Incubating New Ideas in Krakow


By URBACT, on September 27th, 2011

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“But I’m desperate…how can you help me?”

“Don’t worry; we have all sorts of options to help you. For example you could go to our incubator unit”

“No, please don’t send me to Cuba!!”

This humorous exchange – between “Dmitri” a young Russian job seeker and a local support worker – was part of a mini-drama prepared during the Dragon’s Den session at the URBACT Summer University. Over the previous two days, delegates had been working on the problems faced by a fictional city called Terga. In the Dragon’s Den four teams competed to convince their peers that theirs was the best action plan for improving the situation for young people. Everyone had a vote and in the end the winners were a team called “Cops can dance”.

I was lucky enough to be working as the Lab Manager with this talented and inspirational group of people.  It was a first for me – in fact a first for everyone as the Summer University was an original concept – and I have to say that I arrived in Krakow not quite knowing what to expect. But over the three days I was blown away by the enthusiasm, commitment and calibre of the delegates. The Dragon’s Den was the culmination of an intense, exhausting process yet everyone rose to the occasion – producing robust, well-considered proposals in response to a fictional brief from the city mayor. Yet, as the “Dmitri” exert shows, they managed to do it in a playful way.

During our time in Krakow this was one of the key lessons for me. We work in difficult times – often in tough situations – and to succeed we need to believe that we can make a difference. We also need optimism, energy, and, at times, a sense of humour. There is more than one way to convey a message – and we can be playful and effective at the same time. So, working with groups – including our city stakeholders – we should take risks, be creative and try new things. At times like this there may be a temptation to stick to what we know – but I think the message from Krakow is the opposite. We need to challenge ourselves and those around us. URBACT can play an important catalytic role in encouraging this through the Local Support Groups.

I would hope that participants at the summer university will have come away with this message too and with increased confidence to experiment and innovate. I also hope that we see some direct results coming from this pilot event. It has been an effective networking platform which should help create momentum behind new proposals under the forthcoming URBACT 3rd call. It should also help build capacity through exposure to peers’ experience as well as through raising awareness of the resources available through the programme to support cities. The experience inspired me and I’d like to think that it has had a similar effect on the wider URBACT community. Let’s think big and be bold in the way we approach our work – and try to maintain that summer energy through autumn and beyond!

Eddy Adams

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