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  • European cities driving change through URBACT Action Planning Networks

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    Illustration of several people in a city with the slogan "Read the latest updates on the Action Planning Networks" in the sky and the hashtag #URBACTacts.
    19/03/2024

    Get to know the areas of action and the latest updates of these 30 URBACT networks. 

    Articles
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    Networks in numbers

     

    From 1 June 2023 to 31 December 2025, 252 individual partners from 28 European countries have embarked on 30 Action Planning Networks (APN), under the URBACT IV programme. Within their URBACT journey, they aim to build their knowledge and skills to co-design and develop long-term Integrated Action Plans (IAP) to tackle their local challenges. These plans will define the actions to be implemented, covering timings, responsibilities, costings, funding sources, monitoring indicators and risk assessments. 

    Each network is composed of a Lead Partner and another 8-10 project partners. Among the 252 partners, half are newcomers to the programme while the other half already has experience with URBACT III (2014-2020).  

    Networks approved by the URBACT IV Monitoring Committee. Source: URBACT 

    Networks approved by the URBACT IV Monitoring Committee. Source: URBACT 

    All the approved URBACT Action Planning Networks (2023-2025) are aligned with the EU Cohesion Policy and will contribute to its five specific Policy Objectives (POs): PO1 A more competitive and smarter Europe; PO2 A greener Europe; PO3 A more connected Europe; PO4 A more social and inclusive Europe; and PO5 A Europe closer to citizens. 

    Beyond their geographic diversity, the 30 networks also stand out for their wide variety of topics. The URBACT method, which all networks follow, ensures that an integrated approach is applied; stated simply, regardless of the topic, the social, economic, environmental and territorial aspects are considered.  

    To help you navigate the list, we have clustered them here by their main thematic areas: Participative governance; Urban planning; Local development; Climate action; and Social cohesion. 

     

     

    Participative governance 

     

    Networks under the participative governance thematic focus on a wide variety of topics, including citizen engagement, health, localising the Sustainable Development Goals and much more. 

    Led by Genk (BE), Agents of Co-Existence fosters innovative approaches to societal challenges and strives for inclusive local policies with active community involvement by strengthening the skills and competences of civil servants and creating new organisational structures and cultures

    Developing locally-adapted governance processes is the main objective of Cities for Sustainability Governance, with Espoo (FI) as the Lead Partner, but specifically by using UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as a strategic vehicle. 

    From the heart of Paris (FR), the European cities involved in CITIES@HEART work towards a balanced and inclusive city centre for all users, reversing the loss of attractiveness for cities of different sizes and backgrounds. 

    The One Health 4 Cities network, guided by Lyon (FR), aims to promote the integration of the One Health approach into urban strategies and projects, developing tools that empower decision-makers and operational teams to increase the positive impact of urban projects on the well-being and health of people, animals and the environment

     

    Urban planning 

     

    Urban planning networks address a range of hot topics such as mobility, accessibility, sustainability, public spaces, spatial linkages and territorial cohesion.  

    PUMA (Planning Urban Mobility Actions) helps cities such as Liepaja (LV), its Lead Partner, develop integrated mobility action plans in order to achieve climate-neutral and sustainable mobility in small and medium-sized cities. It is people-centric, prioritising the needs and well-being of individuals

    The S.M.ALL network is all about “Sharing urban solutions towards accessible, sustainable mobility for all.” Led by Ferrara (IT), they navigate the complexity of two URBACT mobility paradigms: inclusivity and sustainability. 

    Romagna Faentina (IT) is at the forefront of ECONNECTING - Greener & closer communities, a network that focuses on sustainable urban-rural mobility solutions within the 30-minute territory, designing and implementing proximity strategies for rural-urban functional areas. 

    SCHOOLHOODS puts children’s health and safety on the menu of a safe, green and happy way to school. Led by Rethymno (EL), the cities belonging to this URBACT network work hand-in-hand with pupils, parents and teachers to co-create solutions allowing pupils to actively go to school on their own.  

    From Balbriggan (IE) to the borders of Europe, the main goal of the EcoCore network is to accelerate the green transition especially in the work environments of the industrial areas of the partner cities, which are transitioning to low-carbon energy sources for transportation, heating and electricity. 

    In a mission to connect urban-rural communities, Creacció Agència d'Emprenedoria of Vic (ES) is currently leading the Beyond the Urban network, which promotes urban-rural mobility through the testing and implementation of sustainable, accessible and integrated mobility solutions, with a focus on intermodality, multi-level governance, inclusion, gender equality, and digital tools. 

     

    Local development 

     

    Local economy, territorial marketing and digital transformation are a few of the topics covered by the local development networks. 

    C4TALENT, whose Lead Partner is Nyíregyháza City with County Rights (HU), pursues the objective of building business & startup friendly environments in cities to lessen the effects of brain drain, attracting and retaining talented young professionals. 

    After the COVID-19 pandemic accelerated the transformation around how work is organised, Dubrovnik Development Agency (HR) initiated Remote-IT, a network that tackles the new challenges cities are experiencing connected to the future of work by facilitating the remote and hybrid work for thriving cities. 

    Another Croatian city is leading a local development action planning network. Sibenik (HR) is at the head of Residents of the future, which addresses the issue of urban depopulation within small and medium-sized cities.  

    With Fundão (PT) as a Lead Partner, METACITY’s main goal is to increase competitiveness of small and medium tech-aware cities, benefiting from the opportunity to enhance service efficiency and citizen satisfaction provided by the metaverse.  

    NextGen YouthWork, headed by Eindhoven (NL), is also contributing to the digital transformation, by going one step further and improving online youth work through innovative digital solutions at the city level.  

    Boosting no-tech and digital local communities, facing specific challenges in terms of diversity, gender equality and inclusion, is the objective of TechDiversity, a network composed of small and medium-sized European cities and guided by Trikala (EL). 

    Led by Mollet del Vallès (ES), DIGI-INCLUSION also promotes inclusion through digital tools, tackling social exclusion and boosting digital inclusion not only by granting access to technology but by enabling people to develop the necessary skills and to become sufficiently empowered to take full advantage of the opportunities offered by the digital world. 

    Life in cities continues even after dark. This is the main statement of the network Cities After Dark. Led by Braga (PT), this network promotes the 'Night Economy', through activities that are essential for a city to function 24 hours a day and play a significant role in the global economy.  

     

    Climate action 

     

    Climate action networks tackle several concerns; green transition, circular economy, green funding and reconversion of spaces, among other subjects. 

    The COPE (Coherent Place-based Climate Action) network, driven by Copenhagen (DK), unlocks the green potentials of citizen action through a place-based approach, recognising citizens and local action groups as fundamental stakeholders working to accelerate the green transition. 

    Led by Munich (DE), LET'S GO CIRCULAR! cities focus on the circular transition of cities. This network addresses all issues relevant to a holistic strategy of circular city ecosystems, fostering innovative solutions. 

    The BiodiverCity partners, with the support of Dunaújváros (HU) as Lead Partner, support and enable communities to plan powerful, nature-based solutions, foster pro-environmental citizen behaviours and draft Urban Greening Plans, contributing to the achievement of the EU Biodiversity Strategy. 

    In4Green is a collaborative network of industrial cities, headed by Avilés (ES), with a shared commitment: to implement the green transition in industrial areas/cities while remaining competitive and inclusive. 

    Restoring “forgotten” urban areas into valuable places for and with residents is the mission of GreenPlace. This Wroclaw-led (PL) network aims to restore urban spaces and make them friendly to both the residents and the environment, by optimising the use of existing resources in the context of ecological crisis, the financial and geopolitical situation. 

     

    Social cohesion 

     

    A variety of topics are addressed by the social cohesion thematic networks, from urban regeneration and place-making to gender, equality, diversity and inclusion. 

    Under the leadership of Clermont Auvergne Métropole (FR), the objective of FEMACT-Cities is to support the drafting of eight “Local Action Plans on Gender Equality” about the main challenges regarding women's liberty and empowerment, through protection, education, emancipation and economic autonomy

    GenProcure also addresses gender equality, focusing on Gender-Responsive Public Procurement, and it is headed by Vila Nova de Famalicão (PT). This network promotes gender equality through working purchases, supplies and services in the public sector.  

    Re-Gen is a European network of cities led by Verona (IT) that aims to support sustainable urban development and social inclusion thanks to the protagonism of secondary school students, aged between 10 and 18, from disadvantaged backgrounds. 

    The Cinisello Balsamo-led (IT) U.R. Impact prioritises social impact in urban regeneration, ensuring social inclusion and community development during urban renewal. They place citizens and their social, economic and environmental well-being at the centre of the processes. 

    The main goal of Breaking Isolation, a network driven by Agen (FR) that fights against isolation by creating social bonds and links between young and elderly and promoting social diversity. 

    In order to build more inclusive and resilient societies, WELDI empowers local authorities for a dignified integration of newly arrived migrants. In achieving this objective, cities of this network, led by Utrecht (NL), collaborate with migrants and other residents, as well as with local, national and international partners. 

    ARCHETHICS network brings together European cities that share the presence of heritage linked to a complex and controversial historical past (totalitarian regimes, contentious borders, etc), such as its Lead Partner Cesena (IT). Their goal is to transform the heritage into places for locals and visitors to share knowledge and come to multi-perspective understandings of the past and new visions for the future

     

    Follow the network journey

     

    This is just a snapshot of the URBACT Action Planning Networks, but stay tuned for more insights from the Lead Experts and partner cities, themselves! You can also follow the journey of these networks on their project pages and social media, benefit from the lessons learned and try them in your own city. 

