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  • Why Integrated Action Plans matter: the case of Torino

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    Why Integrated Action Plans matter the case of Torino - COVER

    In the occasion of the CITIES FORUM, let’s take a closer look at the hosting city and its URBACT story.

    Landscape of Torino (IT)


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    During the past days urban practitioners, decision-makers and institutions’ representatives across Europe have been on the road to Torino (IT). After three eventful years, the CITIES FORUM is finally back in its 5th edition. Organised by the European Commission, the event will mark the official launch of the European Urban Initiative and expectations could not be higher among all participants. What some might not be aware though is that Torino has an emblematic journey as to EU territorial cooperation, with an URBACT Action Planning Network as a turning point for the city.


    With the current open call for URBACT Networks, the most recent results from the Integrated Action Plans’ study and the CITIES FORUM taking place, there’s no time like the present to remember Torino’s successful story.



    First things first, what’s an Integrated Action Plan?


    BoostInno Torino (IT) Integrated Action PlanCo-designed with local residents, interested groups and other concerned stakeholders, an Integrated Action Plan is a local long-term strategy, a mandatory product to all project partners that are involved in an Action Planning Network – municipalities, development agencies and metropolitan authorities, among others. It’s an effective way to experiment solutions, turn ideas into concrete actions and, most importantly, give a voice to a diverse of people and get different municipal departments to work together.

    Following many rounds of URBACT III Networks (2014 - 2021), roughly 400 Integrated Action Plans were developed throughout the years. A study was commissioned in 2022 to provide useful intelligence on both content and methods used in the plans: identifying trends, pitfalls and good examples, as well as insights into the sustainability and implementation of these documents. This also included how they will be used and resourced and how they link to broader local and regional strategies.

    The findings from this study feed the framework of future Action Planning Networks (2023 - 2025), while also shedding light to outstanding cases, as the Torino’s Integrated Action Plan from BoostInno (2015 - 2018) – a network that aimed at boosting social innovation. Read on to see some of the headlines from the study and Torino’s journey.


    When Integrated Action Plans trigger real change on the ground


    Four years since the delivery and endorsement of its Integrated Action Plan, with the end of BoostInno in 2018, the municipality of Torino had the time to carefully implement a great number of its 37 original actions. The plan was focused on how to harness the potential of social innovation in the city to benefit sustainable urban development, using five key entry points: tools for social innovation; collective actions; engagement and capacity building’ actions; civic technologies; and finance and impact assessment. The city estimates that it has put into place around 80% of actions so far thanks to successfully attracting both national and European funding.

    For example, Torino received € 1.5 million from the European Social Fund (ESF) to deliver the ‘Torino Social Factory’ designed to develop the capacity of local social enterprises. A further € 50.000 of ESF was also attracted to deliver the ‘Civic Crowdfunding Academy’, which aimed to support innovative services and projects with high social impact. Such investments ensured the fulfilment of many topics, as capacity-building and collective actions.


    Still, impacts need to be understood as a part of a longer process


    As in any URBACT Network, cities do not develop or implement their respective Integrated Action Plans “in a vacuum”. Their plans must always – and necessarily – build on existing strategies, activities and available or prospective funding. Some planned activities may be totally new. However, other actions may be modifications or evolutions of existing activities or approaches. Some Integrated Action Plans may be mostly about changing existing approaches to a topic or challenge. For instance, several of the points that were raised during Torino’s experience with BoostInno were also planned under the existing PON Metro Torino programme 2014-2020, which is co-financed by European Structural Funds.

    Torino was also successful with an application for an Urban Innovative Action (UIA) project called Co-City which received € 4.1 million of ERDF money to work on new forms of active citizen participation in the collaborative management of urban commons to counteract poverty and socio-spatial polarisation. It is included as one of the actions of the integrated approach presented in the IAP even though the project launched in March 2017 – in parallel with the development of the Integrated Action Plan. Its impact may, therefore, be better understood in terms of the ability to use EU Funds most strategically for long term implementation (up to 10 years), rather than in terms of the amount of funding and budget that is mobilised.


    BoostInno Torino (IT) Integrated Action Plan - implementation timeframe


    Implementation success is not limited to the Integrated Action Plan’s activities


    The implementation of the actions is a complex process that cannot be reduced to a linear exercise of checking whether exact plans have been put into action ‘to the letter’. The study confirmed that Integrated Action Plans should not typically be understood or assessed as investment-ready plans or project management tools. They are, instead, living documents that can feed into the development of new activities which were not explicitly foreseen at the time of concluding the plan.

