Lessons Learned

Pietro Elisei

The lessons generated in STATUS for the Small and Medium-Sized Cities (SMSCs) can be synthetized in one sentence: “Standing still is going backwards” (Martin, D., 2014). This is particularly true in the SEE area, where heritage of post-communism, or cases of permanent delay in development (e.g. Italian Mezzogiorno) determine weak local governance systems. These systems need to have an injection of strategic thinking, especially in the urban realm, but SMSCs all over Europe are in need of such treatment, if we want to bring the European economy back to life. In fact, it is naïve to believe that simple economic recipes, often not considering directly the urban/territorial dimension, could generate virtuous paths that could take many European regions out of the crisis.

The project STATUS bet on a fundamental assumption: the revival of the European economies is based on a renewed dynamism of the cities and on socially innovative processes related to a new way of planning. STATUS promotes an urbanism which struggles to find the right solution to operationalize the concept of integrated territorial approach, but which conjugates this effort with the implementation of participatory processes at the local level that are able to redesign the ways in which decisions are made. The result of this project in every partner city or region was the design of a strategic agenda. We, as content and project management, preferred to use the term agenda, not plan, in the STATUS design phase. Furthermore, we were consequent throughout the implementation phase. A strategic agenda, and its process, at the end of the day, can be very similar to those leading to strategic plans, but the term agenda consented us to introduce some basic differences on very important values to keep in mind and to pursue during these planning processes.

The term plan, very often, and especially in this area of intervention, is particularly connected to normative reasoning. In STATUS the normative plans (e.g. Land Use Management Plans, and other similar zoning instruments) never constituted relevant elements to underlie the planning process. The postulation done was that normative plans always have a delay in respect to real urban transformation, or they are ex post representation of decisions. In STATUS it is important to build the decision, to be protagonists of the decision, but even to enlarge the area of decision makers.

Many strategic plans fail to become a real benchmark for political decisions, it happens very often that these tools produce lists of projects that a) become partially implemented, or b) are used just as a political brochure, and/or c) become completely unattended. It is important through the STATUS methodology to build from the beginning consensus around projects that answer to real needs - needs agreed transversally by many actors. For this reason, enlarged and flexible participatory planning has been proposed to cities.

Barbara Mušič

A few lessons learned in the STATUS Project:

  • Strong collaboration among scientific partners and territorial partners and above all within the whole consortium of the STATUS project was crucial for the project results.
  • Clear methodology with clear guidelines and best practices are essential for territorial partners to progress in the formulation of their own territorial development objectives and methodologies/tools to achieve them.
  • Supporting territorial partners through revision of reports, providing comments and additional guidelines from the beginning till the end of the process proved to be an important asset.
  • Attracting stakeholders to participate and engaging people through the whole process of the STATUS project is a constant and intense step by step process.
  • Territorial partners have an opportunity to learn from each other in European projects through having an insight into other territorial partner´s cases and through networking and communicating with each other in order to solve similar issues. That contributes to a true transnational approach of which the STATUS project is a prime example.

Conclusions

The results of the STATUS project represent the basic platform for territorial development in the partners’ areas for the future. All territorial partners were better prepared for the use of structural funds in the period 2014 – 2020 and further into the future, when an important role will be played by the established Urban Task Forces (UTF). Their collaboration and activities represent a key factor leading toward a better implementation of projects. Urban centers, as one of the results of the project, should be used as a participatory tool, as a physical space for exchanging the ideas and possible solutions, as well as for the promotion of proper sustainable development in the future.

The end of the STATUS project doesn’t mean the end of the work for territorial partners - it represents the start of real work. It is in their hands how they will use the results and their knowledge from the STATUS project in the future and make best use of it for their communities.

Lessons Learned by local authorities

  • Kavala
  • Drama
  • Balti
  • Alba Iulia
  • Baia Mare
  • Satu Mare
  • Temerin

Mrs. Dimitra Tsanaka, Mayor of the City of Kavala

Why does strategic planning in your city matter?

In 2010 all Greek local authorities underwent a reform of local administrations: one that was joining neighbouring cities in order to diminish the actual number of the existing municipalities and regions. In our city the result of this reform was the expansion of the municipality's border to also encompass the geographical area of the former municipality of Philippi. The duality of the landscape-the urban and coastal profile of the former municipality of KAVALA and the rural and historical heritage oriented profile of Philippi -created confusion to the new city's administration in their effort to provide a clear development vision. The STATUS project, by its methodology, [provided the appropriate approach to tackle this strategic territorial planning exercise. The project constitutes the tool that helped us re-visit the two urban units and view them as one city with a specific strategic orientation and multiple assets to be valorized and exploited towards sustainable development.

