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  • Experimenting with governance

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    Innovative governance work is notable is several of the 97 URBACT Good Practices. Common themes emerge around how cities are beginning to innovate. Firstly, how they relate and connect to their citizens. Second, how they build new alliances with a wider range of organisations. Thirdly, how for innovative practices to truly function, significant internal change is required from government organisations.

    The roots of modern European governance


    Governance systems currently in place in much of the European Union were first developed in the 19th Century as the industrial revolution unfolded.  Some aspects have changed but often the essential form has remained the same. ‘Management’ as Manfred Weber first documented is bureaucratic and based on rules and procedures, which are systematised through reports, signatures and files. This written paper culture still informs the way of doing business in much of the public sector, even in countries where digital technologies are most advanced. Although flatter hierarchies are now the norm in some countries, elsewhere, rigid hierarchies and promotion based on seniority limit the potential and creativity of younger staff. Everywhere, departmental and professional boundaries restrict our ability to tackle complex problems in a holistic way.

    Key characteristics of the old 19th and 20th Century economy were industry and urbanism. Local government responded to these new needs by developing forms of governance that were essentially paternal, aimed at a newly urbanised working class. Their main drive was to deliver healthy enough conditions, enabling a working population to make new industrial products in the workshops of the world. 

    Changing governance to meet dynamic cities

    URBACT challenges such ways of working by proposing integrated and participative approaches. But these are often superimposed on the old structures so that although some relations with the outside world change, the internal organisation remains the same.

    In the 21st Century we are slowly beginning to see the emergence of new forms of governance that rebalance the relationship between government and citizens. Instead of redistribution through the raising of tax and the delivery of public services we see the notion of coproduction that puts the service user at its centre. Instead of a one-service model for everyone we see the emergence of personalised models that fit around the individual. But the new coexists with the old and there are inevitable tensions between the paradigms.

    Many of the good practices presented at the URBACT city festival illustrate facets of this emerging model of governance. They range from changing internal ways of working, to how the municipality reaches out to citizens through new forms of regulation for common space. 

    Naples, civic cultural success

    Nicola Masella from Naples explained how active civil society movements had taken over vacant and derelict buildings owned by the municipality. Initial success then provoked a reflection inside the city about how this ‘temporary use’ could be organised on a more regular basis, and what form of regulation was needed to facilitate this process. Naples provides and excellent example of how regulatory change can quickly stimulate new activity within the city. Inevitably this activity generates more growth and activity. Here are signs of real change, in other times the response would have been to insist on eviction and increase the security of empty buildings, at cost to the public purse.

    By revisiting the notion of civic use, the good practice proposed by Naples city council aims at guaranteeing the collective enjoyment of common goods. These common goods can be cultural and natural heritage, essential public services, public spaces and water resources. Through its willingness and use of its administrative process the city has strengthened civic participation and enabled the fair use of common resources while at the same time allocating clear responsibilities for maintenance and management.

    In particular, Naples aims to make spontaneous, bottom-up initiatives recognisable and institutionalised, ensuring the autonomy of both parties involved: the proactive citizens and the institutions.

    How it works in Naples: Filangieri Asylum

    The first common good to be recognized was the former Asylum at Filangeri, Naples, a complex that in 2012 had been occupied by a group of art and culture professionals protesting against the restoration and recent abandonment of the premises. The city council acknowledged its civic use in a resolution in 2012 which recognised the building as a “place with a complex use in the cultural field, and whose spaces are used to experiment in participative democracy”.
    Re-use produces high social and cultural value as well as generating positive economic externalities. Uses must involve not only the users of the space but the whole neighbourhood and the wider city. In return the administration contributes to the operating expenses to ensure an adequate accessibility of the property and general safety conditions: maintenance, cleaning, electricity consumption and surveillance. An ah-hoc unit on the technical level, and a political coordinator are in charge of promoting and fostering an integrated approach particularly, between municipal departments involved and other institutions or agencies.

    The facility in its new form has to be free and inclusive, i.e. it must guarantee access to all. Finance comes from donations, voluntary contributions, self-financing and other forms of social pricing, which is permitted for cultural events. The management model must be based on a strong participatory process. In the Asylum Filangieri three different structures manage the building the "Management assembly", the "Steering assembly“ and the “Board of Trustees”. Each has its own distinct remit.

