UrbanA Community Conversations

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UrbanA Community Conversations are a series of regular (nearly biweekly) online events that bring together people with a passion for urban sustainability and justice to connect, learn, discuss and have fun. They are a core part of the UrbanA Community of Practice. Each Community Conversation, CoCo for short, involves one or more short presentations of the work of an UrbanA fellow, followed by a participation section for guests to explore the themes explored. In time the CoP evolved to explore different forms of event, as outlined in UrbanA side events. All CoCos reports and videos can be found on our blog on Medium and by following the #UrbanACoCo on social media (twitter, instagram, facebook).

Designing a local climate adaptation plan

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João Dinis, from Cascais Municipality in the metropolitan area of Lisbon, Portugal, gave a rich and exciting presentation on Cascais’ local climate adaptation plan, the very first in Portugal. Although participants asked many questions during the webinar, time constraints did not allow us to answer them all. Fortunately, João kindly provided written answers following the webinar, which you can see in the blog post.

(April 7th, 30 participants - Blog post - Slides - video)

Everyone can Wiki — online meeting provides practical hands-on experience

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Tom Henfrey of UrbanA partner ECOLISE, began with a short background piece on commons and their importance to the theme of sustainable and just cities. Karlijn Schipper of UrbanA partner DRIFT, then gave participants a tour of the wiki and facilitated practical exercises in creating a wiki user page and setting up a new wiki page.

The call helped us grow our community of wiki users and contributors. Around thirty people signed up for new wiki accounts following the call for co-creation launched in the run-up to the call, and during the call itself. Call participants created new wiki pages on several topics, including Open Food Network, art as a pedagogical tool for urban resilience, the Crafting Future Urban Economies project, Socratic digital democracy, and the Social Innovation Strategies for Sustainability Transitions project.

(April 21st, 30+ participants - Blog post - Video)

Transformative Cities: linking local and translocal perspectives on sustainable and just cities

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The third UrbanA Community Conversation was a dialogue between UrbanA Fellow Emma Erwin of Transition Stirling (Scotland) and Sol Trumbo Villa, Coordinator of the Transformative Cities project at the Transnational Institute in Amsterdam (in which UrbanA Fellow Erick Palomares is project researcher).

The call opened with a discussion between Emma and Sol about the relationship between Transformative Cities and Transition Stirling. Transition Cities identifies, showcases and connects exemplary urban transformation projects worldwide, while Transition Stirling facilitates positive local responses to climate change through community-scale projects

(April 28th, 40 participants - Blog post - Video)

Is Lisbon a Sustainable and Just City? Perspectives from Europe´s 2020 Green Capital

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Nearly 60 people attended the fourth UrbanA Community Conversation, on May 26th. It was also the first in our new “City Series” of community conversations, for which we visited the current European Green Capital, Lisbon. The event was facilitated by Constança Belchior from the UrbanA Portugal team and included perspectives from UrbanA Fellow Rafael Calado of Fablab Lisboa, Luís Matos of Rés do Chão and Patrícia Robalo of Morar em Lisboa and Lisbon’s Housing Movement about a range of issues including urban greening, evictions, gentrification, civic engagement and local community solutions in this fast-changing city.

(May 26, 60 participants - Blog post - Slides - Video - Event Post - Facebook Event Post - Images)

How governance arrangements foster both urban sustainability and justice

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Building on the momentum and enthusiasm generated by UrbanA’s online ‘Barcelona’ Arena earlier in the month, 44 people joined the fifth UrbanA Community Conversation on June 23rd. This digital gathering marked the beginning of a new stage in the project — which has so far journeyed from approaches for just and sustainable cities at the Rotterdam Arena, to drivers of injustice in urban sustainability at the second, recent Arena, and now to questions of governance and how to learn between cities for just sustainability.

