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  • Food, Foo Fighters and a Forward Thinking Attitude, a success story from Cesena

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    CSI Europe Seville Local Action Plan Executive Summary
    Digital transition

    Cesena is a beautiful, relaxed Italian town with narrow streets and countless old buildings. The seaside is just a 20-minute drive, and if you are a ski-aficionado, you can easily find quality slopes close-by. In short: it is a very nice place to live. In addition, Cesena is home to a number of faculties of the prestigious University of Bologna, attracting students from all over Italy.

    After graduation, however, most of them move to other countries, or to big cities in Italy, in search of more exciting career opportunities. So the question was, what could the city do to retain at least some of the talented university graduates in Cesena? One of the answers was the creation of an incubator 4 years ago, to attract and nurture startup enterprises and promote innovation. The idea came from a university professor - and the City Council immediately backed it.

    This incubator comes by the name of ‘CesenaLab’.


    Co-working spaces, start-up centres and digital incubators are booming in big cities all over the world. They are less common, however, in smaller towns like Cesena. CesenaLab was conceived from the beginning as a simple, low-cost operation, and the founders - the Municipality of Cesena, the University and a Bank Association - focus on the basics. The Bank Association provided the space (free) - an unused bank office, the Municipality provides the annual budget of operation, while the University contributes with its network, occasional access to its research facilities and capacities, and of course with a healthy stream of aspiring startuppers from the university. CesenaLab has a digital and media focus.

    We have a rolling application process”, explains Roberto, the manager, who can be easily mistaken for one of the young entrepreneurs.“We accept companies as well as private individuals with nothing more than just a good idea. We ask applicants to give a pitch and show us their vision - what they want to achieve. We look for 3 things”, Roberto highlights: “most importantly, we want to see the passion - that the person is really committed and believes in the idea. Secondly, we look at the team - who they are, what they want to achieve and do they have what it takes to be an entrepreneur. Finally, we certainly look at the idea - how innovative it is.

    When an application is accepted, CesenaLab provides the following services, free of charge for a nine-month period:

    • Desk, broadband internet access, use of facilities 24/7;
    • Mentorship support to create a business plan and business model - each idea owner has one dedicated mentor and from time to time they also work with other mentors having specialized knowledge (like for instance marketing, product development, finances);
    • Support to build network and contact base;
    • Events to link the startups with other companies, training courses on various topics.

    In return they only ask for one thing: when the company leaves CesenaLab after 9 months (usually as a fully functional enterprise), it has to stay in Cesena. “Nothing fancy”, says Roberto, “and if it sounds simple, it’s because it IS simple. But our experience - and the example of over 20 successful businesses which we have raised in CesenaLab in the past 4 years - shows, it does work. We may not grow unicorns like they do in Silicon Valley or in other startup hotspots around the world, but the companies we help are successful on an Italian scale, many of them with potential for international expansion - and most importantly they help to retain bright minds in Cesena. What we painfully lack, is one of the key conditions of further growth of the businesses after the initial phase - the availability of venture capital.

    Most of CesenaLab “residents” I have spoken with agreed, that the support they received had been crucial. As one of them put: “When we got here, we were three enthusiastic geeks fresh off from university. CesenaLab helped us to become entrepreneurs.

    In addition to the support, however, the biggest value lies in the power of the community: people working at the 10 companies CesenaLab hosts at a time form a diverse group, with a wide range of knowledge and skills - and they help out each other on a daily basis. At lunch time almost everyone gathers around the big table in the centre of the open-space room and spend time together; there’s animated discussion, young people sharing ideas, solving problems together, and telling jokes. It is lively and noisy - just like a big Italian family - but it is probably one of the reasons these aspiring entrepreneurs love to be here.


    “Now you know what you eat” - this is the slogan of EDO, one of the first “graduates” of CesenaLab. The 3 young IT guys offer a solution to a problem most of us are familiar with: with the huge selection of food products on the shelves of supermarkets today, it is almost impossible to make an educated, responsible and healthy choice; too many alternatives, unknown ingredients, important information hidden in the corner of the package with minuscule letters - just to name a few of the challenges. The simple answer EDO offers is a mobile app, which - after scanning the barcode of the product - presents a health-index calculated based on the ingredients of the food and the goals of the user, and provides other crucial product information in an easy-to-understand format. Currently the EDO app is available in Italy and in the UK - and they plan to expand to other markets.


