Tag Archives: Governance

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. The SIC Declaration presents a European framework to facilitate experimentations and exchanges across EU on existing practices. The Manifesto for Transformative Social Innovation provides a set of key principles enabling such practices. At a city level it does not necessarily need to be strategised: Amsterdam does have a Social innovation Strategy, Gdansk does not. And in both cities, the movement is on: conceptually and concretely.

Yet, preconditions need to be adopted. In Gdansk, for example, the late Pawel Adamowicz, had a strong vision of it: social innovation was the approach he took for governing the city, with incremental changes being embedded in the city’ policies.  As a starting point, he supported another way of addressing what appeared to be problems in the cities, for example moving from “social issues” to “social development”. Words and concepts are indeed key when dealing with everyday life in a city. And the same applies for social innovation: concepts are part of innovation and transition processes and as such, once they become mainstream, they are overused and lose their initial meaning. From social innovation to grassroots initiatives via social and solidarity economy or commons, the responsible stakeholders need to be up to date with the concepts they use in the adequate way.

Increasing the collaboration between stakeholders is another prerequisite via the adoption of integrated approaches and methodologies (e.g. triple, quadruple, quintuple helixes or the URBACT method). A key triggering factor for such collaboration appears to be the grouping of interest around a common goal, such as the application for the iCapital award 2016 in Amsterdam (won) or the European Capital of Culture 2016 in Gdansk (lost). This can then be embedded and formalized as a form of collaboration, such as the Amsterdam Social Agreement.

The city of Ixelles listens to its inhabitants on 6 march 2018

The city of Ixelles listens to its inhabitants on 6 march 2018

Getting to know each other is crucial as well, to learn each other’s realities, languages, ways of working, etc… It can start from open hearings as in Ixelles. Visits to one another (“visites croisées) and “live my life” (“vis ma vie”) were also tested in Brussels via the VILCO project. In Amsterdam, the Climate Neutral initiative, made it possible to collaborate with a fragmentation of the city geographics and split responsibilities.

Social innovation is a transversal way of addressing not only “problems” but our daily lives by trying out new ways and approaches. It is about on-going experimentation as a prerequisite to ensure a societal transition for a more resilient society. More resilient socially, economically, environmentally, culturally, … and this both at the individual and collective levels. As such, those promoting social innovation should also apply it for themselves. Within the administration, in addition to individual empowerment and accountability, as in the case of the calls for project for civil servants in Turin, it also means being open to innovative civil servants’ profiles (e.g. psychologists, NGOs, journalists in Gdansk) and experimenting with new forms of governance (e.g. Citizens’ Panels in Gdansk, plethora of participatory budgets). We need to identify our own individual roles in this. And these need to be adapted to each given cultural and economic contexts.

This is an approach that can be developed and strengthened by empowerment, capacity-building, inspiring, while shifting paradigm. More difficultly, it requires new ways of evaluating actions and policies. And even to question the rationale for such an evaluation.

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These reflexions emerged from the workshop the last event of the SIC project in Amsterdam on 25 February 2019, where we discussed the way(s) the SIC Declaration could be implemented in Amsterdam.

 

The difficult transition of consumers towards more sustainable practices

Diapositive2It has been years since I have been concerned with the issue of our consumption behaviour and practices. How can we make ourselves better consumer in order to enhance the resilience of our ecosystem? How (and who) can we provide support to our peers to this process?

For years, I had been following, what I would call a traditional public management/ psychological/ behavioural economics/ linear approach that suited me intellectually perfectly: I assumed that by identifying intervention logics and detailed analytical grids, we would identify causal chains and act at the right level. Conceptually speaking, it was very straightforward and easy to use. For years, I also used such approaches for evaluating European public policies. Yet, I realised that it was not enough. I could see the limits of such an approach in my own acts, in that of my surrounding and in public policies. At the same moment, via studies in Sciences, Technology and Society (STS), I opened up to a more systemic way of analysing and researching, that made me understand our behaviours and practices in a more consistent and holistic way. I became a strong proponent of a practice approach as opposed to psychosociological one. I experimented its operationalisation with the Brussels’ Regional Ministry of the environment in addressing food waste in households. Don’t get me wrong, I did not feel previous public policies were to be thrown away. But I kept on meeting civil servants frustrated about their (partially) unsuccessful policies and I felt they were missing out some of the point.
During one of the first discussions I had with Gabrielle Van Zoeren, Project manager of the Antwerp Circular South project, it appeared her conceptual approach had followed the reverse path of mind of mine: she was convinced that behavioural economics were the key to make people change their consumption behaviours. In particular, through nudging, people could easily change their behaviours and to see immediate benefits of those, in a smooth, yet forced way. I was sceptical when Gabrielle shared her enthusiasm about nudges that could establish a routine: “We are already structured around our working and lunch hours, why not establishing that we do our laundry at an exact time each week, especially if we save money?” 

What about life flexibility and unexpected event? What about the fact that we are already constrained by so many obligations, do we already want to add some new ones? What about empowerment? What about deeper understanding of what makes people behave in a certain way? What about sustainability of such behaviours? What

I raised these questions with the partners. My own scepticism became a source of mutual learning, streamlining of approaches and further stress into co-creation with the partners and the beneficiaries (the citizens). Having dug into the project, I now see the reality that matters: it is that nudges are not taken in isolation and are strongly supported by qualitative analysis and that beneficiaries are fully involved. The partners have a strong potential in order to ensure that the project will be carried out very closely with  citizens, putting them at the heart of co-created solutions that will suit them in their reality: the knowledge of partners in direct contact with citizens through the cooperative Ecopower, the Pantopicon designers or De KringWinkel at the heart of the daily interaction with citizens will feed into the nudges that will be developed and implemented through the expertise and technicalities of the other partners, IMEC, VITO, Digipolis and EnergieID. I had to admit that it was worth the experimentation. And to me, that is the biggest value of this project.

Reposted from the UIA’s website.

Being a super civil servant, what does it take, where does it lead us to?

IMG_8012Interview with Gabriëlle Van Zoeren, Antwerp Circular South Project Coordinator.

You appear to be enthusiastic, positive, very creative and always looking upfront/forward and, not letting down. How is it to be an innovative project coordinator?

It does take the willingness to except many obstacles to conquer.  Yet it´s great to work with visionary partners, we all share the challenge of bringing something complex into reality, this common effort makes it inspiring and gives me the vibe to keep going. We all know, if it works, we created something really valuable.

What has been your experience of dealing within your internal administrative structures? (have you face any strong personal or structural blockages, are you rather supported or not)?

A municipality has the responsibility to make the city processes run smoothly. Citizens need a stable, trustworthy and transparent administration to count on. Of course, this a direct contradiction with an innovative environment. So yes, I have been stumbling upon closed doors. Yet I understand that this is part of the game called innovation. My mentality is, stay focus, accept that it takes time and be patient. Sometimes the door stays closed but usually two windows open in the end and we can move on.

What are your biggest fears of failure for the project? Are there any?

My greatest fear would be that all our activities have NO results. Citizens can choose not to respond to a nudge, not to come to the Circularity Centre, they can choose not to care, and this would be my biggest fear, that we are too much, too fast, too complex to comprehend for the citizens.

Reposted from the UIA’s website.

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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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

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