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European City Network – Webinars and Meetings

With the CERV-funded “European City Network” project, we are able to further develop the network and expand its activities, making it fit for growth. Sharing best practices and successful democracy and participation projects will inspire other cities to create impact in their communities by increasing the reach and impact of their projects, rebuilding citizens’ trust, and fostering their engagement on the local level.



The seventh edition of our webinar series will take place on:


Cities Teach: Democratic, Social & Digital Inclusion
On Wednesday 31 July 2024, 10:30 – 12:00 (CEST)
This webinar is hosted by ECoD with contributions from the City of Linz and the City of Kyiv.

Both these cities strive to involve their citizens at a local level using innovative participation methods. In this way they improve democratic and social inclusion of their citizens. Following these two presentations and a Q&A session, the ECoD NPO gives you a sneak-peek into the third call for applications to become the next European Capital of Democracy, 2026! Join us at this webinar to find out more.

Speakers

  • Silvia Hackl, Head of Innovation & Participation in the Department for Economy, Innovation, Climate Protection & the EU of the City of Linz, presents the Create Your City initiative
  • Victoriia Itskovych, Chief Information Officer of the City of Kyiv City, presents the Condominium E-Voting project

Agenda

10:30-10:35 Arrival & Welcome
10:35-10:40 Introduction to Youth Participation
10:40-10:55 Best-Practice Presentation 1: Create Your City
10:55-11:10 Best Practice Presentation 2: Condominium E-Voting
11:10-11:30 Break-Out Sessions: deep-dive into each best-practice
11:30-11:40 Summary & Feedback Round
11:40-11:55 Sneak-Peek into the call for the next ECoD 2026!
11:55-12:00 Outlook



About the European City Network:

The ECoD City Network (ECN) fosters participation and gives cities a platform to share successful projects which have a lasting impact on the wellbeing of citizens and the environment. City representatives come together regularly to share their expertise and best practices in democracy promotion at the municipal level.

There are three types of activities.

Physical Workshops: “Cities meet”
3-day long City Network Meetings focus on the host city’s field of expertise.
They consist of an interactive mix of workshops, field trips, and exchange with local organisations and stakeholders, plus networking opportunities.

Online Meetings: “Cities teach”
90-minute long webinars in which 3 member cities of the ECN present their best practices in the topic field to a wider audience.
Outline: Introduction, best-practice presentations, breakout sessions (3 in parallel), and a summary with the whole group.

Online Meetings: “Cities learn”
60-minute long webinars with external experts, proposed by the host city.
Outline: Introduction, experts’ input, followed by Q&A.

The focus topics of each of the host cities:
Barcelona (Spain): Digital transformation & democracy in the city
– Brussels (Belgium): Climate, green city & biodiversity
– Antwerp (Belgium): Youth participation
– Braga (Portugal): Senior participation
– Cascais (Portugal): Inclusive, social city development
– Bologna (Italy): Diversity & inclusion


Insights from the sixth webinar:
Cities Teach: Youth Participation
Hosted by the City of Antwerp with contributions from the City of Barcelona

Wim Seghers, Play Space Expert at the City of Antwerp’s Youth Department gave us an introduction to the “playspace web” method and how it’s developed in his presentation “how to create a child-friendly network in your city”. His presentation highlighted the importance of taking children seriously as experts of their own neighbourhoods. They know the best and the worst places in the area and can also provide useful data on which routes they take to move around the city and by which modes of transport. The City of Antwerp introduces play features that allow children to jump on/off, follow and interact with the built environment. Often these features also fit with the City’s plans to green the urban environment and make it more climate resilient, for example with play fountains cooling down the youngsters on hot summers’ days. 

Laia Pineda, from the Childhood and Adolescence Institute Barcelona, shared the City of Barcelona’s experience of implementing the “Children Have Their Say” project. Barcelona takes a rights-based approach to youth participation – children have the right to be heard and it’s important  that the City understands childrens’ wellbeing from their own perspective. Interactive workshops with over 2000 children resulted in the Children’s Agenda. One major challenge is ensuring adequate representation of the group of children involved in developing the agenda, which can be partly mitigated by encouraging peer-to-peer communication about the initiative and what it means for the children of the city. 

Konstantina Chrysostomou, an activist at the Estel co-operative, presented the “Volem  Decidir!” (We want to decide!) process which took place in the City of Barcelona. This process empowers children and young people to participate in city life in a way that they find fulfilling. Like the “Children Have Their Say” project, children of eight years and older took part in the process, which also consisted of workshops which aimed to find out more about the children’s community, topics of interest, and ideas about participation. Broken into two age groups (8-11 year old and 12 to 17 years old), each group had different priorities and topics of interest. The youngest children focused on bullying, poverty, and protecting animals, while the older group were interested in well-being, public spaces, and housing. 