     

     

     

     

     

  • Innovation Transfer Networks: the search is on for project ideas

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    Partner Search Tool - Innovation Transfer Networks
    19/01/2024

    URBACT’s call for Innovation Transfer Networks is open, and with it, the Partner Search Tool is ready to help cities develop European partnerships.  

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    URBACT’s call for Innovation Transfer Networks is open, and with it, the Partner Search Tool is updated and ready to help cities develop European partnerships. 

    Running until 20 March 2024, this call for networks is slightly different from other URBACT calls: the pool of available project ideas is based on Urban Innovative Actions projects carried out between 2016 and  2023 and only those cities can lead the transfer network. This is a unique opportunity to adapt a newly tested innovation to your city. 

    There are currently over 20 topics to choose from, covering urban poverty, migration, housing, security, renewable energy, land and air quality, culture and heritage, demographic change and digital transition. 

    We’ve taken a closer look at the pool of ideas, to help you identify the ones that could interest your city the most.

     

    Energy

     

    Energy poverty is a priority topic in many European cities, particularly as energy prices spiked following Russia’s ongoing war of aggression in Ukraine. Getafe (ES) has developed a new, data-driven model to identify and prevent energy poverty, collaborating across departments to identify hidden poverty. Targeted actions can then be carried out at the level of the individual, building or neighbourhood. Getafe showed that the approach was effective in reducing energy vulnerability. Does this sound like a tool your city could use? 

    Building on the participatory approach to energy transition, Leidel (BE) has put a local energy community in place, to provide affordable, renewable, locally-produced and autonomously managed electricity for citizens. RE/SOURCED builds on the momentum for clean energy across Europe, in line with the Clean Energy for all Europeans package. Its results are highly relevant for other cities putting circularity and citizens and the centre of the energy transition.

     

    Air/soil quality

     

    Cities looking to make advances in the quality of the air or the soil should look at three innovative actions in particular. Baia Mare (RO) proposes a revolutionary approach for reclaiming heavy metal-polluted land using plants and returning the land to the community. An adaptable dynamic platform and toolkit can help you determine the best use for the land. Two Italian cities have developed citizen-centric and data-led models to improve air quality. Ferrara (IT) has set up low-cost sensors and mobile air quality stations to map high emission zones and transform them into urban green forests. Portici (IT) also developed a widespread monitoring system based on citizen science, combined with educational activities and events to promote behavioural change.

     

    Digital tools

     

    Digital tools have been put to use in cities to support policy and decision-making in different domains. Vienna (AT) has developed ICT solutions to set new standards in building applications and planning permissions. The tool can be adapted to other permit processes in cities – making bureaucracy more efficient, more transparent and more cost effective. Heerlen (NL) has created an innovative digital platform to enhance public space, foster community engagement and revitalise local areas. It crowdsources public maintenance tasks, which citizens can carry out in return for credit that can be used in local shops and bars. A digital approach was also taken by Ravenna (IT) for an urban regeneration process in one neighbourhood, Darsena. Combining collaborative data collection, the digital infrastructure supports decision-making, storytelling and promotion. It has shown increased engagement in Darsena’s evolution from an abandoned dockland to an attractive urban ecosystem. The network could focus on adapting both the technological and methodological processes to other cities. 

    Rennes (FR) has taken on the issue of e-government solutions directly, designing a portal for the use and re-use of data while guaranteeing privacy and public service interests. The Reusable Urban Data Interface is 100% open source and ready to scale up to cities seeking to harness local data. 

     

    Jobs & skills

     

    The emphasis on green and digital transitions means that the skill profiles of the workforce in a city must adapt and evolve to these transitions. Eindhoven (NL) faces a paradox that, despite high economic growth, there is a significant shortage of qualified personnel, particularly in low-carbon technology development. The Platform4Work redesigns the employment journey, developing a ‘skills passport’, restructuring educational programmes and bringing employers and jobseekers closer together. Aveiro (PT) positions itself as a territory of digital innovation, but has faced severe shortages of digital skills. The city set up the first Tech City Living Lab to attract and retain talent through STEAM education, training, technology and addressing local challenges. Cuenca (ES) uses its specific location within a forest region to build an innovative bio-economy sector, combining training, research, and the incubation and acceleration of forest-related businesses. The award-winning model can be transferred to other EU cities with a forest or other niche bio-economy sector. 

     

    Culture/heritage

     

    Cities must use all of the resources available to them to improve citizens’ quality of life, whether digital, physical or cultural. In Újbuda (HU), culture and digital platforms were combined to create a bottom-up creative cultural resource management tool to strengthen social cohesion. Alongside the digital sphere, a physical cultural institution was created, integrating local cultural and technological initiatives, bringing together the local community, public and private sectors. Cities can explore low-budget interventions as well as major investments. Chalandri (EL) focused on an ancient monument – in their case, the Hadrian Aqueduct – as a vehicle for urban regeneration and revitalising community life. Using a cross-sectoral approach, it co-creates local projects and cultural events with communities, valorising local history and improving care of water and natural resources. It can be adapted to other cities with different types of local heritage, to build trust and nurture communities. In Tilburg (NL), the city uses culture as an agent for social transformation. Developing a cultural ecosystem in an ethnically mixed and disadvantaged area helps bridge the gap between those in the margins, and the public services they interact with. More than 3 000 young people were reached through 150 projects, with positive effects on health, behaviour and public safety. 

     

    Social inclusion

     

    Many cities are taking innovative and participatory approaches to tackling long-standing issues of social exclusion. Seraing (BE) takes on isolation and community-building through an experimental project to revitalise public spaces in the town centre. An inclusive urban planning process and training of local residents reinvented the spaces, resulting in ongoing civic projects. A more tailored approach was tested in Landshut (DE) to overcome the vicious cycle of single parents unable to work due to lack of childcare. Focusing on healthcare professions, which require long and flexible work hours, the city developed a new form of flexible childcare. Single parents receive training in childcare to look after the children of healthcare workers, in an interconnected building. This represents a novel approach to tackling the shortage of skilled workers in some professions that disproportionately affect women. 

    Verona (IT) is tackling loneliness, brought about by changing demographics and an erosion of family networks. By developing a ‘loneliness index’ and activating community resources in a combined approach, they aim to identify and reduce symptoms of loneliness for increased wellbeing.  

    Brussels (BE) is taking on the affordable housing headache that many citizens face through a co-housing project, developed within the framework of a Community Land Trust. By separating the ownership of the land from the ownership of the housing built on it, speculation is removed, and focus is put on ensuring accessible housing for those often neglected: low-income families, older people, homeless people, and single mothers. 

    Utrecht (NL) is proposing to share its innovative approach to the reception and integration of newcomers in the city, particularly asylum seekers. By revising completely how newcomers are housed, integrated and trained, they create meaningful encounters beyond the labels of ‘refugee’ or ‘local’. The flexibility and focus on the local immediate surroundings of reception centres will enable any city that joins the network to develop their own version which connects their locals and newcomers.  

     

    Urban security

     

    Making urban spaces safer at night is an issue for many European cities. We want to look at two cities offering new approaches to community-based urban security. Piraeus (EL) has developed an holistic model, establishing local collaboration for crime prevention, an online platform to assess physical and cyber threats, and spatial interventions to secure and beautify vulnerable buildings. Turin (IT) focuses on a multi-disciplinary approach to manage public spaces and improve residents’ perception of safety at night. Actions to boost the territorial potential, involving local communities, made neighbourhoods more liveable in the evening. 

     

     

    Which one is for you?

     

    These cities are looking for partners to transfer these practices and concrete innovation outputs. You can use the partner search tool to get in touch with any of the cities to find out more and develop your network together. 

    The Get Involved page has all you need to apply for the URBACT Innovation Transfer Networks!


     

     

     

     

  • Plan Einstein

    The Utrecht Refugee Launch Pad project’s Plan Einstein (PE) is an innovative approach towards reception and integration of newcomers in cities from the first day of their arrival. It has developed safe environments for newcomers and their new neighbours in Utrecht (the Netherlands) by investing in inspiring spaces and activities where they can engage in meaningful encounters. It transformed the restrictive and dividing practices which separated newcomers from their host societies until they received a residence permit.

     

    It is based on three pillars. Firstly, free open meeting spaces (hubs), in a housing complex where asylum seekers live next to young people. Here activities are organised, and meaningful encounters can take place. Because of their youthful and creative energy, youngsters play a special role in connecting the newcomers to their new neighbourhood. 

     

    Secondly, building a social network, to unlock the potential of professional networks to build a vital social network for newcomers and neighbourhood members; to support integration, mixed living, educational courses, access to the labour market, and activities to facilitate network building.

     

    Thirdly, personal development, through activities that further develop skills and increases the self-sufficiency of participants, and also enable meaningful encounters between participants who get to know each other beyond the 'labels' of "refugee" or "local".  

     

    What SOLUTIONS did the Urban Innovative Action project offer?

     

    PE is an adaptable approach which swiftly responds to emerging needs.   

     

    Inclusion from Day One: i) through a holistic and inclusive approach PE involves asylum seekers from the outset; ii) newcomers and neighbourhood members can participate; iii) it offers learning opportunities through entrepreneurship, ICT, and English courses and voluntary activities; iv) fostering mutual assistance and cultivating positive encounters; v) ensuring a supportive and resilient environment for all stakeholders.  

