Discover how URBACT cities are using sustainable food and urban agriculture to address an array of local challenges.
In this article, URBACT Programme Expert Marcelline Bonneau shines a light on several URBACT partner cities making the transition towards more sustainable local food ecosystems – and some of the practices they have developed in the process. She concludes with a reminder of the importance of integrated food policies at city level.
A multitude of local food solutions in URBACT cities
The UIATAST’in FIVES project, taking place in the Fives
neighbourhood of Lille, France, has aimed at using the concept of food (from
growing, picking up, preparing, cooking, and eating) to propose a systemic model to fight against urban poverty, including
social and economic inclusion, health, education, and empowerment.
Indeed, with a population of 20,000 inhabitants, 50% below 30 and 22%
unemployed, 45% of the households of Fives live below the poverty threshold.
More than 1,000 families receive food parcels from the Secours Populaire
Français. The area suffers from poverty, with under and malnutrition, as well
related health issues (obesity, cholesterol, diabetes….).
FIVES has not sought to address those directly and to carry out a top-down
health-focused project convening moralising tips for everyday life: it has
intended to provide a convivial place and useful activities where each
participant could find a direct benefit from herself or himself. While
indirectly addressing poverty issues, it sought to have a wider impact on
residents’ lives, using food-related activities to create commensality, share
moments, empower, enable socialisation, develop skills, and support access to
the job market.
A realm of stakeholders and activities seeking to reduce urban poverty
has been prototyped during 3 years, before the final building and activities
will be launched in Spring 2020.
Its temporary location, l’Avant-goût, has hosted seven main types of
· In an urban greenhouse: urban farming. Activities around
growing, recognising and picking up vegetables;
· In a shared kitchen called
“the Common Kitchen”: cooking workshops,
food events, video-making, food
distribution, job search and entrepreneurship.
Each of them was organised by a variety of stakeholders (often jointly), who mobilised their own target groups as presented in the table below and as referred to throughout this article (this table presents the main organisers of activities bearing in mind that many other organisations have used the placed as well, to a lesser extent) .
Evaluating the impact of the
activities on the reduction of urban poverty is a difficult task. For example,
officially, the objectives of the Common Kitchen
were to “facilitate the relations between the inhabitants, and between the
population and the social services; making the kitchen a collective tool to
break the isolation of a population in precariousness situations; fighting
against prejudices and stereotypes; and mixing the local community with the
best of food-professionals and economic stakeholders”. The
use of indicators will enable addressing some of the effects of this work in qualitative and quantitative terms, yet,
without a total certainty of direct
impact in this uncontrolled environment. In addition, declaring that such a
project had a striking impact on local urban poverty in such a short period of
time, with a perfectly designed methodology, would be presumptuous. Beyond a
mere patronising account of the impacts of the project, we will therefore here
seek to sketch some influence the food-related activities seem to have had on
its beneficiaries and its organisers in reducing urban poverty.
Food activities as gathering and benefiting
those in need
activities we focus on here took place in the temporary location of l’Avant-goût
(a 1800 m² brownfield outdoor area with a temporary bungalow hosting the Common
Kitchen, and an “urban greenhouse” made of a container, a greenhouse, and raised
beds). L’Avant-goût was indeed designed as a physical space for gathering
residents and NGOs for collective use, where residents would be welcome to come
and join activities for free. As part of the wider urban regeneration project,
they were also invited to become actors of their neighbourhood and of the
future design of the project. Some residents for example took part in
co-creation workshops on the future building.
As a physical space, l’Avant-goût has
therefore distilled some elements for a new
everyday life of activities’ participants: they have been given the
opportunity to attend workshops to meet and exchange with others, without any
commitment, regularly if they wished, with the option to remain in contact
outside this frame, but with no obligation. This parenthesis has been for many
the opportunity to move away from their
daily issues, and daily environment: for some mothers especially, the
activities have provided them with a space other
than their home. As such, La Sauvegarde du Nord has organised (cooking and
video) activities during school time for them to be able to come and attend.
