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  • Bologna innovates to help its most fragile communities

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    Three of the cities selected in the first call of Urban Innovative Actions (UIA) are working, or have worked, within URBACT on topics similar to their UIA bids: Turin, Bologna and Rotterdam.

    We investigated what made these cities successful at being involved in the two European programmes, and asked whether there is – for these cities – something like a trajectory between URBACT and UIA.

    This article is the third and last of our series of articles on this topic.

    It is based on an interview with Manuela Marsano, from the Economic development and city promotion Department, and Inti Bertocchi, from the social inclusion unit at the City of Bologna.

    Learning with other European Cities to help the most fragile population


    In its involvement with URBACT, Bologna has demonstrated a strong interest in helping its most fragile communities to get housing and jobs, and to feel fully part of the city.

    Bologna has for instance been working hard, in partnership with its Roma communities, to improve their situation in the city. The Municipality of Bologna was a partner of the URBACT network Roma Net, which aimed at overcoming negative attitudes towards Roma, developing the City Local Action Plan as framework for policies and activities targeting the Roma community and improving consultation and engagement with them. Later, Bologna also took part in Roma Net II, which focused on improving access to education, health, housing and services and stimulating employment opportunities for working age Roma.

    In addition, the Metropolitan City of Bologna is involved in Job Town 2 showing commitment to helping another fragile group, that of unemployed youth.

    A continuous search for social innovation

    Bologna is also seriously dedicated to social innovation. With the URBACT network Creative Spin it set tools and methods to trigger creativity and innovation in businesses and other kinds of public and private organisations, by encouraging artists, creative professionals (in advertising, design, architecture), cultural institutions and industries to engage with other sectors to share their competencies and skills.

    This commitment to work with young creatives and to involve and retain them in the city continues today with the URBACT network Gen_Y City.

    Bologna’s continuous search for innovative governance methods is also clear in the Procure Network, which explores how to bring about economic, social and environmental benefits through a better use of public spending.

    Salus Space: An ambitious project to create a new type of space for housing, employment and culture, connecting local communities and newcomers

    All the principles and methods explored by Bologna within URBACT are to be found its Urban Innovative Actions (UIA) project ‘S.A.L.U.S. ‘W’ SPACE – sustainable, accessible, livable, usable social space for intercultural wellbeing, welfare and welcoming’.

    The project is to rehabilitate a big abandoned building - Salus Space - check also the website for pictures, which is just outside the city, but pretty close (500 meters from the first building of the city and 10 minutes walk from the closest bus stop). Salus Space will provide temporary housing for up to two years (and an average of 18 months) for about 40 refugees and other people who have a fragile housing situation. The building will include a restaurant and several cultural activities. By involving residents in the management of the building and its activities, the space will also act as a bridge with the city, with learning space to access new opportunities for culture and jobs.

    Salus Space is a risky, challenging and difficult project, but one with a strong appeal, that of creating a new centre in the city, where people can come to live, learn, eat and have fun together.

    Co-design: A strong principle developed in URBACT

    Salus Space is based on two levels of participation: one horizontal, involving citizens and local stakeholders in “co-creation”; and one vertical, with main institutions (Region, Metropolitan City, Prefecture, Municipality and District authorities) providing provide feedback and ensuring links to urban policies.

    In this way, the project has been co-designed from the beginning, using approaches Bologna picked up from URBACT. There are 17 partners at local level who are really working together and, from the beginning, the City has involved citizens as well as several other stakeholders. It has also developed a cross-departmental method of working within the municipality.

    Right from the application stage the project was co-designed, and this is set to continue throughout the life of the project. At the start, the Municipality made a public call for suggestions on the regeneration and strategy for the building. Currently, in the first phase of the project’s implementation, stakeholders are involved in co-creating a shared vision of the building. An ongoing evaluation of the project realised by citizens and refugees has already started and will last until the end of the project. 

    The University of Bologna, one of the project partners, is in charge of implementing the participatory process of co-creation. It gets feedback from the city and stakeholders and ensures their continuous involvement, for instance to design some parts of the project, which have not been pre-defined at the application stage. Currently, one of the topics being investigated is how exactly the space can be used by the city (education and social activity) to make sure the space is lived in by the citizens and not only by the residents of the building.

    There are several ways for citizens to take part in the project. For example, a training scheme allows citizens to become online journalists for the blog and website of the space (

    Manuela insists that her ways of thinking about participatory processes at all stages of the project comes from the experience developed within URBACT. “The municipality has learnt that there is nothing that can be done without the involvement of the target community” and that “we, as a municipality, can facilitate the process and not just drive it”.

    Governance: a key learning from URBACT

    Manuela also says that she learnt from URBACT how difficult it is to ensure the well functioning governance of a project, involving several – as many as possible – stakeholders.

    In order to build good governance of the Salus Space project from the start, Manuela directly took the principles of the URBACT Local Stakeholders Group and applied them to create a new governance board, involving the right stakeholders.

    She even applied those principles to the application process and to structuring the project. Notably Manuela mentions how the strong devolution of ‘work packages’ (i.e. the different aspects) of the project to partners results from her experience with URBACT. That is how she developed trust and learnt to work jointly with several partners.