     

    Community-Building: i) through housing newcomers alongside youngsters; ii) by engaging participants in sports, volunteering activities, cultural events and communal meals; iii) enabling a sense of belonging. 

     

    Personal Development: i) by offering personalised support and mentorship by experienced coaches; and ii) activities to increase empowerment and professional skills development to support self-reliance of participants.  


    What DIFFERENCE has it made at local level?

     

    Utrecht is currently developing the fourth Plan Einstein Hub tailored to the needs of the newcomers (from Ukraine) and its new neighbourhood. The project evaluation showcased positive impacts on asylum seekers' well-being and development, facilitating swift integration into society and the labour market (https://www.uia-initiative.eu/en/uia-cities/utrecht). PE has been embedded in local policy. It is used as the guiding example for future reception centres. Observations reveal strong local support for new shelters because of residents' understanding of the PE approach and its potential positive impact.  

     

    At national level, a parliamentary motion requested the government to research the possibility of developing more Plan Einstein hubs. In 2019, a nationwide asylum reception policy embraced mixed living and active engagement from day one, aligning with the PE concept. Multiple (international) entities are visiting, seeking to implement similar practices in their communities.


    What PARTICIPATORY APPROACHES have been put in place for the project?

     

    The City of Utrecht has high ambitions to develop policies and initiatives together with stakeholders and its inhabitants, such as 'Make the City Together'. Within this context, Plan Einstein has been designed after engaging with local residents and understanding more about their needs and concerns for their neighbourhoods. Across all locations, PE has been soliciting input from both local residents and asylum seekers to collaboratively design welcoming 'Free open space for meaningful encounters' spaces, often in partnership with artists and interior designers. Incorporating recognisable symbolism from various cultures further enhances a strong sense of belonging and shared ownership.   

     

    Furthermore, there are highly skilled professionals working in the Plan Einstein centres to offer the right advice and guidance to the participants to engage them in the offered activities, but also to support their own ideas and initiatives for events in the centre. This results in parts of the programme being facilitated by former participants (newcomers and neighbourhood residents) in a peer-to-peer format. It not only involves them transitioning from participants to instructors but also encourages their development into volunteers, role models, and mentors.


    How does the project tackle different aspects with an INTEGRATED APPROACH?

     

    Plan Einstein (U-RLP) was named a good practice by UIA in the context of Integrated territorial development (ITD).   

     

    Economic: Plan Einstein unlocks professional networks by, for example, connecting people with employers, and LinkedIn courses. PE invests in professional development by fostering entrepreneurship (EG women in business programme) for self-sustainability. This increases opportunities to access the labour market or start-up businesses.  

       

    Social: Plan Einstein invests in an inclusive and resilient neighbourhood by enabling a safe space and inclusive activities. The approach promotes active engagement from Day 1 which not only improves quality of life but also strengthens community bonds. Plan Einstein hubs can become vibrant centres with creative and professional activities in the city.   

     

    Environment: The City of Utrecht has high ambitions in the field of climate adaptation, circular economy and healthy urban living. PE has a positive impact on the environment by creating awareness about these city ambitions and the part everyone can play in achieving these goals. PE offers courses on circular living in Utrecht with a strong focus on waste reduction.    

     

    Furthermore, there are several public gardens and food forests in the city, which are often managed with the help of volunteers. The Plan Einstein Centres show a high rate of voluntary activities conducted by the residents and newcomers.  


    Why should other European cities use the solution the project explored?


    Plan Einstein (U-RLP) is a UIA top 10 project with an URBACT Good Practice Label. Its uniqueness lies in the alternative it offers to the pre-dominant migration discourses. Plan Einstein offers pragmatic solutions to cities through its realistic future free approach embedded in a careful social design which prevents polarisation.

     

    The project’s Innovation Transfer Network (ITN) can inspire European leaders with effective solutions, which can enable responses to fluctuating migration flows. The flexibility and focus on the local immediate surroundings of reception centres will enable any city who joins the ITN to develop their own version which connects their locals (neighbourhood members) and newcomers. With significant interest from across the globe, PE serves as an excellent platform to share experiences and enable mutual learning amongst Utrecht and its ITN partners.   

     

    Jan Braat
    Municipality of Utrecht
    370000
    0
    Are you a candidate Lead Partner looking for partners
    Yes
    Are you a potential Partner looking for a Lead Partner
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    Your job title
    Senior Policy Advisor on Migration and Integration
    Institution website
    https://www.utrecht.nl/city-of-utrecht
    Migration integration
    Utrecht Refugee Launch Pad
  • WELDI

    LEAD PARTNER : Utrecht - Netherlands
    • Sosnowiec - Poland
    • Fundão - Portugal
    • Albacete - Spain
    • Timisoara - Romania
    • Cluj-Napoca - Romania
    • Osijek - Croatia
    • Lampedusa - Italy
    • Liège - Belgium
    • Seine-Saint-Denis - France

    Timeline

    First transnational meeting on 15-17 November 2023 in Osijek, Croatia.

    Transnational online meeting on employment on 22 February 2024, organised by Fundao, Portugal.

    Transnational meeting on Housing on 17-18 April 2024 in Albacete, Spain.

    Library

    Lead Expert

        

    In order to build more inclusive and resilient societies, local authorities need to ensure that migrant reception and support policies guarantee that migrants overcome obstacles in accessing their rights. The WELDI network empowers local authorities to put human rights at the heart of their efforts to develop dignified and innovative approaches to welcoming newcomers. In achieving this goal, cities of this network work hand in hand with migrants and other residents, as well as with local, national and international partners.

    Building welcoming communities for migrants

    WELDI baseline report

  • Is the compact city model endangered?

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    Is the compact city model endangered? Article COVER
    20/01/2023

    Three Action Planning Networks (2019 - 2022) came together to gather inspiration on how people can experience and move through the city.

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    The Walk’n’Roll initiative, 27 different towns, cities and metropolises from the RiConnect, the Thriving Streets and the Space4People networks had a common mission. Together, they reflected about how mobility can play an important role when building better public spaces and increase the quality of life for local communities.  Iván Tosics, URBACT Expert who followed their exchange and learning journey, shares with us some of the key take-aways, findings and open questions that were raised during the Walk’n’Roll many and which are compiled in a brand new Guidebook. Take a ride with us and enjoy the read!

     


     

    URBACT Walk'n'Roll

     

    The recent pandemic was an important episode in the history of urban development. Much can be learnt from the immediate reactions to the health crisis, especially in dense cities. There were many brilliant examples about innovative tactical interventions in public space, inclusive housing policies, new types of economic support and social protection mechanisms, from which we can take stock.

    As the peak of the pandemic has slowly come to an end, the life in cities has quickly returned to its pre-Covid pace. A negative legacy is the incessant growth of suburbanisation, a process that has exploded over the last two years not only in Europe, but also in almost all parts of the world...

     

    A common effect in different cities

     

    In Oslo (NO), internal movements in and around the city, have shown an increased outmigration in the past two years with people aged between 25-30 and 60-70 moving away from the city, towards its outskirts and beyond. The “working from home effect” can partially explain this phenomenon. People with higher wages had a tendency to move away. It’s interesting to note though that most of the outmigrants were people who were not born in Oslo, according to studies.

    Likewise, in American cities, a substantial reallocation of housing and office demand has become tangible. People chose to move to the suburbs, away from dense city centres. Some analysts have called this as the “doughnut effect”. Meaning the rise of the suburbs and the slump of the city centre, driven by a fear of crowds and the opportunity of working from home.

    In a very recent analysis on the situation of the Paris urban area (FR), the academia has tried to collect all available information about internal residential migration, using unusual data. Information from rural associations, from the post office regarding permanent re-direction of mails to new address, or even schools' registrations were used as unexpected, yet rich sources. As evidence shows, migration flows from the downtown to the urban fringe are visible. According to this analysis, such movement of people cannot be considered as an urban exodus though. So, if not an exodus, what are these new forms of migration then?

     

    The new intra-urban migration tendencies

     

    First of all, research suggests that no direct, causal links exist between the spread of the virus and urban density. According to an OECD, it’s not density alone that makes cities vulnerable to Covid-19, but rather a mix of factors. The structural economic and social conditions play a role in this regard with overcrowdness, inequality, insufficient living conditions and the spatial concentration of the urban poor.

    The consequences from this new suburbanisation, on the other hand, are very clear: growing climate and energy problems due to increasing car-use, intensification of social disparities, since those who are leaving the city centre are the ones who can afford to do so. Moreover, there are also more and more problems in places where people tend to move out from. In the Budapest area (HU), for example, there are growing complaints in the agglomerational settlements with physical and human infrastructure problems, caused by the quick, unplanned growth of new residents.

    That being said, the post-Covid city presents us with a silver lining, an opportunity to rethink the principles of the urban compact development. For instance the British professor, Greg Clark, offers us a vision with blended cities and a more spread planification process. He argues for a wider distribution of activities between urban areas to offer second and third tear cities more chances. He also makes the case for better disposition of services within functional urban areas, based on the growth of "neighbourliness" and the emerging social capital.  

    Clark argues that people living in the fringes might still travel to the larger city centers from time to time, and acknowledges that they might not always work from home. At the same time, they will also get a taste for the local life where they live. People will spend more time – and money – in their neighbourhoods and, by consequence, new opportunities might arise for towns, suburban and secondary downtowns. So, these are not simply places where people sleep and work from home, but also places of exchange and for gatherings. Where, eventually, communities might thrive.

