POINT (-0.883333 41.65)
  • SIBdev

    LEAD PARTNER : Heerlen - Netherlands
    • Aarhus - Denmark
    • Baia Mare - Romania
    • Fundão - Portugal
    • Kecskemét - Hungary
    • Pordenone - Italy
    • Võru County - Estonia
    • Zaragoza - Spain


    CONTACT US: Municipality of Heerlen, The Netherlands - Team Policy, Domain Society
    mailbox 1, 6400 AA Heerlen, visiting address: Putgraaf 188 Heerlen



    • Phase I Kick-off event in Heerlen
    • Lead Partner & Lead Expert City Visits
    • Phase I Final Event in Fundao
    • Phase II Activation Meeting Online
    • Masterclasses 1-6 - Online & Physical
    • Transnational Meetings Sept 2021 - April 2022 in Voru, Pordenone, Zaragoza, Aarhus, Kecskemét, Baia Mare
    • Phase II Final Meeting in Heerlen

    Integrated Action Plan

    Võru County Integrated Action Plan

    Read more here !

    Võru County - Estonia
    Integrated Action Plan Baia Mare

    Read more here

    Baia Mare - Romania
    Kecskemét Integrated Action Plan

    Read more here

    Kecskemét - Hungary
    Pordenone Integrated Action Plan

    Rea more here

    Pordenone - Italy
    Fundão - Portugal
    Aarhus Integrated Action Plan

    Read more here !

    Aarhus - Denmark
    Zaragoza Integrated Action Plan

    Read more here !

    Zaragoza - Spain
    Heerlen Integrated Action Plan

    Read more here !

    Heerlen - Netherlands


    The goal of this Action Planning Network was 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 short-termism, 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.

    Boosting social impact - Investing in society with Social Impact Bond development
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  • 23 Action Planning Networks ready for Phase 2!

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



    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!





    Research, technological development and innovation


    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

    (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.


    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


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

    - 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


    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.


    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.


    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.

    (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.


    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


    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


    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


    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).


    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.


    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.


    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


    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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  • How are URBACT cities reacting to Covid-19?

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    At a time when the impact of the pandemic has changed our way of life, cities are showing their resilience.

    Digital transition


    Cities are intervening in novel ways to support frontline health services, food supplies, the local economy and people’s mental well-being. Several are building directly on capacity built during their experiences in URBACT networks, showing that the programme’s principles of local stakeholder engagement and transnational exchange can support cities to achieve their objectives, even in times of crisis.

    Volunteers in action in Altea (ES)

    We asked some of our URBACT experts what examples of city responses had caught their attention. Read their thoughts, then check out the interactive map of other great city examples that the URBACT Programme is collecting from across Europe. More in-depth analysis will follow in the next few weeks so stay tuned!


    Cities supporting front-line health workers


    Cities are finding novel ways to support hospitals and health workers. “Right now, cities are throwing everything at the short-term problem,” stresses Eddy Adams. “That means supporting the medics, like in Pireaus (EL), whose Blue Lab has repurposed 3D printers to make protective faceshields for health staff.” This initiative builds on the experience of the city in supporting local innovation through the ‘BlueGrowth’ competition, recognised by URBACT as a good practice in 2017 and currently the focus of the URBACT Transfer Network BluAct.

    Meanwhile, in Hungary, Ivan Tosics highlights that “despite the increasing centralisation of government in recent years and severely restricted local budgets, the city of Budapest (HU) has reacted by ordering medical instruments from abroad and is distributing these to health institutions, homeless shelters and elderly homes. The city also signed agreements with private health institutions to test employees in key professions for the functioning of the capital.”

