Social innovation in URBACT

The role of cities is emerging strongly from the First URBACT Capitalisation report, as a catalyst of social innovation and leading to the reflexion on the role of cities in the process that bridges more traditional forms of governance towards more participatory ones. In addition, cities, facing diminishing public resources, especially within the Crisis, need to research upon innovative approaches to major social challenges. Finally, municipalities occupy a pivotal role here, as they are both rebuilding trust with citizens and brokering cross-sectoral approaches. Key elements emerged from the report, such as:

  • the need of support for the generation of new ideas;
  • the role of co-production;
  • the impact of smart finance;
  • the potential of new service co-produced delivery models;
  • the value of unusual suspects; and,
  • the prerequisite of a strong evidence base.

An scan of identified URBACT third call (4D Cities, Active Age, Healthy Ageing, Together, Sustainable Food, URBACT Markets, USER) and pilot projects (Diet for a Green Planet, TUTUR, Placemaking) identified the following trends :

  • Common threads that are also recurring elements emerging in the practices of social innovation taking place at this moment all around the world where cities are taking a leading role.

  • Cities focus on producing a positive change within society both by:

    • stimulating an idea active of citizenship, and

    • providing the various stakeholders (citizens, civil servants, local associations, and local entrepreneurs) the possibility to be directly involved to the decision making process regarding many aspects of city life, such as for instance the re-definition of common space (as the project Placemaking for cities),  the re-definition of policies (the project Together), and of ways to deliver new service models (as the project Active A.G.E.), of  smart finance, of procurement or tools.

  • Cities play a key role in ensuring a bottom-up approach towards behavioural change (for instance for systemic massive change such as in tackling climate change in the project Diet for a green planet)

  • Cities are crucial in enhancing the importance of the concept of shared responsibility towards the “common” (goods, spaces, etc..).

  • Small scale pilot projects enable citizens to take directly part to the process of decision making of the “commons” and to experiment new participated forms of governance, as  as they have the possibility to interact with the many local stakeholders (citizens above all) in a more direct way;

  • The renovation and reconfiguration of the urban dimension can be achieved through:

    • the co-design of public spaces (as in the project User, Placemaking for cities) and

    • the co-design and co-production of innovative services and programmes for urban regeneration (Together),

    • the co-design innovative strategies for job creation (4D cities).

  • The projects tend to start from the existing resources (physical infrastructures but also sets of values, skills and knowledge) and to develop their often underexpressed potentialities.

  • The real asset of the projects are the people, citizens but also the other local stakeholders, that are enabled by cites in co-designing and co-producing a more participative and resilient kind of society that can better face relevant and complex contemporary societal issues.

About this website

This website displays the URBACT CAPITALISATION PROCESS (EU project) work on "Social innovation in cities". The information and views set out in this study are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official opinion of the European Union. Neither the European Union institutions and bodies nor any person acting on their behalf may be held responsible for the use which may be made of the information contained therein.

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