    Cesena is in an area with a strong agricultural tradition– so it’s no surprise that many startups offer solutions to food-related problems. SeasonEat started in 2016 - it is a drop shipping service delivering fresh groceries (fruits and vegetables) to the table of Cesena residents from producers around the city. While one can find similar services in many places, it was new to Cesena when SeasonEat started. The service they offer is good for the customers - they receive fresh fruits and vegetables with known origin; it is good for the farmers as SeasonEat offers fair prices (much higher than supermarket chains) - and it is also good for the local economy. The company has a 2.000 strong subscriber base, steadily growing. They are not just an e-commerce solution and logistics provider - they organize events to build a community of customers and farmers. The next step is to scale the service to other Italian cities.


    Fitlunch is the initiative of a former professional athlete who - after finishing his sports career - immediately felt that healthy eating is a major challenge for people. is a meal delivery service - and it is like having a nutritional expert and a chef at your disposal any time you need it. You can connect to the service through Facebook Messenger. You need to provide some important information about yourself - your age, weight and height - your activity level, as well as your fitness goal (muscle building or leaning). Based on this information offers you various tailor-made meals - which you can order immediately. The company operates in 6 cities in Italy - all our smaller cities like Cesena and intends to expand further.

    …..but what’s all this got to do with Foo Fighters…..?

    Rockin’1000 and Foo Fighters

    Fabio is a marine biologist by profession - and a serial entrepreneur, building businesses around his passions. One of his many passions is music - more precisely rock music - and he is an avid fan of one of the greatest rock bands on earth - Foo Fighters. 3 years ago, he wanted to invite his favorite band to come and give a concert in his hometown, Cesena. Since Foo Fighters only normally perform in big city stadiums, Fabio knew that any old invitation would not cut it. So, he started to work on a dream: he collected money through crowdfunding, and then organized Rockin’1000 - 1.000 musicians - amateur and professional, male and female, young and old - gathered in Cesena to play together just one song - “Learning to Fly” from Foo Fighters.

    At the end of the video capturing this wonderful and moving community moment Fabio presented an invitation to Foo Fighters. The video went viral and quickly accumulated over 40 Million views - and soon Dave Grohl of Foo Fighters sent a video message thanking for the beautiful video and saying (in Italian) “We are coming. I promise”. And they did - Fabio’s dream came true on November 3 2015 when the band gave an intimate concert to 3.000 fans in Cesena.

    Fabio’s company built around the concept of Rockin’1000 is now a resident of CesenaLab - and together with his small team he continues to make the dream of amateur musicians come true. They organised a show of the Biggest Rockband on Earth - 1.200 musicians from all over the world performing to an audience of more than 12.000 in the Cesena stadium, produced a record of the show, organized a summer camp for musicians. As Fabio insists, however, Rockin1000 is not an event organizer - its building a worldwide community of musicians.

    What can we learn from CesenaLab and Rockin’1000?

    Dare to dream big!

    The inspiring example of these initiatives show that all towns and cities – whatever their size and location – can reach for the stars and achieve big things. What is needed is creativity, ambition, energy and fun - and CesenaLab has all of these in spades.

    It does not have to cost a fortune!

    The example of CesenaLab also demonstrates, that developing the digital economy does not require fancy solutions and expensive infrastructure – it is much better to start small and get the basics right: the combination of a functional space, committed staff and the right assistance can lay the foundations of a digital ecosystem.

    It is the collaboration, stupid!

    It was clear from all the discussions we had with the passionate entrepreneurs of CesenaLab, that having the basic infrastructure is important, just like getting support from experienced mentors. What they valued most, however, was the collaboration with other businesses.

    What can you do in your area…?

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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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  • ‘Migrant crisis’: what can cities learn about new service design?

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    A message from Sicily

    There’s been a lot of recent talk about the additional pressure new migrant arrivals place on public services. There has been less discussion about how cities – and it is mainly cities – are coping with this. And less still about what we are learning and the implications for future public services.

    This was the focus of a recent Social Innovation Europe event in Siracusa Sicily. Meeting on one of Europe’s front lines gave us the chance to see what’s happening and to hear about lessons emerging from our recent experiences. We were particularly interested to examine the range of social innovations emerging to meet new service demands.

    This article shares some of these new service examples. It also considers what they tell us about the new service design dynamics they reflect. Finally, we conclude with reference to Ezio Manzini's call for a new narrative around migrants, aligned to a design-led approach to service development.

    Digital transition

    What can be done to address negative perceptions?

    Today in Europe, the narrative around migrants is almost unceasingly negative. Fear of terrorism; Islamophobia; the ongoing Global Financial Crisis: all contribute to a climate of anxiety which shapes the debate. Too often, facts are not allowed to get in the way of this debate. Like the fact that some EU countries will be reliant on immigration to keep the economy going, due to demographic changes in Europe. EU forecasts show for example that Germany’s population will drop from 81.3 million to 70.8 million by 2060 without immigration. Poland’s population is expected to drop by almost 14% in the same period.