    Taking and giving back to other European cities

    To build such innovative projects, Bologna takes inspiration from other European cities. In the case of Salus Space, one of the inspirations was the Madga Hotel in Vienna, in which hosts are welcomed by trained refugees. However, Bologna knows it has to adapt good ideas to its local situation. It is attempting – with Salus Space – a mix of activities it has never seen anywhere else, with modes of operations that are specific to this project. A real challenge!

    Exchanging is at the core of Bologna’s approach, and on that point again Bologna applied principles learnt in URBACT to its UIA project.

    To ensure the sustainability of the project, a think-tank has been created to bring in examples from abroad and to help in the final process of capitalising on learnings.

    The project also plans to invest strongly in communicating locally and further afield, sharing what they have learnt, so that others can benefit from Bologna’s Salus Space experiences.

    For Bologna, there are strong thematic and methodological connections between URBACT and UIA.

    Manuela simply and beautifully explains how one of the main lessons she learnt from URBACT is now applied to thinking and creating innovation in the city, as in the case of the UIA Salus Space project: “Innovation is not about huge changes in one go, but in many small changes and steps that make a big difference”.

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  • The urban dimension of smart specialisation: building a two-way bridge

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    Smart specialisation and its related methodology known as Research and Innovation Strategy for Smart Specialisation (RIS3) have been assessed as “the most comprehensive industrial policy experience being implemented in contemporary Europe”. In this context, what is the role to be played by cities? Right now, at the time of implementation, a number of major cities feel they have much to contribute in moving RIS3 visions and roadmaps forward. So, what are the pathways and frameworks to enhance better alignment between regions and cities with regard to existing RIS3 strategies? What is the urban dimension of smart specialisation? This article brings some insights to these questions.

    Culture & Heritage

    Smart specialisation adds two key values to previous Regional Innovation Strategies in the EU, namely:

    1. the value of prioritizing (of making smart choices) and
    2. how such prioritization should be done and kept current through a collaborative process that involves as many stakeholders from the triple/quadruple helix as possible, in particular research centres, leading firms and entrepreneurs in a process that is now called “entrepreneurial discovery”.

    Since RIS3 was fixed as an ex-ante conditionality for EU regions and member states to get ERDF funding for their Operational Programmes on innovation, smart specialization has entered the mainstream vocabulary in business-led economic development.

    InFocus-Smart Specialisation at City Level is a pioneering URBACT network that brings a city perspective to this new policy concept, pursuing a double aim.
    Firstly, re-invigorating the urban agenda on economic development by means of smart specialization as an overarching approach. That is, testing how this concept can foster and refine the work cities and their stakeholders are doing (or can do) in four key areas: cluster development, entrepreneurship, workspace provision and investment attraction.
    Secondly, making a bridge with the existing RIS3 strategies at regional level, which is basically a matter of multi-level governance.

    Why both cities and RIS3 leading authorities need to be involved

    Tackling the question of effective city-to-region articulation with regard to smart specialisation presents a precious opportunity to raise the status of some innovative cities in the field of industrial and innovation policies, especially given the main role major cities play in today´s global competition. But are cities ready to take full advantage of smart specialisation and RIS3?

    The fact is that for many cities it seems like RIS3 has little to do with them. This misunderstanding arises from the RIS3 elaboration process, when cities were mostly approached within a conventional public consultation logic, rather than in the spirit of real co-production. As a result, the idea of smart specialisation is still barely assimilated at local level, and there is much to do to raise awareness on the meaning and potential impact of smart specialisation.

    Another powerful reason to draw the attention on the city-to-region articulation with regard to smart specialisation is that RIS3 implementation has just begun. It is a significant challenge, bigger than RIS3 design, where all efforts, at different scales, should be activated. In this respect local and metropolitan authorities could help to embed RIS3 strategies properly. As a territorial innovation policy at regional/national level, RIS3 should have a more consistent and explicit territorial strategy. The InFocus network is working to fill that gap, in close collaboration with the S3 Platform, which is the unit created by the European Commission to assist regions and member states on smart specialisation.

    Furthermore, some innovative cities and metropolitan areas in Europe are currently promoting ambitious transforming agendas, e.g. Next Economy roadmap in Rotterdam inspired by Jeremy Rifkin´s ideas, and Bilbao Next Lab which is presented as an “action-research approach for the economic transformation of Bilbao”. Thus, RIS3 strategies (which are themselves presented as policy frameworks for economic transformation) and these visionary city roadmaps might become mutually reinforcing if well connected and aligned.

    Building the bridge

    So, what can you do to properly align your work agenda as a city to your regional smart specialisation strategy? How can you make the most of the powerful concept of smart specialization to refine your own urban agenda in economic development? We, in InFocus, have gathered a number of experiences as follows, inside and outside the network, mostly, still at an exploratory stage which can provide a path to tackle these questions.

    Integrated urban development initiatives (art. 7 ERDF).