    This idea raises challenges for future urban development, for instance, issues related to metropolitan planning. Where to build new housing and dwellings? And how to regulate transport fares? These are just a few of the questions that were discussed during the Walk’n’Roll conference in Barcelona (ES), held in July 2022. The findings are summarised below.

     

     

    How to improve existing dense areas?

     

    The most widely accepted definition for adequate urban density is the one that acknowledges the need for an accessibility shift: changing urban transportation and land-use planning on the basis of people's ability to reach destinations, rather than on their ability to travel fast. This vision relies on the principle of re-humanising cities.

     

    The proximity aspect

     

    In the Walk’n’Roll conference the topic of proximity was at the heart of the discussion. In order for residents to give up the frequent use of car and, in perspective, also the ownership of a car, urban areas have to be changed. They must allow people to reach the most important everyday-destinations in a short time on foot, by bicycle or using public transport rides. There are many ideas raised for this shift, like the concept of the 15-Minute city. Besides the innovative practices of superblocks, Tempo30 and parking management – which are thoroughly described in the Walk’n’Roll Guidebook, Booklet 2 – you can find below two other ideas.

     

    The pedestrian-priority city

     

    Pontevedra (ES) is a medium-sized city with 83 000 inhabitants. In 1999 it was just another car-oriented city, but things started to change with the election of a new mayor – who still holds this position until this day. Mr Miguel Anxo Fernández Lores told citizens back then that the act of buying a car didn’t magically grant people with 10 square meters from the public space for a parking spot.

    His ideas consisted of making a distinction of the need for mobility, according to social criteria. He put people in the foreground, with at least half of the surface of all original streets turned into pedestrian areas. Intersections without lights and raised promenades were created, alongside he limited of parking hours in the downtown to a maximum of 15 minutes. In addition, underground parking was built under a concession and free public parking spaces were provided within a 15-20 minute walk of the centre.

    The results of these interventions were staggering: a decrease of motorised traffic by 77% in the dense urban area and by 93% in downtown, besides a decline in traffic accidents with no fatalities at all. Pontevedra became a high quality place to live with all public spaces serving the people, instead of the cars.

     

    Car-free places in every neighbourhoodURBACT Walk'n'Roll

     

    Back in 2014, in collaboration with 24 parish councils, the municipality of Lisbon (PT) started a programme called “Uma Praca em Cada Bairro” (“A space in every neighbourhood”). Currently being implemented, the programme is helping to renovate areas in the city to get people out of cars and to create new public spaces. The squares and streets will become the meeting point of the local community and “microcentres”, concentrating activity and employment.

    Henceforth, walking, cycling and public transport will be favoured, as the car traffic will be significantly restricted. The citywide programme in 150 squares and streets, practically in all neighbourhoods of Lisbon, could only be carried out with the support of the population. The programme counted with strong public participation processes.

     

    Potential externalities of public space improvement policies

     

    It goes without saying that the improvement of living conditions, with more public spaces and fewer cars, can lead to raising rents, pushing the most vulnerable residents away from the city. This is why it’s fundamental for the public sector to control the gentrifying effects. The efficiency of the public intervention depends on the willingness and political power of the municipal leadership, as well as on the housing system of the given city. A good example is the city of Vienna (AT), where the majority of the housing stock is under direct or indirect public control, with little or no gentrifying effects as a consequence of mobility and public space improvements.

    The situation is slightly more difficult in Barcelona, where the share of rental housing represents 31% of the housing sector. Only a small portion of these houses is actually owned by the public sector, making it almost impossible for the municipality to defend tenants. To tackle this challenge and avoid a “New York Highline effect”, the municipality provides subsidies to the urban poor, regulates private rents, oversees the housing market and even negotiates with landlords.

     

     

    How to create efficient metropolitan cooperation in blended cities?

     

    In the post pandemic world it’s not enough to make the dense urban cores more attractive, attention has also to be paid to those peripheral locations where many families aim to move to. Planning in larger territories can bring to light different questions, as to where new housing stock should be constructed or how to regulate and tax different forms of transport. The key aspect for public intervention in wider territories is a metropolitan coordination, which can be illustrated by the examples below.

     

    Turning highways into urban boulevards

     

    The classic period of suburbanisation started in the late 1950s in the USA, with the construction of 40 thousand miles of motorways financed by enormous central state grants. Urban planners were unstoppably carving highways into the urban structure, eradicating vulnerable neighbourhoods with fewer abilities to resist and, finally, ensuring the separation of functions following the leading planning concepts of the time. A similar car-oriented “modernisation” wave also reached most of the European cities. During the Walk’n’Roll conference, city practitioners showcased examples of recent efforts to reverse this phenomenon.

    In the course of the work done by Metrex for the From Roads to Streets learning platform –with support from Eurocities and URBACT – many European cases are analysed, including the transformative strategies adopted in Helsinki (FI), Oslo (NO), Lyon (FR) and Brussels (BE). In these dynamically growing cities the leading model is the urban intensification to concentrate growth and avoid urban sprawl. One way to achieve this principle is to direct new development to areas along the highways – provided that these are transformed into urban boulevards, with more space given for non-motorised vehicles. In Utrecht (NL), for example, two alternative projections were calculated for future scenarios and, according to them, the "A Proximity Model" foresee 20% less car-use.

    The opportunities and challenges of these new urban boulevards are gathered in a project to humanise the N-150 road, which is the central element of Barcelona’s Integrated Action Plan for the RiConnect network. This project deals with the motorway-like national road at the fringe of the metropolitan area, which created a division between the settlements and was putting the speed of mobility as the top priority. In order to restore old connections between the peripheral municipalities, the concept of metropolitan roads was born: without building new roads the extinct links between areas should be revived. This shall calm down traffic on the national road and even enable people to cycle from one town to another, which was not previously possible with the highways.

     

    URBACT Walk'n'Roll

     

    Improving the rail network to ensure metropolitan cooperation

     

    The Krakow (PL) Integrated Action Plan for the RiConnect network shows another way how metropolitan cooperation can be created. The Skawina Mobility Hub aims to create a connection point in one of Krakow’s satellite cities, on the line of the fast speed agglomerational railway that is under construction.

    Besides exploring the future functions of the evolving mobility hub, the intermodal links, park and ride (P+R) facilities and how to connect the station with city centre of Skawina, many efforts are being made to change the mobility mindset of people. This includes co-creation workshops, which resulted in the establishment of the integrated ticket system.

    Krakow is a good example for bringing public transport to the overall reflection on the metropolitan area. Such strategies, however, have to face the financial challenge of running public transport. During Covid times the ridership of public transport decreased almost everywhere and the rebouncing is still slow.

     

    Bringing planning and governance together at metropolitan level

     

    The Metropolitan Area of Barcelona (AMB) is a great example of how planning and governance can come together, not only at city, but also at metropolitan level. The AMB, the Lead Partner of the RiConnect network, is an agency with competencies in terms of mobility and public space in the metropolitan area – which counts with the double of inhabitants in comparison to the city itself. AMB is managing a very innovative mobility plan covering different aspects, such as generating safe and comfortable spaces for pedestrians, and sustainable methods of mobility, while reducing the use of private motorised transport.

    Unfortunately, not all cities have powerful metropolitan governance systems and/or strong agencies for planning and mobility. In the lack of these, urban planning cooperation between the municipalities of the urban area can help a lot. Sometimes these are initiated in bottom-up process, in combination with the national level, in order to use efficiently the EU Cohesion Policy resources. The Kraków Metropolitan Area (KMA), for instance, is responsible for coordination of transportation investments, which are implemented in the Integrated Territorial Investment (ITI) framework for the city and and its 14 surrounding municipalities.

     

    How to move towards an accessibility shift?

     

    Action Planning Networks labelThe new Walk’n’Roll Guidebook is split in three booklets – WHY, WHAT and HOW – and brings to light solutions that any city, regardless of its size, can use as a reference to drive change towards more blended and less compact cities. In order to tackle the most recent challenge of post-Covid suburbanisation, however, the practical interventions that are presented have to be combined with territorial visions. Regulation, planning and the support of governance institutions are equally important. Although this might sound challenging, there are different resources that can be particularly useful. Take for instance the EU Cohesion Policy, where investments in urban transport have more than doubled – from 8 billion EUR in 2007 - 2013 to 17 billion EUR in the 2014 - 2020, with even more opportunities in the next programming period.

    The first URBACT IV (2021 - 2027) call for Action Planning Networks is also a great occasion for cities to find partners to exchange, pilot ideas and develop an integrated set of actions at local level. While URBACT stresses the importance of the priorities of green - gender - digital, the RiConnect, the Thriving Streets and the Space4People networks are living proof of the wealth of themes that can be tackled within the spectrum of any urban subject, as today’s mobility challenge. These projects are in the crossroad of building more inclusive cities – for women and all – while also promoting the reduction of carbon emissions.

    Cities that wish to apply to the call are welcome to choose whichever network topic they deem relevant to their context. URBACT welcomes – and always will – bottom-up approaches that look at the big picture. Walk’n’Roll is bear fruit of the past round of Action Planning Networks and, hopefully, the next batch of URBACT cities will carry on its legacy and put its knowledge into action.

