Testing a future Food Court by prototyping it in real-life: lessons from the experience of UIA TAST’in FIVES’ L’Avant-goût

Refugee Food Festival at L’Avant-goût ©Charles Mangin

Examples of temporary experimentations in cities worldwide have boomed in the last decade: whether they take the form of disruptive usage of public space for artistic purposes or to look at urban space differently, whether they become the trendiest spot to go out or do shopping, whether they incubate the city of tomorrow, whether they are led by citizens, private companies, universities, public authorities or all of these together, they all play a crucial role in today’s cities .

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Digital Transition in cities – how can it benefit citizens?

Digitalisation is omnipresent in today’s social and urban life and URBACT cities are seizing the opportunity.

Alison Partridge, Lead Expert of the TechRevolution transfer network, has been an advocate for cities to ‘adapt or die’ for many years: “cities of all sizes need to better understand the opportunities offered by digital and tech and jump on them to grow higher value jobs and start-ups for local people”. Indeed, at all levels of society and of governance, services and products are going digital: online availability, digital tools for access, compiling and using data to proceed to meta-analysis.

The transition to a society based on “virtual”, intangible, vectors, using computing techniques and algorithms – a digital transition – is on the up in European cities, meaning more intrusions in our daily lives.

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Vegetable boxes' scheme at Piegros-La-Clastre ©Eric Escande

Drome Valley: a single territory with complimentary stakeholders implementing food innovations

The territory of Drome Valley/Val de Drôme, from the Alpes to Rhone’s valley, close to Valence and Montélimart, covers 2 200 sq. m. for 54,000 inhabitants and has long been known as a nest for innovative ways of living. Since the 60s, together with an exponential arrival of neorurals in the last decades, it has seen the emergence of ecological communities such as at Les Amanins, as well as laboratories for new forms of citizens-led democracy, such as in Saillans. Its geography, climate, economy, history at the crossroads of migrations and host to the first French Water Development and Management Scheme (Schéma d’Aménagement et de Gestion des Eaux – SAGE) is not without influence in this process (the report of LPTransition on these questions is particularly enlightening). In particular, alternatives have been prominent in the food sector, and this under the responsibility and leaderships of different groups of stakeholders, some of which are presented here.

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Bringing (more) sustainability to cities: 5 golden rules

How are cities putting sustainable urban development into practice?


Here are 5 golden rules from URBACT’s City Lab.

The second URBACT City Lab took place in Brussels (BE) on 2nd and 3rd July 2019: “How are cities putting sustainable urban development into practice?” was the core question that drove us through general and specific considerations in the fields of Air Quality and Mobility, Energy Transition and Climate Adaptation and Sustainable Food Systems. When seeking to feed into the work of the updated Leipzig Charter, it appeared that on the one hand sustainability is still a complex paradigm to get into and embed for a city, but on the other, cities are leading the way in what can be done.

Here are 5 golden rules for cities to become sustainable.

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How cities can accompany consumer change practices

Who hasn’t tried to get rid of old habits, whether in relation to the way we eat, sleep, interact with each other, work, travel, or do sports? Who hasn’t ever faced the difficulty of moving away from anchored routines to newly adopted ones? Who has ever struggled to unravel the complexity of the psychological but also social, technological and infrastructure-related mechanisms that make it difficult to transition?

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Implementing social innovation at city level: learnings from Amsterdam, Gdansk and others

Getting to know Gdansk and its inhabitans and vice-versa. Source: Maciej Moskwa/TESTIGO.pl

Getting to know Gdansk and its inhabitans and vice-versa. Source: Maciej Moskwa/TESTIGO.pl

In these times of democratic crisis, Social Innovation as a baseline paradigm for city governance is more than even needed. Its power and potential for change is strong as reminds us the recent murder of the Mayor of Gdansk, Pawel Adamowicz.

The question which appears then relates to the ways we can concretely implement and operationalise social innovation: as a paradigm and as individual and collective projects. Continue reading

Plan your own temporary use journey!