    In the context of integrated and sustainable urban development strategies (article 7 of ERDF), the DG for Regional and Urban Policy of the European Commission is encouraging cities to bridge with their existing RIS3 strategies at regional/national level. For instance, the Integrated Territorial Investment (ITI) now underway in the urban agglomeration of Ostrava (CZ) is organized in three strategic goals (the “3E” Employment, Entrepreneurship and Environment) and eleven specific objectives. One these objectives, as part of the strategic goal on Entrepreneurship is specifically dedicated to “implement activities to support smart specialization strategies for Moravian-Silesian Region”.

    New metropolitan agendas as windows of opportunity.

    Territorial reform in some member states, like France and Italy, has led to urban policies in major cities being re-scaled up to the metropolitan level. In urban agglomerations like Bordeaux, Grenoble and Turin (all of them InFocus partners) new policy-mixes for new ambitions are in progress, and the smart specialisation approach will certainly play a significant role. The former province of Turin, now turned into new metropolitan authority (Cittá Metropolitana di Torino, including 315 municipalities and a population of 2.3 million - 890,000 in the Municipality of Torino) is facing the challenge of both horizontal and vertical multi-level governance. At this juncture, the idea of smart specialization has great potential to work as a driver to promote more articulation and cohesion. That is, smart specialization as a tool to create more alignment and focus among all the initiatives within the metropolitan area on cluster development, entrepreneurship, attraction of investment, etc.

    RIS3 authorities taking the lead to engage with funding.

    Catalonia is organising sub-regional initiatives called Territorial Specialisation and Competitiveness Projects (PECTs) to articulate to regional RIS3 (RIS3CAT). PECTs are innovation-oriented integrated initiatives that are developed by a partnership of minimum four entities led by a public administration at local, county or province level. On a yearly basis, the regional government launches competitive calls for funding PECTs, which are actually addressed as RIS3 delivery tools. The budget for the 2016 call was 50 million Euros to cover 50% of the approved projects, of which 20M went to Barcelona metropolitan area and 30M to the rest. In this context, Barcelona has drafted the strategy RIS3BCN Growth, which is explicitly presented as an alignment to RIS3CAT. 

    Matching priority domains from regional and local levels.

    This might be a first step a city takes to align itself to RIS3 at region/country level. For example, Sevilla (ES) started a bridging process of this kind in 2016 with a comparative analysis between the RIS3 priorities set at the regional level and the city´s own industrial specialisations, dynamics and assets. This analysis led to a strategic vision, the identification of sectoral priorities and policy recommendations in order to give more focus to a number of existing working areas at city level, such as entrepreneurship, workspace provision and city branding. The idea is not so much to confront vertical priorities set at both regional and local levels, but to align the existing cluster dynamics at city level and cluster initiatives, if any, to the priority domains already agreed at regional/national RIS3 level.

    Re-thinking the policy-mix at city/metro level in a way that actively contributes to RIS3 roadmaps.

    RIS3 type strategies consist of the definition of a specialisation pattern, together with a set of aligned horizontal policies, such as research and innovation, entrepreneurship, cluster development, internationalisation, etc. Smart specialisation can be seen as an organisational driver aimed to promote growth within a place-based, comprehensive long-term strategy to sustain competitive advantages and help to build new ones, as well as to accelerate the necessary structural changes.

    Therefore, changing or just influencing the strategic agenda from existing operators is one of the main paths to move RIS3 from strategy into action. When that existing operator is a local agency of a major city with an extensive background in economic development, such a delivery channel may work as a strategic lever for success. Furthermore, in some cases, that kind of public or private-public body in charge of economic development at city level is already working actively in areas like workspace provision or inward investment and talent attraction. These work areas cannot easily be found in most of RIS3 designs at national/regional level, so the result is a refinement of the RIS3 conventional policy-mix. This is why the challenge of connecting RIS3 to the city should be addressed as a two-way bridge.

    In any case, cities can take advantage of the smart specialisation concept to strengthen their own policy-mix on business-led economic development. In the frame of the InFocus network, the City of Ostrava is drafting an Integrated Action Plan oriented to talent attraction and retention. To do so, they are using the range of priority knowledge/productive domains set at RIS3-Silesian Moravia as structural guidance. On the other side, as a genuine contribution from the urban scale, Ostrava´s brand new policy on talent management will enrich the policy-mix supporting the RIS3 at regional level.

    The way forward

    To summarise, there is still potential to exploit regarding the contribution of cities (local authorities and their relevant subsidiaries) to RIS3 implementation. The best way to do so is not to replicate the RIS3 method automatically top-down to the local level, as this would probably lead to more fragmentation, but rather to bridge with the existing RIS3 strategies, in a kind of two-way bridge, where some innovative cities may enrich strategies as well. As well as providing a bridge with RIS3 at regional level within a vertical multi-governance approach, smart specialisation as a concept is so powerful that it can be used by cities as a crosscutting approach to boost their own work agendas on economic development. 