    Since the passing of the regulation in 2012 there have been more than 200 weekly open meetings held in the Asylum Filangieri. Working groups are formed as necessary for implementation and over 900 events have been produced with attendance of 18 000 people. The venture has strengthened community cohesion by building bonds between citizens, and has narrowed the gap between artists, academics and citizens.

    A second resolution in 2016 recognised a further seven public properties as “relevant civic spaces” and as “common goods”. These facilities have generated 5,800 activities 1,500 days of theatre, dance and music rehearsals; 300 exhibitions; 250 art projects, 300 concerts musical groups plus as many rehearsals and 350 debates. An estimated 200,000 citizens have taken part. In addition, the community-based organisations have provided a range of free services including training for the unemployed, a neighbourhood nursery, schooling for migrants and health services.

    The Naples approach puts empty buildings at the service of the community and allows the community’s creativity to flower in a new setting.

    Umeå: Governance from a new perspective

    The city of Umeå, in northern Sweden has taken an innovative approach when working towards a more gender-neutral cityscape. Unlike other governance innovation schemes the city has chosen to look broadly at the governance perspective and work towards dismantling a male lead system that precludes the needs and wants of almost half its population.

    The city’s municipality began by focusing on how the city works from a gendered perspective. Their practice is to take citizens, policy makers and visitors around the city on a bus tour during which issues facing women and men are explored by visiting different sites in the city and examining them with gender in mind. Interest was ignited when work began on a long pedestrian underpass, used to access the train station, the Lev. This was redesigned with gender equal safety in mind and so is better lit, wide, with no corners behind which people can hide. The main aim of the tour is to view the overall city space and highlight the need for collaboration when creating new, safe, inclusive environments.

    Umeå’s approach to improving its urban environment should be celebrated yet its simple, almost obvious idea of inclusive and representative design only highlights the astonishing fact that cities and towns worldwide still do not design educate, design or govern with women in mind. Aside from specialist projects, most major designs that relate to our cities, from the macro level of masterplanning down to the design of public space, schools, hospitals and indeed housing are lead predominantly by men.

    Gender balanced governance: Inspirations from Umea

    Women mayors are still relatively rare in local government in most of the EU Member States. Even the famous mayors of big cities such as Anne Hidalgo in Paris and Ada Colau in Barcelona are unusual in their own countries. Finding new ways to help policy makers understand issues from a gendered perspective is therefore essential to reach better decisions about design, usage and management of urban facilities. The Umea bus tour which helps people to understand the city from a gender perspective does just this. 

    Turin opens up to innovation

    Fabrizio Barbiero explained how the city of Turin chose to mobilise the innovative capacity of its ten thousand strong workforce in a project called ‘everyone is an innovator’ led by Innova.TO. A challenge was made to the city’s workforce to come up with innovative ideas that were capable of being implemented. Its main aim was to create a cultural shift within the governing body, from being a rule-bound organisation towards a more creative and open structure with a focus on reducing both cost and waste and improving services. 71 project ideas were received in the first round held in 2016. In addition, over 4000 contacts were recorded on the web platform and the initiative has attracted international press coverage as well as in the city itself. One limiting factor at present is that projects must raise their own resources for implementation.

    A key aspect of the project is that it is open to regular staff at any level with the exception of directors. Individuals propose most projects but about a third are by two or more staff. The project proposers are anonymous during the selection process which is carried out by a panel which mixes external experts from the University of Torino and the private sector with internal officials. Innova.TO is just one part of wider programmes for social innovation involving communities and other actors in the city.

    In the 2016 edition ten projects were taken forward. These included an idea to improve community participation in local projects, a proposal for sensors to control lighting in public buildings, a new model for smart procurement and a method by which citizens can see how their donations encouraged through the income tax submission finance public actions. None of these projects has imposed any cost on the municipality.

    The key aim of the project is in changing the perception that only the private sector is innovative.  By creating a reflective space for innovation within the municipality the project starts the process by which the public sector can be reinvented. Although it is a bottom up initiative it ultimately depends on senior and middle management for implementation of the chosen proposals. This helps to develop a listening culture among senior managers who need to become more open minded to change.

    Aarhus: Culture as an Intermediary

    Lars Davidsen from Aarhus presented their approach using culture as a way of intermediating with citizens. Their specific approach has some echoes of what Naples has been doing as they take the opportunity presented by empty properties to create a form of popup revitalisation. 