    Following the endorsement of its Integrated Action Plan on social innovation, Torino successfully developed a yet second Urban Innovative Action – this time called To-Nite on the topic of community-based urban security. This project fits within the overall vision of the BoostInno Integrated Action Plan and links to the action to stimulate collective actions and the “installation of networks of sensors colleting environmental variables and developing public solutions in the field of mobility and safety”.

    Some partners of ToNite have been active URBACT Local Group members – the co-authors of the Integrated Action Plan. However, it goes much further than the initial plans of the original plan, with strengthened community co-definition of solutions. The € 4.6 million of the European Regional Development Funds (ERDF) mobilised for this project is therefore not about direct implementation of a planned action, but is nevertheless directly related to the impact of the approach and vision defined by the local people who were involved with BoostInno.

    If we limit the Integrated Action Plans to the words written at the conclusion of the URBACT Network, then such activities could not be counted as implementation success. However, if we understand it as a living document that continue to evolve, then it seems quite reasonable to understand that these actions are also part of the Action Planning Network’s overall impact.


    Action Planning Networks, an open door to countless opportunities


    The experience from Torino bears witness of what can be done when an enabling environment and political support are put in place. The design and validation of the Integrated Action Plan was a catalyst element in this process. Besides other URBACT achievements, including participation in different networks, the award of two Good Practices label – one of which, the Innova-TO competition that was envisioned in the plan, and which later became the InnovaTO-r Transfer Network – its first experience with the Urban Innovative Actions, Co-City, has turned into an URBACT pilot: the CO4CITIES Transfer Mechanism, an attempt to share Torino’s secret recipe with three other cities.

    Clearly, the journey from this city is far from over and we look forward to see what comes next. The open call for Action Planning Networks could be the beginning of a new chapter for Torino, but also a starting point for your own city.



    Torino (IT) landscape illustration





    Are you in the #CitiesForum? Be sure to visit our team in the URBACT stand! If you could not come to Torino this time around, you can still follow the live-streamed sessions.



  • Let's meet at the Cities Forum 2023!

    Cities Forum 2023

    European Commission logo


    The Cities Forum is the place to exchange on the urban dimension of Cohesion Policy. Under the theme “Together for green and just cities” this year’s edition will put a spotlight on recent EU developments, policies and initiatives which engage cities.





    Have you missed the registration? Watch the livestream from the event!

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    In particular, the Forum will:

    • Officially launch the European Urban Initiative (EUI) and its first EU level capacity building event.
    • Further explore the Urban Agenda for the EU, the EU Mission for 100 Climate Neutral and Smart Cities, and how the New European Bauhaus can be used to make a difference in local development.
    • Focus on the role of cities in implementing the European Green Deal and the importance of strategic approaches to address the needs for climate adaptation and environmental protection.
    • Underline the role of small and medium sized cities and functional territories in developing tailor-made solutions for local challenges.



    Members of the URBACT Secretariat will welcome participants in the URBACT information stand and present:

    • The new online course on digital transition for cities.
    • URBACT’s ongoing and upcoming networking and funding opportunities for cities

    This will also be an opportunity to ask last-minute questions about the URBACT call for Action Planning Networks which is open until 31 March.



    Not going to Torino? You can watch the livestreamed sessions! 

    We particularly invite you to watch the livestreamed sessions with URBACT Secretariat members:

    •  16 March at 15:30-16:45, Official Launch of the European Urban Initiative 'Innovating, sharing and inspiring sustainable urban development in Europe' with Elisa Ferreira, Commissioner for Cohesion and Reforms and Teofil Gherca, URBACT Director among the speakers
    • 17 March at 9.00-11.00, 'How can cities build their capacities on sustainable urban development under the European Urban Initiative?' with Clémentine Gravier, URBACT Capacity-Building Officer as a speaker.
    Open to a wider public
  • UIA Transfer Mechanism: five pilot projects ready to take off!

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    Urban Innovative Actions and URBACT come together to put into practices the lessons learnt from the Transfer Networks. 


    Last week, on the 9 March, URBACT's Monitoring Committee have approved five pilot networks to transfer innovative solutions. In 2020, the UIA first call projects came to a close and a proposal was made to test a new URBACT tool which aimed to support the transfer of innovation. The UIA Transfer Mechanism experiment will support a group of EU cities to understand, adapt and prepare to re-use the UIA practice through the co-creation of an investment plan. The 18-month journey of these networks builds on the success of the URBACT Transfer Networks model.


