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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?

As the situation of the most precarious has deteriorated during the crisis, with traditional food solidarity systems being disrupted, there has been a boom in solidarity initiatives, both by citizens — Solidarity Baskets in Italy, #poureux in France and Belgium — and municipalities. Examples include the municipality of Atheniou, Cyprus supporting bottom-up networks of volunteers; Mollet de Vallès, Spain, compensating for the loss of school canteen meals; Milan, Italy readjusting its food aid systems; and Mouans-Sartoux, France embedding solidarity in its food sovereignty project.

“More than ever, food solidarity should be part of wider local food policies, ensuring the closest and most direct link between people and their food, collaborating in addressing this issue in an equal way, seeking to reduce power imbalances between those supporting and those supported,” said Marcelline.

She then briefly sketched the ways food can help address urban poverty, based on the case of TAST’in FIVES in Lille, France.

All the cases from URBACT cities can be found in the presentation slides and this URBACT article. More information about the ways to address urban poverty via food will be shared on the UIA TAST’in FIVES project website after the summer. See also Marcelline’s presentation on Youtube here.

Challenging issues

After her presentation there was a rich discussion among participants, with varied perspectives, embedding the debate within wider understandings of community support, food solidarity, urban gardening projects and, ultimately, food sovereignty. Some of the most challenging issues raised related to links between sustainability and justice (sustainable food and deprived populations); administrations and citizens (where to best meet); private and public sectors (including the risk of greenwashing); mainstream economic models and degrowth; and between urban/community gardens and those in need (currently piloted in Nantes as nourishing landscapes).

Participants shared a wealth of other cases and experiences:

  • Sara Stirling who collected 22 tons of food surplus from supermarkets in the covid-19 crisis for a community kitchen;
  • The challenge of organising bottom-up initiatives in China, where they focus on small range actions among friends only;
  • The need to learn from the crisis to prevent other zoonoses , for example by increasing availability of plant-based diets;
  • A food resilience hackathon taking place in France;
  • A French community project to create a territorial food resilience platform, CRISALIM, which aims to make accessible, via repurposing of existing resources, a directory of field information and concrete tools on food resilience to apply in specific territories;
  • In France again, Strasbourg, Lyon, Marseille, Bordeaux and Paris’ districts following the example of Grenoble in focusing on food resilience; and
  • The high visibility of the solidarity initiative “Milano Aiuta” thanks to influencer Chiara Ferragni.

Further relevant information is available on the UrbanA wiki pages Sustainable food supply chains, Social food movements and Community gardens and food.

What else should cities be doing to address food poverty?

Participants stressed that cities should learn from this period to increasingly map people suffering from food poverty, along with relevant support organisations. They should also focus more on the local scale as well as larger scale initiatives for urban gardening: managed by all, available to all. And as Consuelo Giansante said: “Community gardens for vulnerable groups are not only thought of in terms of vulnerable groups working in them, they can also partially shift municipal food aid from large distribution chains to local producers.”

Marcelline concluded: “I would like to thank very much UrbanA for this opportunity and look forward to further collaboration in the project as a Fellow!”

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Some additional resources on food poverty

Statements

Articles

Videos

Reposted from the UrbanA blog

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)

For many of the most vulnerable people, Covid-19 has not only meant immediate health risks and threats to their income, but a significant worsening of their access to good quality food. This has put them at increased risk of hunger and malnutrition.

At the same time, we have heard some positive impacts of the crisis on other aspects of the mainstream food system, for example with the development of healthier eating habits, more cooking at home and shorter food supply chains. Citizen solidarity has also been visible in many local areas to meet food needs of the most vulnerable.

In this article, I therefore ask: how have cities supported emerging citizen-led initiatives for food provision to those in need during the lockdown? How have they reorganised food aid systems, such as subsidised meals in canteens or charity-run food distribution schemes

And as the lockdown measures are lifted across Europe, what lessons can be learnt from the responses to the crisis for building resilient food systems and local food policies for everyone? How can such learning continue to ‘feed us’ and provide us with a roadmap for action post-Covid

New types of food aid distribution

Associations and charities have faced a number of challenges during the lockdown. On the one hand, they lost the critical support of their senior volunteer workforce at risk of catching the virus. On the other hand, they faced increased demand with more people than ever in need of assistance, beyond their usual list of ‘beneficiaries’. This required significant outreach efforts. Some structures readjusted their model by recruiting new volunteers, adapting to new health and safety measures, or even changing their food provision and distribution patterns, whilst others simply had to temporarily close down.

In some cases, the government assumed more responsibilities for distributing food aid, often leading to positive effects – for example, more cross-departmental cooperation and social innovation within city administration, more promotion of short food supply chains and organic food.