For some, it has also enabled them to focus on an activity they like or find interesting. For example, the Secours Populaire Français has observed that those coming to the workshop classes were interested by food and wanted to “be in contact with others”. It has alsoenabledactivating their pleasure of cooking (as an activity), cooking for oneself or for others, as well as, eating (as a basic need) or eating nicely cooked dishes. In turn, these have led to improve self-esteem. Valorisation also became quite apparent during the job search activities organised by La Maison de l’Emploi where applicants were observed during some cooking activities to showcase their skills to potential employers and recruitment agencies.
food has been an excuse to meet and
socialise. As some participants acknowledged, “it is not necessarily about
learning but being together”. In the
case of La Cloche, the invitation has been for all those interested (homeless
people but also the “general public”) to gather and cook on the basis of what
was available. Within the activities of the Secours Populaire Français, those
who are helped will often help in return. Discussions have sometimes also led
to identifying solutions to everyday
life issues (such as administrative, getting access to food, etc). La
Sauvegarde du Nord has also witnessed the empowerment
and openness to the city as its
beneficiaries became independent in their mobility,
while eventually all going to the activities in public transport (often
combining a few for up to 1 hour) by themselves. Such gained mobility will be
beneficial for all their other private, social or work-related activities.
activities have been free and open to all those interested, potentially
creating a space for cultural
encounters, people to come and take part in a collective project. For
example, La Sauvegarde du Nord has noted that their beneficiaries (migrants)
had got to know each other’s cultures in this location outside of the kitchens
many share on a daily basis with other families – with whom daily housekeeping
and usage provoke tensions. Their relation have become positive with a real
possibility and wish to familiarise
with others and their cultures. CCAS is also working with the “senior space” of
Fives and retirement homes to organise intergenerational activities.
The activities have also provided a frame for those who wish to have one for their daily lives. The cooking activities, for example organised by La Sauvegarde du Nord, La Cloche, Les Sens du Goût and Le Secours Populaire Français, also giving the room to the participants to propose their own recipes and ways of cooking. Participants have got empowered and stimulated further cultural and personal exchange, at the same time as being proud of their own learnings. The seeds bank created by Yncréa Hauts-de-France and managed in a participatory way has also served both as an end and as a mean for personal investment and learning from the overall project. Yncréa Hauts-de-France has also invited the beneficiaries of the partner organisations to help managing the chicken coop, producing endives or mushrooms, feeding insects of fishes, sowing, or adjusting fertilizers. Aquaponics, hydroponics and raised beds harvests have directly targeted the cooking workshops to keep a link between the seed to the fork. This way, the cooking classes have also been a way of supporting French learning or communicating in a group, as La Sauvegarde du Nord analysed.
The activities with children have also enabled reaching out to more families. La
Sauvegarde du Nord has seen an increasing interest of (small) children gaining confidence in being integrated
in the food activities along the months. Whether it was picking up vegetables
from the greenhouse or raised beds (managed by Yncréa Hauts-de-France) or
cooking, they could put their hand in the work and do for themselves.
of activities organised has furthermore provided for a basic need which isfood:
for example, the cooking classes and food events provided food for free for
those in need. The solidary fridge,
coordinated by CCAS, sees a constant flow of givers and receivers,
demonstrating local solidarity as well as need for it. In
addition, a partnership with the Local Short Food Supplier, proposes “suspended
vegetables” which are made available in the fridge.
sector faces difficulties in recruiting adequate employees. As such, some job matchmaking organised by La Maison
de l’Emploi have benefited from cooking activities to assess the overall
competences of job applicants and support them and job providers to find the
most suitable job opportunities in the food sector. The incubator led by
Baluchon offers coaching meetings and thematic training sessions for those
wishing to set up a food. The beneficiaries of some activities, e.g. organised
by Les Sens du Goût or CCAS (Centre for housing and social reinsertion), were
also redirected to the incubator to create their professional activity in the
food sector. La Cloche in addition works on the volunteer’s acquired skills and independence: they would for example strengthen the posture of volunteers
becoming workshop facilitators themselves and for intend to acquire a
cargo-bike in order to give them full autonomy. The upcoming catering service –
also led by Baluchon and currently under feasibility study – will also provide
directly employable skills and job
opportunities for unemployed people. Some organisations have also noted some
indirect impact on job creation where for example one person who was
beneficiary, from La Cloche became a volunteer then found a job and housing.