    Bilbao, the InFocus lead partner, is a good example of how to operationalise the involvement of cities as smart specialisation practitioners. In 2014, Bilbao Ekintza, the local development agency, made a step forward and organized a cluster prioritization exercise at city level, with an eye on the Basque Country RIS3. It was named “Innovation and intelligent specialisation strategy for Bilbao”. As a main result 6 domains were identified at the time and prioritized in a dynamic way according to their level of consolidation as real business frameworks: Knowledge Intensive Business Services (KIBS), Tourism, Urban Solutions, Arts & Culture, Ecotechnology and Technologies applied to Health. In parallel, the city´s economic development policy-mix was revised, emphasizing a number of working areas such as business cooperation and clustering, entrepreneurship and attraction of investment and knowledge.

    At present, within the URBACT-InFocus framework, Bilbao is going further in two mutually reinforcing directions: i) promoting more fluid and in-depth interaction with Basque RIS3; ii) and focusing on three domains out of the six above mentioned: advanced tertiary (KIBS), creative economy and digital economy, also exploring the connections among them, i.e. turning Bilbao-based KIBS sector into an engine for digital transformation, in particular regarding advanced manufacturing which is Basque RIS3´s most significant priority. In practical terms, the aim is to promote and facilitate a pipeline of projects in those domains and in close alignment with the RIS3. 

    To achieve this objective, Bilbao Ekintza has set up a new collaborative platform by bringing together the following necessary contributors: multi-level governance (Basque Country RIS3 management team and Diputación Foral de Bizkaia as a body with funding capacity), research centres and think tanks (Tecnalia-Technology Corporation and Orkestra-Basque Institute of Competitiveness), private sector and cluster organisations (Chamber of Commerce, IT cluster GAIA,  EIKEN audiovisual and AVIC engineering and consultancy) and public and private Universities (UPV/EHU, University of Deusto and Mondragón University).

    This collaborative platform is none other than the URBACT Local Group (ULG) the City of Bilbao has established in the frame of InFocus. The ULG is proving to be an effective tool to engage RIS3 regional authorities in a fruitful dialogue with the city. Other InFocus partner cities like Porto, Bucharest or Frankfurt are following in this path and more results of the approach will be shared in the Integrated Action Plans to be launched in 2018.


    Image 3: InFocus thematic workshop, Ostrava, September 2016

    Image 4: Smart specialisation as a driver to refine the urban agenda on business-led economic development

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  • Rotterdam’s journey from URBACT to Urban Innovative Actions and beyond – the story of a city “in love with Europe”

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    Three of the cities selected in the first call of the European Commission’s Urban Innovative Actions (UIA) initiative are also working, or have worked, within URBACT on topics similar to their UIA bids: Turin, Bologna and Rotterdam.

    We investigated what made these cities successful at being involved in the two European programmes, and asked whether there is – for these cities – something like a trajectory between URBACT and UIA.

    This article is the second of a series of three articles planned on the topic.

    It is based on an interview with Rotterdam’s Cleo Pouw and Hendrik-Jan Bosch. Cleo is Project manager Europe for the City of Rotterdam and lead partner of the URBACT Projects My Generation, My Generation at Work, and Resilient Europe. Hendrik-Jan works as a strategic advisor for the City of Rotterdam and has helped significantly shape the UIA project BRIDGE.

    Rotterdam and Europe: A Love Story

    City Branding

    Rotterdam’s love of Europe is measurable in the number of European projects and programmes it has been involved in. Cleo Pouw has been involved in various stages of European cooperation programmes and their administrative processes, in URBACT of course, but also in Life, H2020 and now UIA.

    The love story between Rotterdam and URBACT started about 14 years ago: Rotterdam was already leading an URBACT network in the first period of URBACT (2002-2006) on the theme of Security in Cities (Securcity – see final report here) and Cleo Pouw first worked on URBACT at that time.

    After this first experience with URBACT, Rotterdam went on and focussed on the themes of involvement of youth in policy making, and on jobs creation. At the time, Rotterdam was lobbying for the creation of the title of European Youth Capital and wanted to be the first City to hold the title, which then became an official European label.

    According to Cleo, My Generation was a success because URBACT offered a lot of freedom to experiment, to include young people and to work with other cities. Building on this valuable experience, Rotterdam decided to go on working on similar topics within the My Generation at Work project, which focussed on what cities can do to increase and promote the employability and employment of young people.

    Becoming a member of the Rockefeller 100 Resilient Cities (100RC) network, the City of Rotterdam has now decided to investigate, within URBACT, the issue of resilience in cities. The URBACT network is called Resilience Europe. Involving young people and getting them in the right jobs: a strong thematic link from URBACT to UIA.

    The commitment of Rotterdam to involving young people and getting them to access the right jobs is a strong one. In the frame of URBACT, Rotterdam was able to experiment solutions and methods that clearly inspired the design and framing of the proposed innovative action for UIA.

    With the UIA Project BRIDGE - Building the Right Investments for Delivering a Growing Economy, the city of Rotterdam aims to ensure that by 2020, 50% of secondary vocational training students in Rotterdam South will have chosen a career in one of the major growth sectors.

