Tag Archives: UIA

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.

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.