    Citizen-led solutions have also been an important aspect of the human response to the crisis affecting health services and city authorities can still learn more about how to support and encourage such initiatives. Laura Colini has been impressed that the URBACT Transfer Network Volunteering Cities - based on the experience of the Athienou (CY) Municipal Council of Volunteering (MCV) – “is now sharing how volunteers are engaged in different cities to provide first necessity products, producing masks or any other needed materials.”
                                                                                                    Also from the Volunteering Cities network, a volunteer in Capizzi (IT)


    Cities supporting the local economy


    Given the impact of lockdown policies on people’s economic activities, many urban authorities have swiftly introduced measures to freeze rents and business taxes, and are helping local companies to access support. Ivan Tosics flags that Budapest has “increased the wages of employees of municipality-owned enterprises and introduced a moratorium on rent payments for small and micro enterprises which rent space from the municipality. The local authority has also offered free signs to shops in the city to call attention to the right distance to maintain between customers.”

    Many cities are looking at opportunities to extend their digital service provision, including to local companies who cannot access traditional support in the current circumstances. Long before the Covid-19 pandemic, the URBACT network TechTown was stressing the importance of the digital economy and its Lead Partner Barnsley’s (UK) Digital Media Centre was identified as an URBACT Good Practice - going on to form the basis of the current URBACT Transfer Network TechRevolution.

    Sally Kneeshaw has seen how the city has built on these experiences to step up its response to the current crisis: “Barnsley’s Digital Media Centre last week pivoted to virtual delivery to support businesses with chat and call centres, and made a commitment to bankroll the Government's grant scheme for those in the most impacted sectors of retail, leisure and hospitality.” The platform is also providing tips and guidance for more secure remote working.

    Supporting the local economy also means supporting families most affected by job losses and loss of income. Whilst many national unemployment schemes are being adapted in response to the specific current challenges, Laura Colini highlights that exchanges within URBACT’s Volunteering Cities network have also included “brewing ideas and exchanging practices on the involvement of local companies or individuals in offering products or financial aid to families in need”.


    Cities ensuring local food supplies


    Many European citizens are concerned about ongoing supplies of food as production and distribution systems come under strain from threats to workers’ health and restrictions on movement. The URBACT network AGRI-URBAN was addressing ways of improving local food supply in urban areas back in 2016. The AGRI-URBAN partner city, Mouans-Sartoux (FR) saw its collective school catering recognised as an URBACT good practice in 2017 and became the Lead Partner of the Transfer Network BioCanteens in 2018.

    Marcelline Bonneau has kept in touch with their response to the current crisis: “The municipal farm - initially producing organic fruit and vegetables for three school canteens providing a thousand lunches per day - has diversified its distribution channels to meet broader needs and protect jobs. A part still goes to the canteens providing food for the few dozen children of health workers and municipal agents who can still access school, a part is processed and frozen, and another part goes to the social grocery of the city.”

    The municipal authorities are already thinking about how to respond to the ongoing food supply challenges. “Soon-to-come lettuces, which cannot be frozen, will probably be given to the neighbouring hospital in Grasse,” continues Ms Bonneau. Meanwhile; the city is exploring ways “to increase production in the next plantation schemes in order to anticipate potential issues in conventional food supply chains” in the near future.

    Eddy Adams observes that ‘cities are throwing everything at their short-term problems’. In Vic (ES), this “means supporting communities.Lead Partner of the new URBACT network Healthy Cities is mobilising closed food-market vendors to feed isolated vulnerable individuals”. Such targeted approaches can be crucial for bridging the gap between supply and demand in the context of a lockdown.

    Mouans-Sartoux’s municipal farm (FR)


    Cities supporting education and mental well-being


    National education systems are struggling to rapidly adapt to the situation of students' confinement. Mirella Sanabria, Lead Expert the URBACT Transfer Network On Board tells us: “This is keeping some of our partners - in particular in big cities - busy and stressed. On the positive side, however, some local initiatives are putting into practice innovation related to the use of digital tools in education projects, which is a central aspect of the Educational Innovation Network that On Board is working to transfer.”

    For example, the On Board Lead Partner Viladecans (ES) has developed a dedicated School at Home! webpage which provides new creative and educational activities for children and families every day. Meanwhile, in the partner city of Halmstad (SE), a vocational school is now teaching cooking classes online. The municipality delivers grocery baskets to the students who prepare the meals, which are then supplied to people in particular need.