    URBACT Walk'n'Roll Guidebook

  • URGE

    Lead Partner : Utrecht - Netherlands
    • Copenhagen - Denmark
    • Granada - Spain
    • Kavala - Greece
    • Munich - Germany
    • Nigrad d.o.o - Slovenia
    • Oeste CIM - Portugal
    • Prato - Italy
    • Riga - Latvia

    City of Utrecht - team Circular Economy & team External Funds

    CONTACT US

    Timeline

    • Phase 1: Kick-off and finalization meetings in Utrecht (NL) and Copenhagen (DK) (2019-2020)
    • Phase 2: Online transnational exchange meetings hosted by Munich (DE), Prato (IT), Oeste (PT), Copenhagen (DK), Riga (LV) and Maribor (SI) (2020-2021)
    • Phase 2: Coordination meetings in Granada (ES) and Kavala (EL) (2022)
    • Phase 2: Final event in Utrecht (NL) (2022)

    URGE, an abbreviation for 'circular building cities' is an Action Planning network on circular economy in the construction sector - a major consumer of raw materials. As there is a gap in circular economy principles' implementation in this sector, URGE brings together nine cities and their stakeholders to inspire and learn from each other in developing their integrated urban policy. This supports integration of circularity in the construction tasks, thus contributing to sustainable cities.

    Circular building cities
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  • Greening as a pathway to resilience in urban areas

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    15/11/2022

    Leafy places in cities can greatly improve health and happiness. But here’s the thing: green isn’t always good for everyone.

    Articles

    Most people now agree that green is good for health and resilience. Greening urban areas and connecting them to water, or ’blue’ areas, is high on the agenda in most towns and cities. Yet, says URBACT Programme Expert Iván Tosics, even this seemingly self-evident issue is not without contradictions. In this article, he looks beyond the general “green is good” statement and finds a more nuanced picture.

     

    It has been said many times, almost to the point of banality, that during Covid times, the demand for outdoor activites grew dramatically, leading to a marked increase in the use of parks and outdoor spaces. We all saw this in our cities in Europe. However, this did not necessarily happen to the same extent everywhere in the world. There is an interesting website, based on Google data, showing how the number of visitors to parks and outdoor spaces has changed compared to the selected baseline period, January 2020. Although it is not easy to interpret the data due to factors such as seasonal differences between North and South, we can hypothesise that in Europe and the global North, green areas were able to meet the increase in demand more easily, being generally more secure and better maintained than those in many parts of the global South.

     

    There are many good summaries about the immediate, easy-to-reach interventions by cities as a reaction to Covid – see for example my article on temporary interventions in the use of public spaces, such as closing streets and creating pop-up bike lanes, or encouraging street play. Key questions discussed in this article are: what kind of tactical interventions into greening are observable? And how can these be turned into long-term, strategic programmes, avoiding potential pitfalls?

     

    Many people think that all greening efforts are good for the wellbeing of citizens in general, and their health in particular. However, it is necessary to go beyond this cliché, understanding the different ways to implement the greening of cities, highlighting the efforts made to achieve synergy with other aspects of sustainable and resilient development, and calling attention to potential unwanted externalities of greening projects – among which the most important is the potential increase in socio-spatial differentiation through gentrification.

     

    Types and benefits of green places

     

    Owen Douglas, of the Eastern and Midland Regional Assembly in Ireland, listed the benefits of green spaces in his presentation at the URBACT Health&Greenspace Academy in December 2020. These include: enabling physical activities; improving mental well-being; supporting social interactions; and reducing environmental risks of air pollution and extreme weather events.

     

    Green infrastructure planning can do a lot to mitigate stressful city life in compact cities, with strategically planned networks of natural and semi-natural areas, and creating new green and ‘blue’ spaces – areas of water. To achieve that, green infrastructure planning has to be multifunctional, including a diversity of green elements, such as: large natural areas as hubs; forests and parks as green parcels; smaller private gardens, playgrounds, roadside greenery, or green roofs as individual elements; corridors connecting the hubs, parcels and elements; and finally land use buffers, as transition areas, separating dense urban spaces from the suburbs.

     

    In another presentation at the December 2020 URBACT Health&Greenspace Academy, Eduarda Marques da Costa, of the University of London, listed different types of green space interventions, from overarching development of new neighbourhoods through regeneration of residential areas and brownfield areas, including smaller-scale improvements to public spaces and support for urban gardening.

     

    Innovative greening examples

     

    Let us see now a few examples of the different types of greening interventions and their potential consequences.

    Certain European cities have conducted large projects of strategic importance to improve sustainability and resilience.

     

    Barcelona, Parc de les Glories (photo by Iván Tosics, November 2021)

     

    Barcelona (ES) provides an excellent example, with its efforts to renaturalise the densely built-up city. One of the emblematic projects is the rebuilding of the Plaça de les Glòries Catalanes: besides the demolition of the elevated roundabout for cars and the building of a new High Speed Train station, a large new park is being erected under the motto of renaturalisation.

     

    Utrecht (NL) has put re-canalisation into the core of its urban development strategy. Forty years after the historic mistake of converting the canal that encircled Utrecht’s old town into a 12-lane motorway, in 2020, the city opened the canal back up again. The restoration of the waterway was the central piece of the 2002 referendum in which residents voted for a city-centre master plan with the aim to replace roads with water. With the reopening of the Catharijnesingel, Utrecht’s inner city is again surrounded by water and greenery rather than asphalt and car traffic.

     

    Paris (FR) has undergone large changes since the election of Mayor Anne Hidalgo in 2014. One of the key elements of the changes towards more sustainable urban development is the permanent pedestrianisation of roads along the river Seine and certain canals, which made the access to waterfront areas much easier.

     

    Another pathway towards more sustainability is to renovate, animate, and improve the safety of existing green areas. A prime example of this is the case of Bryant park in New York (US). This was one of the no-go areas of the city, getting the nickname 'Needle Park' in the 1970s because of the large number of drug addicts who frequented it. Changes started in 1988 with an extensive renovation of the park, including radical physical restructuring of the area, making the green space attractive, transparent and lively, clearing areas to let in light, installing many moveable chairs, and creating coffee places. The park has been transformed from an insecure to a lovely space. 

     

    2010-04-25-breda-by-RalfR-09

    Breda, Valkenberg Park

    A similar story is the redesign of the Valkenberg Park in Breda (NL) to improve safety, presented at the URBACT Health&Greenspace Academy in October 2021 by David Louwerse, project manager, Municipality of Tilburg.

     

    The most common greening interventions in European cities are smaller interventions, such as creating urban gardens, or greening streets and rooftops. An article by Tamás Kállay, Lead Expert of the URBACT Health&Greenspace network, gives a good overview of such initiatives. He mentiones Tartu (EE), where “meadow boxes were placed on the road. A beach bar was opened, and the street section accommodated also an outdoor reading room, a market, picnic tables, an outdoor cinema, and various programs”. Another example from the Health&Greenspace network is Poznań (PL), where “as part of a pilot activity natural playgrounds were created in the yards of several kindergartens providing direct contact with nature and supporting creative play”.

     

    Such examples demonstrate that “… small green space interventions, both physical changes and social activities can trigger a massive change and lead to larger actions promoting positive health outcomes.” This conclusion is further supported by another URBACT article, arguing for the importance of walking, not only in shopping streets, but also across all neighbourhoods – including ‘consumption-free’ areas.

     

    Besides punctual interventions, many cities aim to ensure fair distribution of green across the whole city and to connect green areas into networks. Poznań is good example for the latter, aiming to protect the green belt around the city from real estate development and urban sprawl, while also increasing forest cover within the city boundaries and preserving and improving existing parks and green spaces.

     

    Changing people's mindset and reorganising the structure of local government

     

    Hegyvidék, district 12 of Budapest, Lead Partner of Health&Greenspace, provides innovative examples of public spaces being improved and used more frequently thanks to new ideas, rather than concrete physical greening interventions. In order to change people's mindset, the “…municipality identified ‘green prescription’ as an appropriate tool for linking cardiac rehabilitation with the Active Hegyvidék program. Green prescription is a written advice of a health professional to a patient to participate in some sort of nature-based activity.”

     

    Hegyvidék is also pioneering an institutional restructuring of the the municipality, creating a so-called Green office. Changes can also be achieved without reorganising the municipality. For example, the URBACT network UrbSecurity presents an Urban Planning Game where Leiria’s municipal technicians develop step-by-step new approaches to increase the security of public spaces in the city. Cities can also use nudging techniques to influence behaviour, as many of the publications of Pieter Raymaekers (Leuven) show.

     

    The positive effects of greening and their link to urban planning

     

    Another URBACT network, Healthy Cities, focuses on including health considerations systematically into urban planning. To make this easier, a new tool has been developed, enabling users to quickly assess the health impact of their whole urban plan, and see how small adjustments could make a big difference to the lives of local people. This Healthy Cities Generator is a practical planning tool designed to give actionable indicators for anyone looking to integrate health into planning. It is based on a systematic review of scientific peer-reviewed publications linking urban determinants and their impact on health, through which the tool automatically calculates the health impact of urban planning actions.

     

    The integration of green considerations into planning can best be achieved by regulating the access to green areas at metropolitan level – this proved to be very useful during the Covid pandemic in those urban areas, where metropolitan coordination was strong enough.

     

    A word of caution: potential dangers of greening interventions

     

    Against all good will, greening interventions can also have negative effects, if not applied in an integrated manner, without creating synergies with other aspects of development.  