Visiting the City of Temporary Use

Who can still remember vacant spaces and buildings, which someday were spaces free of rules, a ground for fertile experimentation, individual empowerment and creativity development? We could grow and empower ourselves as we can remember from the 50s’ film “Le chantier des gosses (link is external)”, where children were spending their leisure time in an yet-to-be-built abandoned lot in the very centre of the city of Brussels, and where the nephew of Tati’s “My Uncle” was eating doughnuts and whistling at pedestrians so that they would bump into a lamppost.

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(Self-)promotion supporting change in our cities: feedback from the URBACT Lisbon City Festival

2018-09-12 20.25.55The URBACT City Festival in Lisbon, Portugal, on 12-14 September 2018, was the third URBACT City Festival that had taken place and that I had attended. Back in 2015, the first City Festival in Riga promoted the launch for the new URBACT III Action Planning Networks and we facilitated a workshop on our capitalization work on Social Innovation in cities, together with François Jégou. The second City Festival, in 2017 in Tallinn, promoted the 97 labelled Good Practices and I facilitated two workshops including one citizens’ and stakeholders’ participation for environmental projects. This years’ festival was going back to the Riga one by celebrating the URBACT III APNs, where François Jégou and I diffused the outcomes of the REFILL network on Temporary Use.

URBACT is good at capitalising: at extracting what takes place in cities in order to make it visible to other but also at gratifying those making a positive change, and acting as drivers, at home and beyond, for a more sustainable society. My fanaticism for URBACT is not new. Continue reading

Self-promotion can support us in driving change in our cities: the Lisbon City Festival

2018-09-09 17.52.15The URBACT City Festival in Lisbon, Portugal, on 12-14 September 2018, is the third URBACT City Festival that has taken place and that I have attended. Back in 2015, the first City Festival in Riga promoted the launch for the new URBACT III Action Planning Networks and together with François Jégou, we facilitated a workshop on our capitalization work on Social Innovation in cities. The second City Festival, in 2017 in Tallinn, promoted the 97 labelled Good Practices and I facilitated two workshops including one citizens’ and stakeholders’ participation for environmental projects. This years’ festival is going back to the Riga one by celebrating the URBACT III APNs, where François Jégou and I will diffuse the outcomes of the REFILL network on Temporary Use.

URBACT is good at capitalising: at extracting what takes place in cities in order to make it visible to other but also at gratifying those making a positive change, and acting as drivers, at home and beyond, for a more sustainable society. My fanaticism for URBACT is not new. Each time URBACT surpasses itself and goes in unexpected directions. The first City festival was highly intense, diverse and rich, with a high focus on creativity. The second one was focusing on the experiences of the good practices – and their concrete work, networking, and learning from each other. This year, it is expected to be once again full of energy and key takeaways, while focusing on what we have achieved in the APN but also in the past 15 years of URBACT. How is going to feel like? Who are we going to meet and get inspired from? Who and what will surprise us? What will we take home? I must say, a few days before the opening cocktail, I am both excited and curious: what has URBACT imagined this time, in order to make change happen in our cities, throughout concrete actions, a network of like-minded practitioners and experts, serious and intense work, under the misleadingly relaxing name of “CITY FESTIVAL”?

This blogpost will be updated with key insights after the City Festival will have taken place.

Research and civil society: joining forces for addressing societal issues meaningfully

Interview with Lionel Larq , General Delegate of ALLISS , on 29 August 2018 in Paris, 9th .

I met Lionel Larqué in March 2018 when the Scientific Committee of the VILCO – a project which dealt with cooperation between public authorities and citizens in the context of a research and experimentation project funded by the Co-Create programme of Innoviris – which I contributed. His interventions prompted me to meet again to discuss his experience of collaboration between research and civil society and vice versa. Here are some notes of this discussion.

2018-08-29 20.45.18A trained oceanograph, Lionel Larqué has a PhD in physics and political science, and is an activist and actor of popular education since the 1980s. He was successively   : Federal Commissioner for Cultural affairs at the national Léo Lagrange Federation, Deputy Director of the French Association of Small Hustlers (2003 -2012), founder and leader of the Global Forum sciences and democracy (2007-2013), founder of the European Network YPSSI and coordinator  of “Youth, Science, Europe   During the French presidency of the European Union (2008), initiator and executive secretary of the Alliance Sciences Société ( since 2012), co-director of the book “Science, it looks us” (2013). Continue reading

How can cities set-up an adequate governance model for all stakeholders to jointly implement their local policies?