    Beyond education, Sally Kneeshaw is keen to highlight that “We are all learning, if we didn’t already know, how much we need culture to sustain us. I love that the librarians of the Tallinn Central Library are reading books on request via Skype or phone for children at home. Meanwhile, Zaragoza (ES) has launched a photography competition #DesdeMiVentana (From my window) open to people aged between 12 and 30, targeting young people who find it the hardest to stay indoors.”

    Marcelline Bonneau flags a different example from the city of Mollet del Vallès (ES) which “has created a Leisure at home programme proposing leisure activities to its citizens who are totally prevented from leaving their home without good reason. Launched on Friday 27 March, anyone interested can enjoy a selection of proposed activities alone or in the family. These range from physical classes to memory exercises and from cooking to robotics. The platform is updated and expanded regularly.”

    Laura Colini also highlights the work that the URBACT Transfer Network ON STAGE - working on introducing new curricula in schools based on music and arts - is doing in “keeping people together through music. They recently shared a video performance of young students from the school #ZsOsmec from the partner city of Brno (CZ)”. Such initiatives are a reminder of the importance of keeping our spirits high in these challenging times.




    Don’t forget to check out the interactive map of other great city examples that the URBACT Programme is collecting from across Europe.

    Have you seen another city response that has inspired you? Help us to share it by tagging @URBACT in a tweet or sending it directly to

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  • Social Impact Bonds: the secret tool for effective public services?

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    In times of financial constraints, total government expenditures on public services are decreasing, while citizens expect more and more effective services. Social Impact Bonds may be the tool for providing funds and overcoming short-term focus, fragmentation of services and lack of innovation.


    Total government expenditure in the EU-28 decreased from 50% of GDP to 45.8% between 2009 and 2017. Similarly, local government spending fell from 12% of GDP to 11% between 2009 and 2015. Still, demands on services have remained intense, and spending on social protection as a proportion of total expenditure increased from 38.8% to 41.2% and spending on health increased from 14.7% to 15.3% in the same period. Cities provide many of those services, -and doing so while running on tight budgets causes significant strain.

    Besides shrinking budgets, providing effective services fail because they are often split between different departments, and a holistic approach is lacking. Cities are pressured to allocate resources to solving crisis-point situations instead of spending on prevention. In such a context, decision-makers opt for the business-as-usual approach without risking relatively unknown interventions that have a severe upfront cost.

    In the meantime, the idea of ‘socially responsible’ or ‘impact investment’ is emerging amidst a low interest rate environment. The trend of investing in the social environment has become a way for investors to give back to the community. Very often, companies are trying to expand their social responsibility. As a result, a growing number of investors are looking for forms of impact investments as a way to stand up for their beliefs and also make a profit.

    The relatively new tool for bringing together the investor and the public sector is the Social Impact Bond (SIB). It is a contract whereby the public authority or governing authority pays for better social outcomes in certain areas and passes the savings achieved to investors. Unlike a bond, the repayment and the return on investment are contingent upon the achievement of desired social outcomes. If a project meets the pre-agreed results, i.e. an improved social outcome that generates a cost-saving, the government (this can be local or national) pays the investors. If a project does not achieve its contracted results, the investors lose their money, and the government pays nothing.

    1. Figure: Social Impact Bonds’ theory of change. Source: University of Oxford, Government Outcomes Lab - An Intro to SIB.

    A Social Impact Bond may have many beneficial effects for cities, as Government Outcomes Lab states in its Evidence Report titled ‘Building the tools for public services to secure better outcomes’. It encourages collaboration by building on cross-sector expertise and bringing together multiple commissioners and multiple providers. It unlocks future savings by investing more up-front, enabling cities to focus on prevention and early intervention services that might otherwise not get funded. A SIB may inspire innovation by allowing new interventions and more flexibility. It also levels the field for involving voluntary, community and social enterprise organisations. Last but not least, a SIB can improve performance management and provides a better quality of evidence.

    Many critics are contesting these benefits, saying that a SIB does not encourage genuine innovation. Investors will be looking for low-risk models that have been proven to deliver, as they want their money back. Moreover, a SIB is expensive to develop and leads to the financialization of the public sector, which is – for many - incompatible with the public service ethos.