    This ambitious project brings together all 57 primary schools, 20 secondary schools and 3 vocational schools in Rotterdam South. The career and talent orientation programme will start in primary school (age 9) and end when students enter the labour market. The crucial element in the programme is the Career Start Guarantee: Employers will offer 600 pupils per year a Career Start guarantee (420 for technology sectors and 180 for healthcare) at the moment they enter secondary vocational education and need to make the most crucial subject and career choices.

    As scale of UIA project is very large, the project was not derived directly from the Local Action Plan designed in the URBACT My Generation at Work project. However, the thematic link between the two projects is extremely strong, so strong in fact that Rotterdam chose Eddy Adams, URBACT Programme Expert, as its main UIA expert, i.e. one of the key individuals who will accompany and guide the project towards success.

    URBACT provides the right tools to design innovative actions

    Cleo and Henrik-Jan highlight that URBACT provided a strong and useful theoretical background and privileged access to knowledge of other European Cities’ policies.

    According to them, URBACT allows the exploration of a broad set of possible interventions, and is a chance to acquire in-depth knowledge of an issue. It erodes the old ways of thinking, which provides a careful and structured way of learning.

    When reflecting on and framing the new project they used URBACT knowledge extensively, such as the report on jobs and skills Job creation for a Jobless Generation. They “read everything Eddy Adams wrote on the topic”, as well as the report co-written by Peter Ramsden, also an URBACT Programme Expert, for the OECD on Innovative Financing and Delivery Mechanisms for Getting the Unemployed into Work.

    Both also mention that URBACT provided Rotterdam with the self-confidence needed to shape and propose a truly innovative action to UIA on the topic. They insist that “the professionalism and confidence they gained through URBACT” helped them dare to think, conceive and propose an innovative action, as well as providing them with all the methodological tools needed to respond to the selection criteria of UIA. They say it also helped in building a strong and reliable local partnership.

    Exchange and transfer of results of real life experiment: A possible path leading from UIA to URBACT

    European Cities help and assist each other. For instance, based on the collaboration initiated within URBACT, Rotterdam recently made a presentation to 20 Polish cities on how to apply to UIA.

    But the wheel goes in two directions, and the UIA experience will also provide ground for more exchange with other European cities.

    Experiences of collaboration so far have shown Cleo and Hendrik-Jan the difficulties of replicating an urban solution and transfering it without having in-depth knowledge on how the other cities work. Therefore, starting from its UIA experiment, Rotterdam would consider continuing with URBACT to transfer the experience effectively to other cities.

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  • Turin: A European success story with URBACT and Urban Innovative Actions

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    Three of the cities selected in the first call of Urban Innovative Actions (UIA) are working or have worked within URBACT on topics similar to their UIA bids: Turin, Bologna and Rotterdam

    We decided to try to understand what made these cities successful at being involved in those two European programmes and whether there is – for these cities - something like a trajectory from URBACT, in which integrated action plans are designed, to UIA, which provides the framework and the support to implement those innovative ideas locally.
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    This article is the first of a planned series of three articles on the topic.
    It is based on an interview with Fabrizio Barbiero, public manager at the unit of development of economic development and innovation and European Project, at the Municipality of Turin.
    Social innovation

    In Europe, Turin is one of the cities investing in developing new methods to manage ‘the commons’, for instance through the enforcement of a regulation on common goods (Regolamento Beni Comuni Urbani - approved just one year ago, and to implement social innovation, through the Torino Social Innovation Initiative (TSI), which objective is to encourage and sustain new collaborative forms of dialogue with civil society related to the management of public good/services and provision of collective public services. The TSI initiative is a multi-year programme, proposing an open platform to support bottom-up processes of urban/social innovation. 

