What is Coming in 2014 for URBACT

Open days 2013 exhibition


By URBACT, on January 29th, 2014

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As a new year started, the editors of this blog paid a visit to Emmanuel Moulin, Head of URBACT Secretariat. Aside from enjoying the view of Paris skyline the secretariat office in Saint Denis offers, we also came back with a very timely blog post – as it turned out, there will be a lot happening in 2014 at URBACT – and here is why: those of you familiar with URBACT will know it comes with a somewhat cyclic approach to time. URBACT II, the second era of the URBACT program started in 2007. It has since then included 3 calls for projects, each of them running for two or three years. And, well, URBACT II will be closing in 2015, while URBACT III will be launched in January 2015. As you imagine, a lot of this year’s activities are thought as a transition with the next program. Let us introduce here a few of them.

Capitalisation: Consolidating Practical Knowledge Emerging from URBACT II Projects

Capitalisation is a core activity for URBACT, but with the end of URBACT II approaching, it has to be given additional energy and attention.

URBACT Workstreams, constituted by the capitalisation team and thematic experts, aim at consolidating practical knowledge emerging from URBACT projects with external knowledge on integrated urban development. Their results are presented in publications designed to reach out and offer support to cities which are not part of URBACT projects. The last publication ‘Cities of Tomorrow, Action today” was a response to the challenges identified in the ‘Cities of Tomorrow’ Report.

In 2014, new workstreams will be constituted around the following topics:

  • New Urban Economies
  • More Jobs for Young people
  • Social Innovation
  • Sustainable Regeneration of Urban Areas
  • Sharing/Circular Economies

To get live insight in these workstreams and their contents, there are three dates to save: the Open Days conference in October 2014, as well as (for those making long term plans) the URBACT III launch in January 2015, and last but not least, the last URBACT II Closing conference in June 2015.

Communication: A Strenghtened Editorial Work

URBACT communication tools and strategy serve core URBACT goals. They amplify voices coming out of the projects and  spread out publications, which can be used by urban actors in their daily practice. To strengthen its reach, a wide editorial committee composed by members of the URBACT Secretariat and experts will hence be involved on what is another major focus point for the URBACT this year: a refreshed URBACT digital world – stay tuned!

Contributing to the European Urban Agenda

So far, only a few European countries have an integrated national approach to urban issues. Too often URBACT cities report having to ‘disintegrate’ their once integrated Local Action Plan because its implementation requires the involvement of several national administrations or ministries. It becomes a real challenge if several ministries have to approve  funds for one single project. The work led by the European Commission towards an European Urban Agenda seeks to encourage national states to address urban development in a more holistic way, a step forward URBACT cities and projects would definitely benefit from, and this is the main reason for URBACT’s involvement in the process of building an European Urban Agenda. URBACT will make contributions on two topics this year: Urban Poverty is deemed to be addressed in the first semester of 2014 during a conference in Greece. In the second semester, France – one state which does have that holistic approach known locally as “Politique de la Ville”- will be leading reflections on Deprived Neighbourhoods.

Projects: Pilots Leading the Way

But first things first, and back to January 2014! Just as we are writing, the Kick-Off Meetings of nine Pilot Projects, which will run for 18 months until March 2015, are taking place in Paris. These shorter Pilots Projects are designed to innovate on the URBACT methodology and thus to prepare for URBACT III. Three of these are former URBACT projects: this additional pilot phase will allow partner cities to approach implementations of their Local Action Plans with the support of their network partners and lead experts. The other six projects bring about a new geometry of cooperation between partners cities, with one city bringing in a good practice which other cities seek to implement. With over 120 people in the room, excitement is tangible around the Kick-Off meeting, and not only on the project partner’s side: this is the first time project Kick-Off meetings are held centrally with entire teams from partner cities and projects travelling to meet not only each other, but also the URBACT team as a whole and, what is more, other partners working on parallel projects. This Kick-Off offers them a wider understanding of URBACT than was granted to most individuals involved in projects so far. It is an innovation, which the URBACT team seems particularly happy about, as it reflects well their commitment to share practical knowledge on integrated urban development as widely as possible.

Of course, parallel to the pilot projects, URBACT projects selected during the 3rd call for projects are still running and will be completed this year. The first Call for URBACT III Project is due to come out in february 2015. As Emmanuel Moulin underlined, URBACT is keen to remain a practical and project-centered program.

Thanks to Emmanuel Moulin for giving us a detailed outlook of URBACT activities in 2014!






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