The case of Integrated Actions Plans of the URBACT MAPs network, output from the Transnational Meeting of 12-13 December 2017 in Szombathely, Hungary.

WHERE DID WE START FROM?

The cities of the MAPs network who took part in the meeting in Szombathely were quite stressed about the design of the governance model to ensure an adequate implementation of their Integrated Action Plans (IAP)[1]. How can we ensure that everybody will take part in it? How can we ensure that responsibilities are well allocated? The City administration should let go! (vs. the City administration should be in strong control of the process) We are engaging the ULG members but they do not want to co-create, merely to react on proposals! We want to be sure that our governance model is relevant and effective! Continue reading

Ouvrir la recherche académique à d’autres pratiques méthodologiques

P1060490Le projet VILCO s’intéresse aux manières d’améliorer la collaboration entre pouvoirs locaux et collectifs citoyens pour augmenter la résilience des dynamiques locales en faveur de l’environnement. Il est financé pendant trois ans par l’Institut Bruxellois pour la Recherche et l’Innovation, Innoviris[1], dans le cadre de l’action « Co-create » qui depuis 2015 finance des projets  de  recherche appliquée  ou de développement expérimental. L’objectif de « Co-create » est de « soutenir l’innovation via des processus de co-création » (Innoviris 2014)(p.2). Au fur et à mesure des années, Innoviris a changé son approche sur l’apport de la recherche académique dans les projets. En 2015,  l’accent était porté sur le concept de « co-création » et la recherche associée aux modalités des Livings Labs : « Cela signifie que la plateforme expérimentale ne doit pas uniquement être un espace/terrain pour réaliser l’étude mais bien un espace de recherche participative en co-création. » (Innoviris 2014)(p.8). En 2016, il inscrivait la recherche participative dans la dimension de « Recherche et Innovation Responsable (RRI) » (Innoviris 2015) (p. 3). En 2017, il se référait à la « Recherche Action Participative » (RAP) (Innoviris 2016) (p.3).

Bien que les premiers projets, Co-create 2015, aient tous été portés par des centres de recherche (académique ou non), des projets du Co-create 2016, dont le projet VILCO, sont portés par des acteurs de terrain. Continue reading

“Social innovation is a systemic change in the way we do things

… yet, we need to go beyond labelling: the wider the definition of social innovation the wider we can experiment”, stated by Fabio Sgaragli during the BoostInno network’s Summit in Paris on the 6-7-8 November 2017. Three days of intense visits and work showed a wide range of concrete projects of what social innovation is and can be. Fair enough, the network started by going through dozens of definitions before identifying that the concrete projects are more than a definition. As Piotr Wolkowinski, Lead Expert of the project, stated “what is important is the story telling. But the story needs to be interesting”. And indeed, over these three days, we went through very varied socially innovative projects from Paris and other cities of the network rich in learning and exemplification.

La Louve

La Louve FoodCoop in Paris

“Classical economy does not bring us the answers to what we need” (Antoinette Guhl, Deputy Mayor of Paris). Such answers are found in responsible consumption (La Louve food cooperative) or reduction of food waste Continue reading

How do URBACT Good Practices strive towards more sustainability together with citizens and other stakeholders?

Striving towards sustainability together

The occurrences and types of events and catastrophes related to climate change (environmental , biodiversity, human, social or societal concerns) have been constantly increasing for more than a century and especially in the last decades. Although these are mostly observed at meta level, it is a local level that both public authorities and citizens should act to implement and undertake concrete actions for a wide societal change. Some URBACT Good Practices understood it quite well and are developing not only sustainable strategies that are local and concrete, but also participatory ones: this is what Manchester (UK), Santiago de Compostela (ES), Milan (IT) and Tallinn (EE) addressed during the “Together for sustainability panel” of the URBACT City Festival held in Tallinn, Estonia on 5 October 2017.

The incremental integration of citizens in sustainable policies

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Being a citizen professional or a professional citizen?