Impressions from the webinar:


125 participants from 24 countries (106 from 17 eligible for CERV)

Insights from the fifth webinar:

Cities Learn: Growing Up in Poverty, a trauma-sensitive approach

Hosted by the City of Antwerp

with guest expert Ybe Casteleyn. 

In this webinar, Ybe Casteleyn underlined the importance of being aware of the impact of trauma in both our personal and our professional lives. We learnt that traumatic stress comes in many different forms, including shock, chronic stress and PTSD. Complex trauma has a severe impact on the emotional, mental, and physical development of children, as well as affecting their sense of self and belonging. Trauma-informed care helps people realise the impact of traumatic stress and recognise the signs of trauma. Through this understanding, those who have experienced trauma can learn techniques to help them regulate themselves in healthier ways, and not resort to unhealthy coping mechanisms. 

Which topics for future webinars?

Re-watch the webinar

ECN Meeting two:
Cities Meet: showcasing the City of Antwerp’s Youth Participation projects and initiatives
14.-16.05.2024, Antwerp

52 participants from 13 countries (48 from 11 eligible for CERV)

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The Belgian sun shone on us once again, as 32 representatives from 13 European countries came together in the City of Antwerp for the 7th European City Network (ECN) Meeting. As the group prepared to cycle through the busy city centre, some of us thought back to the last time we rode a bike… for a few of us that was a very long time ago!

We met at the Central Station to pick up our bikes at the beginning of a three-day programme which focused on showcasing the City of Antwerp’s Youth Participation projects and initiatives. First stop was MAS (Museum Aan de Stroom), a groundbreaking museum about global connections between people. Here we got to know each other a little better and received a warm welcome from the Alderman for Education, Youth and Integration, Jinnih Beels. We also learnt more about the City of Antwerp’s Youth Participation Policy, with an insightful presentation on the ComPas programme. After a short Flemish Break, we got stuck into an interactive workshop on how to motivate adolescents using the ABC model.

Later that evening, we were back on our bikes and cycling though some of Antwerp’s luscious Garden Streets, which were designed through a participative process involving the residents. Our destination – Betonne Jeugd (Concrete Youth), an organisation for young people in poverty who unite and emancipate themselves through leisure activities. It offers a safe home-base, a warm nest where they can come and chill, play football, cook together, and be young. We experienced one of the offers young people visiting this organisation enjoy – live pizza bakery and a delicious dinner!

The following day was not the picture of sunshine we were getting used to, but the damp weather didn’t dampen the mood as we arrived at StampMedia, Flanders’ first youth media agency amplifying the voice of young people. We saw the impressive range of facilities, equipment, and knowledgeable mentors available to all young people who have an interest in journalism or sharing their own stories. A quick hop across the alleyway and we were in the Permeke Youth Library – created in collaboration with adolescents, this is a space they can call their own and use to explore writing and art, or use as a social meeting place. 

A short bike ride took us to SPRK, where we admired the multifunctional space made available for young people to explore urban sports and culture. We then made our way to STORMKOP, an impressive organisation located in the city’s old dry docks (Droogdokken) which is an out-of-the-ordinary free state for young and not-so-young adventurers immersed in a world of art, philosophy, science, sustainability, and adventure. After a lunch break, we explored the site with an audio guide outlining the substantial redevelopment plans for the site. 

The sun started to peek through the clouds, as we set off on our bikes once again to explore some of the results of the City of Antwerp’s Play Web Policy in situ. The City of Antwerp has been committed to child-friendliness and greening in urban development for years, and have undertaken 17 different studies into play-space webs. As we cycled through these areas, our colleagues from Antwerp explained how it was converted into effective play space, with reflections on the various challenges and difficulties. Some of the group went back to the hotel for a rest, while the rest went exploring a little further, visiting the pedestrian and cyclist tunnel that goes under the River Scheldt, returning on the electric ferry!

On the last evening, we made our way to TRIX Youth Centre, a music venue and centre for aspiring artists, with several stages, workshop spaces, and practice rooms hosting a network of artists, music lovers, as well as art and youth organisations. These alliances stimulate creativity and discovery and bring in a diverse audience. Here, after a tour of the impressive facilities, we enjoyed dinner backstage before we got the chance to shake off the drizzle from our bike ride and move to the beats created by international artists performing at the venue. 

Thankfully we all made it home in one piece, and we mustered the courage to face a very rainy last morning in Antwerp. Dropping off the bikes first thing, we walked to the EcoHuis (Eco House), a centre Antwerp’s residents can visit for inspiration, information, advice, and financial support. Here we learnt about the range of initiatives taking place to depave the city, turning grey into green, with green facades, streets, and roofs, as well as growing garlands. We also discovered how school playgrounds are being transformed into more natural, green environments that invite intuitive and healthy play.