The Italian large city of Milan (1.3 million), which is an URBACT Good Practice for its Food Policy, set up a new food distribution system (“Dispositivo aiuto alimentare”) to offset the impact of the closures of several associations and charities and therefore centralised the entire supply chain until the end of the crisis. Food hubs were created at 10 locations across the city to prepare food aid packages for vulnerable families and fragile persons identified as being in need by Milan’s Social Services and non-profit operators.

Around 180 people and many stakeholders have been involved, including retailers, volunteers, municipality employees, drivers and others active in the food donation system. Capacity has increased rapidly from 1,000 beneficiaries in the first week to 15,000 by the third, and the service reached in the end 20.300 people in 15 weeks. The Municipality opened within the Municipal grocery market – Foody a specific food hub where fresh fruits and vegetables were collected and distributed to the food hubs and ultimately added to the food aid packages. Therefore, this action has not only improved access, but also quality of the food aid.

Milan’s Municipal grocery market – Foody (c)Milan Food Policy

Municipalities supporting citizen-led initiatives

Whilst the senior volunteer workforce has been impacted, many other groups have found themselves with more time on their hands and more reasons to engage in mutual aid. The result has been that many URBACT cities have seen a surge of volunteerism during Covid-19.

The small town of Athienou in Cyprus (6,500 inhabitants) has a long history of supporting volunteering. Recognised as an URBACT good practice, Athienou is now leading the URBACT network Volunteering Cities. As Kyriacos Kareklas, Mayor of Athienou, likes saying: “The spirit of help and volunteerism is something that gives extra power to people in charge, who want to help people in need.” The Municipality quickly reacted to the crisis by calling upon volunteers to help the elderly and people with disabilities with their grocery shopping. They also supported the engagement of various actors in the food supply chain through the Social Welfare Program and Volunteering Council.

The urgency and logistical challenges of providing access to food led in many cases to federated efforts at the neighbourdhood level. For some cities, this represented a unique opportunity to strengthen territorial cooperation. Authorities played a crucial role as facilitators – for example, by making connections, setting up platforms, making spaces and resources available, or helping with communication.

This was the case, for example, in the bigger and more densely populated city of Naples, the Lead Partner of the CivicEstate Network, which is exploring new forms of collective governance of shared urban spaces (unused building, parks, squares etc.) through an ‘urban common’ approach. This approach helped a wide network of associations, cooperatives, soup kitchens, community centres and other urban commons in Naples to rapidly organise food solidarity

As Gregorio Turolla wrote in this article: “The extraordinary situation faced by cities like Naples during the pandemic has highlighted the essential role of self-managed or co-managed spaces of aggregation and mutualism. This confirms the important role of urban commons as social infrastructures, producing public services of social impact through solidarity, creative, collaborative, digital and circular economy initiatives”.  

Meeting the needs of vulnerable children

Lola Gallego, manager of health and social services at Mollet de Vallès, stressed that “the health issue is a priority, but now the social crisis is beginning, and the basic social services provided by the municipalities must be the cornerstone of the forthcoming policies, plans and actions. To provide money it is not enough. What is crucial is to accompany people in need.”

As one important example of this potential social crisis, a major risk factor for many vulnerable children, up to 320 million children worldwide, has been the disappearance of their only daily meal from school.

As part of a wider regional programme between the Catalan Government and La Caixa Bank, the Spanish medium-size city of Mollet de Vallès (52,000), partner of the URBACT Agri-Urban network, has contributed to a scheme providing credit cards for each child eligible for publicly funded school lunches (1,087 cards in Mollet). This scheme is supported jointly by the government and the city. Families were asked only to use the cards to buy food in the city where they live.

Picture: Mollet de Vallès’s Benefit card Mollet de Vallès

Food policies and food sovereignty for al

Andrea Magarini, Milan Food Policy Coordinator, is adamant that having “an effective local food policy has helped overcoming situations of crisis like the one we all are facing since the end of February”. In the case of Milan, their existing work “on issues such as food waste and school canteens has helped in the identification of successful actions to ensure access to food for many vulnerable groups during the lockdown,” points out Andrea Magarini.

In the small French city of Mouans-Sartoux (10,000), partner of Agri-Urban and Lead Partner of the BioCanteens network, their URBACT-awarded ‘good practice’ is rooted into a territorial eco-system with strong food sovereignty. In that context, the crisis has only further entrenched their long-lasting efforts to guarantee food sovereignty on their territory.

Picture: Mouans-Sartoux’s Food sovereignty project by 2045 BIOCANTEENS

Mouans-Sartoux plans to continue the activities initiated during the lockdown, such as the a newly set-up NGO helping homeless people. They will also launch new initiatives to support self-production and redistribution to those most in needs, education on sustainable food for everyone, improvement of the quality of the food being delivered at home, and strengthening citizen participation in the food policy.

Mouans-Sartoux’s municipal farmMouans-Sartoux

The ‘food lever’ – how to scale up action from the bottom up?