For those in
need of it, health issues have been addressed
indirectly by the mere fact of cooking (instead of buying processed food) and
some general tips about “lighter food”, for example, in the case of cooking
workshops organised by Les Sens du Goût. It has also been the case by going
back to the roots of food, i.e. food production, with the above-mentioned seeds
bank created by Yncréa Hauts-de-France: together with La Cloche, this box has been opened to any person wishing to grow
reproducible regional fruit and vegetables promoting non-market economy. Some
seedlings were exchanged permitting to share knowledge on food production.
food entry was also a way of considering family budgeting while finding
the right balance between healthy and cheap products, reducing food waste,
making the most out of existing products, as was for example shared during the
activities organised by Les Sens du Goût.
Food activities as an opportunity for new ways
of accompanying those in needs
Sauvegarde du Nord noted, for precarious populations coming from other
countries, the only way to survive with limited money is to cook. For “local”
populations, getting access to cheap -and often ready-to-eat- food might be the
priority without the necessary knowledge nor time for cooking, as well as
getting access to what consumption society has to offer.
Yet, food is a basic human need: we all have to eat. This is an activity that is shared
by all. As shown above, food can be used in order to mobilise people as an
entry point to create conviviality
and trust with the organisation.
partners of the project, the use of food has enabled testing out new ways of working. Some were already
carrying small-scale cooking (and baking) activities such as La Cloche. Yet, La
Cloche did not have a
space for upscaling these activities in Lille – although there was a strong
interest and grounded skills amongst volunteers for such activities – and was
happy to benefit from L’Avant-goût’s Common Kitchen. It has used the space to
provide an enabling framework,
letting its beneficiaries to meet and exchange in an organic way. Others, such
as the Secours Populaire Français, have developed activities they had never
developed before. It was also new for them to have an adequate place for such activities. For this, they have relied
heavily on the motivation and involvement of one volunteer, who became an
important driving force: to invite, organise, and facilitate the cooking
activities have also been used with other
tools which can support the development of a realm of skills and attitudes,
such as photo, cinema or culture. Les Sens du gout for example have made videos
of recipes presented by the local residents. In the case of the job-search
related cooking activities organised by La Maison de l’Emploi, it was not only
the participant’s cooking skills which were tested but their overall their
transversal skills (e.g. organisation, teamwork, etc.).
du Nord also noted that, as compared to its other activities, the space
provided here was more neutral and informal, enabling it to reinforce
supporting and educative measures in a new territory.
Some of the
organisations had to learn new
methodologies for interacting with their beneficiaries, for example La
Sauvegarde du Nord who had never organised cooking workshops before and was
stressed each time as to whether they had done the right shopping. It has also
enabled them to look at their beneficiaries in a new light as those participants who appear to feel confident and
“at home” in a kitchen, a positive approach as opposed to the focus on their
issues, which are dealt with when the NGO meets them for their regular support.
They have in turn invited their colleagues to witness this way of working
inviting them to become inspired.
For the CCAS as well, workers have got the opportunity to work outside the
strict institutional framework, to promote proximity link at the same time
as putting themselves at the same level as their beneficiaries: by cooking and
talking about food, they would become reduce barriers preventing one and the
other to get to know each other and trust each other.
organisations have also worked with intermediaries to further expand their experience,
such as parents at schools as well as training teachers and school nurses in
the case of Les Sens du Goût. CCAS is working with professional of care sector
to support the quality of food provided to elderly.
The Common Kitchen has also enabled to
create new synergies supporting in
the joint attraction of each other’s publics, of new public (e.g. those affected by social invisibility) and new methodologies. For example, “workshops and videos” were organised
jointly by La Sauvegarde du Nord, the Secours Populaire et les Rencontres
Audiovisuelles. La Cloche is also currently seeking a collaboration with Pole
Emploi as well as with some companies and catering services. Baluchon is also
seeking the same types of collaboration for its inclusive incubator and
insertion catering service. Yncrea Hauts-de-France has
collaborated with the other partners to showcase different low- or high-tech
microsystems that could be developed at home, in class, in associative or
public structures in a collaborative way.
