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The 9th of May is Europe’s Day. It celebrates the famous historical declaration on the 9th of May 1950 by Robert Schuman, French Foreign Minister at the time, in which he proposed the creation of a European Coal and Steel Community. In this discourse, he foreseaw a larger Union: “It may be the leaven from which may grow a wider and deeper community between countries long opposed to one another by sanguinary divisions.”
Today the celebrations take various forms and cities have been planning activities to bring Europe to the fore for one day and stimulate encounters of their inhabitants with the European Ideals, Cultures, actors and institutions.
The city where I live, Paris, invests every year in a two days celebration on the Paris Town Hall inviting passers-by to ‘Make Europe’ (Faites l’Europe).
Musicians and theatre actors invest an open air stage and two big tents offer the opportunity to meet up either with the European Institutions, to learn a bit about the countries holding the next presidencies of the European Council (and taste some delicacies such as this year the famous Portuguese pastry “pasteis de nata”)
This raised my interest… and I wondered what other European cities had planned and more specifically what URBACT cities had planned.
How can conflicts in public space be turned into opportunities for change and urban renewal? This question was at the heart of the debate at the Kick Off meeting of the URBACT USER project . Several inspiring cases were presented by the host city Copenhagen and a placemaking expert from London.
‘Welcome In My Back Yard’ in Copenhagen
The seminar was hosted by Sundholm District Urban Renewal Team in Copenhagen who led the group on a study visit of their neighbourhood.
Historically the area was a labour camp for undesirables, set up in 1908 as a place for the city of Copenhagen to send its destitutes, vagrants and beggars to live on a self-sufficient farm. This was the city planning solution for marginalised groups in the start of the 20th century.
Over the years the area in Amager West has become more integrated with the city. A social housing estate was built along with schools, public transport connections and cycle tracks .
In 2004 an Improvement Plan was created with the message of WIMBY- ‘Welcome in My Back Yard’ (as opposed to the better known NIMBY ‘Not in My Back Yard’).
The idea is to better connect Sundholm to the rest of the city, to encourage more Copenhagen residents to live in or visit the area. Sundholm’s history was to lock the problems in, away from the city. Now it is trying to make bridges and open windows between these worlds.Building on its farming history and Copenhagen’s culture of urban gardening a new field has been created with raised boxes inviting all locals to come and plant flowers and food and tend animals
One of the innovations is a bee keeping enterprise involving local schoolchildren and homeless people. As local government representative Andre Just Vedgren commented: “Take alcoholics, take bees, take children. What could possibly go wrong? But nothing went wrong, because somebody dared to try it.”
The first session of the URBACT pilot training scheme for elected representatives is now behind us. This training is a beautiful and ambitious project and I thought I would be nice to exchange first reactions with you on it!
Mayors, Deputy mayors and councillors from cities that are currently running an URBACT project have been invited to apply for a training scheme on integrated urban development organised around three seminars. URBACT received about 70 applications and the best candidates were selected. Specific attention has been made to creating a nice and very diverse group, in which each participant brings a specific experience!
Learning methods and tools to develop integrated and sustainable urban policies
Each of the elected representatives made time in his or her busy agendas to come to Brussels, but what did they do?
The seminars mix theoretical presentations, practical exercises around tools one can use to do collaborative integrated urban planning and peer reviews. The session is prolonged by a site visit of regeneration projects. A few keywords can sum up the approach of the training: exchange concept, theories and inspiring cases, gain new skills, in particular tools method for urban management, network through exchange and peer reviews and get inspired through site visits!
This first session was certainly not a restful time for the participants! The programme was full from morning to evening and everyone had to be very active all along!
Nice ice-breaking activities helped the participants to know each other. For instance, everyone had to draw one’s own ‘coat of arms’ to present one’s work, family situation, hobbies and involvement in URBACT.
But one also learns from participative activities. The practical exercise around the use of the problem tree was very informative. It is a role game in which different stakeholders identify the roots of a specific problem (in this case a high level of unemployment in a deprived neighbourhood) and they collaboratively draw a tree: A good way of fostering collaboration, which also triggers debates and discussions during the exercise.
Thanks to the translation in 6 languages, everyone was able to participate in a language they felt confident in! It always makes my day when I see that people are ready to bare a small level of difficulty to work together and learn from each other, despite language and cultural differences or even diverging political views.
The next seminars are in September and December 2013. The first one will be on the participative approach and the involvement of stakeholders, the second about sustainability and change.
There is much more to say about this past session and the ones coming. We will continue to post more on this project in the coming days and weeks so keep an eye on URBACT website and blog!
If you are on twitter do follow @URBACT to get all the updates and you can find some of the participants there too and we’ve been using #urbelect for the discussion!
We had already written here on what we could expect URBACT to bring at the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) LEED (Local Economic and Employment Development) conference on jobs and growth, which took place in Ireland on the 26th and 27th of March 2013.
Here is a report by Mike Campbell, URBACT thematic expert on the workshop on how employment and training agencies can help put in place more and better jobs.
Dublin and Kilkenny were the excellent locations for this near global event for almost 200 people, policy folk and practitioners, on how to implement change at the local level in order to secure jobs and growth. A wide ranging (some might say disparate) forum of ideas, practices and innovations, the 9th in this important annual series organised by the OECD’s LEED programme.