So, what cities can do to sustain such good practices and what support do they need at national and European level?

As Gilles Pérole, Vice Mayor for education in Mouans-Sartoux said, “it is at local level that we need to act now. State centralism does not provide us with the quick and efficient answers we need. Within these first two months of crisis, the administrative burden has disappeared as we had to quickly react and adjust ourselves. The Covid-19 crisis has showed us what could happen as a result of the climate crisis and there won’t be any vaccines to save us from it…”

As part of the Farm to fork strategy which was published in the midst of the crisis, the European Commission is focusing, amongst others, on “Making sure Europeans get healthy, affordable and sustainable food”. Yet, it puts little emphasis on the role of cities except in the conclusion stating that “the transition to sustainable food systems (also) requires a collective approach involving public authorities at all levels of governance (including cities, rural and coastal communities), private-sector actors across the food value chain, non-governmental organisations, social partners, academics and citizens”.

As such, URBACT (and its partners) have a strong role to play in providing grounded evidences and cases from cities, offering additional and counterbalanced views to that of mainstream lobbies, further continuing to facilitate exchange of learning and accelerating change towards more food solidarity at local, national and European level.

Reposted from the URBACT website.

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 .

The value of temporary or transitional use has now long been proven for its social, economic, cultural and environmental values . A new movement is now emerging seeking to integrate such an activity in city governance , social inclusion and in the development of a social value for temporary use (e.g. STUN Camp ) as well as using a commons paradigm and governance .

It is in light of these parallel experiences taking place throughout Europe and beyond that we can observe the temporary activities which have taken place in Lille at L’Avant-goût for the past 2 years, and the value they have brought to the prefiguration of the eventual emblematic place dedicated to food as a vector of social improvement to be built in Summer 2020.

The need to anticipate the construction of TAST’in FIVES’ building

In 2016, the City of Lille won a 5 million-euro budget from the Urban Innovative Actions to develop an integrated project on food-based social inclusion, TAST’in FIVES. This project aims at reversing negative trends of urban poverty in the deprived neighbourhood of Fives, by (re)introducing productive activities centred on food in an urban brownfield regeneration development (Former Fives Cail Babcock Factory). In Summer 2020, a building of 2050 m2 will be renovated to host an innovative combination of activities in the fields of social integration, urban agriculture, production, food processing and catering, the so-called “Chaud bouillon!”. In particular, a « Community Kitchen » will give the possibility to citizens and NGOs to cook together, learn and exchange, with the aim sharing and empowering.

Visualisation of the future TAST’in FIVES building ©Amandine Dazin – Ville de Lille

Bearing in mind the timing of the building works and of the UIA funding, it soon became clear that the building of TAST’in FIVES would be built only at the end of the three-year funding. TAST’in FIVES’ partners therefore decided to start rolling out a prototype of the project on a temporary location, L’Avant-goût, conceptualised in January-March 2017 and launched in September 2017.

What was this experimentation for?

The initial and immediate objectives of L’Avant-goût were defined to: allow residents and stakeholders to get to know the future project; provide local NGOs and residents with facilities and material to cook, produce and process food; provide all inhabitants with an open space for social activities several days a week; develop a regulatory framework adapted to the objectives of the project (user manual, hygiene and safety rules, etc.); develop consensus among inhabitants and stakeholders when it comes to make decisions about the functioning and use of the Avant-goût . More than a focus on the Community Kitchen, L’Avant-goût became a test bed for the whole project, experimenting its location, co-creation model, governance, activities, emergence of an integrated ecosystem and visibility to its audiences.

The importance of the location

The whole surface (1180 sqm) was big enough to accommodate several if not all the components of the future project: a bungalow hosting the community kitchen, a dining room and on an outdoor terrace (110 sqm); a container hosting a forerunner of the urban farming demonstrator (45 sqm); a bungalow hosting the UIA partners who will play a key role in running the site (30 sqm); and green spaces.

L’Avant-Goût December 2019 ©Marcelline Bonneau

Bottom-up co-creation of the future …

The rationale for the experimentation was “not to tell the project but to live it”, as Antoine Plane, coordinator of the project put it, making possible the overall testing and prototyping of the infrastructure, activities and governance model. In addition, using this temporary site and buildings supported the co-creation from the very bottom, from the needs and wishes of users.

Residents have been put at the heart of the co-creation of the site. Their initial comments on the fact that location appeared to be difficult to access and not enough visible, not welcoming and with some overall cleaning and hygiene issues, led to reflections and improvements upon those. At the same time, their feedback on what they liked about the site (its looks), complementarity of aspects, vector of dynamism in the neighbourhood, diversity of activities, etc; confirmed the need and interest for developing further such a project. Immediate feedback has been directly input in the revised designed of the project.