How does the STATUS methodology, and its participatory planning approach, help your city?

The participatory approach in planning has been vaguely explored so far in urban Planning in Greece. Citizens were lacking the mindset of engaging to open dialogue with the municipality on future projects that introduced interventions at the city. The STATUS methodology provided the framework to initiate this dialogue and guided us towards projects derived from the grass roots level responding to the actual needs of the citizens.

What is the advantage of shaping a development agenda for your city together with a broad range of stakeholders?

Even the most well designed territorial agendas cannot provide sustainable projects without public consensus. We consider it an achievement that this agenda has been co-designed together with local stakeholders and therefore respond to what people consider important for their well being. Initiating and coordinating a broad participatory process in planning is not an easy task. However, it is always considered as one of the main Parameters leading to the success of an urban agenda and secure sustainability.

What are your expectations, especially in using EU funds, after the STATUS planning exercise?

The Status Project methodology assisted us in aligning our urban development visions to the objectives of Europe 2020 as well as helping us to prioritize the proposed projects according to their possibility of financing. Moreover, it assisted us in grouping small projects into an integrated project idea that could be easily supported by all modern structural funds such as the Community Led Local Development Programmes and the Integrated Territorial Investments ones.

What would you change in the SEE programme?

As Lead Partner in the STATUS project, we have been responsible with coordinating and reporting for the entire project partnership, consisting of 21 partners in total. The most challenging aspect of implementing a project under the SEE programme was the lengthy bureaucratic procedures in implementing the project as well as the complex financial reporting procedures. It took a significant amount of time and investment in man months to coordinate the project and we were left with minimum time to actually implement and develop the extremely interesting, relevant and useful content of it.

Mr. Stefanos Giorgiadis, president of the Drama Chamber of Commerce

Why does strategic planning in your city matter?

Drama is a historic and very ancient municipality with a well preserved historic center and many areas within the urban center that are natural marvels and places of recreation and enjoyment. Nevertheless, following the urban development patterns that prevailed in Greece over the last few decades a lot of urban development occurred in a haphazard manner creating many problems in the development of basic infrastructure, traffic congestions, scarcity of parks in the neighbourhoods, lack of broad and practical fairways, congested build up areas, etc. Therefore, it is becoming very important that in the new planning period and as we engage in major activities of city renewal and urban sprawling to have a sound and well prepared strategic plan. This will guide us into actions that are necessary for a contemporary city that takes care of all the needs of urban activity, the services to the citizens, support to enterprises, creation of cervices that will lead into development and growth.

How does the STATUS methodology, and its participatory planning approach, help your city?

The STATUS methodology was a very useful tool for our city. Participatory planning was not a novelty for us but a methodical process of cataloguing the current status, identifying the problems and suggesting solutions was a new way of and new approach of supporting our urban planning needs. From the STATUS project we have learned what is happening in other cities, what new tools are used in contemporary urban planning, we learned what is an UTF and how useful an UC can be for our municipality.

What is the advantage of shaping a development agenda for your city together with a broad range of stakeholders?

The advantage is that we identify new problems, we receive many different ideas, we use new approaches and find new, realistic and practical solutions for urban planning.

What are your expectations, especially in using EU funds, after the STATUS planning exercise?

STATUS has a major force to make us seek new ideas and identify new needs for our city. Furthermore, from the STATUS project we have learned about the new initiatives of the EU, such as the Barka report, on how in the new programming period cities of Europe can benefit from the new programmes. We hope that the STATUS project will lead us into the use of funds from CLLD and ITI. The partnership of the project is a solid base to move into new programmes and new ways to find solution for our cities.

What would you change in the SEE programme?

The projects supported by the SEE programme should receive more funding to move from “soft” type of measures into more practical and realistic solutions.

Mr. Vasili Panciuc – Mayor of the City of Balti

Why does strategic planning in your city matter?