    With evidence on both sides, Social Impact Bonds need more experimentation and evaluation. And despite these circumstances of austerity, some cities try to use the momentum to shift their approach towards this new tool. That is why 10 cities joined their forces in URBACT SIBdev Network to jointly explore how Social Impact Bonds, can improve public service delivery. The tool and the URBACT methodology, namely coproduction through multi-stakeholder local support groups and the development of local action plans fit perfectly.

    The network will examine service delivery concerning employment, ageing and immigration. Employment is an obvious choice since SIB is particularly well-suited to it, as demonstrated by the fact that it is the most common type of SIB worldwide. Ageing is the most massive pressure on social spending in Europe and affects a growing number of people, while immigration is the primary concern at the EU level (according to Eurobarometer).

    Is SIB going to be the new secret tool for providing adequate public services? Maybe it will be, maybe not. But it certainly is a promising new form of commissioning social services. If you are interested in Finance and/or Social Services, follow URBACT SIBdev Network to learn about how SIB might work for you!

    1. Photo: Harrie Lambrichts

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  • School of collaboration: La Colaboradora


    A peer-to-peer co-working space fuelled by shared talent

    Lorena Calvo
    International Relations Office, City of Zaragoza
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    La Colaboradora is a public co-working space of collective intelligence where people exchange services and know-how using a "time bank". It was set up in Zaragoza (ES) in 2013 as a response to high unemployment and empty public spaces. The 300 members include entrepreneurs, freelancers, non-profit organisations, and creative professionals seeking support to launch a project or improve their employability skills. They join up and use the space in exchange for sharing four hours of their time each month. 
    La Colaboradora is co-governed by the local public administration and other members, promoting self-employment and public space ownership. So far, 210 new entrepreneurships have been created and 30 long-term unemployed have found jobs. Participants have shared 9,800 hours, and organised 592 activities, 51% of them free for citizens of Zaragoza. La Colaboradora believes more opportunities can be created by sharing resources and making collective know-how freely available.

    The solutions offered by the good practice

    La Colaboradora is a P2P co-working space where the local council supports its community’s entrepreneurial projects and job searches by offering an atmosphere to connect and collaborate through a time bank. It’s not just a working space, it’s also a community where human contact and trust are essential. La Colaboradora is a three-year-old successful experience that offers concrete solutions both to the members of its community as well as to Zaragoza’s citizens. Members can: develop their entrepreneurial/artistic project with no cost, by exchanging their time bank hours with their peers; enter the employability skills programme ‘25 Talents’ and improve their job search skills by a mile; join a strong community of entrepreneurs, share interests and create opportunities; own a public space and help run a collaborative project by joining its working groups or Steering Committee; join the Social Challenges and use their skills to support third sector initiatives in our city; share their know-how and expertise through open source trainings for the city. This will improve the city’s collective intelligence, promote innovation and collaboration. Citizens and members can: empower themselves by attending free training activities and rising their profiles; attend open events with special guests, debates and presentations, and expand their network. Overall, this good practice promotes innovation, collaboration, entrepreneurship, public space ownership and capacity building.

    Building on the sustainable and integrated approach

    La Colaboradora was created in 2013 to address difficult challenges faced by Zaragoza’s people, unemployment the most pressing one of all. The lack of resources made us think of a public space where people could use their talents to build new opportunities together. Just as it is based on the principles of a collaborative economy, La Colaboradora respects and integrates URBACT’s values at its core. We believe that more opportunities can be created by sharing resources and building human relationships based on trust, by freely opening our collective knowledge to the city and empowering its inhabitants. However, we not only share our skills and talent to improve our projects and employability skills, we also organise events that promote the collaborative economy in the city and coordinate the Social Challenges. Some outputs: 30 long-term unemployed (out of 50) have found jobs, 210 new entrepreneurial projects, 9,800 hours have been voluntarily shared. We’ve raised €3,000 for charities working with refugees, planted trees, organised a free lunch in a public square to advocate for the responsible consumption of food, and supported activities with disabled children, among others. La Colaboradora is a lively community of 300 very different people with an open agenda of training and events. Its most powerful aspect is that it is a paradigm of the Fourth Sector; it’s the hub of a mixed ecosystem where public projects, companies, NGOs and citizens coexist.

