Making URBACT crucial in the Italian urban policies debate

Simone D'Antonio

By Simone D'Antonio, on May 10th, 2017

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The URBACT programme currently runs 23 National URBACT Points covering 26 countries across the European Union. The number is expected to grow in the near future. 

The National URBACT Points, represented by Ministries, Associations of Cities, Universities, or consultancies, are in charge of communicating on and supporting URBACT-related activities and integrated urban development in their national languages. Their audiences are local authorities, regions, urban affairs ministries, centres for urban studies, and anyone interested in URBACT’s work on driving change for better cities.

More specifically, they are responsible for:

  • Communicating on URBACT calls for networks and good urban practices through their national webpage on the URBACT website, twitter accounts like @URBACT_IT, newsletters, and events organised for local authorities;
  • Strengthening the links between local, regional, national and EU levels on integrated urban development (gathering relevant stakeholders to discuss urban issues and to increase the awareness of good URBACT practices useful for national and regional policies)
  • Supporting the URBACT Secretariat in activities to increase the capacity and skills of local authorities in designing and implementing integrated, participative urban policies.

To find your National URBACT Point on the URBACT website, click on COUNTRIES on the right hand menu of the URBACT website homepage.

 


 

Italy is the country with the highest number of cities participating in URBACT, and the success of the programme in Italy has stayed strong over the years: 9 cities are partners in URBACT’s 7 Implementation Networks (running from October 2016 to June 2019), while 18 are partners in Action Planning Networks (running from September 2015 until May 2018).

Among these cities there is not only the willingness to attract new sources of funding to promote innovative action plans, but also renewed attention to the participative governance promoted by URBACT as driver of efficiency for local authorities.

Italy’s National URBACT Point (NUP) is managed by ANCI, the Italian Association of Cities and Municipalities. It supports the Italian cities involved in URBACT networks through a systemic action, building on its previous mandate as URBACT National Dissemination Point, which was managed by ANCI’s research foundation Cittalia. The main role of the association at national level is to give institutional representation to topics and approaches promoted by the URBACT Networks. But the National URBACT Point has also developed wide and integrated networking strategies, which can constitute a model of influence on different levels of governance. The intention is to contribute to making URBACT an inspiring model for different national policies, through a constant action of dialogue with a variety of institutional and non-institutional stakeholders involved in the Italian urban policy scenario. At the same time, URBACT is an occasion to promote the potential of innovation of Italian cities on different scales, creating bridges among cities, practitioners and experts active on a wide range of topics, from social inclusion to the management of urban commons. The NUP in Italy has developed its strategy into five main actions to address multi-sectorial governance in the country while promoting a better access to European urban policies:

1. Meeting local stakeholders

Representatives of the National URBACT Point take part in transnational meetings hosted by the Italian cities involved in URBACT networks as well as in meetings of Local URBACT Groups (whose creation is a requirement for cities participating in the URBACT programme and whose objective is to develop actions with local players to tackle certain challenges the city faces). IMG_4347This action helps the NUP understand properly what is happening on the ground. It is also a way to meet local elected representatives, city practitioners and other stakeholders in their local contexts, making them aware of being part of a national network and stimulating the creation of links and networks with other cities and expertise on the topics of other URBACT networks.

For example, participating in an URBACT Local Group meeting in Messina, part of the Arrival Cities network, helped create a link with the national office of the SPRAR System (System of reception of asylum seekers and refugees, managed jointly by ANCI and the Italian Ministry of Home Affairs). SPRAR is now going to include Messina’s experience in its activities to promote integrated models of inclusion in urban contexts.

2. Talking with Regional Administrations

It may happen that regional administrations – in Italy the managing authority for the European Regional Development Fund – are not aware of innovative projects carried out by cities in the framework of territorial cooperation programmes such as URBACT. That‘s an obstacle to supporting the implementation of Local Action Plans produced by cities involved in URBACT. It could also represent a missed opportunity to share approaches and methods tested during URBACT projects by other cities and towns of the regions.