    Following a competitive call, 7 pilot projects were submitted for approval. When considering all the 28 potential city partners, 6 candidates were URBACT newcomer cities from 5 different countries, while 16 cities were also newcomers to UIA. This shows what a unique opportunity this networks represented for cities discovering the universe of EU cooperation! As foreseen by the Terms of Reference, eligible proposals have been assessed by a two assesors from URBACT and UIA. Scroll down to find out more about the five newly approved networks.  

    The URBACT Programme acknowledges and thanks every city that has submitted proposals and used the URBACT Marketplace for this call. URBACT also warmly welcomes the new UIA Transfer Mechanism partners, who will take their first steps in the kick-off meeting on 23 March.








    Smart specialisation in advanced services towards the digital transformation of industry

    Bilbao (ES)

    Bielsko Biala (PL)

    Tartu (EE)

    Timisoara (RO)



    The collaborative management of urban commons to counteract poverty and socio-spatial polarisation

    Torino (IT)

    Budapest (HU)

    Gdansk (PL)

    Cluj-Napoca (RO)



    Unlocking social and economic innovation together

    Birmingham (UK)

    Rotterdam (NL)

    Trapani (IT)

    Poznan (PL)



    Innovative local public-private-citizen partnership for energy governance

    Viladecans (ES)

    Eriges Seraing (BE)

    Nagykanizsa (HU)

    Trikala (EL)



    New skills for new jobs in peri-urban agriculture

    Milan (IT)

    Almere (NL)

    Stara Zagora (BG)

    Vila Nova de Gaia (PT)

    *Bold letters used for UIA cities who will act as Lead Partner



    Interested in the findings of the URBACT Transfer Networks?
    Check all related activities here!





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  • 4 lessons on capacity building for city makers

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    Find out how URBACT builds the capacity of cities to work in a more integrated and participatory way.

    A report from the URBACT Campus


    URBACT aims to build the capacity of cities to work in a more integrated and participatory way through networks, through exchange and learning as well as through the action planning, implementation and transfer processes. URBACT also provides tools and delivers customised training events to support ongoing networks in their learning journey.

    In this context, between April and June this year, a series of bespoke 2-day workshops called URBACT Campus were rolled out. The aim? To guide the Good Practice and Transfer Cities in ongoing networks by providing practical knowledge and the chance to experiment with new working methods.

    Each Campus took place at national or sub regional level with National URBACT Points hosting the sessions and involving all cities in their respective member state.

    4 blocks with different objectives and learning outcomes

    Day 1: How to work in an integrated and participatory way and reduce obstacles to transferring good practices.
    Through world café discussions, the most prominent barriers were explored, participants improved their understanding of the transfer process and acquired skills for problem solving.

    Day 2: The importance of reflection, capturing and sharing knowledge and facilitation techniques.
    Exercises included ice-breaking, group work to self-assessment integrated approaches, stakeholder analysis mapping and creating short videos. Plenty of time was dedicated to informal networking and conversations that started in the working sessions continued long into the breaks.

    After an extensive review of all 15 Campuses URBACT, collected feedback from 296 participants.

    So what were the results and what did we learn?

    Learning by doing

    City practitioners really like interactive training that mixes formats, and allows the hands-on testing of tools that they can then go on to use at local level. The Campus provided a chance to try out, stakeholder analysis on a floor map analysing their influence/importance for the project, creating ‘vox pops’, using checklists for integration. Learning by doing brings greater insights, and also gives confidence to lead activities back home with local stakeholders.

    Co-creation is challenging

    The biggest challenge reported by cities across all member states and all groups was managing the local stakeholder group in a true co-creation process. Participative working requires new skills. It can be both time and resource intensive.

    Common difficulties arise with group composition, unresponsive stakeholders, maintaining momentum and involving decision makers. During the Campus, city practitioners shared with each other ways to engage different groups and individuals, maintain interest and make meetings relevant and fun.

    Lessons included getting in touch with all stakeholders early in the process to share your vision, your goals and set up the rules of the game by communicating about both obligations and benefits. Also helpful, is explaining in easy and concrete ways how people can play a pro-active role in the project.

    Improving our understanding of integration

    An important learning need for all urban professionals is to improve our understanding of the concept of integration and what it means in practice to work in an integrated way. Campus participants were given a checklist to explore which types of integration - such as policy, sector, and territorial - were most relevant to their own Good Practice transfer and how well they were achieving it. Most cities were already working well in terms of horizontal or sector integration, in that they are inviting representatives from different organisations, and different parts of the municipality to be part of the local group to integrate their perspective and priorities. With regard to policy integration the checklist reminded participants to keep thinking about other policy areas outside of their primary focus. For example: to consider the potential environmental implications in a project about economic development or inclusion. One way to do that is to invite ad hoc specialist guests such as a climate resilience, gender or procurement expert to meetings, to help the group to think laterally, and make sure they are at the very least not inadvertently causing negative consequences, but also potentially finding some win wins. This exercise led to a better grasp of what can seem like quite theoretical ideas on integration and how to apply them to improve the local plan.

