How interactive is your city?

Daniela Patti

By Daniela Patti, on November 14th, 2018

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Daniela Patti, Levente Polyak, Simone d’Antonio, Elisabetta Savino and Sabrina Bruzzone report on the festival’s Interactive Cities (IC) lab. The project is dedicated to finding out about how interactive European cities are and how they use social media tools to be interactive.

The Interactive Cities Lab in Lisbon saw the participation of some of the Interactive Cities Network partners, as well as people interested in the IC project. The session was dedicated specifically to present the project activities and results, as well as the URBACT methodology developed and the positive outputs achieved.

How does social media influence local city government?
How was city management before the IC project for partner cities?

The good practices of Alba and Genoa demonstrated how social media tools can become important instruments to promote tourism through a proper social media strategy. Indeed, while Genoa is the biggest city in Liguria Region, Alba Iulia is a small Romanian town, but both cities demonstrated how the good and adapted use of social media can serve as a useful instrument to promote the city inside and outside, together with the involvement of the local stakeholders able to exploit and spread the promotional message.

Genoa’s Story

Genoa developed a social media strategy able to create “Ambassadors” of the city through the use of social media, writing a new participative storytelling of the city. Indeed the municipality is pursuing different measures, in close collaboration with citizens, communities and stakeholders, using social networks and digital tools.

In the last few years many digital campaigns were launched to promote the image of Genoa, increasing its destination reputation on the web. Concerning social media, in recent years Instagram has become an important instrument for digital communication and tourism promotion. Therefore the city has begun a strong partnership with the local Instagrammer community: IgersGenova, and created a social media team, involving other important stakeholders in the city, in order to think of a common strategy of digital communication during events, or simply for the city’s promotion.

The social media team operates as an internal group inside the municipality, composed of members with various competences in new media: a structure underlining that this is not a job that can be done  without professional experience, but one that needs new skills, opportunities and professional profiles.

Today Genoa has to address a particularly difficult challenge to relaunch its positioning and image after the tragedy of the Morandi bridge collapse. This enormous problem can be tackled in different ways. One of these is a strong campaign of crisis Management on the web, and this is the path that the Municipality has decided to take: rebuilding the image and the story of the city passing through social media and digital campaigns, giving the message of a city that wants to start again.

Alba Iulia: Building a Brand

The theme of tourism promotion is also strongly linked with the capacity of a city to attract new investments and citizens; this is the case of Genoa, but also of Alba Iulia. The Romanian city developed a new city branding strategy to attract not only tourists but also investors and new inhabitants. These results have been achieved by improving the citizens’ involvement through the use of social media and the creation of a new open source platform which will be further developed. Within the platform, citizens and tourists can easily find  useful information with a direct contact to the Municipality. Alba Iulia also used blogs, social networks pages and important influencers to spread its visibility on the web, with very good results.

Decide Madrid

The possibilities of digital platforms are also a central issue for the cities of Lisbon, Murcia and Madrid. In fact, the experience of the platform Decide Madrid was one the external contributions provided to the Interactive Cities project. Decide Madrid is a platform of civic engagement where citizens have the opportunity to participate in the drafting and modification of regulations, affecting the life and development of the city. Stimulating the involvement of citizens, asking their opinion in public affairs was one the main goals in the Interactive Cities project for the cities of Lisbon and Murcia, which carried out a great effort in order to create a participatory process which allowed and strengthened connections among the City Hall, citizens and stakeholders.

The city of Lisbon created the Community Led Local Development (CLLD) Lisbon Network with the aim of implementing an innovative model of co-governance based on a bottom-up approach, with, as a main goal, the objective of increasing the engagement and resilience of the local population. For this reason, communication was at the core of all the work carried out during the project, with the idea of creating a platform implemented in a user-friendly way and totally open source. For these cities, social media are also essential instruments of civic participation and public debate.

Citizens for Santa Eulalia

Similarly, in Murcia, the urban regeneration pilot project developed in the neighbourhood of Santa Eulalia, was only possible thanks to the active involvement of citizens. In fact, the experience of Murcia underlines how important the opinions of citizens are: they are the actors with a direct relation with day-to-day problems, and finding a way to an open dialogue with them is fundamental, through digital means as well as by organising public meetings in the main neighbourhood squares.

But the real innovation in Murcia was the creation of an online process that allowed citizens to participate in the regeneration action. The web platform developed by the municipality enabled neighbours to express their proposals, ideas and opinions online, by selecting areas, and indicating the most pressing problems. For Murcia, social media was a way to help people signal their real needs for their neighbourhood, easily and swiftly.

The future: Digital Citizenship

The participation to IC has pushed cities to follow and rethink their use of social media. Using digital tools to promote themselves in a revolutionary way and sharing experiences among partners gave very good results, allowing them to work in synergy.

The main question now is “what lies ahead after the URBACT network Interactive Cities?” The IC partners cities of Genoa and Murcia, in close collaboration with other network partners and beyond have decided to create a Task Force called “Digital Citizenship” focusing on the digitalisation of European cities within the EUROCITIES working groups.  Building on the  results of the IC project in order not to waste the effort of these years is a good way to give a concrete follow-up to all the network’s experiences and to continue developing a novel debate. The Task Force is open to all cities interested in developing the use of social media and digital tools in their municipalities.

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