Tag Archives: Cities

(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. 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 was 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 was going to feel like? Who were we going to meet and get inspired from? Who and what would surprise us? What would we take home? I must say, a few days before the opening cocktail, I was 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”? In the end, what I took away were some snapshots of the City, the URBACT world and methodology and some reflections about the future of cities.

GETTING TO KNOW LISBON

2018-09-13 21.24.42To start with, the city Festival was totally embedded in nowadays’ reality of the Lisbon. The launch cocktail was organized at the São Jorge Castle, which can only remind us of our link with North Africa and our common culture. We were offered insights into local artistic movements and people, who seek to make a difference and bring about a new vision to their environments: a concert garbage collectors drums by Largo Residencia Glum, Cape Verde batuque rhythm with a platform for womens’ rights “Remedi Terra”, a poetic play without words by GTeatro, “If you can’t” read, look at the figure”. Traditions were also at the heart of our cultural bath with an intergenerational Fado collective Os Fidalgos da Penha. “Did you talk to the lady over there”?  a dozen of people asked me the question , referring to Teresa Ricou, 70, who since 1974 has focused on the social integration of youngsters by training them, notably converting a former orphanage into a circassian school at Chapito, created in 1981, where we had our closing event. All these are without mentioning the walkshops organised throughout the city during the two days on housing projects in Alcântara, on gender equal cities, on placemaking as a catalyst for improving public spaces,  the city heritage crisis, digital city futures, migration integration in Amadora, on revitalising the retail sector in Baixa-Chiado, on Semear na Terra in Oeiras, in the eco-neighbourhood Boavista Ambiente, on tackling urban poverty from the ground up in Marvila, … These supported our cultural, sociological, political and urbanistic discovery of the city at the same time as working hard on the present and future of our cities.

A UNIQUE MOMENT TO MEET AND EXCHANGE

Atom citizen2018-09-13 13.43.56The URBACT City Festival, Summer Universities, National thematic seminars and all other kinds of URBACT events are there to network, to get to know each other – in informal and so-called “white” moments, to learn from other cities, on some specific issues, to get familiar with the programme but also to concretely co-construct solutions for our cities. This is also the moment when some projects were born: networks but also some tools and policies. I’d like to share an unexpected story. In May 2015, URBACT organised its first City festival. A part of it was geared towards creativity and ideation. During one of the activities (which was actually the outcomes of previous activities scattered along two days), a group of us created a “Citizen Atom”. The concept was to put citizens at the heart of local policies in empowering them. At the end of the festival, participants voted for their most preferred idea, our group came second on the podium. Life moved on. A year later, in 2016, I bumpt into Carlos de Sousa Santos, from the City of Braga, at the URBACT Summer University in Rotterdam: he showed me our Citizen Atom that he had taken forward as a concept for youth policies in his city. A year and a half later, in November 2017,  I saw him again at a meeting of the Boostino project in Paris: he was actually carrying out an Erasums + project on the Youth City developing his approach. Now, seeing him in Lisbon at the URBACT City Festival, he presented the full approach, integrated in his City strategy. This is the way a creative exercise organized by URBACT became a local policy. This makes unique people develop unique solutions for their cities.

SHOULD WE BE AFRAID?

2018-09-13 10.41.52I must say, I ended the Festival with a mixed feeling: for the first time, I felt the urgency to act but also the concrete difficulties. Indeed, Paula Marques, Deputy Mayor of the City of Lisbon, welcomed us and launched the Festival by being clear about today’s situation: “In these times of fear, we need to fight the global system with participatory democracy”. Yet, how can you convince cities which are not in the “URBACT mood” to join? To be open to integrated approach? To dedicate time and energy to changing the way cities are made? To make their mandate meaningful? What tips can you give for civil servants to convince their elected representative to steer a new process? For elected representatives to change the tasks and ways of working of their city’s civil servants? Even for the cities already in URBACT: how can you cope with the fact that after two years and a half of co-creation of a Local Action Plan, a newly elected Mayor bypasses this work and goes in his/her own direction?

2018-09-14 17.09.53We then had a discussion with Magdalena Skiba, from the City of Gdansk, who was very optimistic. She could feel that co-creation was going on. That cities were increasingly connected and innovating. This had to go along with the efforts to keep on working together, but she could see and feel this was really happening. She could also the urge to feel the ownership of cities. She reminded of the feeling I had when working on the case of Gdansk: a mixed feeling of utopia feeling following More’s approach to it, the vision of Pawel Adamowicz, Gdansk’s Mayor: we can have a vision to make the world but do we need to impose it? Is it the best way to do it?

But also, Ania Rok, Master of Ceremony of the Festival made it clear: “the actors of change in cities have a rising role”. These actors being “us”: city officials, civil servants, stakeholders, private actors, civil society, just citizens. Yet, we need to be empowered at all levels of city governance. To get know each other, to be open to each other, to learn from each other, to be humble and transparent. To accept ours and others’ ego and cope with it.

“URBACT MAKES US CONFIDENT”

Yet, that is one of the key messages the participants took away from the Festival and my concluding takeaway as well. Confident in knowing we do the right things, confident that we are not alone, confident that the transition we are supporting is not easy, confident that we can do it, and that altogether we can do it better. And cities at are the heart of this. There are many challenges ahead and we are responsible for it. We can act on it. We should act on it.

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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

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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.

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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

Picture 4 Citizens getting their reward from recycling ©Tropa Verde

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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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

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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

Saillans'City Council building ©Marcelline Bonneau

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

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:

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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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