    Despite the facts, the fears remain. Too often those fears are based on prejudice and rumour, rather than fact. This can be an insidious problem – especially when much of the media has an anti-migrant undertone.

    One city challenging the rumour mill is Amadora in the metropolitan Lisbon area, which is the Lead Partner in the URBACT Arrival Cities network. The municipality has embarked upon an innovative way to tackle malicious anti-migrant rumours and to help make sure that its citizens know the facts. Don't Feed the Rumor is a communications campaign that initially started in one of the city’s secondary schools. Its aim was to tackle unfounded rumours in a city where 10% of the population has a Lusophone African background. Unfounded assumptions about their school performance, social customs and attitudes were barriers to effective integration.
    The pilot campaign involved recruiting and training 60 pupils of Seomara da Costa Primo secondary school as anti-rumour agents. Armed with facts and trained to challenge rumours when they arose, these students were part of an effective pilot that is now being scaled across the city.

    How can we support access to public services?

    New arrivals need access to information on public services. They often arrive with few resources, limited host language skills and different cultural perceptions. As a result, they can easily tie up large amount of front-line service time in their new host cities. Finding efficient ways to help them access information directly is therefore in everyone’s interest.

    Consequently, there is a wave of i

    nnovation related to improving access to information for migrants. Perhaps the best-known and field leader is Mobilearn, a web solution initially developed in Sweden. Established as a social enterprise by people with first-hand migration experience, it is now being rolled out in other parts of Europe. Acknowledging the widespread use of smartphones amongst refugees, Mobilearn provides a survival guide to local services in a variety of languages.

    Mobilearn has been extensively evaluated and is building an important data bank on the hours (and resources) saved to local authorities as well as the social impact created by the service. In some respects, this work is similar to that of other cities who are developing online ‘Welcome’ services for new arrivals. Dresden, which has faced challenges with anti-migrant protests, launched an app to welcome new arrivals in 2015. Here again, the basic service enables migrants to register for health and other support services.

    What do these developments tell us about emerging service demand? First of all, they underline the ubiquity and importance of smartphones. Migrants arriving with next to nothing will either arrive with one or make it one of their earliest purchases. They also reflect the shift already under way from providing face-to-face public services towards those that are online and available 24/7. This trend is only going to grow further.

    What housing solutions are emerging?

    Many of Europe’s cities face a crisis in affordable housing, one of the reasons why this has been identified as an initial priority theme within the EU Urban Agenda.

    For new arrivals, housing is clearly a top priority, but the current situation can make this difficult. In Germany, where the pressure is perhaps most acute, a recent Robert Bosch Foundation report concluded that there was a need for up to an additional 125,000 dwellings. In response, a range of initiatives have been undertaken to find solutions. These have ranged from establishing temporary accommodation, piloting shared schemes and (controversially) utilising empty former East German housing estates.

    Again, ICT is emerging as a key part of the solution. The Refugees Welcome site, inevitably labeled as ‘Airbnb for refugees’, matches accommodation seekers to potential hosts. Operating across much of Europe, as well as Canada, the service has so far matched over 600 refugees.

    Working on the same lines the UK’s Shared Lives model might offer possibilities to build upon. Aimed at supporting vulnerable people to live within communities, it matches host families to seeking individuals. Although the initial focus has been on health, the principals could be applied to support newly arrived migrants.

    How can we meet the demand for education and employment?

    A high proportion of migrants to the EU are younger people, aged under 34. In 2015 88,700 of them were unaccompanied minors. For many, their education has been disrupted. For example, of the young Syrians arriving in Europe, 25% were in education before their lives were turned upside down. Meeting the educational aspirations of these young people is another of the challenges receiving cities face.

    There is widespread evidence of the educational barriers  that face migrants coming into Europe. These include a lack of familiarity with the host language which prevents participation in the education system. Another is the frequent lack of equivalence between qualifications gained in third countries. In addition, many refugees arrive with few possessions, and often lack the evidence of qualifications even if they have them.

    In Germany, Kiron learning centres have created an innovative access framework linked to the country’s universities and aimed at refugees. Plugging into a network of higher education providers, Kiron offers online learning programmes via MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) as well as language support provision through established providers like Babbel. Kiron has crowdfunded around €500,000 allowing it to offer almost 500 scholarships. The response has been very positive and Kiron is expanding rapidly since its inception.

    For adults looking to fast track into employment, education may not be the priority. Acquiring and demonstrating competencies with labour market value may be a bigger issue. For those who already have skills, but who may lack paperwork or host-country experience the growing area of microcredentialism is proving to be helpful. This reflects a growing demand from employers to have a very specific understanding of the skills people have, due to trends of generic job descriptions. Linked In recommendations are a good example of this development, labelled ‘technologies of expertise’ by Beth Noveck.