    More national networking please!

    As well as building capacity, the Campus had an added value of building community and national networks. It reinforced how important it is to provide structured opportunities for peer exchange at national level. Participants really appreciated hearing what other cities in the same region are doing, including on urban challenges different from their own. The Polish cities even created a Basecamp space to exchange among themselves since the Campus in Lodz (PL) . There is a high demand for more national level events bringing cities together to share information and challenges.

    At the Campus I learned what the URBACT method was, namely the methodology for a transfer network and the tools used. I learned different ways of sharing and the value of sharing in a diversity of projects. I appreciated the participatory methodology and how the URBACT tools were put into practice. The interaction and motivation of the group. In conclusion: an added value to the level of knowledge.” Campus Participant in Braga, Portugal

    URBACT Campus in stats

    • 15 Campus training events
    • 141 cities
    • 447 individual participants
    • 25 countries represented
    • 49% participating for the first time in an URBACT event
    • Satisfaction level over 4 out of 5 across the board

    Clémentine Gravier, URBACT Capacity-Building Officer who coordinated the Campus initiative concludes:

    The series of URBACT Campus was a great learning opportunity for all people involved: participants, trainers, National URBACT Points and URBACT Secretariat. It is always interesting to see that, despite working on different policy fields and in different national contexts, city practitioners are facing the same obstacles, in particular when developing participatory ways of working. Providing them with opportunities to network, exchange, learn from each other is very fruitful and allows new solutions to emerge.

    More on the campus in national languages:

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  • From co-visualising the 'in between' to more integrated policies and actions? Mapping common ground in European social innovation projects

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    Spin-Off' project that responds to the specific needs of the partners and will be suitable for further development and will be in compliance with the requirements of the respective Transnational/Interregional Programmes and Calls. Spin-off projects are meant to kick-start the implementation of the LAPs.
    Disadvantaged neighbourhoods

    Social innovation is about addressing very complex "wicked" problems, in which actors from across many sectors - governments, corporations, educational institutes, NGOs, and, of course, citizens - need to work together intensively for a prolonged period of time. In this way, deep lessons learnt can be shared, and collaborations can come to fruition that align and scale efforts beyond the prototype and project level so as to reach truly collective, integrated and systemic impact. To collaborate successfully, participants need to be able to recognise not only the various interests and perspectives of all stakeholders involved, but also to see the evolving "big picture" of the quality of (potential) connections within all that diversity.

    Building this shared understanding is already difficult at the level of a city, when people representing different communities can often meet face-to-face. It is even harder at the national, let alone the European level. The core problem is the fragmentation of collaboration that happens when addressing an intricate web of wicked problems. This requires countless participants to work together, often for a very long duration, and on an array of interrelated solutions. This fragmentation is compounded by everything continuously being in flux: the shifting articulations of the problems, the multitude of approaches, the many stakeholders involved as well as resources available, and so on. Thus, fragmentation of collaboration often results in confusion, the reinventing of many wheels, and only suboptimal solutions. Mapping can help reduce this fragmentation.

    Maps are powerful visual artefacts to help people navigate complex spaces. We all know location-based maps that help us navigate from A to B. This geographical metaphor has been extended to create online maps of location-based social innovation services and resources, such as the Paris map where we can see the location of hundreds of “actors” within the social and solidarity economy. These location-based maps are good at classifying and positioning elements, but less suited for capturing their network of collaborative relations.

    Another type of map is the community network map. These do not start from a geographical metaphor to provide the necessary reference points, but instead use salient commonalities of the community network itself, such as the issues, goals, themes, or the “sharings” that their collaboration is about. Such maps provide joint conceptual beacons that help participants and others to explore and navigate their often very complex collaboration space. Typically, social network analysis maps capture some such relations, but in a formal, analytical way. An example is the analysis of the Torino informal startup network. Using full-fledged community network maps, however, their members can interact with the map and see how their goals, themes, activities, organisations, stakeholders and resources interrelate. Participants can perceive how they themselves are positioned in this collaboration landscape; where they might want to take their contribution from there; and visually anchor their own efforts in the collaborative network. In short, this type of mapping both shows and grows the network of collaborative relations, on which the creativity of social innovation depends.