… while triggering the local ecosystem for an integrated governance

L’Avant-goût has also supported the reinforcement of complementarity and synergies between the different existing local activities, driving social integration in the neighbourhood. Although organisations and stakeholders existed in the neighbourhood of Fives, in relation to social poverty and in relation to food, no such an “integrated ecosystem” existed previously.
Complementarities and synergies are also embedded in the governance model, at the heart of the UIA project for the current and future management of the building. Such governance design takes times not only for drafting but also and especially for: getting to know each other and each other expectations, as well as ways of working, for testing the proposal, for readjusting it, …

Learning by doing

Since the launch of L’Avant-goût, more than 1,300 activities have been organised on the site ranging from cooking workshops with the neighbourhood, with children or homeless people or job-seekers, to activities around the greenhouse, as well as co-design of the future Community Kitchen and video-making, with more than 20,000 participants. Readjustments were made as to the types of activities to be carried out and when, for example:
• Allocation of timeslots by types of organisers/beneficiaries: NGOs and local stakeholders during the day, private entities (entrepreneurs) in the evening;
• Modification about the renting procedures have been implemented (free vs compensation, private vs NGO stakeholders);
• Adjustments were also made to the participants’ contribution to the workshops.
In terms of infrastructure, L’Avant-goût for example also made a research, test and proposal with children to obtain the best suitable material (at the right height, right comfort etc.).

Workshop brunch and Brexit on 5 March 2020, ©L’Avant-goût

In the meantime, L’Avant-goût has earned the unexpected opportunity to host an actual food court: an opportunity aroused while to young entrepreneurs were seduced by the Avant-goût and offered to recreate and ephemerous street food market, “La Friche Gourmande”. The risk was high for this audacious idea, but the City of Lille and Soreli helped and encouraged the initiative, as an opportunity to try and test the popularity of such concept in a deprived neighbourhood.

Its two iterations were the occasion for tests and readjustments: the first edition was organised in Summer 2018. It was a huge success with 60 000 visitors. It proved that with an adequate offer, visitors would come and enjoy the space. At the same time, the first iteration showed the limits of integration of local residents, communication of the wider project, as well as to a future realistic Business Model. The second iteration imposed criteria closer to the social and environmental objectives of the project.

Making the project visible – to the neighbourhood and beyond

A full dedicated communication was developed in 2017: creating a name for the site (“L’Avant-goût” – “foretaste”), graphic charter, flyers and other communication documents, goodies (aprons, potholders, kitchen clothes), friendly magazine open to the neighbourhood (not institutional), launch of a blog and Facebook page, signposting from the metro stop to the site, very large opening by the City Mayor with a feast and neighbourhood party. In 2019, communication on the site increased: large pictures printed on tarpaulin, stickers on the floor…Yet, communication efforts are still on for improvement as notwithstanding these efforts and the clear visibility of the site, some people continued to complain about the lack of visibility of the project.

L’Avant-goût December 2019, ©Marcelline Bonneau

An important learning was also the experience of La Friche Gourmande which showed in May 2018 the ability of a private actor to mobilise a large community (notably via social media), to attract high visibility, become known and THE reference point for going out in a very limited period of time: thousands of people getting on site, overcrowded parking lots, newspapers’ articles, local TV on site. Residents finally “discovered” the place. Without any budget, La Friche Gourmande overpassed the communication strategy of the project.

Yet, the communication of the message shared by Friche Gourmande was focusing solely on the temporary Food Court, leaving aside the whole social and integration dimension. It was therefore decided that the City of Lille would develop its own brand reflecting all the integrated components of the project (from the social to socialising activities) and would own it: Chaud Bouillon! as a common brand for the future building, was the result of this decision.

The specific leadership of this temporary use

Rare are still the examples where city administrations change their posture and ways of working to ensure a real co-creation of the city, stepping down from a top-down approach to a real user-centered integrated co-creation of a site, which will, as much as possible be regenerated based on the learnings from the experiment. The main innovative elements of the project (creating an integrated Business Model for the future TAST’in FIVES building, co-production of solutions, changing posture of local authority) were clearly described in the First Journal of the project . Yet, now reaching towards the end of the project, innovation becomes even more clearer in its success: the use of L’Avant-goût to test a governance model, activities, create an ecosystem, give visibility to the current and foreseen project. It has enabled finding a balance between different realities: the need to act fast on local issues vs. the long-lasting construction of the site (including delays); the strict and short timeframe of a UIA project vs. the need to anticipate the after-UIA phase; the need to ensure co-governance vs. strong coordination and leadership; various partners’ working pace vs. co-creation pace:
Leadership for implementation: The City of Lille has ensured a strong vision at the same time as a clear objective. Prototyping has been supported from the beginning as the only viable and relevant solution for the project, also strongly promoted during its official opening on 30 September 2017 by the Mayor of Lille, Martine Aubry.
Organisational arrangements within the urban authority: Within the project, the City of Lille has been an actor of temporary use, seizing such an opportunity for its development and for addressing wicked social issues. This has led to internal transformation as well, ensuring project-based activities and increased transversality.
Participative approach for co-implementation: L’Avant-goût was a living lab for experimenting the TAST’in FIVES future building, together with the methodology to co-create it, be it for its actual design and content or for its governance. The learnings can now be integrated in the future management of the site.
Communication with target beneficiaries: as described, local communication was tested, adjusted and improved. It has built on local ecosystems and will be transposed to the new site.
Upscaling: the whole experimentation and prototyping had upscaling at its heart. For future implementation of the TAST’in FIVES building, together with dissemination via the other activities of the City of Lille and of the partners

