of Civic Ecosystems based on the testimonies of the participating cities, enriched by case studies of other sister practices in cities all over Europe. .

    Is a transfer practice
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    LEAD PARTNER : Amadora - Portugal
    • Val-de-Marne - France
    • Oldenburg - Germany
    • Dresden - Germany
    • Riga - Latvia
    • Vantaa - Finland
    • Thessaloniki - Greece
    • Patras - Greece
    • Messina - Italy
    • Roquetas de Mar - Spain


    CONTACT: Av. Movimento das Forças Armadas, 2700-595 Amadora, Portugal. Tel.: +351 21 436 9000



    Kick-off meeting in September (Dresden).

    Transnational meeting in January (Vaanta), May (Thessaloniki) and September (Oldenburg).

    Final event in April (Brussels)


    In September 2015, at what was the height of migration flows witnessed in the Europe since the Second World War, this Action Planning network began its activities. As a result of this global flow, one can observe a rapid change in the population structure and interactions between individuals and social groups: cities of migration are places of inclusion and exclusion. In this sense, Arrival Cities took place against a backcloth of rising discrimination and prejudice against immigrants. The network's cities have had to tackle the new and old challenges to ensure the migrants' integration.

    Arrival Cities APN logo
    ARRIVAL CITIES logo - Managing global flows at local level
    Managing global flows at local level
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  • USER


    Project launch
    Project completed

    A core USER idea is that the design of urban public spaces and the main goals of urban planning are challenged by rapid changes in how cities are used. New trends in how public spaces are used, what the new users’ needs are, increasing malfunctions and conflicts among uses, etc., are challenging the way the city is usually “produced”, designed and managed.

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  • USEAct Urban Sustainable Environmental Actions

    The aim of USEAct is to define ways to achieve opportunities for people and businesses to settle in existing locations without consumption of further land, thanks to new planning and partnership approaches.

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  • CSI Europe


    Project launch
    Project completed

    The aim of the JESSICA initiative is to support “sustainable investment in cities”. Through the implementation of the initiative, Urban Development Funds are emerging as potentially powerful tools to pursue sustainable urban transformation. CSI Europe will build upon the achievements to date to improve the effectiveness of current delivery and future potential.

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