No 8 | May 2013


Welcome to the 8th edition of the Informed Cities Update!

This newsletter keeps you up to date with the key developments regarding sustainable development on the local level. It brings together the perspectives of local governments, research community and other partners, in order to bridge the gap between knowledge and practice.

1  |  News

  • InContext - Final results coming soon
  • Calling all change agents: join us in Berlin!
  • RFSC step by step: training materials now available
  • Urban Nexus: Competing for urban land

2  |  Upcoming events

  • Informed Cities Forum & InContext Final Conference - 6/7 June 2013
  • RFSC conference - 9 October 2013
  • 13th IOPD international conference - 3-5 July 2013
  • ECOCITY world summit - 25-27 September 2013

3  |  Improve your local sustainability processes

  • ecoBUDGET webcentre
  • Transition Management in an Urban Context – Guidance Manual

4  |  Recent publications

  • Toward Global (Environ)Mental Change, Sacha Kagan, Heinrich Böll Foundation, 2012
  • Enterprising Communities: Grassroots Sustainability Innovations, Anna Davies (ed.), Emerald Group Publishing 2012

This edition of the Informed Cities Update is part of the InContext project that aims to identify the framework conditions enabling societal transition towards an ecologically sound, economically successful and culturally diverse future.To find out more about InContext activities and results, visit the project website at

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1 | NEWS

InContext workshops: From public participation to co-creation

The Reality Check Workshops, held in Milan (Italy) on 7-8 November and in Cracow (Poland) on 3-4 December 2012, gathered a selected group of local government representatives, researchers and other interested actors from a number of European countries to discuss the future of public participation and the role of local governments in supporting bottom-up sustainability initiatives.

“Is everyone a decision maker?”, “Can stakeholders move beyond their short-term interests?”, “How to build trust between the local administration and the community?” – these were just some of the questions identified and explored during the workshops.

Experts from the Dutch Research Institute for Transitions (DRIFT) introduced the principles of transition management and presented the experience of communities working with this approach, including Rotterdam (Netherlands), Ghent (Belgium) and Finkenstein (Austria). In a number of interactive exercises, the participants discussed the possibility of adapting the transition management approach to their local context, sharing their experiences with regard to bottom-up initiatives.

Interested in transition processes and the role of local governments in responding to societal challenges?

Apply for the upcoming training in Rotterdam (Netherlands), 29-31 January 2013. To find out more, click here.

InContext pilot projects: The power of vision in Finkenstein

The core of the pilot study in the Austrian village of Finkenstein is the Community Area, 15 engaged citizens with a certain interest in sustainable development and the welfare of their community. This group of citizens with quite diverse backgrounds developed a common vision for a good life in Finkenstein.

A good life is understood as a way of living that is based on the needs of the people, but also is more sustainable and leads to a decrease in resource consumption. According to the various specific interests of the Community Arena participants, ten different working groups have been installed where measures are being developed that contribute to achieving the vision and more citizens have been invited to join the common effort.

The topics of the working groups range from sustainable local economy to energy, from mobility to local culture, from systemic analysis to participation and social life. Some of the Community Arena participants got inspired to engage in local politics in order to realise long-term actions, some are involved in local working groups to realise short-term actions. The common vision inspires more and more people, connects them to each other and empowers them to make a change now for the future of their region.

The pilot project “LebensKlima” is carried out by the Sustainable Europe Research Institute (SERI). If you want to know more about the ongoing project, please check out the website Lebensklima in Finkenstein (in German).

For more information on InContext pilot projects, click here.

Incontext pilot projects: A transition experiment in Carnisse

In the InContext-pilot area of Carnisse (Rotterdam, the Netherlands) researchers of Drift are monitoring a “transition experiment” that focuses on the preservation and re-opening of the local community centre.

The community centre was closed as of the 1st of January 2012 and a group of residents, entrepreneurs, artists and professionals are trying to re-open the community centre in a self-sufficient manner. This experiment is an action-oriented spin-off of the Community Arena process where perceived problems were identified and a future Carnisse was envisioned.

The local action group wants to be in the driver seat when it comes to the future of the vacant community centre. While dominant parties (e.g. local municipality, welfare organizations) are openly being disqualified and do not want to take responsibility for the centre, the local action group is claiming decisive power. This way the action group wants to flip responsibilities from top-down to bottom-up. Currently, the action group is working on forming an executive committee and also exploring options to (partly) voluntarily take up duties and tasks of supervision, financial administration and maintenance. They plan on re-opening the centre in January 2013.

It is in such experiments where alternative and innovative discourses and practices can be stimulated and explored. Because of the historic relevance of the centre and the link between the Community Arena, the community centre can become a symbol for a future socially sustainable Carnisse.

For more information on InContext pilot projects, click here.

Exploring the role of regions in socio-ecological transition of Europe

With a start-up workshop in April 2012, a cutting edge scientific workshop focusing on European governance and the problems in peripheral countries in July 2012, and the first policy brief published in November, the WWWforEurope project started with an impressive momentum that reflects the need for a new approach to EU economic governance.

The objective is to provide an analytical basis for a new European development strategy, enabling social-ecological transition and leading to higher rates of employment, social inclusion, gender equity and environmental sustainability. One of the focus areas is the role of regions in the transition process, taking into account institutional preconditions, regional labour markets and cultural diversity and examining the transitional dynamics of European regional policy.

To maximize its impact, WWWforEurope will engage in an ongoing dialogue with policy makers, stakeholders and representatives of civil society, supplying them with evidence based policy recommendations while at the same time integrating their expertise and their views in the design of the transition strategy to be developed.

This four-year research project brings together researchers from 33 scientific institutions in 12 European countries, including ICLEI, and is coordinated by the Austrian Institute of Economic Research (WIFO).