I was one of the speakers in the workshop on how local employment and training agencies can secure a more joined up approach to jobs and growth. An ideal opportunity then for me to explain something about the Urbact Capitalisation programme in general, and the ‘more jobs better cities’ theme in particular, which focuses on just this issue. Melody Houk from Urbact was also in the workshop, along with the LEED programme Director Sylvain Giguere. Other presenters were an economist from Northern Ireland, a policy analyst from the USA and an employment services manager from Australia. Around 30 people were there, with those contributing to the discussion coming from, inter alia, Italy, France, Ireland, Australia and Russia.
Most of the contributions focused in reality, not so much on creating jobs and encouraging growth than on how to bring the unemployed more successfully into work: vitally important, but on it’s own wholly insufficient to the task of economic recovery and creating more jobs for the unemployed to actually fill!
A strong theme was the importance of ‘metrics’: to measure performance, what has been achieved, and ultimately, success. If these can also be made ‘common’ across the multiple agencies involved ,or at least, be agreed for the locality as a whole, then this ‘mutual accountability’ would be a powerful incentive to, and mechanism for, more coherent and better aligned actions by different stakeholders. To achieve this, however, means securing that agreement, creating ownership of it and embedding these within a coherent strategy: a much more difficult task. Some were of the view that this is all better achieved in a competitive environment, where agencies are held to account for their performance and where outcome based payment by results drives improved outcomes( eg in Australia), a different view from that in some European countries.
Other ways of encouraging a more joined up approach that were touché upon, included public funding used as a fiscal incentive; understanding ‘what works’ and encouraging it’s adoption eg through networks; and thinking about governance structures too. Melody reminded us of the importance of ‘external’ drivers in kick starting action where/when it was stalled, using an outsider to encourage dialogue and early collaboration, which can then be built upon internally. Other issues to arise included: the importance of ‘skill matching’, in both meeting employers’ needs and those of individuals; the impact of migration on jobs and who gets them; and how labour policy more generally needs to connect to economic development policy.
How can cities boost their economies and improve the health of their population? By investing in innovation and the knowledge economy in the health field!
Investigating this area is of the main objectives of the 4D Cities URBACT project, which first transnational meeting took place in Igualada (Spain) on the 18th and 19 th of March.
URBACT Local Support Group (ULSG) is paying off handsomely for Torino. Thanks to active ULSG measures, the Chamber of Commerce of Torino has announced it will fund a 100,000 € investment to create a web platform that will promote local markets and test innovative new market services.
Engaging the different stakeholders involved in URBACT projects, whatever their nature, is a key success factor to successful implementation and buy-in from interested parties. That’s one of the guiding principles in the URBACT way.
Torino, one of the partners in the URBACT Markets Project which aims to harness the power of markets to regenerate city centres, create employment and leverage local supply chains, is obviously perfecting the art of inclusion to its maximum with a process they call the Torino Method.
The Torino Method
Firstly, URBACT project leaders identify the people and organizations with an interest in the issue at hand, those that have a role in markets, or people with ideas for the particular aspect of market management at issue. The result is a stakeholder meeting for between 5 and 8 people, with 2 to 3 of these usually facilitators.
Stakeholders range from the Chamber of Commerce, shoppers, local administration’s service providers, residents, regional commerce representatives and market traders, amongst others.
The stakeholder meeting follows a set process: facilitators use a flipchart to note down concrete ideas as they develop throughout the meeting, with the first point at hand giving an overview of the particular topic being discussed as it was in the past. The stakeholders move on to talk about the present, paying special attention to highlight the strengths and weaknesses of the current state of the situation and how important these might be. Again, these are all documented on a flip chart as they crop up. The next step is usually the most creative as stakeholders brainstorm the future of the issue, generating ideas that could help improve the situation.
Above all, the process aims for simplicity and buy-in on central issues. These are summed up in a short document highlighting the date and time of the meeting, the participants, an analysis of the current situation with strengths and weaknesses, and ideas for the future. These minutes are being collected by Torino’s URBACT External Expert and they will be presented at a plenary meetings stakeholders during the course of the URBACT Project, with the participation of politicians responsible for commerce, trade and markets and also members of the press.
URBACT Markets Communication Officer
The URBACT OPtion for ACTion (OP-ACT) project focussed on the strategic positionning of small and medium size cities. For three years 10 cities from Germany, the Netherlands, Hungary, Romania, Spain, Latvia, Norway, Austria and Italy worked together.
Here is a short word by Mr. Hanns-uve Schwedler, OP-ACT Lead expert, published in the project Newsletter, we thought it’d be nice to share it with you.
We already wrote a few times on the issue of shrinking cities ( in particular on Polish Cities and on Romanian Cities). OP-ACT project results propose some solutions this daunting challenge. The necessity to develop a cross-sector approach stands out as one of the keys for success!
The URBACT CASH ( Cities Action for Sustainable Housing) project was focussing on sustainable renovation of social and affordable housing. During the course of the project one of the main elements of success for any regeneration scheme identified was the involvement of citizens, as well as the involvement of the larger region.