    Turin’s commitment to innovation in urban practices methods and exchange at the European level translate into a long term involvement and commitment in European projects on issues related to urban planning. It started with the URBAN Programme and is now represented by its implication in two of the leading European Programmes on urban planning: URBACT and Urban Innovative Action
    For Turin: URBACT and UIA: strong thematic and methodological links
    Common goods, co-creation, social innovation are at the core of the projects Turin is involved in in the two European urban programmes. When looking in detail at Boostinno (URBACT) and CO-CITY (UIA) in particular, the thematic links between the two programmes and project appear clearly. Methodological links also clearly appear between the two programmes and the several projects Turin is and has been involved in.
    Turin & URBACT: a long lasting commitment to co-creation and social innovation
    Turin has long been involved with URBACT: through the (now closed) projects Urbact Markets and My Generation at Work, which was about what cities, with their partners, can do to promote the employability and employment of young people. My Generation at Work was using and developing innovative methods to foster young people’s employability and the work of Turin on Social Innovation developed and deepened in this context.
    Fabrizio himself has been involved directly in the My Generation at Work five years ago, at a time in which the City of Turin was committed to design a new policy to promote youth unemployment and social innovation. 
    “In my opinion the partnership was really good”. Fabrizio was extremely pleased by the partnership, which led the City of Turin to want to be involved in further URBACT projects, like Boostinno
    The current URBACT project Boostinno builds on the work done and expertise gained inside Generation at Work. Within this project Turin is committed to redesign Torino Social Innovation. Its focus is to enable new generation of innovative entrepreneurs to produce positive territorial impact in urban deprived areas. The City of Turin is expecting to receive funding from the national government for this. 
    Boostinno is focussed on enabling public administrations to play a new role as public booster and brokers/facilitators of social innovation activities/projects/policies, by driving social innovation in, through and out the public sector. It is a project led by the City of Gdańsk (Poland), involving Wroclaw (Poland), Baia Mare (Romania), Milan (Italy), Turin (Italy), Barcelona (Spain), Braga (Portugal), Paris (France), Strasbourg (France) and 
    Turin is also involved URB-INCLUSION on urban inclusion, led by Barcelona, one of the new URBACT Implementation Networks that deal more specifically with the challenges of implementation. In this project the City of Turin is more focussed on the topic of civic participation in order to set up new social innovation models to deliver new services for the local residents. For this project Turin has already the resources to implement the project as part of article 7 ERDF funding. 
    Turin & Urban Innovative Action: A Pioneering project of social innovation to combat social poverty
    Turin was chosen among 378 European Cities to test further an Urban Innovative Action in the field of the commons and social innovation. 
    Its project CO-CITY focusses on the collaborative management of urban commons to counteract poverty and social polarisation. With this project Turin wants to involve the local residents to co-design and co-manage the public services. 
    CO-CITY is the UIA project of Turin focussed on the Collaborative Management of Urban Commons to Counteract Poverty and Socio-Spatial Polarisation. It involves Comune di Torino, the Università degli Studi di Torino, the Fondazione Cascina Roccafranca and ANCI, the National Association Urban Authorities. Its expected outputs are the regeneration of abandoned or underused spaces in different areas, to contribute the creation of new jobs in the social economy sector. New enterprises will emerge along the process of residents participation initiated and facilitated by the City of Turin together with the network of the Houses of the Neighborhoods. 
    As Chiara Appendino, the Mayor of Turin puts it: 
    “Co-City is an extraordinary occasion to support new forms of active participation of the citizens towards the regeneration of the City. I hope that new enterprises will be created around this new model of relation between public and private sector, generating new employment opportunities and jobs in Turin”  
    What links between URBACT and UIA for Turin? 
    We were curious to understand what other links than thematic existed between the two European urban policy programmes Turin is currently involved in. 
    Is there a possible trajectory between the two programmes? Did the experience in URBACT helps Turin in proposing an Innovative Idea? Are there other similarities? 
    URBACT Improved Turin’s capacity to develop innovative solutions and participative methods 
    Involvement in a community of practitioners in Europe

    Through learning from other European cities and setting-up long standing relationships, URBACT helped Turin develop, test, discuss new urban programmes at the local level. The relationship with some cities, such as Rotterdam or Barcelona, has developed into one in which before launching a new local urban programme or policy, the city can contact the other cities, ask advice, comparison points and therefore improve plans for new local programmes. 

    Being involved in a European project helps reaching out more broadly within the city and convincing more local actors to test and implement new methods. 
    Being part of a European Community of Practice, of a network of cities and a permanent platform of exchange, which provides peer learning and motivation, is something very valuable, according to Fabrizio. It also helps to understand better how to develop solutions to the urban challenges of our times. 
    The URBACT Method: a powerful tool to design Innovation
    Fabrizio insists that the experience in URBACT has helped the city to set up a successful Urban Innovative Action bid. Since their language, methodologies, and framework are quite similar, defining innovation in the urban context has become clearer and more effective. The learnings from the URBACT Method have definitely been a key element in defining and proposing a successful project for UIA. 
    Video: The URBACT Method video






















    URBACT helped a lot in highlighting the importance of the setting-up and management of a URBACT Local Group composed of various stakeholders to design new innovative projects or for instance to redesign public services. 
    Proposing a participative method and a new form of relationship between the municipality and citizens is also for instance at the core of Turin’s UIA CO-CITY. Within this project, the definition and implementation of several pacts of collaboration is expected to improve the participation of residents in different parts of the city and to foster the commitment of the citizens towards a more inclusive and cohesive city. 
    There is definitely a similarity of the methods proposed and a learning path for the city between URBACT and UIA. With CO-CITY, Turin will systematise and experiment at a larger scale, the URBACT local group aproach it has developed within its previous URBACT projects. 
    In reality several UIA assessment criteri, for instance the quality of the local partnership and the capacity to co-design solution, the attention to measurability correspond to key dimensions of the URBACT method. 
    In terms of capacity building, Fabrizio’s colleagues, who took part to the URBACT Summer University, were very eager and happy to learn new methodologies to think about urban policies and involve the local residents in local policy design. Indeed, such trainings for civil servants do not exist at local and national level. 
    Urban Innovative Action: Strong support to develop a pioneering local project 
    Citizens’ participation, co-creation, social innovation, all methods that have been developped locally in Turin also with the support of URBACT are central in CO-CITY, but at the opposite of URBACT, UIA is not focussed on exchanging ideas with other European cities, but on testing innovative and effective urban experimentations pioneering new solutions for cities. Local results are the most important output expected of the CO-CITY project. 
    Urban Innovative Actions is supporting its successful cities in various ways. For instance, by introducing different degrees of flexibility - in the selection of local partners, in the reduced administrative burden, in the emphasis given to measurement and monitoring, and even more importantly asking urban authorities to take a risks and therefore accepting potential failures - it aims at contributing to create urban laboratories in each city to test innovative ideas on a real urban scale, unlocking the great potential for bold innovation in cities. Fabrizio highlights how important UIA is at the local level since it brings the resources to develop a strong local partnership and innovation, a characteristic which is very valued by local political representatives. 
    In addition to support the most innovative urban projects in Europe, UIA also aims to capture the knowledge generated by UIA projects and to make it available to a wider audience of urban policy-makers and practitioners in Europe. On this strand of activities of UIA the potential complementarities and synergies with URBACT are evident.
    URBACT and UIA appear to complement each other fruitfully, URBACT is as a platform to nurture, develop and exchange new ideas, solutions and practices at the European level and to implement those ideas locally. UIA provides tools and financial support to pioneer new ideas locally at a larger scale, which will make them transferable to other cities. There are plenty of innovative and ineteresting ideas and practices implemented in cities around Europe. Ensuring an effective transfer (meaning local adaptation and reuse) is one of the key objectives and aims of URBACT, through the Good Practice Call currently ongoing the new Transfer Networks, to be launched in the autumn. 
    Want to read more? 
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  • With a climate change denier in the Whitehouse, how can our cities maintain momentum towards a low carbon future?