Prototyping for prefigurating the future?

It has not been possible to test all the different aspects of the project. For example, the idea of an economic retribution of the food court towards social activities has not really been tested at L’Avant-goût, which was mainly funded by the City of Lille. At the same time, L’Avant-goût has proven its social and societal added value while seeking to address the main objectives of the TAST’in FIVES project.

Chances are the partners will regret this playground where everything was still possible and when every failure was another opportunity to innovate. Chances are as well, that they will cherish the concrete implementation of their dreams, making their support to Fives neighbourhood more operational and efficient. Many journeys can support temporary use . Maybe more than anything else, prototyping is a state of mind that should be kept during the implementation of any project.

Reposted from the UIA website.

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.

The use of new technologies to communicate and access information is changing the way society works”, states the Action Plan of the Digital Transition Urban Agenda Partnership because “citizens live an increasingly digital life both in the public and private sphere”.

Beyond the digital divide issue, private data protection and free choice, this trend follows new consumption and production patterns, as well as interaction between people.

Taking advantage of digital transition’s potential is an asset for cities, not only for business development and job creation, but also for city governance and getting closer to citizens, thus developing more integrated governance approaches at city level. That is the way URBACT cities have approached their Digital Transition over the last 15 years – as a means of driving change in cities.

This article presents a few cases from URBACT cities and Urban Agenda Partnerships, which can inspire other cities.

Digital transition as a goal: Transforming cities’ local economic development

Cities are taking advantage of digital transition as a goal in itself. Indeed, the digital sector has been and should be developed. Creating “smart cities” is now appearing in more and more cities’ strategy as a way to achieve competitive advantage. Focussing on local economic development, as a new way of addressing emerging societal issues such as environmental and social ones, requires strong leadership, commitment and investments.

For some URBACT networks, digitalisation of cities means the development of incubators, hubs and other platforms to support the development of jobs and skills. Featuring a wealth of examples about the ways in which cities support tech and digital economy, TechPlace showcases URBACT networks such as TechTown, GEN Y CITY and Interactive Cities. It shares content such as articles, videos, podcasts and presentations on the ways cities use social media, digital strategies, digital education, digital health, co-working environments, digital hubs, etc.

Developing digital strategies is the starting point of the DI4C network, one of the 23 new Action Planning Networks. It seeks to support the creation of global vision and improve technical and engineering capacities by incorporating digital innovation, with both hard and soft infrastructures.

Supporting digital growth and transformational economies is also the key focus of the TechRevolution network. Transferring the experience of Barnsley (UK) and its Digital Media Centre, a business support programme which nurtures an ‘ecosystem’ thanks to knowledge-based jobs and businesses across all sectors and industries.

As for the skills needed to move towards more digital cities, URBACT has also contributed to the Digital Skills Map platform, as an outcome of the Urban Agenda Partnership on Jobs and Skills, presenting local know-how on digitalisation in vocational education and training.

Digital transition as a methodology: A governance focus

Digitalisation can, on the other hand, be seen as a methodology. The process, supporting societal and urban transition, has a strong impact on governance, and on how our everyday life is organised – as well as on the way we make the city work.

Although the use of technology can lead to personalisation of services, “strengthening the barrier between the people and the services which their taxes fund”, as pointed out by Eddy Adams following URBACT City Lab 3, it is key to use adequate language which does not alienate people. Indeed, administrations and citizens need to get to know each other and adopt a language that is understandable by both sides. When used correctly, digitalisation and new technologies can be harnessed to transform cities into platforms of open innovation and develop digital urbanism. The ESPON working paper on the “Digital innovation in urban environments: Solutions for sustainable and fluently working cities” (draft Working Paper) backs the benefit for vertical and horizontal co-creation of cities.

Digital transition can be supported by specific tools to make governance more inclusive, participatory and more efficient. As identified by ESPON, larger cities and Northern European cities are more advanced than the rest of European cities.

Such a process, according to the Urban agenda Partnership on Digital Transition, can be supported by 4 frameworks: technological, organisational, institutional and by stakeholders (see figure). Indeed, what is of crucial importance to cities is not what technology is used but how it is used.

