Why the Transfer Mechanism does not work without sites visits

Edited on 09/10/2022

NEXT AGRI site visit

Due to the pandemic context in Europe, the NextAgri network visit to Milan, in the beginning of project phase II, was organised in virtual format. The Lead Partner and Milan local stakeholders did their best to virtually pass all the learnings to city partners, however it is not the same.

The Covid-19 pandemic brought uncertainty to transnational projects, in particular to the transnational knowledge-sharing approach between partners. There was no off-the shelf playbook for the situation, so we follow a flexible and pragmatic approach to keep everyone on board.


After 12 months of online work, from May 2021 to April 2022, the NextAgri partners meet for the first time in person at the Transnational Meeting hosted by Vila Nova de Gaia on the 11the and 12th of April 2022. A refreshing moment for the network that took the opportunity to engage with each other for the first time and to create an emotional link that during online meetings it was difficult to achieve it.


The agenda was developed in co-creation between the Lead Partner, Lead Expert and the City of Vila Nova de Gaia. It was clear for everyone that working sessions and social moments should be planned in a balanced way. To be honest, it wasn’t easy to develop the first agenda for a physical meeting, for a running project and after a long period of online work.


In parallel we organized site visits to push for learning and sharing in an informal context and hands on experiences, like – Cantinho das Aromáticas. Having started its activity of producing aromatic herbs in 2002, it currently has an incredible botanical collection of more than 150 species of aromatic, medicinal and spice plants with enormous quality indices. Such quality is measurable by the total exemption of chemical residues from synthesis, and by the greater amount of sugars and essential oils present in the plants.


It was in Vila Nova de Gaia, during the site visits, that we all became aware that the visit to the UIA city is essential to deepen our knowledge about the project.


Based on this, and as an extra activity to the original project plan, we organized a visit t Milan on the 30th and 31st of May 2022. The goal was to have an immersive experience to the UIA OpenAgri project and to have the opportunity to discuss with the ULG members and project beneficiaries the unwritten stories of OpenAgri journey. 


The transfer cities perception about the good practice changed as can be spotted on the debriefing session:

  • Small steps and simple approach – looking to the result of UIA projects can be an overwhelming experience. During the site visit to Milan the partners realise that a 5 Million euros project is build on top of small steps and grow progressively.
  • The role and importance of associations, foundations and citizens for the local development – the contact with the UIA OpenAgri partners made it possible to understand the importance of involving local partners in the development of the Investment Plan and a source of inspiration to work with the ULG.
  • Milan Food Policy – partners saw how a long term strategy can work as an innovative framework for making urban food systems more sustainable and inclusive


Site visits are an important component of Urbact projects. Site visits pose a valuable source of information that is difficult to get from documents or online meetings and present an opportunity to get detailed information from people who are knowledgeable about the site. 


Now that URBACT IV is kicking off and the carbon footprint of transnational meetings is a hot topic in discussion, I wanted to say that it is possible to develop a project with less transnational travel, but you can be sure that it is not the same thing!

Submitted by URBACT on 30/07/2022