    Mapping the BoostInno network projects: the Barcelona Experiment

    BoostInno is one of the networks developed in the EU URBACT programme, with the aim to “enable 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”. Participating cities are Paris (FR), Strasbourg (FR), Barcelona (ES), Braga (PT), Milan (IT), Turin (IT), Baia Mare (RO), Skane (SE), Wroclaw (PL), Gdansk (PL) and Lviv (UA).

    In preparation for one of its transnational workshops in Barcelona in November 2016 (see this video for an impression), we outlined a map of the BoostInno network collaboration, including a set of different views/perspectives highlighting different aspects of the map (Fig. 1).

    The goal of this experiment was to find out if mapping this engaging collaborative community of cities could help its members to make better sense of who to work with and on what themes. In particular, during this meeting, each city was to make a selection of other cities in the network to plan site visits to. Given that there were representatives of 11 cities present in Barcelona, and that there was only little dedicated time to meet and discuss with potential partners, it was felt that a map showing the common ground might be helpful.

    Prior to the meeting, we sent out a survey asking all cities to briefly describe five of their “flagship projects”: local initiatives that could serve as showcases of what they had to offer and share with their European peers. We also asked them to tag their projects with topics from the list of URBACT “Urban Topics”: concrete social innovation topics that cities work on and that URBACT has grouped in categories such as Integrated Urban Development, Economy, Environment, Governance, and Inclusion. Besides mapping those elements, we also added what “sharings” (concrete offerings) the cities wanted to “give” to and “use” from other cities. The resulting map perspectives literally shows the common ground of the BoostInno network, making it much easier to identify the common focus, but also to identify one’s own position and interests in the bigger scheme of things.

    At the workshop, the first author, being the mapmaker, presented the overall map, showing the big picture. A “mapping station” was also set up, where representatives of the various cities could come and visit. The mapmaker then gave each of them a personalized tour showing how their city was positioned the map, and what themes and projects of other cities theirs was most closely related to (Fig.3). In this way, precious meeting time could be used as efficiently as possible, as city representatives could more easily identify the potentially most relevant partners – also present in Barcelona – to talk to.

    Participatory community network mapping

    The map we created for the Barcelona workshop is only the first step, however. As important as this artefact, if not more, is the mapping & sensemaking process by which the maps are being created and used. To this purpose, a participatory community network mapping methodology is being developed.

    Participatory community network mapping is the participatory process of capturing, visualising, and analysing community network relationships and interactions, as well as applying the resulting insights for community sensemaking, building, and evaluation purposes. Key is the involvement of the community members themselves in all of these activities. This involvement means not only that they provide their own data, and after the necessary training maintain their own maps, but also that they start making sense together by having focused conversations about what the different views on the map mean. What implications does the presence of certain hubs of activity in the map mean? How come a particular theme is dangling on the periphery of the map, whereas according to the programme objectives it should play a key role?

    But there is another crucial form of participation: the community members themselves should be in control of the language of the map: what types of elements and connections should be included (and which ones therefore not) and what views on the map should be created? This "power of representation" is the foundation of the participatory mapping experience and should be wielded with care. It is an essential introductory stage at the beginning of each legitimate mapping process.

    We have only just started. The Barcelona experiment focused on showing proof of concept by defining a common mapping language, and charting the common thematic ground of the participating cities. We are now working on the next steps: zooming in in more detail on selected social innovation activities and shifting the focus from capturing and visualising the data to exploring how the map views can support the sensemaking process.


    Europe faces a myriad of interconnected wicked problems. Action and collaboration are stimulated through programmes and projects. They are essential instruments in reaching priorities, distributing resources and providing accountability. However, they are not enough. We also need ways to put into context and integrate the numerous issues these programmes and projects address; to explore the collaboration space that exists in between initiatives, communities, and networks. City governments, their departments and partners can then better understand the gaps, capture interesting ideas and identify and align initiatives that do not fit the current instruments. In this way, they can obtain a deepened understanding of the "big picture”. We believe that participatory community network mapping provides both a methodology and way to represent integrated actions and policies, based on the principle of horizontal collaborations and partnerships.

    Mapping them puts the all-important but insufficiently known connections of the collaboration space in-between into the limelight. When acted upon, these insights about the qualities of the relationships between stakeholders in and around our cities will increase the impact and success of the Urban Agenda. Most certainly, this will interest the URBACT community. We also hope, however, that this approach will inform thinking about social innovation at the regional, national and EU levels, leading to more truly integrated policies and actions.

    A video interview with Aldo de Moor about the mapping experiment:


    This article is a revised version of this blog post.

    It is the result of a co-construction between Aldo de Moor, CommunitySense (NL), and Piotr Wolkowinski, Lead Expert of the URBACT network BoostInno.

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