Two years ago, I launched a citizen initiative in a park close to where I live. My motivations were to act as a responsible and engaged citizen – as I had been working on this field for quite some time – and to experiment moving from a passive attitude to an active one: the park seemed to be abandoned from the City Council, it looked really dodgy and I became scared of going there to throw away my compost. After having read the book on the Incredible edible, I thought to myself that I could maybe become an actor of change. That was the beginning of a personal transformation, learning about what makes citizen activism possible and pushing city administrations to evolve. Continue reading

Que pensent les acteurs publics et les initiative citoyennes des moyens d’améliorer leur collaboration ?

La collaboration entre autorités publiques et initiatives citoyennes ne fonctionne pas bien. Pourtant, elle peut s’améliorer. D’entrée de jeu, le ton de l’atelier « gouvernance » organisé par l’équipe du projet VILCO dans cadre des Rencontres des initiatives citoyennes durables à Bruxelles du 13 mai 2017 au BEL est donné.

Pensez-vous que cette collaboration puisse s’améliorer?

Pensez-vous que cette collaboration puisse s’améliorer?

Pensez-vous que la collaboration entre acteurs publics et initiatives citoyennes fonctionne bien?

Pensez-vous que la collaboration entre acteurs publics et initiatives citoyennes fonctionne bien?

C’est à travers des dynamiques locales que les autorités publiques, régionales et communales, et les initiatives citoyennes établissent des modalités de coopération qui cherchent à augmenter la résilience de la ville. Malgré le score sévère du premier baromètre, les participants présents ont d’abord présenté de nombreux exemples de modalités de collaboration qui fonctionnent. Continue reading

Exploring the conditions for shared urban spaces with high human value


This was the topic of the first Forum Camping organised by Yes We Camp , as a deep immersion at les Grands Voisins in Paris from 14th to 15th June 2017, day and night. Project holders, makers, artists, researchers, experts, public institutions from all around France and beyond exchanged on what makes a space move from being “public” to being “common”.

How come some spaces bring about a sense of legitimacy, welcoming feeling and invitation? Which systems can combining freedom and trust, to provide space where we are allowed to test, expand and open ourselves to others? What are the ingredients enabling to learn from one another and reduce the boundaries between social groups? These were some of the questions that guided our exchanges during those two days Continue reading

How can city administrations better cooperate with citizens?: A case for in-house intermediaries*

European, regional and local public administrations are increasingly facing budget cuts. Yet, these concern mostly their internal budgets and affect in particular their human resources: the pool of employees decreases whereas the amount of work remains the same or increases. This is particularly the case with the rise of citizens’ initiatives, transition processes and movements, and new (co-creation and participatory) governance methods, be they top-down – inscribed in strategies – or bottom-up – led by spontaneous grassroots movements. At the same time, the financial package available for contracting increases: it is not so much for questions of legitimacy or transparency that authorities contract more and more some tasks of public service delivery. Rather, it is due to the fact that certain tasks cannot be carried out internally: either because of a lack of internal capacity or the fact that these (new) tasks are not inscribed (yet) in new strategies and cannot be managed by someone from the administration. What are some of the consequences of contracting service providers for such projects? Continue reading

What can cities learn from the participatory democracy experience of Saillans?

In 2014, a group of citizens of Saillans – 1 200 inhabitants in Drôme, France – concerned about acting directly for their city, and in the light of increased well-being, presented themselves, apolitically, for the mayorship of the city. They won the elections and paved the way for a new type of city governance. They particularly sought to address two main caveats in the traditional way city councils and city governance in general work: on the one hand the Mayor and the deputy mayors’ appropriation of all the city power;  on the other, the low participants of inhabitants,  merely asked to express themselves through elections once every 6 years.

The city governance focuses on three main pillars: Continue reading

Les membres des paniers bio sont-ils tous des « bobos » ?

Panier bio de la productrice Cécile Anciant-Grigoryev, Piegros la Clastte, France ©Marcelline Bonneau

Panier bio de la productrice Cécile Anciant-Grigoryev, Piegros la Clastte, France ©Marcelline Bonneau

