The community of cities implementing UIA projects was indeed widely represented at the Cities Forum 2020. More than 130 delegates from 55 UIA cities (out of the 75 projects currently ongoing) had the opportunity to gather for the first time to exchange whilst reflecting on the best ways to transfer what they have learnt to other cities in Europe.
The Cities Forum itself offered UIA cities a great platform to share the initial findings of their projects with hundreds of urban practitioners attending the event. 5 cities presented their ground-breaking projects to other EU urban stakeholders, whilst 17 UIA cities were showcased and a further 8 , Athens, Bologna, Brussels Capital Region, Ghent, Maribor, Ravenna, Rotterdam and Turin, contributed to sessions on housing, circular economy, jobs and skills, the sustainable development goals, and the European Urban Initiative (EUI) working group.
Achieving concrete results on the ground by testing innovative approaches whilst inspiring other cities in Europe were also the two key points discussed during the first ever gathering of ongoing UIA projects. During his intervention, Normunds Popens, Deputy Director General at the DG Regional and Urban Policy, underlined how the clear interest showed by European cities for UIA (more than 1200 proposals received over 5 UIA calls) and the great commitment of the 75 ongoing projects (in 18 different Member States) are two signs that UIA can be considered as one of the most effective instruments that the EU has to offer to cities to help them do things differently. He also insisted on the importance to capitalise on the great wealth of knowledge that UIA projects are generating, making it as accessible as possible to other cities in Europe. The message was received loud and clear by the 55 cities in the room who actively contributed to a lively group discussion on knowledge capitalisation and transfer.
The overarching message was clear: with the right framework in place, UIA cities are committed and motivated to share their experiences and lessons learnt with cities facing similar challenges. Their inputs (captured by several UIA experts moderating the discussion) will be extremely valuable for enriching the UIA Knowledge Strategy that will be officially adopted in the upcoming weeks.
The workshop also offered the opportunity to launch the UIA Knowledge Lab and to announce upcoming activities on Housing (jointly with URBACT), Mobility and Monitoring and Evaluation (one of the seven operational challenges for UIA projects).
The discussions during the meet-up with UIA cities represented a natural bridge with the debates related to the future Cohesion Policy programming period 2021-2027 and more especially to the proposed EUI. Starting from the need to continue supporting urban authorities implementing strategies for Sustainable Urban Development but also acknowledging the current fragmentation of the different supporting mechanisms, during several workshops and plenary sessions it was made clear that helping cities to experiment innovative solutions should be a central component of the new Initiative. The last 4 years have shown the great interest that urban authorities have for a flexible and reactive instrument such as UIA but also the need to better articulate the work with other measures to maximise the knowledge potential.
This makes it even more important to design and test the possible value chain to connect the different supporting mechanisms. Again, the Cities Forum offered a relevant testbed as demonstrated by the launch of the first joint capitalisation activity between UIA and URBACT on housing as well as the fruitful cooperation with the Circular Economy Partnership of the Urban Agenda for the UIA.
Urban Innovative Actions is now standing at a key crossroad. Slowly but surely UIA is shifting its focus from selecting new innovative solutions for funding to supporting the implementation of ongoing projects and making sure that their knowledge is disseminated and taken up by other urban stakeholders in Europe. The Cities Forum has shown that this is the right path to follow but also that now it is the right moment to start piloting the new ideas and mechanisms for 2021-2027. This gives us even more energy and enthusiasm to continue innovating in the way we foster sustainable urban development.
1 fruitful Cities Forum2020 with:
UIA city representatives
UIA city mayors and vice-mayors contributing to political debates
UIA cities present at the UIA stand for informal talks with participants
UIA cities sharing their innovative experience: Rotterdam, Paris, Ghent, Turin & Lille
UIA cities showcased
UIA cities contributing to sessions on housing, circular economy, jobs and skills, SDGs, and European Initiative working group: Athens, Bologna, Brussels Capital Region, Ghent, Maribor, Ravenna, Rotterdam, Turin
sessions actively involving UIA cities