    Aarhus is using participation around culture as a way of integrating policy and addressing more complex problems such as loneliness, the inclusion of vulnerable young people and youth unemployment. The use of empty property on a temporary basis allows greater flexibility and for a quick learning by doing approach which might be stifled in a permanent solution. 

    The city works with a mantra “City life before urban spaces and urban spaces before buildings”

    Change in action in Amersfoort and Swindon

    The change in workplace culture taking place in some cities has been written about previously in URBACT workstream Social Innovation in Cities with two cities mentioned in particular: Amersfoort and Swindon. Amersfoort’s city manager started a process in January 2015 when he asked his 800 staff to become ‘Free range civil servants’ in the sense that they were asked to go into communities to listen and coproduce rather than staying walled up in the Town Hall. One of the first projects was to develop a former hospital site into an activity park.  It showed that co-production could work as a popular planning tool.

    In Swindon restructuring of the city’s services created three directorates. All service delivery departments were put in the same department under one director.  A second department deals with localities or neighbourhoods while the third is engaged solely in procurement. This radical redesign was aimed at developing services that cost less to deliver and could produce better results for the citizen. But it is only a start, in complex interventions for example concerning troubled families, a host of non municipality agencies are also involved from police and criminal justice to housing associations, job centres and social security. Providing an integrated service to the user can start with the municipality but also needs to address these other fields that are run by other government departments. 

    Public Administration needs to go Dutch

    Our cities continue to change at an increasing rate and yet many of the systems and processes we use to deliver services are groaning under the strain of modern needs. The examples looked at here point to the necessity for a cultural or even philosophical shift in the way we envisage governance engaging with citizens. New, non-hierarchical and inclusive models of governance need to be enacted, systems that represent the needs of every citizen and not simply those within the system. This is perhaps the most challenging aspect. Organisational cultures are very rigid and fixed. Saying that public administration needs to go Dutch is one thing. Doing

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  • Gender equality at the heart of the city


    A tour to an urban "gendered" landscape to raise awareness and promore gender equality

    Linda Gustafsson
    Gender Equality Officer
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    What do a bus station, a park and a tunnel say about equality and gender issues? With the objective to underline the importance of gender equality and to show actions and results of a long-term work in the city, Umeå (SE) created a "Gendered landscape". Since 2009 guided bus tours around the city show to passengers successful changes in the city, and put light on still existing gender inequalities. This practice raises important questions about the city’s development and identity issues. How do we build new tunnels, playgrounds, meeting places, recreation centres? Do we plan our public transport for those who use it or for those we wish would use it? Why are women using public transport more frequently than men?

    The solutions offered by the good practice

    Since 2009 the city of Umeå provides guided bus tours around the city to show “the gendered landscape of Umeå”. This is an innovative way of showing how working with gender equality takes form in a city - exemplify successful changes and work in the city, as well as illuminating remaining issues. In line with Umeå’s high ambitions on sustainability and gender equality, the gendered landscape method has been developed in Umeå, and, to the best of our knowledge, it is the first of its kind in Europe. The method is not about traditional neighbourhood safety/security surveys, it is about taking the city itself as the starting point, highlighting gendered power structures throughout the city and how they can be understood and transformed. The method of "the gendered landscape" is being used for educating and creating awareness on the importance of a cohesive understanding of gendered power structures concerning all urban planning in the city. The method raises important questions about the city’s development and identity issues that are critical norms and, in some cases, provocative as well as challenging and dynamic. How do we build new tunnels, playgrounds, meeting places, recreation centres? Do we plan our public transport for those who use it or for those we wish would use it? Why are women using public transport more frequently than men? Who has the power to decide? What knowledge do we use when we are working on developing the city and our public spaces?

    Building on the sustainable and integrated approach

    The idea of the Gendered Landscape is to highlight power structures in the city, to focus on the city in itself rather than specific groups in the city, and to have an integrated understanding of inclusion, gender equality and sustainable urban development. Different stakeholders are represented at the stops of the bus tour, as well as different levels of government (i.e. highlighting the cooperation between local, regional and national level in working with gender equality through the bus stopping, for example, at the county administrative office). This approach leads to a better understanding that a city, to be able to be transforming, must develop new initiatives and projects with an understanding of the context of the city and an understanding of gendered power structures. The Gendered Landscape approach highlights the need to have qualified staff within the city administration involved in all urban development issues within and outside the city administration, and not exclusively focusing on representation issues, etc. In this respect, a good cooperation between Umeå University (for example the Umeå Centre for Gender Studies) and the city of Umeå is seen as one key component.