Creating a one-stop shop for citizens and ensuring the centralisation of citizens’ information is the core of the Card4all URBACT network transferring the experience Citizen Card System of Gijon (ES). The card enables using innovative services and technologies. Cities can thus gather information to improve their services and use it as part of a participative processes. This can be applied to promote social inclusion, local trade, urban mobility and sustainable living, creating a Smart City with Smart Citizens. Such a card can be used for access to citizens’ terminals (for public services), public transport, library, swimming pool, public toilets, car sharing, etc. The IoTxChange network also seeks to benefit from the Internet of Things (IoT) solutions to improve the quality of life in small and medium sized EU cities.

At the same time, participation and citizens’ engagement is also increasingly relying on digital tools. The participatory budget of Paris URBACT Good Practice is an online process which combines offline and online promotion. The city of Agen (FR) has started a new network, ActiveCitizen, placing citizens at the heart of local democracy in small and medium-sized cities, developing new interactive platforms such as Agen’s Tell My City.

Many other URBACT cities have developed digital solutions on a wider scale. For example, Helsinki (FI), within the REFILL network, shared its experiment with an online service, Flexi Spaces, allowing people to find and book spaces by the hour in the neighbourhood of Kalasatama.

More insights into European cities’ digital transition this month!

URBACT brings a wealth of knowledge and practical cases into the European Urban Policy debate – helping develop and share new innovative solutions creating smart cities – and through its involvement with the Urban Agenda Partnership. URBACT cities are making the best out of the Digital Transition for their citizens.
Discover more on the topic this month, with an editorial highlight on Digital Transition in cities. All articles will be published on Thursdays!

Reposted from the URBACT website.

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.

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

 “Mini marché”: a citizens-led CSA

In the 800-inhabitant city of Piegros-La Clastre, after the local farmer, Cécile Grigoryev Anciant decided to stop delivering her weekly vegetable boxes, a citizen, Eric Escande, decided to take over the lead to collect orders from citizens interested in her weekly products. From vegetables, the scheme started proposing fruits, dairy products, meat and bread, under a snowball effect and without any particular promotion, except for the weekly distributions on the main square of the village. The scheme has been a success since the beginning, with a weekly 500-euro turnover and 130 families signed up. The voluntary aspect of it (enrolling 30 people) makes it an alternative to other paying schemes predominant in cities such as La Ruche Qui Dit Oui.

Brins de Terroir ©Marcelline Bonneau
Brins de Terroir ©Marcelline Bonneau

Brins de terroir”: local producers’ grouped selling point

Since 2008, local producers sell their products under a cooperative, Brins de Terroir, labelled under Terre d’envies, promoting collective selling points. Today, around 40 producers of fruits, vegetables, meat, dairy products, preserves, drinks as well as local craftsart, occupy a former train station in Vaunaveys-la-Rochette to sell their products directly to consumers: half of them are associate producers. The contributing producers work in shift in the shop together with two employees. The strategic location and opening hours (on Sundays and bank holidays) have contributed to the success of the shop with an annual turnover of circa 850 000 euros.

“Innovative food systems”: co-created food policy

The two Communautés de communes (Local Federation of French municipalities) Val de Drôme and du Crestois et du Pays de Saillans, together with three NGOs CIVAM, AgribioDrome and Court Circuit, launched in 2015 a collaborative process to co-create the food policy of their area. A first phase (2015-2018) inaugurated the governance model of the five organisations together with initial definition of actions under three axes: awareness-raising and food outside home; transformation, distribution and logistics; networking between local stakeholders. In a second phase (2018-2019), workshops have brought together citizens and stakeholders to identify the issues that were of importance to them, seeking to move away from the initial agricultural focus to a food one. Grouping them by target groups (children, youth, elderly people, precarious groups), the work has then carried on by the types of activities that could be implemented while prioritising them. This work is also based on learnings from other experiences throughout France and Europe, with an objective to co-implement and co-monitor food actions with all stakeholders.

“BioVallee”: an NGO for the sustainability of the territory

BioVallee© is a project and trademark to make three Communautés de Communes (Val de Drôme and du Crestois et du Pays de Saillans, and Diois) a responsible, innovative and alternative rural metropole whereby sustainable development is at the heart of human, agricultural, economic and cultural activities. It seeks to conceive, identify, promote and upscale sustainable practices accessible to all via cooperation tools such as the Trademark BioVallée ©, a website, a sustainability self-assessment grid, networking of its members, thematic workshops, interviews, access to call for projects, a funding programme, an observatory and a charter. Initiated by Drome Valley ( and supported by the two others Communautés de Communes, the project has been delegated to an NGO, funded by them. Amongst its objectives, the project aims to reach 50% of organic producers and production by 2020 and 80% of organic and/or local products in collective catering by 2025, with a reduction by 50% of chemical products non organic agriculture. Even if the 230 members of the NGO who can use the Trademark are not all organic, they engage themselves to follow the principles of the charter and reach the objectives of BioVallée, in progressing towards better practices: divide by two energy consumption, using renewable energies, buying local, creating open-ended contract, using ethical funds…

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.