    For those refugees with high skills in demand, a number of specialist services are emerging. One of these is the Refugee Doctors Programme designed by the Bridges Project in Scotland. This seeks to support qualified refugee doctors to fast track into employment within NHS Scotland. The programme is also open to dentists and pharmacists.

    What conclusions can we draw from this early intensive experience?

    It’s way too early to draw any hard and fast conclusions from European cities’ early experience of meeting migrant needs. The picture is so varied and messy that making generalized observations is a risky business. However….on the basis of some early feedback, here are some very early potential implications for our governance models.

    The migrants’ arrival is generating demand for new services

    The flow of people from the world’s most troubled corners is creating a market for services. Some of these are provided illegally, like the traffickers who charge a lifetime’s savings to take a chance crossing the Mediterranean in a flimsy dingy. Others are legal and, at times, core public services, such as the provision of housing and education for those at risk. In the middle is the growing market of hybrid services such as the smart apps which help migrants navigate the new systems and realities they encounter.

    Many of these demands reflect trends already taking place in our cities

    The emerging services mentioned in this article are mainly targeted at new arrivals. However, they reflect service needs already evident in our cities, such as:

    • The need for a counter-narrative to the growing poisonous rumours aimed at society’s most vulnerable people. (Thought leaders like Julia Unwin have written about the increasing tendency to blame the poor and vulnerable for their own situations.)
    • The demand for wider-access to higher education that is free and available 24/7
    • The challenge to provide affordable housing – and in particular the need for new supported housing models for the most disadvantaged people in our societies

    The scale of the migrant challenge has galvanized community responses…which traditional funding sources have struggled to support

    As nation states have deliberated and city administrations have wrung their hands, across Europe ordinary citizens have stepped into the breach to offer support to Europe’s new arrivals. This compassionate groundswell of public support has been one of the few chinks of light in this otherwise dark period of Europe’s history.

    Yet, often our established funding models have struggled to find ways to adequately support these grassroots movements, which are often co-ordinated by unconstituted groups of volunteers. Take for example, the case of Options FoodLab in Greece, which is supporting a wide range of food-related activities bringing refugees and locals together. Yet, due to Greece’s inhospitable climate for social enterprises, they have struggled to evolve and scale.

    Yes, times are tough and there is less money to go round. But this is the very time when we need creativity, energy and social innovation – and the modest financial resources to initially oil the wheels.

    And finally…

    At the SIE event in Siracusa, Ezio Manzini, based at the Politecnico di Milano and the University of the Arts in London, gave a stimulating keynote which touched on these questions. Adopting a design-perspective, he stressed the need to reframe the narrative around migrants, and the need for a more human-centred approach. Instead of this loaded term, he suggested ‘people on the move’. He also suggested a paradigm for service redesign based on different dimensions of that experience – work that he is currently developing and that we will follow with interest.

    At the high policy level, the EU and Member States are exploring solutions – such as the recent controversial Turkey deal. Meanwhile, on the ground, it’s in our cities that the practical solutions are being forged. That’s because most migrants head for urban areas, where their support networks lie and where they are most likely to find work.

    In the coming months there is a growing pipeline of activity and resources relating to how our cities best accommodate and support these people on the move. Although stuck in the old lexicon, this reflects the urgency of the situation and a real commitment to learn, find and share solutions. Some of the key components of this include the EU Urban Agenda’s identification of Migrant Integration as one of its initial four priority themes. Another is the Urban Innovative Actions Programme, one of whose four initial call strands was migrant integration. Alongside this, the recently closed call for the European Social Innovation Competition focused on this theme.

    In the coming months we will be reporting back on these developments. However, a clear message from the SIE event is that the challenges the “Migrant Crisis” presents are mere reflections of the fundamental ones our cities face in these turbulent times. They also act as potential catalysts for new service design and innovation, encompassing themes addressed by some of the new URBACT networks, including CHANGE!, Boostino and Interactive Cities.

    URBACT also recently published an article on refugees and migrants inclusion from the European perspective - The Urban Agenda for Europe: 'Inclusion refugees and migrants' partnership


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  • CSI Europe


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    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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  • UNIC


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    A strong tradition in the ceramics industry and for two years they shared their experiences and developed local policies adapted to this changing economic context in order to make ceramics an asset for their territory in terms of innovation, cultural dynamism and attractiveness.

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  • Active A.G.E


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    Project completed

    Develop an exchange of experience between 9 cities facing an ageing population - in order to develop greater professional capacity and thus identify and develop good practices - and help them to put in place an integrated approach to dealing with this issues.

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