In order to meet the challenges posed by diminishing welfare resources, an aging population, social polarisation and the urbanisation of Europe’s cities and regions, this consortium of leading European cultural organisations firmly believes that collaboration and co-creation across departments, sectors and stakeholders is the only way forward. No one can respond to these challenges on their own. What we urgently need is leadership that can identify and bridge the void between departments and sectors (local authorities, academia, the business sector and civil society); leadership that supports people who can move between and engage across the gaps that have emerged and can provide the social and cultural direction that is so urgently needed to help our cities and regions to thrive.

Many cities and regions have made great strides by involving different stakeholders and inviting them to collaborate in decision-making processes. However, if we want to experiment and be truly innovative with policy and the delivery of public services, as this current call demands, we need to move into co-creation. Using this co-creation approach, partners and stakeholders come together in a field or area that is unclaimed by either party, seeking to explore a theme or challenge without ownership but to the benefit of the common good.

In this call, the European Commission has acknowledged the importance and potential of cultural and creative spaces in terms of their positive effect on the creative and collaborative economy, job creation, social inclusion and urban development. Yet, the potential of many of these cultural spaces is still unleashed because city development is happening only on a department level and does not tap into the huge potential of the creative community. A systemic approach to the interrelationship between economy, social inclusion, urban planning, innovation and Creative and Cultural Industries (CCI) is not encouraged under this system due to lingering new public management structures that tend to see everyone operating within their own compartments.

This consortium – which is led by Trans Europe Halles together with the European Cultural Foundation, the Peer2Peer Foundation and the University of Antwerp – strongly believes in the power of vibrant communities to build bridges between different stakeholders in order to create new and exciting ways of working together to solve local challenges. This will involve investing in the cultural and creative commons to strengthen and reinvigorate local governance in order to build up new trust relationships, capacity-building activities, engaging local public servants and cultural operators and other practitioners.

The collaborative mindset between both the consortium partners, as well as the cities, the independent organisations and communities within this project are unique. We believe there is great value in the mix of theory and practices proposed in this project, which will help to create a long-term sustainable legacy. The concept of the commons aims to create innovative models for social inclusion that will have an impact on local communities and their day-to-day city lives for generations to come. Co-creation and peer-to-peer sharing will provide a new way for those working in the creative sector and local decision-makers – two groups that have had minimal contact during policy-making processes in the past – to learn from each other and to create policies together rather than in isolation. This will empower individual stakeholders, with potentially enormous benefits for local communities. All members of this consortium are working with grassroots initiatives and bottom-up approaches that engage citizens in the very heart of their daily work. For public administration, this way of working through people’s initiatives is a new way of tapping into a community’s inherent creativity to create self-sufficient and engaged citizens. This builds ownership and empowers people to start their own initiatives, which will contribute to strong independent communities.

Trans Europe Halles and the consortium partners will combine our decades of experience and networks that reach across Europe, connecting millions of people, to work in a qualitative way with a core selection of 7 ‘Urban Labs’. These will consist of 1 region and 6 cities with their independent cultural and creative organisations, rippling out with their Handshake Partners, a selection of another 28 cities and 2 regions. Each engaged Urban Lab is prepared to innovate, re-think and test new approaches to a specific city challenge that they have identified that cannot be solved satisfactorily by one party alone. Each Urban Lab will draw on the other Urban Labs as their critical friends and peers to support them as well as the academic partners of the project and the coordination team.

The Urban Labs will be at the core of exploring, learning, testing, co-creating, while researching and sharing their own topics. Through this way of working, from a core centre to more outer rings that includes inviting more cities to join in, we firmly believe the project will have a ripple effect across Europe.

The innovativeness of this approach, which draws on the commons and trust-based peer-to-peer exchanges, offers new and groundbreaking insights into how public administration can join forces with civil society to get ready for a sustainable future. We believe this project will help to create an alternative narrative for Europe, by bringing communities together, addressing social issues, reducing isolation and offering sustainable solutions for the challenges facing communities across Europe.

Project partners:

7 Urban Labs with their Handshake Partners

The City of Lund, Sweden and the cultural centre Mejeriet in Lund: City of Giffoni (Italy), City of Kiruna (Sweden), City of Århus and Odense (Denmark).

Northern Tzoumerka, Greece: University of Nicosia (Cyprus), Visual Sociology and Museum Studies Lab, Limassol (Cyprus), Timelab, Ghent (Belgium), Valuecraft Coop, Helsinki (Finland), L’Asilo Napoli (Italy).

Region of Skåne, Sweden: Region Midt-Jylland (Denmark), Region Emilia-Romagna (Italy).

Kaapeli, Helsinki, Finland:  Aparaaditehas, Tartu (Estonia), Urban Institute Biedriba Riga (Latvia), FinEstBayArea Development Helsinki-Tallinn.

AMBASADA, Timisoara, Romania: Foundation Novi Sad 2021 – European Cultural Capital, Novi Sad (Serbia), Bakelit Multi Art Centre Foundation, Budapest (Hungary), Rijeka2021 llc (Croatia), Vaartopia Leuven, Leuven (Belgium).

Hablarenarte, Madrid, Spain: Alternative Europe Foundation, Paris (France), Artist at
Risk, Berlin (Germany), Metasitu, Athens (Greece).

CIKE, Kosice, Slovakia: Creative Industries Styria, Graz (Austria), Creative Region Linz
& Upper Austria, Linz (Austria), Creativity Lab, Tallinn (Estonia), Creative England,
Bristol (UK), European Centre for Creative Economy, Dortmund (Germany).

Objectives of the call

1. Bring closer together cultural and creative spaces and local decision-makers.
2. Help to better valorise public spaces for social and urban regeneration through culture.
3. Share best practice concerning social inclusion and the relations of cultural and creative spaces with their neighbourhoods.
4. Explore and share best practice of cultural and creative spaces with aspects of the collaborative economy and innovative models for the delivery of public services

The outputs of the project

– Opening Conference in Brussels
– 21 Workshops with local decision-makers at the Urban Labs
– 14 Traineeships with 20-24 Handshake Partners and local decision-makers at the Urban Labs
– 7 Exchanges between Urban Labs
– 5 Thematic Urban Explorations with international participants
– 3 Policy co-creation events
– Closing Conference in Brussels
– Knowledge Base on Urban Regeneration
– Benchmarking System of CCI’s
– Publications and case studies
– Online policy toolbox
– Communication Strategy
– 3 mini-documentaries about Urban Labs
– Synthesised final study

Visit our website to learn more about the project.

  • Trans Europe Halles Coordination Office
    c/o Mejeriet |Stora Sodergatan 64
    SE – 222 23 Lund | Sweden

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