     

    Greening usually goes well with sustainable urban mobility interventions. When regenerating public spaces, areas taken away from cars can give place to green elements, for example changing motorways into urban boulevards with trees, pedestrianising streets, turning parking spaces into ‘parklets’ with moveable plant pots. However, if large green developments are concentrated in peripheral areas of cities that are difficult to access by public transport, they can easily result in increased car use. In a broader sense, this is a danger in all green developments that create large spatial imbalances in cities, i.e. new green areas far away from many residents who would like to use them.

     

    When managed in the right way, greening can have very important social advantages: it is a good tool to better involve disadvantaged groups into society. Greening can help the social involvement of the elderly and school children – see for example the OASIS project, converting schoolyards into green cooling islands in Paris. Even so, the biggest danger of greening interventions lies in their negative social externalities, through the gentrification process.

     

    Gentrification can take various forms. The direct form is the regeneration of socially contested areas into high-quality neighbourhoods. If no parallel efforts are made to support disadvantaged groups, the outcome will be socially unacceptable: pushing out disadvantaged social groups to other parts of the city. I described this process in an earlier article, on the case of Teleki tér, Budapest (HU), comparing this one-sided, gentrifying regeneration to the more integrated approach used in the case of Helmholtz square, Berlin (DE). The latter, through ongoing social assistance, is much closer to the URBACT-supported integrated approach, despite the fact that participative planning was also applied in the Budapest case. 

     

    Budapest, Teleki square with fences around, 2015.
    Source: www.hvg.hu

    Berlin, Helmholtz square, 2015.
    Source: Imre Pákozdi

    A more common and less direct form of gentrification prevails through the increase of property values and rents in areas of improving quality of life, for example due to green interventions, which leads to the gradual displacement of people of lower socio-economic status. This well-known market mechanism can be kept under control with public regulations on rents, housing allowances and/or maintaining a substantial share of publicly owned housing. Unfortunately, such public interventions to control gentrification are rarely applied (or even considered) along with urban greening.

     

    Greening is an essential form of environmental intervention. The principle of integrated development requires a certain balance between economic, environmental and social aspects of development. This, however, is not easy to achieve, even in cases when there is strong determination to keep the balance. The comparison of two European cities, developing new ecological areas, illustrates the difficulties, showing how overly strong insistence on high environmental standards might lead to the deterioration of social goals, if public resources are limited. If greening aspects are given preference over social protection aspects, the outcome is again gentrification, against the original will of the politicians.

     

    Vienna, Aspern Seestadt, 2018. Source: Iván Tosics

    Stockholm, Hammarby Sjöstad, 2006. Source: Iván Tosics

    This article aimed to show that greening is usually a very advantageous aspect of urban development. However, certain dilemmas and potential pitfalls must be taken into account when planning green policies and interventions. With careful procedures, including green infrastructure planning as part of an integrated vision, and measuring the green and social outcomes of all investments, these pitfalls can be avoided.

     

    Come and meet us!

    This topic will be discussed at the upcoming URBACT City Festival on 15 June 2022 in a session titled ‘Greening as pathway to urban well-being and resilience’. The session will feature good practices from three URBACT Action Planning Networks, Health&Greenspace, Healthy Cities, and UrbSecurity.

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  • U-RLP

    Netherlands
    Utrecht

    Utrecht Refugee Launch Pad

    Antonius Imara
    Municipality of Utrecht
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    360 000
    • In partnership with

    Summary

    The increase in the arrival of refugees in 2015-16 and the rise in hostile attitudes towards them required more innovative and effective reception strategies. The aim was to make better use of the time that asylum seekers spent in reception shelters and that these centres would also provide opportunities for neighbors and local community, allowing to counteract negative narratives.
    The project housed asylum seekers and refugees in the same complex as local young people. It used co-learning, inviting neighbours to take courses together and engage in social activities in a shared social space. The project aimed to engage with concerns from receiving communities and activate asylum seekers ‘from day one’ by providing opportunities for participants to develop their skills, to enhance wellbeing and improve inclusion and community cohesion in the neighbourhood.
    Utrecht's new Integration Plan has been inspired by Plan Einstein and any new asylum shelter to be opened in Utrecht will have to follow the project concept.
    Transforming an Emergency Shelter into a vibrant and innovative setting of a shared living, learning and working space that connects from day one refugees, neighbours and the local entrepreneurial ecosystem.
     

    The innovative solution

    The ultimate place where asylum seekers will settle is uncertain and integration activities only start when asylum is granted. Emergency shelters are often placed in deprived neighbourhoods, where residents themselves face social and economic problems, facilitating hostile attitudes towards refugees. The challenge is to promote effective inclusion starting immediately upon refugee’s arrival, regardless of the country they end up living in, and promoting social acceptance of refugees in local communities.
    Main solutions implemented: offering a combined community housing and shelter concept, with a wide range of social and cultural activities connecting local citizens and asylum seekers, focusing on common goals and the needs of the neighbourhood; providing International Entrepreneurship Training, English courses and peer to peer coaching by successful social entrepreneurs and corporations; offering an Incubator space for new business startups; reframing refugees’ broken narratives to more positive and hopeful narratives, whatever the outcome of their application.

    A collaborative and participative work

    The project integrates social, legal, academic, psychological, economic and political dimensions. That’s why it has combined the expertise of the City and the Dutch Refugee Council on the reception of asylum seekers, together with NGOs and social enterprises and research and educational institutions to provide evidence-based to such an innovative project. 

    The most effective participation processes have been those that have encouraged cooperation between the different target groups (asylum seekers, youngsters and local neighbours) based on equality, common objectives and interests and the recognition and contribution of the different skills and talents, that has helped to foster a common and shared sense of belonging.

    The impact and results

    The project management adopted a horizontal network arrangement based on a principle of cooperation and equality. This approach together with some delays, unexpected changes and the complex collaboration with the central government have posed some challenges that have been tackled from the capacity for adaptation and flexibility of the team and the creation of new roles and spaces for coordination between all the partners, that continue working together in the new phase of the project.

     

    The external evaluators identified some relevant results: the Project had positive impact in generating good relations in the neighbourhood; participants were able to use Plan Einstein as a helpful means of starting to make the transition to the labour market by increasing their skills and networking; residents in both the Shelter and neighbourhood experienced greater levels of mental well-being by improving psychological health and encouraging more social connection and productive time-use.

    Why this good practices should be transferred to other cities?

    The challenge of reception and inclusion of asylum seekers is shared by many European countries. The rise of populist discourses and xenophobic narratives threatens fundamental values and reinforces social polarisation. Cities are key actors in providing innovative responses in favour of inclusion, human rights and coexistence.  
    The project has shown that promoting inclusion from day one by connecting asylum seekers with neighbours, sharing spaces, activities, training and projects to address the needs of the neighbourhood can have positive impacts for all.
    The project is relevant to asylum seekers who spend months in reception centres, being able to use this time to develop new skills, participate in activities and build social networks. But it is also relevant for local neighbours who can take advantage of new services and training, and for the city as a whole which can better take the opportunities posed by diversity and avoid the costs linked to segregation, exclusion or racism. 
    The project's approach is very transferable, because despite the differences in context between cities and countries, what it does is adapt the principles of integration or interculturality to the first phase of reception, by building a diverse network of local actors who collaborate for a common goal. 

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  • 23 Action Planning Networks ready for Phase 2!

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    15/11/2022

    On 7 May, URBACT's Monitoring Committee has officially approved all Action Planning Networks to proceed to Phase 2.

    News

     

    The main objective of Action Planning Networks is to bring together between 7 and 10 cities across Europe to exchange their experience in a particular thematic urban development challenge and to share their ideas about possible solutions, during a period of over 2 years. The Phase 1 (from late June 2019 to February 2020) focused on the development of baseline studies, city profiles and the production of the Application Form for Phase 2.

    Following the Monitoring Committee's approval of the networks, cities are now ready to focus on the exchange and learning activities using a range of learning tools and approaches in line with the URBACT Method. Every partner city will consolidate an URBACT Local Group, which will co-design Integrated Action Plans for future implementation. The Phase 2 also presents a novelty for the projects, from now on cities are encouraged to undertake pilot actions (Small Scale Actions), to experiment with new ideas for projects gained from other network exchanges and in line with the cities’ network topic.

    As a consequence of the Covid-19 pandemic, the URBACT Secretariat will follow up with a series of adapted activities to support these networks and their partners, including the delivery of trainings using online formats and a 3 months extension of the network life-cycle, meaning that projects will run until August 2022. Thus, networks will respect the following calendar:

     

    • Activation Stage (May - December 2020): putting together an Integrated Action Plan roadmap
    • Planning Actions (December 2020 - December 2021): drafting the Integrated Action Plan
    • Planning Implementation (December 2021 - June 2022): finalising the Integrated Action Plan
    • Integrated Action Plans Finale (June - August 2022): sharing knowledge

     

    You can find all approved networks in the table below, the Lead Partner city is indicated is bold. To find out more about each one of the projects, check the network's webpages.
    Congratulations to the 23 approved projects!

     

    NETWORK

    PARTNERS

    DESCRIPTION

    Research, technological development and innovation

    UrbSecurity

    Leiria (PT)
    - Longford (IE)
    - Madrid (ES)
    - Mechelen (BE)
    - Michalovce (SK)
    - Parma (IT)
    - Pella (EL)
    - Unione della Romagna Faentina (IT)
    - Szabolcs 05 Regional Development Association of Municipalities (HU)

    Security and safety are two common goods and fundamental components of European democracy. This network intends to analyse strategies and concepts of urban design and planning, which could contribute to prevent segregation and anti-social behaviour. Additionally, this network wishes to co-create an integrated approach towards urban security focusing on improving citizens’ quality of life and the city’s smart, sustainable and inclusive growth towards a good living environment.

