URBACT Annual Conference: Providing Urban Practitioners with New Tools and Ideas to Improve Policy

Segolene Pruvot

By Segolene Pruvot, on November 16th, 2012

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The URBACT Annual Conference is coming up very soon! We are all excited about being there, to learn more about URBACT projects results and have the opportunity to exchange with other European urban practitioners.
But the Annual Conference is not just as any other conference!
First, it is thought to be as interactive as possible, through workshops, URBACT Café, the conference web portal and the use of social media.
Second, it has been prepared all year long together with experts to extract the best from URBACT outputs and build on it to create knowledge, which could be used all around Europe. This is what we call the capitalisation process.

I have interviewed Melody Houk, Capitalisation Manager at URBACT, who tells us more about capitalisation at URBACT and how it will feed in the Annual Conference. So even before attending the Annual Conference you will also have all the backstage information!

What do you – as capitalisation manager at URBACT – expect from the Annual Conference?

We target most of all policy-makers in charge of designing and delivering policies for people living in our European cities. This conference is designed to provide them with the opportunity to discuss innovative policy approaches, to discover experiences and practices they had not heard of before. I expect participants leave the conference with new tools and ideas to improve their policies back home.

What are the concept and the methodology behind the Annual Conference?

The URBACT Annual Conference is conceived not only as a communication and dissemination event, where the URBACT networks and the programme can present and share their results but also as a capitalisation event, that is a moment where urban practitioners, policy-makers and experts come together to work on policy challenges and co-create new solutions for cities.

Beyond a series of plenary sessions that will involve the audience, participants will have the opportunity to take part to workshops aiming not only to share results and practices, but also to build new practical knowledge.

For each of the 6 thematic workshops, capitalisation work has been developed all through the year, with groups of experts, both “thinkers” and “doers”, from URBACT and other key programmes or institutions working on the topics (e.g. projects from other European Territorial Cooperation programmes such as ESPON and INTERREG IVc, OECD-Local Economic and Employment Development, CIVITAS, etc.). These groups have been collecting knowledge and evidence on what cities can do to address the main challenges they have to face today, in terms of dealing with unemployment, inclusion of young people in urban communities, reducing their carbon footprint, etc… And especially about what cities can do in the current context which is, for most European cities, rather extreme regarding the resources available and leeway for action.

The workshops during the Annual Conference have been designed as a component of this wider capitalisation process and should allow to share and test first results of the URBACT capitalisation work on one hand, but also contribute to adding new thinking, new ideas and new evidence from stakeholders in cities, regions, national authorities and EU institutions.

Twenty URBACT projects have already closed. How can one expect to learn from their results at URBACT Annual Conference?

We build on the evidence and results coming from all our networks of cities to consolidate and disseminate practical knowledge to the wider community of European cities. Thus during this conference, we will not only work with the results of these 19 networks that finished last year, but also with those of the 9 networks that are currently coming to an end, and even with the last round of 19 networks that have recently been approved. It is an on-going process. All this material will be used during the conference. All projects will be represented by cities having been involved in URBACT. They will be active players of all workshops. Participants will thus get first-hand experience, and the contribution of experts in the different fields of urban policies to transform this experience in practical knowledge. This is the way we work in the URBACT programme to capitalise and disseminate.

Will the Annual Conference be participative and if yes, when and how?

Yes! Before, during and after! So I invite participants to come and join now, as virtual discussions are starting to take place on the conference website on the different policy challenges that will be the focus of the workshops. I hope that these exchanges will continue after the conference as well, as these challenges are complex: as complex as the solutions to be designed and implemented afterwards. URBACT will make sure to offer cities the platform to interact on these in the long term, and not only in Copenhagen for these 2 days!

What will be, according to you, the most exciting part of the conference?

We want the whole conference to be an exciting learning experience, even the plenaries! This is rather challenging sometimes.
Participants will have the opportunity to interact with speakers in the different plenaries. We bring in high level European Union Institutions’ representatives, so as to provide participants with first-hand information on the European framework and instruments for the future period. We have called in urban experts from all parts of the world, to open up policy-makers’ perspectives on urban challenges and practices, as we should not forget that the most rapid and radical urbanisation processes are happening outside Europe.
While workshops will allow participants to work on specific urban challenges and responses cities can develop, the ‘red-line’ (fil-rouge) of the whole conference will aim to bring all these sectoral challenges and responses together for better integrated policies. The URBACT cafe will bring participants together to discuss in an informal way, in their respective languages, about how the URBACT programme can better support cities in addressing the challenges they face today. So impossible to say which part will be the most exciting… and I did not touch upon the ice-breaking dinner!

Thanks Melody!

Ségolène Pruvot

Follow URBACT Conference on twitter: #URBACT2012

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