Last but not least, we took a short walk to Jes Youth Centre, where we heard about the inspiring ways in which the young people of the city can be reached, brought together, and supported to overcome difficulties they and their communities face. Here, as with every organisation we visited, we were greeted and shown around by people who were undeniably passionate about their vocation and the work that they do. Throughout our stay in Antwerp, the group was inspired by the unique places that have been transformed into spaces which not only welcome the city’s youth, but were, more often than not, built up and designed by them too! 

Thank you to all the organisations who hosted us and to our fantastic colleagues in the City of Antwerp, for the work that they do, day-in day-out, and the inspiring programme they put together!



Insights from the fourth webinar on 16 April 2024
Cities Learn: Citizens’ Asseblies – How and Why?
Hosted by the City of Brussels with guest experts Dimitri Lemaire and Louise Humblet from Particitiz

125 participants from 24 countries (106 from 17 eligible for CERV)

Dimitri Lemaire and Louise Humblet from Particitiz walked us through how Citizens’ Assemblies are successfully implemented, what basic conditions are required before you begin such a process, and some of the most common challenges faced along the way. Their presentation covered the five steps of implementation: 

1. Ensuring there’s genuine political support and will to implement the outcomes;
2. Setting the agenda, with an open question defining the focal topic;
3. Selecting the right experts to present the information in a transparent and accessible way;
4. Designing the recruitment, methods, and follow-up procedures;
5. Thorough evaluation to ensure future processes improve based on participants’ experiences.

They also highlighted the value in implementing Citizens Assemblies – citizens are experts in the field of their own experiences, which are invaluable to capture and explore when it comes to effective policy making. 

Which topics for future webinars?

Re-watch the webinar


Insights from the third webinar on 14 March 2024:
Cities Teach: Climate Assemblies, Green Cities & Biodiversity
Hosted by the City of Brussels with contributions from the Municipality of Valongo and the City of Vienna

127 participants from 24 countries (110 from 18 eligible for CERV)

Cities Teach: Climate Assemblies, Green Cities & Biodiversity
Hosted by the City of Brussels 
with contributions from the Municipality of Valongo and the City of Vienna

Marion Julien, Coordinator for the Climate and Cities in Transition Team for the City of Brussels, highlighted the importance of on-the-ground citizen engagement. She presented the City of Brussels’ use of a cargo bike to reach citizens where they are, thus lowering the threshold for engagement. She also reflected on the challenge of motivating and adequately compensating participants for the long-term engagement required to co-create Climate Plans. 

Tiago Koch, from the Environment Division of the Municipality of Valongo, presented the BiodiverCities project which aims to tackle the urban heat-island effect and promote and support biodiversity. Project activities include creating green city walks and BIOteca biodiverse book-exchange stations, implementing invasive-species control measures, and creating pollinator gardens and bug hotels. Citizen participants are involved in an on-going data-collection process to evaluate and improve engagement activities. 

Katharina Toth, Energy Planning Consultant for the Vienna Climate Team of the City of Vienna, gave us an overview of the Vienna Climate Team process, focussing on the Citizens’ Jury. The Citizens’ Jury is made up of a group of residents from a district, who are randomly selected while taking into account socio-demographic factors. The Vienna Climate Mosaic game helps jury members understand the complex interactions of various climate actions, with decisions made using a three-tier rating system.

Impressions from the webinar:

Re-watch the webinar

ECN Meeting one:
Cities Meet: Tackling social and climate challenges with Brussels’ solutions
25.-27.03.2024, Brussels

39 participants from 13 countries (35 from 9 eligible for CERV)

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The latest ECN meeting took place in Brussels, as members of the network gathered together to discuss, learn, and exchange with a focus on “tackling social and climate challenges with Brussels’ solutions”. This time, we were joined by representatives from Antwerp, Barcelona, Bologna, Bratislava, Cascais, Gdańsk, Kyiv, Rzeszów, Tirana, Valongo, and Vienna.

The meeting began as all meetings in Brussels begin, on a beautiful sunny day! Thirty representatives from twelve European cities began to arrive and gathered on the 8th floor of the new Brucity (Brussels City Council) building and admired the view over the rooftops of the city. After kicking off the meeting in Brussels with a warm welcome and comprehensive introduction to the meeting’s focus points, it was off to the rooftop for an obligatory windswept group photograph!

The next day was dedicated to immersive visits around Brussels, showcasing sustainable initiatives that underscore “Climate, Green City and Participation”. The day began with a tour of Tivoli GreenCity, a pioneering eco-district that harmoniously combines innovative living spaces with sustainability. Emphasising green construction and energy efficiency, it fosters active community involvement and encourages citizen participation in its development. This district is also home to Greenbizz, a hub which offers a dynamic environment for sustainable businesses to grow, strengthening the local economy while creating jobs. Here, entrepreneurs can innovate as they strive to contribute to a greener economy and a more sustainable society. 