    Find your Greatness

    Alba Iulia (RO)
    - Bragança (PT)
    - Candelaria (ES)
    - Perugia (IT)
    - Wroclaw (PL)
    - Võru (EE)
    - Limerick (IE)
    - Budafok-Tétény 22nd district of Budapest (HU)

    The challenge is to build on the cities' opportunities. The partners of the project need to identify locally a strength, which was built as a sustainable mechanism generating urban development. The goal of this network is to explore and enhance the potential of the city, combining strategic marketing approach with innovative smart city tools.

    Access to and use of ICT

    DigiPlace
    (previously DI4C)

    Messina (IT)
    - Botosani (RO)
    - Oulu (FI)
    - Portalegre (PT)
    - Roquetas de Mar (ES)
    - Saint- Quentin (FR)
    - Trikala (EL)
    - Ventspils Digital Centre (LV)

    This network aims to set up an acceleration mechanism to enable cities to catch up the digitalisation opportunities in hard & soft infrastructure. Remove all the obstacles encountered by mid-sized cities in their digital journey: lack of strategic & global vision lack of technical and engineering capacities difficulties in incorporating the digital innovation. Municipalities need to guaranty the uptake of digital innovation by the local stakeholders: citizen and entrepreneurs.

    IoTxChange

    Fundão (PT)
    - Dodoni (EL)
    - Jelgava (LV)
    - Nevers Agglomeration (FR)
    - Razlog (BG)
    - Ånge (SE)
    - Kežmarok (SK)
    - Åbo Akademi University (FI)

    The objective is to encourage the creation of a network of European cities committed to the design of digitalization plans based on Internet of Things (IoT) solutions to increase the quality of life in small and medium sized EU cities, guiding us through a new age of digital transformation.

    Competitiveness of SMEs

    iPlace

    Amarante (PT)
    - Balbriggan (IE)
    - Pori (FI)
    - Pärnu (EE)
    - Grosseto (IT)
    - Gabrovo (BG)
    - Heerlen (NL)
    - Kočevje (SI)
    - Medina del Campo
    (ES)

    - Saldus (LV)

    This network aim to produce 10 different and unique robust economic development strategies, targeting their own genuine niches, and generating urban innovation ecosystems. City partners will focus on deepening the understanding of their own local economic strengths and establish strategic methods to revitalise their economy, adapt their city to the next economy and to future economic changes, establishing methodological bases for generate resilient cities.

    Tourism Friendly Cities

    Genoa (IT)
    - Braga (PT)
    - Rovaniemi (FI)
    - Venice (IT)
    - Utrecht (NL)
    - Krakow (PL)
    - Cáceres (ES)
    - Druskininkai (LT)
    - Dún Laoghaire Rathdown (IE)
    - Dubrovnik Development Agency (HR)

    This network aims to explore how tourism can be sustainable in medium-sized cities, reducing the negative impact on neighbourhoods and areas interested by different types of tourism to reach this ambitious aim, the project will create integrated and inclusive strategies which can keep a balance between the needs of the local community, in terms of quality of life and of services available, and the promotion of sustainable urban development at environmental, social and economic level.

    Low carbon economy in all sectors

    Urb-En Pact

    Clermont Auvergne Metropole (FR)
    - Bialystok Association of the Functional Area (PL)
    - CIM Alto Minho (PT)
    - Rouen Normandie Metropole (FR)
    - Elefsina (EL)
    - Galati (RO)
    - Palma di Montechiaro (IT)
    - Tampere EcoFellows (FI)

    Local authorities embrace the ambitious goal to become a zero-net energy territory within the next 30 years. Thus, the aim is to define the local action plans to become zero-net (ZNE) territory by producing and delivering local, renewable and regulated sources of energy by the implementation of an energy loop which gathers all the stakeholders of this circular economy, especially the consumers included in this fair trade business in and around the metropolitan area.

    Zero Carbon Cities
    (previously ZCC)

    Manchester (UK)
    - Bistrita (RO)
    - Zadar (HR)
    - Modena (IT)
    - Frankfurt am Main (DE)
    - Tartu (EE)
    - Vilvoorde (BE)

    The network will support capacity building of cities to establish science-based carbon reduction targets and their Sustainable Energy Action Plans (SEAPs) aligned to Paris Agreement on Climate Change. Working with 7cities to adopt different approaches to carbon budgeting and science-based targets, the network will undertake a programme of capacity building in order to support their local activities and integrated action plan and influence Covenant of Mayors' signatory cities.

    Environmental protection and resource efficiency

    RiConnect

    Barcelona Metropolitan Area (ES)
    - Porto Metropolitan Area (PT)
    - Krakow Metropole Association (PL)
    - Paris Metropolitan Area (FR)
    - Gdansk-Gdynia-Sopot Metropolitan Area (PL)
    - Amsterdam Region (NL)
    - Transport for Greater Manchester (UK)
    - Thessaloniki Major Development Agency (EL)

    The overall goal is to rethink, transform and integrate mobility infrastructure aiming at reconnecting people, neighbourhoods, cities and natural spaces. The project will develop planning strategies, processes, instruments and partnerships, fostering public transport and active mobility, reducing externalities and unlocking opportunities of urban regeneration with the objectives of structuring the territory, and achieving a more sustainable, equitable and attractive metropolis.

    URGE

    Utrecht (NL)
    - Riga (LV)
    - Oeste CIM (PT)
    - Copenhagen (DK)
    - Granada (ES)
    - Munich (DE)
    - Kavala (EL)
    - Prato (IT)
    - Nigrad (SI)

    URGE (circUlaR buildinG citiEs) aims to design integrated urban policies on circularity in the building sector – a major consumer of raw materials – as there is a gap in knowledge on this topic. The result is an in-depth understanding of this theme and a first plan for a tailor-made methodology that allows the circular dimension to be widely integrated in the large construction tasks the URGE partnership is facing. URGE thus accelerates the transition towards a circular economy.

    Healthy Cities

    Vic (ES)
    - Anyksciai (LT)
    - Bradford (UK)
    - Alphen aan den Rijn (NL)
    - Falerna (IT)
    - Farkadona (EL)
    - Loulé (PT)
    - Pärnu (EE)
    - Malta Planning Authority (MT)

    This network aims to deepen the relationship between health and the urban environment, planning actions that focus on improving the population’s health, while developing a rigorous health impact assessment methodology around it. Urban Planning can become a health generator on many grounds, and this network of cities reflects the multiplicity of possible approaches to tackle the issue: green areas, mobility, social cohesion or promotion of sports are some examples.

    KAIRÓS

    Mula (ES)
    - Belene (BG)
    - Cesena (IT)
    - Malbork (PL)
    - Roskilde (DK)
    - Heraklion (EL)
    - Šibenik (HR)
    - Ukmergè (LT)

     

    The ultimate goal is to represent a moment of change, improving the urban environment of cities involved, developing heritage-led urban regeneration. It will enhance the potential of heritage in small and medium cities developing strategies for economic and social cohesion, inclusion and sustainable urban development. This network fosters the transnational exchange of experiences to test an innovative policy framework, combining a sound integrated approach with a real transformation purpose.

     

    Resourceful Cities
    (previously UrbReC)

    The Hague (NL)
    - Bucharest 3rd district (RO)
    - Ciudad Real (ES)
    - Mechelen (BE)
    - Cáceres (ES)
    - Patras (EL)
    - Oslo (NO)
    - Opole (PL)
    - Vila Nova Famalicão (PT)
    - Zagreb (HR)

     

    This network seeks to develop the next generation of urban resource centers to promote the positive economic, environmental and social impacts for the circular economy. They facilitate waste prevention, reuse, repair and recycling. The centers also work as connection points for citizens, new businesses, researchers and the public sector to co-create new ways to close resource loops at the local level.

    FOOD CORRIDORS
    (previously Rurban Food)

    Coimbra Region (PT)
    - Alba Iulia (RO)
    - Córdoba (ES)
    - Larissa (EL)
    - Szécsény (HU)
    - Bassa Romagna Union (IT)
    - Tartu Tartumaa Arendusselts (EE)
    - BSC Kranj and Gorenjska (SI)

    Recent experience suggests that it is necessary to promote a transition towards regional food systems. This network encourage the creation of a network of European cities committed to the design of food plans that extend from the urban and periurban areas through a corridor that facilitates urban-rural re-connection. This approach enhances production and consumption environments founded on a base of economic, social and environmental sustainability, integrated into development policies.

    Health&Greenspace

    Hegyvidék 12th district of Budapest (HU)
    - Espoo (FI)
    - Limerick (IE)
    - Messina (IT)
    - Breda (NL)
    - Poznań (PL)
    - Santa Pola (ES)
    - Suceava (RO)
    - Tartu (EE)

    As a response to the various health risks related to rapid urbanization and the densification of cities, this network project promotes health-responsive planning and management of urban green infrastructure with an overall aim to bring health and wellbeing benefits for citizens across Europe. The network applies a holistic approach that addresses the main functions provided by urban green infrastructure that deliver health and social benefits.