En réponse aux pressions économiques, sociales et environnementales du système alimentaire actuel, de nouvelles formes d’achat en vente directe de produits alimentaires auprès du producteur émergent depuis les 15 dernières années. Ces systèmes en circuit court proposent un rapprochement de la consommation alimentaire vers la production, tout recréant un lien personnel, direct et de confiance, entre le consommateur et le producteur (Herault-Fournier, Merle, Prigent-Simonin 2012).  Ces alternatives prônent une production plus respectueuse de l’environnement, du producteur, dans un souci de développement de l’économie locale, et d’un rapport à taille humaine (Maréchal 2008). Elles proposent de diversifier les points de vente et d’achats de produits alimentaires, et par là-même les choix de produits. Les paniers bio sont un de ces systèmes qui permet à des clients de bénéficier de produits, bio et de saison,  provenant directement d’un producteur, de proximité, ou avec un minimum d’intermédiaires. L’origine des produits y est clairement identifiée et transparente et différentes formules d’abonnement et de choix de paniers sont disponibles (Bioguide 2013).

Les membres des paniers bio sont des « bobos ».  Continue reading

Goodwill as a vector of social innovations

tod-cover-for-web-pagesPam Warhurst and Joanna Dobson’s book on the Incredible Edible was my holiday book last summer. The wealth and details accounting for stages, encountered difficulties and envisaged solutions soon appeared to be a crucial case to analyse and try and understand the dynamics behind citizens’ movements which seek to improve the world.

Throughout the world, the Incredible Edible movement  represents groups of citizens planting in towns and in walking areas, giving free access to herbs and plants to all. These are sometimes rich and beautiful gardens, inviting walker to help themselves, sometimes they seems abandoned. Some people complain about the fact that planting next to the road or in wheels is unpretty and worst for health than products from (conventional) agriculture.  All in all, it launches debate and acts for (re) action. Continue reading

It’s always cold and snowy in Central and Eastern Europe…

KRK snow_2

Rynek in Cracow, Poland © Marcelline Bonneau

Just look at some TV news on any Central or Eastern European-related event broadcasted in Western Europe during the summer (whether it relates to financial issues, to market or stock of a given product, to youth or elderly people…) : you will always see people in padded coats, wearing fur hats and clapping their hands (carefully wrapped in thick woolen gloves), breathing white frozen air … As if these images extracted from the news’ stock were reflecting the piping hot and sunny reality of these countries in summer….

What about social innovation developments in those countries? Can we actually observe that there are indeed some striking differences between East and West or do we have more similarities than differences? Aren’t we biased by what already seems a long distance, and related gap, between the different parts of Europe? Continue reading

Upscaling social innovation or the process of maintaining grassroots initiatives

spiral-of-innovation1

The Spiral of Innovation ©R. Murray, J. Caulier-Grice, and G. Mulgan.

“Upscaling social innovation” is the main concern of all those dealing with the need to operate a transition towards a more sustainable society. How do we ensure that social innovations are maintained and do not fade in time? How can they be supported in their expansion? Should they grow? Should they be replicated? How can new initiatives emerge while learning from the others, but without reinventing the wheel? Continue reading

What is your “Sustainable city”? (at SPF Justice)

I recently led a workshop on “Sustainable city” at SPF Justice (the Federal Ministry of Justice in Belgium) as part of its “Day of Sustainable Development”. This workshop was a mixture of a lecture on the concepts and concrete examples relate to “sustainable city”; interaction and discussion; as well as a role game on “what sustainable city are you”.

The participants came up with their own understanding of this concept, and “sustainable city” to them in particular meant:

SustCity_1 Continue reading

Social innovation is also a ‘process’ worth researching

On the 8 July, we were at the out centered French Business School ESSEC talking about Social innovation and civic engagement. More precisely, the aim of the Mid-Term Conference of the FP7-funded project ITSSOIN , which we attended, was to present intermediary results on the way it was seeking to investigating the impact of the Third Sector and civic engagement on society (going beyond their economic benefits or the natural virtue of caring for others).

ITSSOIN_WP-Sustainable-cities_V21 Continue reading

Cities using their purchasing power to facilitate social innovation

Gdańsk 2030 Plus Strategy© Żaneta Kucharska and Jacek Zabłotny, UMG

Some cities are developing new approaches to ensure that resources are available to experiment with new solutions to their problems. They are using their buying power to orientate, speed up, amplify and sometimes systematise the development of these social innovations. The experiments show that social innovation is not only for wealthy communities, which can free up the necessary time, financial resources, human resources and interest, but is accessible to all cities that want to take risks and experiment.

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