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    A day to remember…or one to forget

    Where were you when you heard that Donald Trump had been elected President of the United States? In years to come, that may be the ‘Where were you when Kennedy was shot?’ question for our generation. As it happens, on 9th November 2016 I was in Rotterdam working with a group of European cities on the development of low carbon resource efficient districts. So, on the day that a climate change denier was sent to the Whitehouse, we were investigating ways to support Europe’s sustainable energy future. 
    As we tried to absorb the news from across the Atlantic, someone asked how this would affect our work. Can Trump really roll back the decisions taken by his predecessor and the extensive networked commitments linked to the Paris agreements of only a year ago? If he does, can cities successfully support energy transitions without the support of key nation states, as Benjamin Barber and others have suggested? And as the climate change debate potentially reopens, how can our cities ensure all citizens are on the right side of this ongoing political faultline? 


    Energy efficiency

    The importance of Lighthouse Cities

    Three of the cities present in Rotterdam are leading developments in the energy transitions sphere. Under the auspices of Horizon 2020, they are the Lighthouse Cities that will implement ambitious plans to utilise renewable energy to transform neighbourhoods. In two of these – Rotterdam and Glasgow – the focus is on more deprived localities. In both cases, a sophisticated cross-sectoral partnership is in place designed to provide cheap renewable energy to some of the city’s most disadvantaged communities. 
    The model relies on the intelligent use of the thermal mass of buildings by utilising them for energy storage and exchange. In Rotterdam the proposed local grid will supply the Hart van Zuid area. Part of a major regeneration initiative, the energy exchange will involve a swimming pool and a theater, providing much needed recreational facilities. The plan for Glasgow’s smart grid, located in the city’s East End, includes a local brewery contributing its waste product to fuel subsidised heating for local housing estates. In each case, Internet based monitoring supports peak load variation, increasing efficiency and reducing energy costs. 
    This project, RUGGEDISED, has three follower cities which will look to replicate the work of the lighthouses.  In doing so they are keen to fully understand how these sophisticated energy partnerships operate. A particular area of interest is in the role of city governance in the design and management of these complex multi-level projects. What they found was a very different approach in each lighthouse city, ranging from highly structured to very fluid. Yet, some important patterns emerge about the optimum way to support and accommodate these complex partnership structures. 
    A wider notion of ‘resilience’
    Although all three RUGGEDISED cities had different city frameworks to support this work, all agreed that visible leadership was a key component. Within the administration, this means not only strong political commitment, but also the active support of senior civil servants. Effective Chief Executives can work across Departments, ensuring the machinery of government is fully mobilised.  Alongside them, effective Mayors have a key role, especially in reaching out to citizens and explaining why the energy issue matters. Politicians who can articulate this in plain language that voters understand are particularly valuable assets in this arena. 
    For, as we know, the poorest in our societies are often the most vulnerable to climatic change – as we have seen in places as varied as New Orleans, Haiti and Bangladesh. Equipping cities to manage these energy transitions is at the very heart of the sustainable city concept, regardless of who is sitting in the White House. This ties into notions of urban resilience, and the wider interpretation of that term to embrace the social, economic and environmental. This integrated concept of resilience, championed by the Rockefeller Foundation in its 100 Resilient Cities campaign, is also the focal point of the URBACT Resilient Europe project, also led by Rotterdam.  
    Resilient Europe considers how we support cities to become more shock-proof. Its focus is on how cities can better withstand the kind of pressures that climatic change brings. In doing so, it underlines the importance of equipping cities to effectively manage the energy transition process. Their approach reflects URBACT’s emphasis on multi-stakeholder involvement and participatory methods. There is also an emphasis on innovation, but not only of the technical variety. Increasingly in the transition management field, there is explicit acknowledgment of the need to meaningfully involve a wide range of social actors. 
    In a sceptical climate, this need to connect with ordinary citizens is growing in importance. Increasingly, technology-led approaches are perceived as the destroyer, not creator of jobs. And where there is an employment bonus, the jobs are seen as being few and requiring high qualification levels. The requirements of niche industrial sectors can often make it difficult for local businesses to benefit. 
    Although there is some truth in this, it is not the whole story. As the Mayor of Rotterdam routinely points out, the manufacture, delivery, installation, and servicing of, say solar panels, creates jobs and business opportunities throughout the supply chain. In cities with a strong engineering and manufacturing tradition, such opportunities bridge the assets between the Old and the New Economies. Therefore, to some degree, the challenge is one of messaging and, as ever, mindsets. City authorities have a clear leadership role in pushing this agenda, explaining what future jobs there will be and preparing our education pipeline to meet them.  