The group were able to gain a deeper understanding of some of the sustainable businesses which began in the Greenbizz hub:

Snappies introduces a practical solution which drastically cuts disposable nappy waste by providing nurseries with an efficient, cost-effective alternative. This initiative aims to significantly reduce the environmental impact of child care, by providing a nappy-washing service that enables municipal nurseries to use reusable nappies instead of disposable options. 

The FabLab is a hub for digital manufacturing innovation, offering public access to computer-controlled fabrication tools. Here, any citizen can learn digital design and fabrication, as the team empowers individuals to bring their ideas to life, fostering civic creativity. 

A short stroll over the road took us to the BE-HERE Business Centre where we were able to learn about the Babbeleir cargo bike, which has revolutionised public interaction in Brussels. This versatile cargo bike enables vibrant policy discussions and community activities to be hosted across the city, fostering face-to-face dialogues with citizens from all walks of life. 

Following lunch, the group split into two groups, with one group going on a guided walk of the L28 Park with visits to Permafungi, the Gare Maritime, and a CyCLO bike repair shop. 

The other group returned to Brucity for presentations on the GoodMove Pentagone mobility initiative, the city’s heat-network initiative, as well as the Troc&Brol project. 

The ECoD City Network’s meeting in Brussels was concluded on the following morning with insightful presentations on Brussels’ approach to climate challenges at the Old City Hall. These presentations provided an overview of the Citizens’ Assemblies of both the City and Region of Brussels, followed by a guided tour of the historic Brussels City Hall. As several member cities are also currently planning and conducting citizens’ assemblies, these presentations provided useful and detailed insights into how Brussels overcame some of the challenges associated with citizens’ assemblies. We learnt about how methods of citizen engagement were developed based on thorough evaluation of citizens’ experiences. 

With European cities being at the forefront of today’s social, climate, and environmental challenges, the ECoD City Network’s visit provided our members with insights into Brussels’ innovative and ambitious initiatives which face these challenges. These groundbreaking solutions have been developed by public authorities, entrepreneurs, and civic society. City specialists from across Europe were able to explore how Brussels formulates its public policies through close consultation with citizens and stakeholders across various sectors. Using real-life examples, Brussels’ stakeholders illustrated the tools and strategies used to transform the city while engaging both its citizens and other city-users. 

We want to thank our colleagues from Brussels for hosting us, presenting their projects, and helping to make the meeting happen. 🙌


Insights from the second webinar on 22 February 2024:
Cities Learn: Sweating to make Data-Driven Policies a Reality
Hosted by the City of Barcelona with guest expert Pau Balcells, Programme Manager of the Municipal Data Office

103 participants from 29 countries (87 from 22 eligible for CERV)

Pau Palcells, Programme Manager of the Municipal Data Office of the City of Barcelona, presented the challenges and opportunities of using data to drive municipal policies. As technology continues to advance rapidly, politicians struggle to use data to enhance democratic processes. But data can be used as a rich growth medium for policies, as well as to evaluate their efficacy and to focus services based on citizens’ needs. One important factor is to have a robust Data Governance Model in order to safely and transparently manage data while making it both usable and available. It’s also prudent to remember that perfection is the enemy of progress and that an agile approach which delivers short-term results helps to prove the usefulness of data when developing or evaluating policies. 

Which topics would you like to see at future webinars?

Re-watch the webinar


Insights from the first webinar on 23 December 2023:
Cities Teach: Digital Transformation and Democracy in the City
Hosted by the City of Barcelona with contributions from the City of Bologna.

90 participants from 23 countries (73 from 17 eligible for CERV)

Arnau Monterde, Director of Democratic Innovation Department of Barcelona City Council, presented the Decidm platform, which is a free, open-source platform for citizen participation. This platform was developed by the Democratic Innovation Department of Barcelona City Council and works at the city, technical, and community levels to further the development of democratic technological innovation. Decidim is now a global platform for digital democracy, as it has been implemented in 30 countries by 300 public organisations, engaging 3 million participants. The platform facilitates participation spaces, public debates, and participatory budgets, among other forms of digital democracy. 

Giovanni Farneti of Agenda Digitale presented the Municipality of Bologna’s Zerodiciotto App, the Mobility Management System, and the Portici App. The Zerodiciotto App facilitates communication between parents and Municipal Schools, to report absences and receive real-time notifications from the schools. The Mobility Management System allows two-way communication between the Municipality and residents about how mobility is managed within the city, with efficient communication and distribution of questionnaires and surveys, and subsequent collation and dissemination of the collected data. Lastly, the Portici App monitors the city’s Porticos with an interactive dashboard that facilitates residents’ participation. 

Impressions from the webinar:

Re-watch the webinar

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