1. Sustainability is polysemic

Angeliki Stogia, Councilor at the City of Manchester (UK) asked us: “what do you, what do we, actually mean by sustainability?”. Although its official definition from the 1992 Brundtland Report is unambiguous, but, what does it mean and how should cities approach it? The realm of participants showed a variety of understandings. For example, for Filipa Pimentel from the Transition network it is for society to become more resilient, which in turn would make our ecosystems more resilient. From a people-based approach, to a planning-based one, focusing on regeneration (or the inclusion of environment in local policies) can only bring in consensus and a chance for all stakeholders to adjust their visions and priorities.

2. Sustainability should be tackled at all levels

Our discussions started with Thomas Béthune from DG REGIO, European Commission, stating his needs to be in touch with cities themselves to feed sustainability into European policies. They were wrapped up by Filipa Pimental who expressed the leadership of citizens who become actors of change. In between the two, the Leipzig Charter is focusing on neighbourhoods and Alicja Pawlowska, Head of EU projects and mobility management at the City of Gydnia (PL) stressed the importance of this in their daily work. Cities are where changes take place and these considerations stress the need for territorial and contextual approaches. This would be impossible without the collaboration and inputs from member states, as Olli Maijala, Adviser at Finnish Ministry of the Environment suggested.

3. Sustainability requires a new mindset

Experimenting in cities is not new, yet they need to keep on being innovative, combining social and technological innovation (e.g. Urban Innovative Actions (UIA) Vilawatt project in Viladecans (ES), developing market-based instruments (e.g. Stockholm’s successful congestion charges), in addition to nature-based solutions (e.g. Chinese sponge cities, which mainstream urban water management into the urban planning policies and designs), and consumption-based approaches (e.g. URBACT BioCanteens network) and to focus on processes.

Increasingly, cities need to change their vision, and to think out of the box and take risks. The inner change needs to look beyond traditional city-makers, including other profiles such as psychologists (as strongly supported by the Transition network and already tested in Gdansk (PL).

4. Sustainability applies to all

Sustainability applies to jobs and skills creation such as a Food Innovation Hub in Milan (IT) within the UIA OpenAgri project, as well as to the city of Gdynia seeking to make freight transport more effective in cities within URBACT FreightTails. Not to mention the H2020 Ruggedised where Rotterdam (NL) experiments smart city developments.

Mobility. Energy. Food. Air quality. Digitalisation. Health and well-being. Urban planning. Sustainability should be a transversal approach, and “business as usual” as Angeliki Stogia phrased it. In order to support this process, city governance should be rethought to be bold and to be participatory, with citizen scrutiny.

New forms of involvement and partnerships should be promoted as with the engagement of citizens in air quality control within Helsinki’s (FI) UIA Hope project; the public-private-citizen partnership for energy production in Viladecans’ UIA Vilawatt project; or the use of culture and arts to mobilise citizens to address climate change in the URBACT C-Change network.

Sustainability also requires cross-departmental collaboration such as in the City of Schaerbeek (BE) cross-cutting solutions which tackle social environmental and neighborhood issues within an action-research project on organic waste transformation, Phosphore.

5. Sustainability requires strong leadership

Leadership for sustainability can happen at all levels of cities. Angeliki Stogia from Manchester, Gilles Perole from Mouans-Sartoux (FR) (lead partner of BioCanteens) and Laura Rodrigues from Torres Verdas (ES) (2015 Green Leaf Capital City) are the elected representatives who took part in this second URBACT City Lab, confirming their city’s commitment to this challenge. This is just the beginning of a global movement of awareness and action towards more sustainability in cities.

Reposted from the URBACT website.

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?

Changing is, indeed, difficult. Adopting new consumption practices in order to support transition towards a low-carbon society is even more difficult in this “Consumer Society”. As Zygmunt Baumann detailed in the 2007 “Consuming Life”, our space is an entangled web where social life politics and democracy, social divisions and stratification, communities and partnerships, identity building, the production and use of knowledge, and value preferences are entangled. Yet, it is crucial that we now, as citizens, change the way we consume according to the UN Sustainable Development Goal 12 and as recently emphasised in the IPCC Special report on Global Warming of 1.5 ºC.

Supporting citizens in their consumption transition has been at the core of public policies for decades and is a constant challenge – as well as a realm for experimentation. 3 European initiatives: URBACT, UIA and the Urban Agenda Partnership on Circular Economy give an insight into key approaches in the way European cities are frontrunners, supporting citizens in their transition towards more sustainable consumption practices.