    Based on a participatory approach

    The tour is a way of making the statistics in the “Gendered Landscape” report come alive, currently outlining 25 integrated practices in the city, and an innovative way of demonstrating the concrete effects of striving for gender equality. The work has been led by the municipality, but also by other organisations and persons. The idea of the tour is to highlight the city as one and the need for cooperation and collaboration in creating an inclusive city. One example is the park “Freezone”, a collaboration between different parts of the municipality and groups of girls in the city. The collaboration led to a better understanding of expectations that young women deal with every day and the need for public spaces where nothing is expected of you. With this new knowledge, a park was built in the city centre. Collaboration between the municipality, Umeå University and the Swedish for immigrants-school led to an understanding that there is a difference between being seen and feeling like an object or a subject in public spaces. How do background, age, gender and disability figure in, and how is the city planned? This led to changes in how public forums are arranged in the city to insure that more inhabitants take part in the process. Both these examples are part of the Gendered Landscape tour which also includes places with work that has been or is being done by NGOs, public works of art and highlighting the constant interactions between public and private that are present in a city.

    What difference has it made?

    There are several examples of how the initiatives of the bus tour have made an impact in the planning and development of the city. The Freezone initiative has impacted the work of the Umeå Street and Parks department, changing their methods for dialogues with citizens and gender-mainstreamed the content of steering documents. Another example from the tour is the example of Gammliavallen football stadium and the city’s ambition of a more equal use of public spaces and sports arenas. In 1999, a political decision in the municipal board of leisure led to that practice hours were divided according to what division soccer teams played in, regardless of gender. As a direct result Umeå’s leading women’s soccer team, Umeå IK, got to choose their practice hours before the leading men’s team, Umeå FC. Since then, the decision has impacted the distribution of practice hours in all municipal arenas in Umeå. A third example is from Umeå as a cultural city, where the cultural sector continually monitors gender representation in the city cultural scene. A positive trend towards more gender equality is observed over the last few years. In 2015 there were 45 % women (out of 2,000 events) represented on the main cultural stages in Umeå.

    Why should other European cities use it?

    Thus far we have had around 30 international exchanges with representatives from European countries and around the world on the Gendered Landscape approach. The challenge of gendered power structures is shared across all European cities. The social and cultural context of the cities differs, of course, across EU Member States, but the Gendered Landscape approach offers flexibility to adapt to these different pre-conditions. In an international context, we see that the potential to reuse the methodology is great, not least within a European (i.e. URBACT) context, as the methodology has proven to be easily adaptable to different local cultural and social contexts. Examples of international exchanges so far include: • The European Capital of Culture (ECoC) network, where Umeå, as European Capital of Culture, has hosted a number of international meetings; • CEMR; • Union of Baltic cities Gender and Planning Commissions; • Urban Development network 2014 Innovation pitch in Brussels. We believe that the Gendered Landscape integrated approach has been successful in Umeå. The long-term ambition is to build on the interest generated thus far and implement further developments in Umeå and across Europe. The ambition in applying for an URBACT Good Practice is to use this as a starting point for a European network initiative (possibly within an URBACT Transfer Network), inviting other parts of Europe to work together on further developing the approach in Umeå and elsewhere.

    Is a transfer practice
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  • WEED

    LEAD PARTNER : Celje - Slovenia
    • Umea - Sweden
    • Karviná - Czech Republic
    • Medway
    • Brussels - Belgium
    • Amiens - France
    • Santiago De Compostela - Spain
    • Alzira - Spain
    • Enna - Italy
    • Crotone - Italy


    WEED APN map


    Gender equality is a key challenge in the strategy the European Union is implementing for economic growth and employment. The “Europe 2020” strategy sets a goal of a 75% employment rate from women and men between the ages of 20 and 64, and the European Commission’s strategy for equality between women and men (2010-2015) recommends “using the potential and the reservoir of women’s talents more intensely and more effectively in order to increase economic and commercial benefits.” However, achieving these objectives remains compromised by obstacles that women face on the labour market and in their business creation projects. The involvement of cities remains an approach that is rarely supported, even though it is a key factor of progress. A considerable challenge for the partners was to juggle between their initial objectives and a context of economic crisis that was hardly favourable in order to make gender equality a local policy priority.