Strategic planning represents an organizational phase for more local authorities and for all project team members or stakeholders. Therefore, it is important for local authorities to be better prepared to flex or even substantially change their strategic thrusts and operational plans at local and government level as well as at higher corporate levels when fundamental, structural economical, political and social changes occur.
The Balti Municipality, as a major industrial, economic and cultural center of Northern Development Region of Moldova, often called "the northern capital of Moldova" needs new strategic participatory planning tools. Strategic Planning in the Balti Municipality matters a lot because it is tackling the problem of incoherent urban and regional development. First of all, our Municipality has only a General Urban Plan PUG 2005-2020, however the lack of a development strategy until 2020 has led to the need of designing the Urban Agenda, as a tool for sustainable and integrated urban development in line with 21st century standards. Secondly, the strategic plan will help the active stakeholders in the Project Status to identify urban issues on all key domains and to find and prioritize solutions to the most pressing problems.
The Central Area of Balti Municipality was selected as an area of intervention because it has more population and public utility objectives which fulfil important functions in the municipality. We are certain that the process of strategic planning helps stakeholders explore new urban situations, evaluate these situations and find comprehensive solutions to the complex problems. Urban strategic planning makes evident why one solution is better than another, and therefore helps to present the projects both clearly and convincingly. Also, strategic planning allows local governments to enlist the participation of social actors and achieve consensus about problems and projects and establish partnerships in the economical, social and cultural and management spheres aimed at proposing, implementing and evaluating projects.

How does the STATUS methodology, and its participatory planning approach, help your city?

The STATUS methodology was a very useful tool for our city, because it helped local authorities in solving the problem of incoherent urban and regional development. The STATUS methodology permits appropriate communication and planning from the start of the project work and establishes a means for managing projects more efficiently, as well as enabling the tracking of progress against and facilitating standardized reporting. It encourages a bottom-up approach to project management tied directly to the project life cycle phases and provides a more precise definition of the project and a framework of activities mapped to it.

What is the advantage of shaping a development agenda for your city together with a broad range of stakeholders?

The process of urban strategic planning is a specific instrument of management which encourage citizen participation in local policy decisions.
From this reason, City Hall of Balti Municipality focused on attracting more private and civil organizations to participate in solving problems and shaping the citiy’s strategic vision. As a result, we ensured the involvement of a large number of citizens (through representatives from civil society organizations), planning experts and stakeholders (both public and private), hereinafter referred to as local Urban Task Force, which became a constant generator of ideas and solutions for the cities issues.
I would like to mention that the Urban Task Force should meet constantly to monitor the implementation of Urban Agenda. Practically, the designed Urban Strategic Agenda is not a finished document, but a dynamic one, in continuous improvement.

What are your expectations, especially in using EU funds, after the STATUS planning exercise?

The Strategic Urban Agenda allows the Balti Municipality to increase the absorption of funds for 2014-2020 programming period and to attract national and international investors.
After the STATUS planning exercise, Balti Municipality expect reliable partnerships for projects in future European programs 2014 - 2020 in the Republic of Moldova, in order to find new opportunities to develop our city. Of course, we will use all of the main types of funding, including grants for specific projects, usually following a public announcement known as a 'call for proposals'. Part of the funding will come from the EU and part from other sources and public contracts, including public-private partnership. We would like to take all possible advantages to combine local and regional funding with EU funds.

What would you change in the SEE programme?

The SEE programme offers the best tools for urban development, thus I don’t consider that there is anything to be changed.

Mircea Hava, mayor of the City of Alba Iulia

Why does strategic planning in your city matter?

The reason that AIDA has become a partner of this project is just the obvious one. The vision for the development of local public administration transcends the strict interest of the city, and development initiatives are designed with the neighbours, aware that development opportunities are greater if the polycentric area is valued and efforts are common. Strategic planning fixes what was overlooked and improves the level of development of the city according to its actual needs.

How does the STATUS methodology, and its participatory planning approach, help your city?

STATUS methodology has become in real time a unique working tool by the way in which brings together dispersed elements from the society with relevance to the practice of some experts. Participatory approach of tackling the problems and solutions of development is the must-do in a period in which the administrative vision is required to be completed by those who actually live in the city.

What is the advantage of shaping a development agenda for your city together with a broad range of stakeholders?

The UTF will consist of the most interested and qualified urban actors from the private sector and civil society. In spite of the diversity of origin (media, business, academics, NGO, health, cultural institutions etc), it will target uniformity in the pursuit of strategy implementations. We currently count on more than 30 people who will invest in keeping the task force alive and functioning beyond the project deadline. AIDA recognized the importance of adapting the stakeholder pool to the results of the desk analysis revealing the most problematic sectors in an agenda that will be operated from this moment.

What are your expectations, especially in using EU funds, after the STATUS planning exercise?

The future European budget allocation will be accessed as a direct result of STATUS strategic planning approaches and based on the appreciation of experts like the World Bank or on the results of economic researches of a prestigious company like Moody's.

What would you change in the SEE programme?