Mouans Sartoux, BioCanteens URBACT network. Photo by Marcelline Bonneau

Identifying a key topical entry: a food story

Mouans-Sartoux (FR) is the lead partner of the BioCanteens URBACT network, transferring its practice of a 100% organic canteen. One key element for this shift is behavioural change and the education of children, as well as of their parents. This is done thanks to food education which includes making choices between portion sizes at the canteen (to empower them in identifying the right amount of food they require), tasting and cooking classes, gardening activities and visits to the municipal farm, as well as a special food and health program aimed at shifting families’ habits to eating local and organic food. With the support of a survey of consumers’ habits, it is part of a more integrated method.

By focusing on school canteens, we are trying to develop a comprehensive approach to support new food habits of the children of Mouans-Sartoux, as well as for their parents: combining fighting foodwaste, training of kitchen staff, reducing costs, developing local economy, supporting sustainable urban planning and agricultural land use, and with a complete governance system composed of a food territorial management – as well as the creation of the Centre for Sustainable Food and Education (MEAD)”, says Gilles Pérole, elected representative of Mouans-Sartoux.

Let’s play! Using gamification as an incentive for new ways of consuming

Making recycling and re-use fun but also rewarding is the approach Santiago de Compostela (ES) is developing in its Tropa Verde URBACT transfer network. Citizens recycle and receive tokens (green points, civic and social centres, recovery points, etc.), they can exchange for sustainable – non production intensive – gifts, such as public transport tickets, haircuts, or meals. Partner shops are integrated in the daily lives of citizens, making participation easy, interactive and fun. A multimedia platform enables them to identify local shops in which the exchange can take place: it is the central point for interaction, easily accessible, but also transferrable to other cities to adapt to their local circumstances. Finally, this practice is making citizens responsible in their recycling habits, but also in a move towards more circular attitudes in other areas of their lives.

Combining online and offline activities

In Antwerp (BE), the City Administration took the opportunity of the development of a newly created district, the New South district, to position circularity as a community challenge. The plan? To engage its new residents in co-creating both online and offline initiatives to change their behaviours, in relation to energy and water consumption as well as to waste management. The UIA Antwerp Circular South project has enabled developing technical solutions such as photovoltaics, storage batteries, smart grids, smart meters and individual dashboards too. Local inhabitants experiment behavioural nudging, while receiving cues to adapt their consumption behaviour of energy, water and waste in the most ideal circular way. Circular behaviours will be automatically rewarded by an alternative online currency, the “circular coin”, through a blockchain – based reward and exchange system. Some of the most engaged Circular South participants will form a local energy community co-owning an innovative collective energy system. In addition, a Circular South community centre – the so-called CIRCUIT, has been set up to host a number of initiatives related to sharing, repairing and reusing activities. As Gabriëlle Van Zoeren, former project coordinator, said “nothing of what we do is new: our innovation is to bring it together and especially to combine the online and offline activities!”.

One resource Centre, the Mini Recycling Centre, Oslo. Photo by Marcelline Bonneau

Developing new ecosystems

The city of Oslo (NO) has led the work on the Urban Agenda Partnership on Circular Economy including a series of meetings and projects within the frame of the multi-level governance, as well as a catalogue mapping existing Urban Resource Centres: the “local approaches to waste prevention, re-use, repair and recycling in a circular economy” (to be published and shared before the Summer 2019).

The catalogue presents and reviews critical success factors and transferrable qualities, of the resource centres. Their functions can be social (job creation, engaging the community in responsible consumption and disposal, or improved quality of life), economic (transformation of industrial sectors, entrepreneurship and new business models or co-creation in a circular economy) or environmental (waste prevention, waste management or boosting the market for secondary raw materials). They can be public, private or public-private. Creating such resource centres entails developing new ecosystems that can be useful for citizens. Yet, they are facing barriers such as access to space, legislation, waste quality, communication, reporting or funding. At the same time, they benefit from technology, stakeholder engagement, co-location, political support and strong links to the social economy. The city of Oslo is currently seeking to take this work forward with a follow-up network of peer-learning and exchange.

Is a circular economy approach the way forward?

Grassroots initiatives, market-based solutions and research are the bases for the above-mentioned cases. Yet, public authorities are steering these processes by experimenting new approaches, bringing them together, and supporting learning across the EU. As such, local public authorities have a key role to play in ensuring that an increasing number of projects are developed and evaluated for the concrete and operational change of consumer practices.

All 3 cases also show the need to adopt integrated approaches: in terms of topics, methodology, governance, stakeholders and territories. Circular economy is more than a buzzword. It is an overall encompassing approach. It could help cities develop projects, which support citizens to adopt new consumption habits and which encourage transition towards a new economic ecosystem, with the potential to offer long-lasting economic, environmental and social benefits.

Reposted from the URBACT website.

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

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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