    City authorities also have a central place in brokering the new partnership models required to deliver on the energy transition agenda. There is no standard model of how this unfolds. However, there are certain principles which hold true across the board. The first is that city authorities do not have all the answers. The second is that they do not have all the skills and experience. The third is that they do not have all the money. For those within City Hall humble enough to acknowledge these truths, this means a reinvention of the municipal role. 
    At a recent meeting of the URBACT BOOSTINO network, led by Gdansk and focusing on social innovation, this municipal brokerage function was very much to the fore. In practice this means carving out a new niche role for city authorities. At its heart is a willingness to listen, a commitment to take risks and an understanding that the most wicked issues we face, such as climate change, need a longer-term vision. Certainly, one that extends beyond the next cycle of elections. 
    The brokerage role also needs an understanding of how to establish and maintain sophisticated partnerships. In the RUGGEDISED case, that means having all the major power suppliers round the table. It also means having higher education institutes playing a key role in design, prototyping, testing and impact measurement. Here, the city authority’s role is that of assembling the partnership and allowing each one to play to their respective strengths. This is where the much-vaunted principle of humble leadership comes into play., creating a trusted space for collaboration. 
    However, city authorities do not always find this enabling role easy. At the BOOSTINO meeting in Barcelona, one of the capacity-building issues raised by the partners was that of engaging citizens effectively. Within the energy transition sphere, on the one hand this includes explaining the processes and potential benefits whilst on the other it may involve supporting citizen-led initiatives to create community energy companies. Finding appropriate ways to stimulate and maintain the participation of citizens remains a challenge for many cities across Europe, and it is likely to be an important consideration in URBACT’s future capacity building work. 
    City authorities also play a key role in creating the spaces where innovation and proto-typing can take place. Within the Resilient Europe network, a number of cities have created urban labs which provide this opportunity. Antwerp is one of these. As we have already reported in an earlier article, this includes the Antwerp Stadslab 2050, which has established a city neighbourhood as a Living Lab for climate transition related innovation activity. Crucially, this high profile work will reach out to the entire community, using creative and playful tools to stimulate community debate and participation. Previous URBACT research has illustrated other such examples, including that of the Hamburg IBA
    Cinderella meets the Ugly Duckling
    Finally, city authorities have huge potential influence through their buying power. Procurement, once the dusty preserve of anoraks skulking in municipal cupboards across Europe, has come of age. It is the urban ugly duckling story, as gurus and thought leaders now relate its centrality to the reshaping of our cities. 
    Perhaps this is more important for the energy transition agenda than in any other policy sphere. It follows the EU policy shift in 2014 contained within the Procurement Directives which encouraged public authorities to use their buying power to help deliver the high level EU environmental goals. This was linked to an aspiration to simplify the process to allow smaller companies to tender for work, but also a desire to encourage local supply, with potentially significant environmental implications. 
    The starting point for cities to achieve this shift is to generate a better understanding of the pattern of their current purchasing – both in terms of geography and supplier profile. Again, one of the URBACT projects, the aptly named PROCURE, is investigating the potential to maximise these opportunities. A recent article by the project’s Lead Expert explains how this is being undertaken across their 11-city network. 
    What’s to be done?
    What do we take away from these stories? First of all, although the planet remains in a critical condition, its death has been exaggerated. Having a climate denier in the Oval Office does not, inevitably, deal it a deathblow.  Across the world, cities are taking the lead in addressing the climate challenge, for example through the C40 cities network. Meanwhile, on the ground, as we have seen, for example in Anna Leidreiter’s recent blog, Europe has many strong examples to share and replicate. 
    The Horizon 2020 programme is a great way to do this. Another is via the URBACT Programme’s Call for Good Practice projects that will lead to a new generation of Transfer Networks starting in 2017. In these turbulent times, sharing and collaboration across cities remains one of our most important assets. Together, we are stronger. 
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  • Creative SpIN


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    Project completed

    Creative "Spillovers" for Innovation aims to create a Thematic Network across Europe which will address the challenges of how best to connect cultural and creative industries, including sectors such as audiovisual, design, advertising, architecture and video games, with other sectors, to stimulate the effects of "spill over".

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