Overall definition and context of the topic
Culture and cultural heritage including Cultural and Creative Industries, are vital assets for regional competitiveness and social cohesion, while constituting key elements of the identity of cities and regions. Furthermore, cultural participation has a significant impact on residents’ quality of life, contributing to their well-being and their sense of belonging.
Despite the fact that culture and cultural heritage are considered an important element in strategies for urban and regional development, their potential is not always fully tapped. One of the reasons lies in the persistence of a traditional approach where investments in those sectors focus exclusively on the support to cultural production or on physical interventions in heritage sites or buildings. While those investments are crucial to support the development of cultural values and/or artistic expressions, and to pass the precious tangible and intangible cultural heritage of Europe to future generations, it is fundamental to promote innovative approaches, targeting the sustainability of the actions and maximising the social and economic benefits on the territories and communities.
As general principles, these investments should be based on:
•    integrated approaches, by better using the potential that culture and culture heritage has in generating benefits in the different policy areas (i.e. research, transport, tourism, employment, environment, entrepreneurship -  Culture and cultural heritage benefit from a range of EU policies, programmes and funding, including Creative Europe, but also European Structural and Investment Funds, Horizon 2020, COSME, Europe for Citizens or EU external action financing instruments.)  and in the quality of urban interventions; 
•    people-centred approaches, tailoring interventions on the effective needs of people and communities and offering them the opportunity to benefit from cultural and cultural heritage resources through participatory approaches in decision making, co-creation and co-implementation;
•    open governance models, engaging a wide spectrum of actors in the public, non-for-profit and private sectors (in particular SMEs) allowing them to generate innovative forms of financing culture and cultural heritage, direct or indirect economic or social benefits.

Relevance for and role of urban authorities
Cities are laboratories of culture-based innovation. They can play a key role, targeting their strategies to enable citizens and communities to benefit from culture and heritage resources for their future, and acting as catalysers for the wide spectrum of stakeholders and authorities concerned by integrated investments. Integrated, place-based development efforts adapted to local conditions are more likely to be successful in generating results. For instance, it has been demonstrated that a strategic, long-term and participatory approach to culture as required by the European Capital of Culture label, can bring sustainable benefits to cities and regions.
Such integrated approach needs to reflect above all the needs of local residents, in order to facilitate their access to and participation in culture. The concept of “access” focuses on enabling them to use the available cultural offer, also by “opening doors” to non-traditional audiences in order for them to enjoy cultural offer or heritage sites that have previously been difficult to access because of a set of barriers. The concept of “participation” (in decision making, in the creative processes, etc.) recognises the residents as an active interlocutor, to be consulted – or at least involved – in planning and creating the cultural offer.
In order to produce benefits on the society, actions and projects should be as open and inclusive as possible, allowing all citizens and communities to engage with and benefit from these resources. Unfortunately, available data on cultural participation in the EU shows that due to a number of obstacles, numerous Europeans neither take part in cultural activities nor visit cultural sites.
The New European Agenda for Culture, proposed by the European Commission in May 2018, recognizes that there is a clear scope to increase cultural participation of Europeans. Cultural accessibility was also included among specific objectives of the European Year of Cultural Heritage 2018. Furthermore, the political legacy of the Year, the European Framework for Action on Cultural Heritage, states that stimulating participation in cultural heritage remains a challenge and proposes a number of actions that specifically target, or remain relevant, for cities in the EU.

Prompts for urban authorities
Within the context of the Urban Innovative Actions and taking stock of the European Union activities in this regard, urban authorities are invited to test innovative community-based solutions in accessibility to and participation in culture and cultural heritage which can have a positive impact on growth and jobs, social cohesion and social inclusion.
Without being prescriptive concerning the types of projects expected, cities are invited to consider in particular the following points and issues:

  • Promoting social inclusion and cohesion through improved access and participation to cultural and recreational services, in particular, to cultural “third places” (widely understood physical places where people can connect with each other, ranging from cultural centres or museums to recreational centres, urban gardens or public libraries).
  • Identifying and putting in place innovative participatory governance and management models for cultural heritage and cultural assets for example, but not exclusively, by looking for synergies between urban policies and digital humanities which can contribute to culture-centred participatory urban processes (E.g. see the European CrossCult project)
  • Improving natural heritage, especially in peri-urban areas and historic centres to create quality public spaces to improve sense of belonging and resilience of cities;
  • Promoting local employment through culture and cultural heritage sustainable business models based on the participation of stakeholders and innovative public-private partnerships. 
  • Exploring innovative models of increasing social and physical well-being though improved access to and participation in culture and cultural heritage;
  • Identifying new strategies for more sustainable tourism flows, tapping on the potential of minor/peri-urban/rural heritage sites;
  • Fostering intercultural dialogue through better access and wider participation in culture.