We Need to Talk About… Delivering on Our Action Plans (part I)

Alison Partridge

By Alison Partridge, on December 5th, 2014

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ESIMeC  is one of the 3 so called URBACT ‘delivery pilots’ funded to test whether transnational exchange and learning continues to be useful during implementation of Local Action Plans. The pilots started early in 2014 and run until March 2015 so now seems like a good time to take stock and share some of our learning and reflections.

First of all, a bit of background…

The pilot brings together five medium sized cities and at the outset they dedicated time to updating each other on progress with LAP delivery and pinning down shared challenges and barriers. It was good to see that all 5 of the cities had made real progress in delivery of different actions in the 18 months since the main URBACT network had ended and LAPs had been written. At the same time it was clear that, in the absence of the URBACT framework, in some cases momentum had been lost. It felt like URBACT gave the cities a degree of kudos and credibility to get things done locally as well as a structured framework within which to work. Without this, motivation had in some cases dwindled.

The pilot baseline study suggested that there were 5 main areas where more transnational exchange would be particularly useful and these became the focus of the 5 transnational events: interestingly at least three of these are relevant to just about any city wanting to deliver integrated sustainable urban development. So in this article, we focus on the cross cutting issues as these are probably of most interest to other cities – we will start with Governance and Stakeholder Engagement this week, but will adress Measuring Impact, and Funding, next week.

Governance and stakeholder engagement

Looking again at governance and stakeholder engagement at our first transnational event in March was interesting. All the partners had retained some sort of URBACT Local Support Group structure but none had done a comprehensive review of membership. The event – with expert input from Laura Colini and Nils Scheffler – was a timely reminder that the URBACT Method including stakeholder analysis is a cyclical process rather than a one off exercise. All partners were inspired to revisit their membership and governance structures.

Perhaps not surprisingly the structures which have evolved post URBACT funding at city level mirror local trends – so in Basingstoke for example there are 3 sub groups (Promoting Employment, Promoting Science Technology, Engineering and Mathematics Subjects and Supporting School Engagement and Employability Skills). Each of these has a different chair and none are chaired by the city itself. To retain coherence and integration the chairs have regular meetings and exchanges to explore cross overs and ensure that duplication of effort is avoided. The city itself has the role of partnership convenor, secretariat and facilitator – you could say it provides the ‘glue’ which holds the whole thing together. In Gävle by contrast the ULSG remains quite a large single group, made up mostly of city staff who engage stakeholders through regular thematic events at city level and bilateral exchanges.

Here is just some of the things we think cities need to consider in terms of governance when delivering their LAPs.

  • Action planning is a cyclical and iterative process – it requires constant reflection and review on all levels
  • The tools needed to support effective development of Local Action Plans are also useful for supporting delivery (stakeholder analysis etc)
  • Cities need to move away from ‘government’ to governance which supports integrated approaches and forces all stakeholders to see the whole picture
  • New structures for cross departmental / cross organisational working are required
  • When delivering a LAP, it is useful to achieve some short term gains within a clear shared roadmap which will lead to concrete long term results
  • It is useful to map stakeholders regularly as the situation in cities is constantly evolving. Within this exercise ‘unusual suspects’ need to be considered
  • Participatory methods are not always easy or relevant but URBACT provides a framework within which they can be tested in cities.

Those lessons should  be relevant for many other cities – but even more so the discussion of Impact Measurement and Financing,.. to be published here next week. Stay tuned!

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