    Based on a participatory approach

    La Colaboradora is only possible with the total involvement of Zaragoza’s city council and the commitment of its members, the collaborators. Since its launch in 2013, the citizens of this community have shared a total of 9,800 hours and organised 592 activities, of which 51% have been open and free for all of Zaragoza’s population, many of them open-source training sessions. The practice is ruled by a joint-governance between its community members and Zaragoza Activa. The participation of the collaborators is key, as they run the project through the Steering Committee, General Assembly and working groups. Since its opening, more than 100 members have helped run La Colaboradora by assuming an active role and joining one of the current six area teams. Of the total hours we mentioned before, 3,500 have been dedicated to manage La Colaboradora and, as a consequence, this civic community has developed a new and innovative way of governing and organising itself that has led to building a deep comradeship among peers and a strong sense of public space ownership. In addition, La Colaboradora works with other entities and institutions, local and international players, who are often invited to join our events in order to broaden our network and learn from their good practices. Some of these stakeholders are the University of Zaragoza, the Aragonese Institute of Youth, the Impact Hub Madrid, the Secretary of Ibero-American States (SEGIB) or the European Creative Hubs Network (ECHN).

    What difference has it made?

    The key that makes La Colaboradora different is that it is a cross-sectorial public project based on a collaborative economy and community empowerment that believes in sharing resources for a sustainable future. Since its opening in May 2013 through February 2017, 300 people running 250 projects have shared 9,800 hours in services and know-how by creating a new sharing experience that has evolved in a deep civic feeling of mutual help and trust. Above all, we are happy to say that 55% of the community’s projects started running during their first year in the community and 50% have managed to consolidate themselves after this period. In addition, our ‘25 Talents’ spin-off, an employability skills programme created and developed by community members in 2014, has supported 50 long-term unemployed people in their job search, with 30 of them finding jobs. La Colaboradora’s model won the 2015 Ouishare Award Best P2P Finance Initiative in Spain, and the 2016 Eurocities Award for Cooperation. We are also recognised as a good citizen-driven innovation practice by the Secretary of Ibero-American States (SEGIB). La Colaboradora has been able to build a very dynamic and emotionally united ecosystem of entrepreneurship and innovation in a public space. It’s the place where local professionals find their peers to share ideas and skills, be inspired and receive support. It’s a 21st century community capable of empowering itself by sharing talent, time and knowledge.

    Why should other European cities use it?

    La Colaboradora’s model is founded on universal elements such as trust, commitment and public service that are easily transferable to other European cultures. However, as a community-led practice it’s permanently evolving and a strong understanding of its universal principles is fundamental to make it adaptable. Since we launched the project in 2013, La Colaboradora has received the visits and recognition of dozens of other hubs, public institutions and foundations inspired by its innovative model. In 2016, the project received the Cooperation Eurocities Award and gained the attention of many cities. Lille, Madrid, Stockholm, Bialystok and Espoo showed a special interest by participating at the speed networking session that we chaired at the Eurocities “Sharing Cities” conference. In addition, we’ve signed an agreement with the city council of Santa Fe, Argentina, to transfer La Colaboradora’s model to the cities of Rosario and Santa Fe; and the Brazilian city of Santos has already visited us to transfer the model as well. In Spain, Barcelona Activa and AndoaIn’s city council have submitted a proposal to transfer the model. Moreover, private hubs from Gijón, Pontevedra, Madrid and Barcelona have also visited us to learn how we manage the practice. La Colaboradora is also a member of the European Creative Hubs Network, where we share and exchange expertise and good practices with other European cities. In this context, Malmö has also shown interest in our time bank model.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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






















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


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  • CityLogo


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    Project completed

    CityLogo is a transnational learning experience on citybranding and -marketing in modern urban politics. It is about a better positioning of cities in the (post) crisis economic arena and reinforcing the communication dimension in urban management.

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