Project title: Advanced coGeneration Options for Reintegrating local Assets
DTP Project Acronym: AGORA
Programme priority: Priority 4
Programme priority specific objective: SO 4.1 Improve institutional capacities to tackle major societal challenges
Name of the lead partner organization: Cluj-Napoca Municipality
Project duration: 30 months (01.07.2020 – 31.12.2022)
Project budget: 2,396,870.05 EUR of which by financing sources:
Source 1- European Regional Development Fund ERDF: 1,892,131.33EUR
Source 2- Instrument for Pre-Accession Assistance IPA II: 74,580.64 EUR
Source 3- European Neighbourhood Instrument (ENI-MD / ENI-UA): 70,627.55 EUR
Project web page: http://www.interreg-danube.eu/approved-projects/agora
Facebook: @ InterregAGORA (https://www.facebook.com/InterregAGORA)
The transitional phase in which the Danube Region (DR) cities found themselves after the 2008 economic crisis allowed a window of opportunity to enact positive change on the planning policy level. There have been numerous initiatives in the past aimed to reuse, even temporarily, un-valued physical assets for launching novel forms of economies by a new generation of highly skilled/educated youth. Yet such initiatives remained disparate or difficult to replicate – the biggest provocation remains that of embedding the necessary instruments into governance, creating local capacity and instruments to fast-track urban regeneration.
A crucial challenge is thus to increase public administration (PA) capacity to directly harness local potential: a paradigm shift is now needed towards more flexible, inclusive and creative instruments for Public-Private-People-led physical and social regeneration (PPPP). To achieve this, cities need to become a key player able to catalyse a critical mass of interest groups from different levels around the broader goal of local socio-economic development: PA needs to become an agency for endogenous growth. At the same time, cities also need to overcome a spectrum of bottlenecks, which include legal, administrative and organisational, financial, technical, capacity and expertise barriers and gaps.
AGORA addresses this by deploying and adopting new, creative governance instruments for PAs, building their capacity for effectively involving, connecting and empowering a wide group of stakeholders in the reintegration of vacant buildings and land, public and private, into the productive city value system.
Public policies that are constructed collaboratively are more innovative, effective, fit-for-purpose and less costly: the main objective of AGORA is to co-design and test decentralised governance approaches that bring municipal policy closer to stakeholder groups in the city, granting AGORA Communities the tools that empower them to participate in decisions about urban planning, economic promotion and municipal services. This model establishes tools for the execution of policies valorising underused city assets, at local/ area-based level, using innovative offline and digital tools. Ultimately, the project aims at achieving substantial change in the process and workflow of PAs at local level, overcoming historic bottlenecks and deadlocks in re-valorising urban assets, testing new participatory pilots on the ground, and incorporating the findings from 10 areas in the DR (Cluj-Napoca, Sofia, Chisinau, Neckar Valley, Slavonski Brod, Prague 9, Zenica, Koprivnica, Kranj, Szarvas) into a transnational policy-learning platform geared towards transferring findings and governance solutions and supporting cities in the reintegration and reconnection of local undervalued assets, giving sense to abandoned spaces through new social and economic activities.
IMPLEMENTATION OF AGORA PROJECT
AGORA will support 10 cities and their SME/NGO counterparts to build capacity for innovative urban redevelopment from the very beginning, deploying transnational training and peer-to-peer learning (O.T1.2). 3 training events and 3 thematic cluster missions will support partners to become credible and active leaders of local regeneration: transforming them in mediators and agencies of change, and providing best practices and methodologies (O.T1.1 Toolkit) to build the three components of the local actions: the network of actors (AGORA Communities), the territorial asset catalogue, and the digital matchmaking and activating platform. At local level in 10 DR cities, experienced scientific partners and Associated strategic partners will support territorial partners to set-up and activate quadruple helix AGORA Communities (O.T2.1), perform state of art analyses (T1.3) and community validations (T2.3) and deploy AGORA Platforms as digital platforms for urban space governance – inventories, participatory idea collection, decision and match-making services. Using an iterative participation methodology, the 12 local partners will deploy a set of 3 public involvement actions and workshops to co-Regeneration Agendas (O.T3.1), collecting ideas, building solutions and developing a common vision and strategy for their mapped vacant spaces. O.T3.2 will further select and deliver one concrete reactivation action plan per city (10 Pilots), successful cases of applied governance innovation triggering redevelopment of a derelict, or underused urban site. At transnational level, T4 will draw on the local T2 and T3 results to deploy an open capacity-building and transfer programme (O.T4.3) and Toolkit (O.T4.1) aimed at the whole DR, and to capture and share valid evidence-based lessons and recommendations, providing a replication methodology (O.T4.2). Communication (WP C) will provide transversal support.
URBASOFIA, besides contributing to the overall implementation process of the project through the involvement in all the activities and preparation of materials, will be in charge of coordinating the work package T3 “Co-design of Regeneration Agendas” that will start in February 2021 and will represent the moment in which the knowledge created at consortium level will be applied at the level of each of the 10 AGORA cities. T3 will activate all the local AGORA Communities and will involve them in the co-creation process of conceptual development visions for their city, delivering two main outputs: 1) The Regeneration Agendas – AGORA Communities will identify the urban regeneration objectives, gathering ideas for redevelopment and prioritizing them, developing scenarios and new governance instruments and finally designing a clear urban strategy for urban asset reuse that will establish the bases for subsequent Action Plans- ; 2) The Pilot projects – Using an area-based approach, a zone or site from the Regeneration Agenda will be further selected by each territorial partner for operationalization, specifically, creation and launching of a redevelopment action plan -.
AGORA MEETINGS AND EVENTS
The AGORA project was officially kicked-off on July 16, during a three-hours online event in which the project’s objectives were clearly defined and in which the partnership, composed by 28 partners, of which 17 project partners (including the cities that will be involved in the testing phase of the solutions that will be elaborated throughout the project duration) and 11 Associated strategic Partners, was officially presented and activated.
Furthermore, AGORA was officially introduced to the wide public on September 30, with a webinar during the online Cooperative City Dialogue “International exchange on how to develop urban regeneration with social economy in times of pandemic”. The public event reached a total of ~2000 people live on the first day. Future events will follow to complete the introduction cycle. Territorial partners will realize short videos presenting each city’s context (AGORA walks), with a focus on the chosen case study areas for future pilot projects, and interviews with local actors and stakeholders (Partner voices). (the video of the public dialogue is available in the AGORA Facebook page). Concerning the internal implementation activities, the first training seminar, foreseen in the T1 work package, took place on the 29th of October via zoom. The training was devoted to the presentation of the project’s areas for urban regeneration, and thematic clusters, in addition to the guidelines for developing the state-of-the-art analysis of partner cities.