    The main objective of WEED is to provide capacity building for professional development on the issue of women and economic and local development. To this end we will establish a transnational exchange programme in order to facilitate transfer of policy, planning and good practices.

    The project will focus on a number of issues:

    • Women and entrepreneurship: The EU Roadmap for gender equality 2006-2010 indicates that the most common barriers for women to create new businesses are: access to sources of funding, access to technology, identifying potential markets, lack of self-confidence and management skills. The exchange will therefore focus on good practice related to addressing these barriers.
    • Women in the Knowledge Economy: A major factor related to the entrepreneurship of women is linked to their access to new technology and the segregation in education. In all countries, but in particular the new member states that have emerged out of the socialist system, women's level of higher education tends to exceed that of men. Despite the fact that women now represent the majority of high graduates (59%), their fields of study remain strongly stereotyped, and technical studies attract only 1 female graduate in ten. The exchange will therefore focus on strategies for changing this situation.

    Gender equality and the labour market: Much can be done at a local level to better employ women's potentials. Cities, in particular, should become more women friendly locations, by developing and supporting measures which: promote a life cycle approach to work, help reconcile work and private life, tackle women's unemployment, promote equal opportunity in the workplace and the labour market, and clearly confront discriminatory practices.


    What motivates you to be part of the URBACT adventure?


    In the past our city has had very positive and successful experiences working with other European cities and we are pleased to be once again involved in a transnational exchange programme. The theme of our network Women, Enterprise, Employment in Local Development is an important subject for our city and we hope to share and learn from each others experiences and to develop solutions that can be adapted to our local context.


    Who would you like to benefit from the work achieved in your project?


    In Celje women play a significant part in the labour market and make up around 45 % of the employment rate.  However among the biggest 50 private companies in Celje only 8 are officially led by women (16%). Within the framework of the WEED project we would like to address this issue and explore how the level of women owned and run businesses can be increased. We also would like find ways of how to best promote women interest and involvement in new technologies and/or science which is a newly developing sector in our region.


    Main results


    Through transnational sharing and analysis of examples of effective actions and Local Action Plans, the partner cities of the WEED project were able to develop new solutions to counter the obstacles that women face in employment, entrepreneurship and innovation.


    Upon completion of the URBACT WEED project, the network formulated the following conclusions:


    Municipalities have a role to play in supporting women and their entrepreneurial projects:

    • By setting up measures in schools for early intervention in fighting deep-seated attitudes concerning career choices for girls and boys and the roles of women and men.
    • By making micro-financing accessible to women.
    • By developing more integrated and more innovative support for business creation and growth.

    At a local level, it is possible to act on the quality of women’s employment:

    • If employers create working conditions that are more favourable to family life.
    • If training flexible training activities open up new careers that are less gender-determined.
    • If social enterprises are encouraged to create new areas of growth.

    Gender inequality in the knowledge economy can be overcome by:

    • Through interesting and better-targeted training, including local work based on knowledge centres.
    • By making the environment more favourable to women and the family.
    • By effective regional partnership between municipalities and universities.


    A compilation of the best city initiatives listed by challenge:


    Throughout the WEED project, the partner city network organised working meetings on the three major topics that served as a framework for developing their Local Action Plans. These meetings led to the publication of collections of good local practices led by eight partner cities as well as by other European and North American municipalities. These documents represent a lasting source of ideas for cities that would like to launch similar projects.

    • Women and entrepreneurship in times of crisis
    • Women, research and the knowledge economy
    • Gender inequality at work and on the employment market

    Identifying and developing integrated local actions that improve women’s situation in employment, entrepreneurship and the knowledge economy are key to this thematic network. It is clear that the role that women play in terms of local regeneration is crucial, however, urban regeneration has always been a predominantly male affair. In particular, this network will focus on the key issues of: women and entrepreneurship, women in research and knowledge economy, gender inequalities in the workplace and the labour market.

    WEED APN logo
    WEED - Women Enterprise and Employment in Local Development
    Women, Enterprise and Employment in Local Development
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