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Reinforcing local food ecosystems: a recipe for success?

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

Since 2013, the URBACT programme has supported seven networks working on topics linked to sustainable food and urban agriculture engaging around 50 European cities in transnational learning and exchange. These are:  Food Corridors, BioCanteens, RU:rban, BeePathNet, Sustainable Food in Urban Communities, Agri-Urban and Diet for a Green Planet.

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Food-related activities as a leverage against urban poverty

The UIA TAST’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[1]. 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….).

Yet, TAST’in 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.

Workshop on Libanese food (c)Les Sens du Goût

A realm of stakeholders and activities seeking to reduce urban poverty

TAST’in FIVES has been prototyped during 3 years, before the final building and activities will be launched in Spring 2020[2]. Its temporary location, l’Avant-goût, has hosted seven main types of activities:

·       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”[3]. 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

The 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.

Workshop on skills and competences (c)Maison de l’Emploi

For others, 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.

The 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.

Refugee Food Festival (c)L’Avant-Goût

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.

Intercultural workshop (c)Charles Mangin

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.

The variety 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.

The catering 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.

Workshop on « catering menu » (c)Baluchon

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.

Finally, 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

As La 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[4]. 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.

For the 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 workshops.

Food 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.).

La Sauvegarde 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.

Workshop with children (c)Yncréa Hauts-de-France

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.

Some 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.

Workshop with elderly people (c)Les Sens du goût

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.

Stop Motion (c)Les Rencontres audiovisuelles

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”.

The workshops 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 Africa.

Looking at the Future

The main 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.

Using 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 life[5], 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.

Intercultural workshop (c)Charles Mangin

[1] For more background, see also Houk M (2017) TAST’in FIVES Project Journal N°1

[2] See article “Testing a future Food Court by prototyping it in real-life: lessons from the experience of UIA TAST’in FIVES’ L’Avant-goût”. With regard to the covid-19 crisis, the launch of the building and activities has been delayed until Spring 2021.

[3] TAST’in FIVES application form

[4]MASULLOA., Régnier F., Obésité, goûts et consommation. Intégration des normes d’alimentation et appartenance sociale, Revue française de sociologie 2009/4 vol 50.

[5] Jégou, F., (2010) Social innovations and regional acupuncture towards sustainability, in Zhuangshi, Beijing

Reposted from the UIA website.

Addressing poverty via food solidarity in cities

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?
  • How can food more widely address (urban) poverty?
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Covid-19: a springboard for more food solidarity?

Milan’s Dispositivo aiuto alimentare (c)Milan Food Policy

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)

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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