    Sustainable transport

    Space4People

    Bielefeld (DE)
    - Arad (RO)
    - Badalona (ES)
    - Nazaré (PT)
    - Turku (FI)
    - Guía de Isora (ES)
    - Panevèžys (LT)
    - Saint-Germain-en-Laye (FR)
    - Sérres (EL)
    - Valga (EE)

    This network improves quantity and quality of attractive public spaces in urban areas. For this, it tackles the main public space use being transportation in 3 aspects: improving user experience and adding space to pedestrian networks and (semi) pedestrianised places, upscaling intermodal hubs to urban centres of mixed use as well as reducing and optimising parking in public space. The project takes a user-centric approach by users assessing and creating future use and design of public space.

    Thriving Streets

    Parma (IT)
    - Antwerp (BE)
    - Igoumenitsa (EL)
    - Klaipèda (LT)
    - Nova Gorica (SI)
    - Oradea (RO)
    - Santo Tirso (PT)
    - Radom (PL)
    - Southwark London Borough (UK)
    - Debrecen Economic Development Centre (HU)

    This is a network that addresses the bottlenecks in sustainable urban mobility. The project will focus on the economic and social benefits of sustainable mobility, rather than on the widely demonstrated environmental effects. The network argues that working with local amenities and social networks at neighbourhood level could unlock the hidden demand for active mobility in cities, and thus act as enabler of behaviour change towards more resilient and liveable neighbourhoods.

    Employment protection and resource efficiency

    SIBdev

    Heerlen (NL)
    - Aarhus (DK)
    - Baia Mare (RO)
    - Fundão (PT)
    - Kecskemét (HU)
    - Pordenone (IT)
    - Zaragoza (ES)
    - Võru Development Centre (EE)

    This network aims to explore how social impact bonds can be used to improve public service delivery in areas such as employment, ageing, and immigration. Often, the delivery of services is hindered by fragmented and siloed agencies and budgets, financial and political shorttermism, and an aversion to risk and difficulty creating change. The social impact bond is a promising model that ameliorates these issues by increasing collaboration, prevention, and innovation.

    Social inclusion and poverty

    ROOF

    Ghent (BE)
    - Braga (PT)
    - Glasgow (UK)
    - Thessaloniki (EL)
    - Liège (BE)
    - Odense (DK)
    - Poznań (PL)
    - Toulouse Metropole (FR)
    - Timisoara Department of Social Assistance (RO)

    This project aims to eradicate homelessness through innovative housing solutions at city level. It will exchange knowledge on how to gather accurate data and make the conceptual shift from the symptomatic management to the actual ending of homelessness, with Housing First and Housing Led as guidance model. This network will guide the partner cities towards integrated local action plans linked to the long-term strategic goal of Functional Zero (no structural homelessness).

    ActiveCitizens

    Agen (FR)
    - Bistrita (RO)
    - Cento (IT)
    - Dinslaken (DE)
    - Hradec Králové (CZ)
    - Santa Maria da Feira (PT)
    - Saint-Quentin (FR)
    - Tartu (EE)

    The aim of this network is to rethink the place of the citizens in the local governance by finding a balance between representative democracy and participatory democracy. This network of European small and medium-sized cities, with the same expectations and similar challenges, will notably take into account, to do this, new digital tools while integrating the issue of citizens away or not comfortable with digital tools.

    Access

    Amsterdam (NL)
    - Dublin (IE)
    - Lisbon (PT)
    - Riga (LV)
    - Sofia (BG)
    - Tallinn (EE)
    - Vilnius (LT)
    - London Greater Authority (UK)

    This network addresses the importance of inclusive cultural policies. A challenge all cities in this project face is that culture does not enrich or empower all people equally. We need to gain a better understanding of our communities in order to engage all citizens in our cities. We have identified four topics to work on that will enable us to gain that understanding and support us in reaching all population groups in the participating cities from the west, east and south of Europe.

    Genderedlandscape

    Umeå (SE)
    - Frankfurt am Main (DE)
    - Panevèžys (LT)
    - Trikala (EL)
    - La Rochelle (FR)
    - Barcelona Activa SA (ES)
    - Celje JZ Socio (SI)

    Creating conditions for gender equality through a holistic understanding of how gender inequality is created in the specific place. This network creates an exchange on challenges faced by cities with an understanding of gender inequality that is globally understood but locally contextualised.

    Education, skills and lifelong learning

    Cities4CSR

    Milan (IT)
    - Bratislava (SK)
    - Budaörs (HU)
    - Guimarães (PT)
    - Molina de Segura (ES)
    - Nantes Metropole (FR)
    - Rijeka (HR)
    - Kekava (LV)
    - Sofia (BG)
    -Vratsa (BG)

    Through intensive capacity building of local actors, the network will increase collaboration among municipalities, businesses and the civic society in order to promote sustainable, inclusive & innovative urban change. The project aims at increasing the role and added value of companies’ CSR activities at local level, towards urban regeneration and social innovation, with a special emphasis on education, in order to better address emerging and unmet local needs.

     

    -

     

    Interested in finding more about the approved networks and what they will do? Watch the URBACT Method video and check out the Action Planning Network's infographic!

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  • “Be a voyager, not a tourist:” Introducing the Action Planning Network Tourism-Friendly Cities

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    15/11/2022

    “I welcome in my restaurant voyagers, not tourists. People who are curious and respectful of the local lifestyle, who appreciate that the daily menu depends of the fresh and locally available products and who do some research before visiting”.

    Fausto Cavanna, owner, La Taverna di Colombo, Genoa (Italy)

    Articles

    Ten cities have embarked on a new journey to work together on promoting a sustainable impact of tourism into integrated urban development in the URBACT Tourism-friendly cities Action Planning Network. Championing one of the world’s most hot topics, the city of Genoa (IT) has the challenging role of leading this new URBACT network that seeks to harmonize the realities experienced by residents, local authorities, tourism industry and tourists. The ten partners – Genoa (lead partner), Braga (PT), Caceres (ES), Druskininkai (LT), Dubrovnik Development Agency (HR), Dun Laoghaire Rathdown County Council (IE), Krakow (PL), Rovaniemi (FI), Utrecht (NL) and Venice (IT) – will explore innovative governance and action models to capture the social, environmental and economic dimensions of tourism.

    Fausto Cavanna, the owner of the restaurant La Taverna di Colombo in Genoa (Italy) explaining to the Tourism-friendly cities network his aspirations for sustainable tourism. 

    Why tourism?

    Tourism industry is one of the most important of our era. Tourism, travels and related sectors account for 10,3% of GDP in EU and 11,7% of total employment: at global level, Europe has been hit by the second biggest increase, with 671.1 million international arrivals last year (51% the number of international tourist arrivals at global level), an eight per cent increase year-on-year. A long-term study by the World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) forecasts a growth in European tourism, to an estimated 744 million tourists (+1.8%), or 41.1% of the global market, over the period to 2030.

    However, this economic outlook does not capture the complexity of the effects that the tourism production system imposes to city life. Rising housing prices, congestion, little regulation power over tech-enabled companies and platforms active at global level on sectors as hospitality and transport, are just some of the consequences that are currently changing neighbourhood life (and city finances) in urban areas all around Europe.

    And while the devil is in the details, so is also the solution. Balancing the importance of tourism for local economies with temporary and permanent residents wellbeing, harmonizing present needs with future environmental concerns, adjusting the outdated instruments of local administrations with fast changing business models, requires collective answers and actions.

    To do this, the network will employ the URBACT method, taking an integrated and participative approach to urban challenges with a focus on transnational exchange and learning. Peer exchange and co-learning on the network level will be translated into integrated action plans on the local level and contribute to capacity building of key local stakeholders.

    The URBACT Tourism-friendly cities Network kick off meeting on 26 & 27 September 2019 in Genoa, Italy.

    What exactly is a tourism-friendly city?

    Was the question the lead partner Genoa debated with the prospective network partners when they were preparing the application for the last open call of URBACT’s Action Planning Networks. The answer is in the line that local community and tourists should work together for urban sustainability. The city is not something to be taken for granted, a service that somebody is entitled to for paying taxes or a visiting fee. It is a fragile ecosystem, where each stakeholder needs to become aware to the effects’ of each other actions. This is why, while the network is recognizing the key economic importance of tourism, but it is also exploring key questions of the kind of growth that each city aspires to. Rather than pointing a finger on the negative consequences of tourism, the network wants to make the industry and tourists part of the co-design of solutions, alongside residents and local authorities.

    Meeting Fairbnb representatives on September 30th 2019 in Venice, as part of mapping effort of new stakeholders that propose alternative models supporting sustainable tourism.

    A sense of urgency to act

    One key takeaway from the network’s kick-off meeting in Genoa on 26 & 27 September 2019 was the urgency experienced by each city partner to find a way forward to steward sustainable tourism development at local level. There was also a common aspiration that this current URBACT project could serve as the beginning of a new way of working together at local level, perhaps with the URBACT Local Groups (ULG) becoming a local observatory for monitoring progress on the future actions plans and global practices.

    The first step in this process was to analyse what each partner city defined as its most pressing challenge related to sustainable tourism. During the kick-off meeting, the partners used a pitching arena designed for the event to start reflecting on existing implementations plans, lessons learned, aspirations, political commitment and available local resources related to their local realities.  All these elements will be explored in more detail during the partner visits over the coming five months.

    We are looking forward to our journey ahead! You can keep up with our network’s and URBACT’s work on sustainable tourism by following the hashtags #sustainabletourism and #tfcities and by subscribing to URBACT’s newsletter.

     

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