This mutualised tool has given stakeholders the opportunity to
share and exchange on common issues, with different publics, focusing on fighting
against exclusion, public health, cooking for children, job development. Such
platforms already existed in Lille but they were generalist. The effect of such
synergies was also observed in some participants taking part in some (or all!)
the activities of each of the organisations. CCAS has for example increased
(paper) communication with local shops and inhabitants via the
distribution of flyers by Civic service students”.
and activities, e.g. “Apéro Sans Frontières” (“Aperitif without borders”) have
enabled several shelters, emergency accommodations and “Maisons-relais” to join increase collaboration with La
Sauvegarde du Nord, as well as to ask for support in organising to carry out similar activities. During the European
Heritage Days and the International Solidarity Festival, CCAS is also bringing
together other organization to exchange on the specificity of Food in
Looking at the Future
success of the activities can be explained by the skills and involvement of all
the partners with their varied profiles, beneficiaries and activities.
Synergies, reflexions and experimentations in order to leverage on urban
poverty have been nested for 3 years by all the stakeholders via all the
above-mentioned activities in L’Avant-goût. It could have also been linked to
the type of space provided: informal, seemingly made out of odds and ends,
where participants and organisers could get a feeling of lack of control, “not
too neat”. The new location will be recently built, following strict sanitary
rules and regulations, potentially giving it a “colder” feeling. It will be
important to prevent the disappearance of this feeling of freedom.
food-related activities to seek and leverage urban poverty within the TAST’in
FIVES project has shown effects both on individuals as well as on the involved
organisations. The way it will affect the neighbourhood as a whole will be seen
in the next few years. These will probably be acupuncture points in the local
addressing some issues – like poverty – via an alternative entry point – food-
, as it has proven to be successful – or while supporting other activities.
There will be room for experimenting with increasing mix and synergies between
activities and publics on the site of Chaud
Bouillon!, the resulting building of the project. Also, the future location will enable going
one step further for employability (with a functional professional kitchen)
both through the incubator and the catering training. Once the experimentation
phase and ad hoc funding will be over, partners will for sure be eager to keep
on collaborating and carrying out their activities in the Common Kitchen, the Professional
Kitchen, and the Food Court.
Hopefully the learnings from these three years will continue being used and
leading to new opportunities.
People of varied backgrounds and from all over the world met at the UrbanA Community Conversation on 30th June 2020 to address the question of food poverty and solidarity. UrbanA Fellow Marcelline Bonneau, an expert in both the URBACT programme and the Urban Innovation Actions initiative, led the conversation. She began by sharing her experience and understanding of how European municipalities have approached food poverty during the COVID19 crisis. She focused on three questions:
How have cities supported those in need of food during the crisis?
How have cities reorganized traditional food aid systems, such as funded meals in canteens or regular food distributions?
Cities have shown how agile they can be in addressing increased needs of their local population in terms of access to (healthy) food. As the economic crisis unfolds and hits the most vulnerable first, it is important to think about what cities can do to sustain and transfer such good practices and what support they need at national and European level.
“The idea behind all initiatives is not to leave anybody behind during the Covid-19 crisis.” Josep Monras i Galindo, Mayor, Mollet de Vallès (Spain)
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 .
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.
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.
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.
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?
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 theways we can concretely implement and operationalise social innovation: as a paradigm and as individual and collective projects. Continue reading →
It has been years since I have been concerned with the issue of our consumption behaviour and practices. How can we make ourselves better consumer in order to enhance the resilience of our ecosystem? How (and who) can we provide support to our peers to this process?
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.
The 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 →
The 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.
Interview with LionelLarqué,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.
A 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 →
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). 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 →
Le 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, 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 →
… 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 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 →
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
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 →
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 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 →
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 →
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 →
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.
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).
Pam 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 →
I love URBACT. Don’t get me wrong. I know URBACT is not perfect, and I am not idealising it. But I love it. Because as an EU programme, it corresponds to me to a carebears’ world I had long be longing for.
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” 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 →
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:
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).
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.
The first ever URBACT City Festival in Riga is over! These have been three « professionally, emotionally and physically intense » days as one of the participants reported during the final session, called reflexively «Urban Futures »…