We consider that SEE Programme is an accessible programme which provides the opportunity to develop important projects for communities in South East Europe. We do not believe that anything should be changed in it.

Mr. Paul Pece, Executive Director Baia Mare Metropolitan Area

Why does strategic planning in your city matter?

Baia Mare City has a major role in the process of planning the urban and metropolitan development, due to the cooperation with the neighbouring towns and communes that are part of the metropolitan area, based on an existent Strategic Development Concept. The Baia Mare Metropolitan Area and Baia Mare City are constantly preoccupied with the management of urban and metropolitan development, especially concerning the strategies of developing the local infrastructure, economic activities and mobility of people.

How does the STATUS methodology, and its participatory planning approach, help your city?

The STATUS methodology and its participatory approach to planning helped us in the process of identifying the real problems and needs that are to be addressed by the Strategic Territorial Agenda. In this context, we generated a vision - the main strategic objectives and the local policies and priority projects - that will give us the opportunity to reach a sustainable development in the long term.

What is the advantage of shaping a development agenda for your city together with a broad range of stakeholders?

The advantage of shaping a development agenda with a broad range of stakeholders consists in the possibility to explore the real needs and problems for different target groups like public administration, private companies, NGOs or civil society. Based on this approach, you could identify the solutions for these problems, together with the stakeholders and in this way design the proper local policies and projects.

What are your expectations, especially in using EU funds, after the STATUS planning exercise?

Our expectation for the support of implementing the Territorial Integrated Agenda, by using EU funds, refers to be awarded with non-refundable grants, through national sectorial programmes and regional operational programmes. These grants should cover the following actions:

  • Cleaning the polluted industrial lands and their introduction in the economic circuit
  • Improving the mobility of people and goods by investments in local infrastructure and public transportation system
  • Creating innovative clusters based on competitive advantages
  • Developing business infrastructure, like industrial and technological parks

What would you change in the SEE programme?

The SEE programme should be more oriented in linking the territorial development with local economic development, in an integrated approach. Also, the Programme should concentrate on building administrative capacity, for preparing the public administration, in using integrated strategies and implementing integrated projects based on multiannual financial planning.

Mr. Dr. Coica Costel Dorel, the Mayor of Satu Mare

Why does strategic planning in your city matter?

Seven years after joining the European Union, the Satu Mare Municipality finds itself, like other Romanian cities, in the position to define its own vision and set directions for shaping the development of an unique identity in terms of the ever higher European regional competition for attracting investments and maintain human capital. Satu Mare can definitely play an important role at national and regional level, as well as in the European regional context, being territorially located at the confluence of three cultures representing at the same time border areas: Romania - Hungary - Ukraine. Natural resources (fertile plains, geothermal waters, the Someş River which crosses the city), the industrial tradition, skilled workforce and the status of urban development pole recommend it for a greater role in the regional economy. Therefore, the need for a coherent urban development vision and action plan is obvious.

How does the STATUS methodology, and its participatory planning approach, help your city?

As the main objective of STATUS was to generate a strategic urban agenda, one of the main issues in the process was to set up a comprehensive, representative stakeholders group, able to contribute to the elaboration of the strategic document in a bottom-up approach. The key objective in involving stakeholders was to take advantage of the broad perspective such a group can offer on things, based on the various expertises and interests that its members posses or represent. Our aim was to consult with the group, involve them in both analyzing the current situation and deciding upon the necessary interventions, possibly establish long term cooperation and empower them in monitoring the implementation. The STATUS approach was a chance to borrow some of the efficiency of enterprise culture and incorporate it into the strategic planning process that has ultimately generated the Urban Agenda – as a means of improving all major aspects of city life and urban governance, while, at the same time, keeping in mind the principles of sustainable development according to which progress in one or more particular domains should not be pursued at any cost.

What is the advantage of shaping a development agenda for your city together with a broad range of stakeholders?

We had a great, rewarding experience regarding the stakeholders’ willingness to participate in the debates, to contribute, to bring arguments, to analyze, evaluate, suggest solutions, prioritize etc. We could conclude by noting that once we managed to get people to come – which was particularly difficult because of fluid schedules and overlapping engagements – theywere more than eager to contribute. The Satu Mare Urban Task Force is made up of a dedicated number of stakeholders and City Hall experts who have already been involved in the participatory approach to the elaboration of the City Sustainable Development Strategy. They have gone all the way from SWOT analyses, problem identification, suggested solutions to the design of the Strategic Agenda proper, defining priority axes, integrated projects, output and result monitoring indicators. They have, therefore, already gathered enough information and experience to be the most suited group of people for the complex job of monitoring the implementation of the strategy, of identifying mid-term necessary adjustments or suggesting new ways of handling unforeseen future problems or challenges for urban development. This is why we decided to shape the UTF as a consultative body with the primary mission of monitoring the implementation of the Strategy, but who will also keep a watchful eye on the evolution of things, on trends, opportunities, challenges and stay permanently informed – through their wide contacts network – about the community needs and expectations. In this way the UTF will, at any given time, be able to take up matters into debate and possibly suggest ways of overcoming difficulties and dealing with new urban development issues.