The Freiburg team has also begun crafting very brief scenarios designed to catch the attention of city-makers in order to lead them to further relevant information. If you are interested, check out the new (and evolving!) Database of governance scenarios on the UrbanA wiki. The Freiburg University team used examples to illustrate four broader governance ambitions that have potential to avoid injustice in a more durable, long-term way:

  1. Policy integration,
  2. Bridging institutional logics,
  3. Engaging inhabitants, and
  4. Alternative metrics.

(June 23rd, 44 participants - Blog post - Slides - Video - Event Post)

Addressing poverty via food solidarity in cities

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People of varied backgrounds and from all over the world met to address the question of food poverty and solidarity. UrbanA Fellow Marcelline Bonneau, an expert in both the URBACT programme and the Urban Innovation Actions initiative, led the conversation. She began by sharing her experience and understanding of how European municipalities have approached food poverty during the COVID19 crisis. She focused on three questions:

  • How have cities supported those in need of food during the crisis?
  • How have cities reorganized traditional food aid systems, such as funded meals in canteens or regular food distributions?
  • How can food more widely address (urban) poverty?

(June 30th, @ 20 participants - Blog post - Slides - Video - Event Post - Facebook Event Post - Related URBACT article: Covid-19: a springboard for more food solidarity?)

Feminist perspectives for sustainable just cities

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Sara Ortiz Escalante will open this CoCo speaking about the relevance of gender perspectives to create sustainable and just cities. Sara works at Col·lectiu Punt 6 (Collective Point 6), a cooperative engaged on feminist urbanism to “make our cities more inclusive and make the people who inhabit them the experts of the spaces that surround us.”

The CoCo addressed the following questions:

  • How have cities reorganised work and what have been the gender consequences of the Covid-19 crisis in the distribution of care?
  • How have cities supported care of dependents in the Covid-19 crisis?
  • How have cities responded to the diversity of needs, households and people?
  • What can cities change to place care and people’s life at the center in the new scenario post-Covid?

The first part was videod. A listening room was set up for the second section, from which a half hour audio recording was made.

(July 21, 70 participants - Blog post - Slides - Video - Event Post - Facebook Event Post - Wiki entry: Feminist perspectives for sustainable just cities)

An Avantgardenist Approach, Creating Peace Gardens in the Urban Realm

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The first event of our second #UrbanACoCo series was a very special and emotional event. Nearly 30 people turned up to listen to UrbanA fellow Burcu Eke Schneider and other team members from the Avantgardenist Peace activists from the Wuppertal urban garden at the Aleviten Culture Center, in the heart of Wuppertal city in Germany. With team members including native Germans and newer arrivals from Turkey, Syria and further afield, the talk looked at the power of community gardens to create peace and heal war trauma, while contributing to environmental sustainability such as a boost in biodiversity.

Peacebuilding is an invaluable method for promoting urban sustainability and justice that contributes to understanding the root causes of problems at the micro level and finding solutions. An important intervention for preventing violence, it works with inclusiveness to help enable emergence of a common understanding in three main ways:

  • First, it can support inclusive processes of just urban transition that respect diversity of cultural backgrounds and ethnicity.
  • Second, it can promote more environmentally friendly behaviour and attitudes among participants.
  • Third, it can convey new meanings of "collective struggle for a common future" in different languages, cultures and sacred places.

The event included a "Listening Room", where Burcu talked in greater depth and answered specific questions, and the "Breakout Rooms" where guests broke into smaller groups to discuss what the following questions mean for their communities or cities:

  • Do you know examples of cities working with peace initiatives,
  • How can urban gardens contribute to peace and inclusivity.
  • How can we transform community spaces to be more eco-friendly?

(September 15, 30 participants - Blog post - Presentation slides - Video - Event Post - Facebook Event Post Wuppertal urban garden: web - facebook group - Instagram)

Municipalities in Transition, how can citizens and municipalities work better together?

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On the 29th of September, about 60 people connected for another inspiring Community Conversation. This time it was about Municipalities in Transition (MiT), part of the larger Transition Network Movement. Like every Community Conversation, it started with a 20 minutes presentation by Cristiano Bottone, who presented what Municipalities in Transition is all about.

This was also the last “European Day of Sustainable Communities” event and it celebrated its part of the “Communities for Future” (CfF) launch by playing the CfF video, made by the ECOLISE team.