In order to fill this gap in knowledge and relations, particularly sensitive in Italy because of the major role played by the Regions in managing Cohesion Policy funds, the National URBACT Point is organising regional meetings around the cities involved in URBACT networks. Organised in collaboration with regional branches of ANCI, local officials, deputy mayors and mayors of the URBACT cities showcase activities and methodologies of their URBACT projects to other city mayors and political representatives of their Region, and ask for concrete support for implementing actions that were planned during the project. These meetings, organised upon the request of many cities participating in URBACT II, create important occasions to raise awareness in different areas of the country. More than 100 mayors and deputies took part in the first meeting organised last November in Sicily, and Liguria attracted around 50 participants in December. In addition, these meetings highlight projects and actions that emerged from the URBACT network. In the medium term, this could lead to a rapid implementation of these actions as well as to the emulation by other cities and towns of the region.

The National URBACT Point also plays an active role in the National URBACT Committee, which is co-chaired by the Ministry of Transport and Infrastructure and the Molise Region. Created by the Ministry itself, it involves all the Italian regions and governmental agencies, such as the Cohesion Agency responsible for the management of Structural Funds in Italy. The Italian Committee soon became an occasion to foster the dialogue among different levels of governance, with a key role played by the National URBACT Point in representing URBACT cities.

3. Participation in events and training

The National URBACT Point is fostering knowledge about URBACT involving a wide range of institutional and non-institutional actors collected over the years, including people from academia, professional associations and organisations. NUP representatives are active as speakers or contributors to debates and events on topics of major interest to URBACT cities, such as the Social Media Week in Rome or Ecomondo in Rimini.milan The NUP also helps organise panels in events for urban regeneration professionals, such as UrbanPromo in November in Milan 2016 or the Public Space Biennale of Rome of May 2017, or the Festival of the communities of change, organized last October in Milan by the Network of Italian excellences RENA. NUP representatives also participate in university courses, such as the LabGov (Laboratory for the Governance of Commons) course at LUISS university in Rome and the Master on urban regeneration and social innovation organised by IUAV University in Venice (involving representatives of the city of Naples and San Donà di Piave -  , respectively lead partners of the networks 2nd Chance -  and City Centre Doctor -.

4. Being active with the media

First of all, the NUP manages the Italian page on the URBACT website, updating it regularly with articles on integrated urban development, urban stories and news on URBACT events and calls for networks. The NUP is also active on social media, through the URBACT IT accounts on Twitter and Facebook. In addition, promotion is organised via specialised media (such as Fasi.biz , dedicated to EU funds and programmes) and mainstream media, part of a communication strategy aimed at showing the impact of URBACT to a range of audiences. Several articles on URBACT calls and the actions of cities were published by Il Sole 24 Ore, the most relevant Italian newspaper on economy and finance. Several radio interviews with NUP and cities representatives were also transmitted by L’Altra Europa, which is mostly dedicated to EU news and opportunities for different targets, and broadcast every Saturday morning on the national Radio 24. URBACT calls and practices made by Italian cities were promoted by radio also in the framework of 22 Minuti – Una Settimana d’Europa in Italia. This radio programme is prepared by the European Commission Representation in Italy and is available online and on social media as well as broadcast by a network of more than one hundred local and regional radio stations.

This coverage helped reinforce the communication impact of projects at local level as well as building constructive relations with local media organisations, which have often been suggested as possible members of URBACT Local Groups.

5. Networking with other National URBACT Points

The Italian NUP acts as a representative of Italian urban policies and experiences at external level, promoting the participation of ANCI in several EU co-funded projects, and working with other NUPs on specific matters of urban interest. One such international exchange involved the SPRAR System, which is jointly managed by ANCI and the Ministry ofsharing1 Home Affairs, including more than 600 cities and municipalities in a network of local projects. Thanks to a meeting organised by I-pop, who run the Slovenian NUP, SPRAR System’s strategies for integrating refugees and asylum seekers were promoted in Ljubljana. The SPRAR is an Italian experience of excellence often under-recognised at national and European level but potentially inspiring for local and national authorities throughout Europe.

The Italian NUP is planning to promote the organisation of these international meetings on local strategies for inclusion of migrants and refugees, together with NUPs in other countries. This is an original contribution in the quest for solutions to an issue shared by other EU countries, and an essential part of the Italian government’s external action on this topic.

Find the URBACT National Point online!

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