What are your expectations, especially in using EU funds, after the STATUS planning exercise?

It is obvious that Satu Mare does not yet exploit its significant development potential and major resources which open multiple European funding opportunities for 2014-2020. An ex-ante conditionality in accessing these grants is to define a vision for the city socio-economic evolution as well as an integrated development strategy that follows the three major lines of action defined in the Europe 2020 Strategy: smart, sustainable and inclusive growth. Satu Mare’s expectations regarding the use of EU funds are:

  • Improve accessibility and take decisive steps towards a sustainable mobility
  • Enhance environment protection and and the efficient use of resources including energy efficiency measures at local level
  • Improve the urban environment, to stimulate city revitalization, regeneration and remediation of contaminated sites
  • Promote an inclusive socio-economic environment and combat poverty
  • Achieve an efficient public administration, oriented towards citizens and businesses.
 

Đuro Žiga - Mayor of Temerin Municipality

Why does strategic planning in your city matter?

The Municipality of Temerin recognizes the importance of strategic planning as a means to serve the community in defining and shaping the vision of the development of the village. Strategic planning allows the community to, regardless of changes in the occasional personal actors at the forefront of institutions, provides a single framework and a common denominator that is used for a longer period of time to individuals and organizations as a beacon, a reminder of the basic values and provides a picture of how the people of the village want their village looks some distant future. It is particularly important that strategic planning does not stop at formulating a vision but its intrinsic value is expressed in the fact that it helps in the formulation and planning ways in which the vision will eventually become reality.

How does the STATUS methodology, and its participatory planning approach, help your city?

It is in the formulation and planning ways in which the vision will eventually become a reality, methodologies Status and its participatory approach to provide a great help to our city. By participating in this important project SEE cities have the opportunity to directly observe how other settlements, in other systems more or less similar to solve the challenges of our environment and seek to implement the recommendations live STATUS methodology and its participatory approach to planning. The opportunity to meet with a number of internationally recognized and well-known seasoned experts to hear their accumulated wisdom acquired over many earlier and still live programs across Europe and beyond, providing the vision and motivation to persevere in their efforts training the implementation of strategic planning in our local the community.

What is the advantage of shaping a development agenda for your city together with a broad range of stakeholders?

The Municipality of Temerin consists of three settlements, which are fairly well integrated but nevertheless every village carries its uniqueness, has its own specific history, their specific needs, local organizations, associations, institutions, whose interests are often not easy to harmonize and to integrate into a common vision. Temerin is also specific by its multinational population so that this important moment in the planning - namely how to achieve consensus on specific goals and to guarantee that no community is damaged or omitted in the process. In the field of economy there is a very large number of small businesses, entrepreneurs and craftsmen, a number of small and medium-sized enterprises and small number of large systems, and their interests in terms of needs, challenges, demands and interest are often substantially divergent. In a word, there are a large number of actors, divided according to various criteria, whose interests and expectations sometimes are sufficiently different that placing commonly acceptable development goals rather difficult. Efforts to various factors sit at the same table and in open conversation, working on finding and adjusting a common platform is a big challenge and every tool, every methodology that assists these efforts is helpful.

What are your expectations, especially in using EU funds, after the STATUS planning exercise?

The Municipality of Temerin has timely recognized the potential of using EU funds for the development needs of the local community and in that spirit established specialized institutions and gave active support to the organizations of civil society, as well as to public organizations in the preparation and implementation of projects financed from EU funds. The planning exercise through the STATUS project was useful to see how other countries of Southeast Europe – some of which are already EU members, while others are in the process of joining the EU – are using the instruments of EU for the purposes of local and regional development. The Municipality of Temerin is determined to actively participate in future calls and to use resources from the EU funds for the further development of the Municipality.

What would you change in the SEE programme?

It is necessary to put more emphasis on the real economic effects during the selection of approved projects, to consider requesting a greater balance of project partners in terms of their size, weight and development and, in the end, to give support to some investment projects.

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