There was a listening room where Cristiano Bottone explained MiT in greater detail and in the breakout rooms, our CoP explored the following questions:

  • What really prevents us from making effective decisions in communities?
  • How do you feel the Municipalities in Transition methodology could be received by local administrations?
  • How polarization, fake news and social media are conditioning our decisions about the future?

(September 29, 60 participants - Blog post - Presentation slides - Video - Event Post - Facebook Event Post Municipalities in Transition: web - facebook - twitter)

Planning Eco-inclusive Districts

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On the 10th of November, about 35 people came together to learn, share and discuss what urban planners can do to plan eco-inclusive districts that fulfil both social and environmental sustainability goals. The CoCo was opened by UrbanA fellow Maarten Markus and his colleague Marije Ruigrok, both working for the Dutch urban development agency AM. AM initiated a consortium taking an interdisciplinary approach for sustainable and just neighbourhood development, involving universities, governments, private business and other consultancies.

Marije Ruigrok outlined an AM case study in greater detail in the listening room. In the breakout rooms, participants explored the following questions in smaller groups:

  • How would you formulate smart targets for eco-inclusive districts?
  • Pulling public/private resources for eco-inclusive districts is difficult due to institutional structures and the long term planning vs. short term politics. How could we mainstream this idea?
  • Participation is key to be inclusive, yet paradoxically many people don’t want to participate. How can we solve this paradox and built local networks and ownership?
  • What alternatives can you add? And what makes them them succesful?
  • Can you make a top 5 of (potentially) most inclusive participation processes?

(November 10, 35 participants - Blog post - Presentation slides - Listening Room Presentation slides - Breakout Rooms Harvest Document - Video - Event Post - Facebook Event Post - Maarten Markus (twitter) - AM website)

Co-creating Just and Sustainable Cities With Children

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On the 24th of November, 65 people came together to discuss children’s involvement in urban issues and show examples of addressing urban conflicts together with them. This CoCo’s presenters were Kitti Baracsi and Tuline Gülgönen. Kitti is an educator, researcher, activist specialising in critical pedagogies and collaborative methods, her work involves children and young people on projects addressing urban conflicts, her work can be seen at Periferias Dibujadas(drawn peripheries). Tuline Gülgönen is a researcher and filmmaker. She carries out multidisciplinary investigation on the perception and engagement of children in the city in various urban contexts. She recently created the documentary Ciudad Grande (Big City) about Mexico city. The guests invited participants to co create an UrbanA wiki entry: Children and urbanism.

The CoCo explored how can we create more just and sustainable cities from the children’s point of view? How can we produce knowledge on our cities in collaboration with children? How can we as scholars, urban planners or activists overcome our adultcentrism? What is the pandemic teaching us about justice and sustainability from the children’s point of view? The guests shared case studies in the Listening Room and the breakout rooms focused on the following single question:

  • How could you, or how are you incorporating the children's point of view in your work, activism etc

(November 24, 65 participants - Blog post - Presentation slides (both general and listening room - Breakout Rooms Harvest Document - Video - Event Post - Facebook Event Post - Kitti Baracsi - Periferias Dibujadas - Ciudad Grande - Tuline Gülgönen on Academia UrbanA wiki post: Children and urbanism (Still being edited)

Participatory challenges – Committing local businesses to climate action

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On the 16th of February, about 30 people came together to explore current challenges the German city of Gelsenkirchen is facing under the current pandemic. Local authorities are finding it increasingly difficult to involve the economic bodies of the city in committing to more ambitious climate action and align with the city’s targets. Gelsenkichen is part of the Urban Transition Alliance, a platform for cities with an industrial legacy. Stephan Rath from the Gelsenkirchen Science Park and Ying-Chih Deng from ICLEI World Secretariat led the CoCo. Some of the initiatives that Gelsenkirchen is undertaking to include the private sector more strongly are the development of an inclusive Climate Action Plan (2030–2050), and the creation of a Climate Forum. CoCo participants shared key insights for the city to explore, in response to the breakout question:

  • How to motivate local businesses to start taking climate action into their own hands?

(February 16 2021, 30 participants - Blog post - Presentation slides (both general and listening room - Breakout Rooms Harvest Document - Video - Event Post - Facebook Event Post - Twitter post and discussion - Instagram