To subscribe to the project newsletter, click here.


Drivers, passengers or bystanders? The role of local governments in addressing societal challenges, InContext Training Workshop. 29-31 January 2013, Rotterdam (Netherlands)

The training focuses on the role of local governments in local transitions towards sustainable lifestyles and a low-carbon society. Participants will be introduced to the idea of transitions for a better understanding of how change happens. More importantly, the participants will have the chance to experience a transition management process as one of the means of addressing societal challenges and influencing the direction of change. Setting out on a journey into the year 2050, the participants will explore the future of urban governance and reflect on the role that they as local government representatives, but also as citizens, can play in bringing about more sustainable cities.

Facilitated by experts from the Dutch Research Institute for Transitions (Drift) and ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability, the event will allow you to confront your experience with participants from all over Europe, and bring home practical solutions to help you better understand the needs of your community. If well used, creativity and knowledge found at grassroots level have the power to turn a city around. In the current climate of austerity European cities simply cannot afford to neglect these valuable resources.

The training is free of charge and limited funds for travel reimbursement are available. Should you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact Alberto Terenzi at

Spaces are limited - apply now to secure your place at the workshop!

7th European Conference on Sustainable Cities & Towns (ESCT), 17-19 April 2012, Geneva (Switzerland)

Over 1,000 European local government leaders, as well as representatives from institutions and NGOs will convene in Geneva to seek new and creative answers to the global financial crisis in the context of sustainable development and international and local governance.

Building upon the conclusions of the previous ESCT Dunkerque 2010 and the outcomes of the Rio+20 Conference, which will focus on green economy, Geneva 2013 will seek to bridge the gaps between environmental, economic and social goals and connect governments, civil society and business through policy and action.

Traditionally the largest European conference dedicated to local sustainable development, the event takes place in the International Conference Centre Geneva, located close to the UN “Place des nations” just minutes from international transport hubs and the city centre.

For more information click here

3rd Informed Cities Forum & InContext Final Conference, 6-7 June 2013, Berlin (Germany)

Mark your calendars to make sure you don’t miss the third edition of the Informed Cities Forum, an interactive and inspiring conference that brings together urban researchers and practitioners interested in local sustainability.

This year’s edition, organized as the final conference of the InContext project, will have a special focus on the role of the community in designing and accelerating the transition to sustainable lifestyles and low-carbon society.
The participants will have a chance to explore the barriers and opportunities related to engaging with the community, sharing practical experience and learning about innovative methodologies, such as backcasting or dynamic facilitation.

High-level speakers, representing the research community, European, national and local policy-makers, as well as grassroots initiatives, will discuss the experience of the InContext project and its transition arena approach, an interesting example of cooperation between citizens, researchers and local governments.

More information coming soon - contact us at if you would like to have your say in shaping the conference programme.


Coming soon: Reference Framework for European Sustainable Cities (RFSC)

The RFSC is an online toolkit for European local authorities which are involved in, or are willing to start, a process of integrated and sustainable urban development. The toolkit was created at the request of the European ministers for urban development, who recognised the vital role of cities in the achievement of a smart, sustainable and inclusive Europe.

The RFSC offers practical support in integrating sustainability principles into policies and actions at various urban scales, from neighbourhood level to the wider metropolitan level. To be launched in January 2013, the RFSC toolkit will be available to all European cities and municipalities to use free of charge and with no strings attached.

If you would like to be among the first ones to use the tool and get priority access to the support offered, please indicate your interest to the RFSC Secretariat at

Start your local energy action planning with the Covenant capaCITY Training Platform

The Covenant capaCITY Training Platform is a free online platform for local political representatives and municipal staff, and it aims to provide local governments with short and easy-to-understand training modules focusing on eight key issues relevant to local energy action planning.  The Platform was developed by experts (energy, local governments, and adult education) in the Covenant capaCITY project, co-funded by the Intelligent Energy Europe (IEE) programme.

The Platform is aimed at start-up municipalities – cities and towns that are busy exploring what local climate and sustainable energy action is all about and what their role in this could be. Eight topics, presented in modules, outline the topic relevance to local governments, offering basic guidance, as well as ideas, tips and tools – on how to deal with people, structures, and processes. The modules combine information and interactive elements, including exercises, great guidance and links to further support..

By going through the training programme, local leaders and municipal staff from different departments should have a sound idea how to develop a Sustainable Energy Action Plan (SEAP).

For more information, click here.


“Going green: How cities are leading the next economy. A global survey and case studies of cities building the green economy”, LSE Cities/ICLEI/GGGI 2012

The Going Green report provides an up-to-date overview on the experiences of how cities around the world are making the transition to the green economy and offers recommendations for those local governments that would like to become green economy frontrunners.

The first part of the report presents the results of a global survey of 90 local governments that was conducted by LSE Cities, ICLEI and GGGI in the run-up to the Rio+20 conference, covering key aspects of green policies and the green economy, smart city technology, green policy assessment and urban governance.

The second part investigates in greater detail the experience of eight cities in facilitating green growth, focusing on four cross-cutting policy areas: land-use and transport; eco-districts and buildings; waste, recycling and energy; and electric mobility and renewable energy.

To download your copy, click here.

“Cities and Biodiversity Outlook”, Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity 2012

CBO – Action and Policy provides the summary of a global assessment of the links between urbanization, biodiversity, and ecosystem services. Drawing on contributions from more than 120 scientists and policy-makers from around the world, it summarizes how urbanization affects biodiversity and ecosystem services and presents 10 key messages for strengthening conservation and sustainable use of natural resources in an urban context.

In order to further promote the preservation of biodiversity, the report describes over 50 examples of policy instruments, guidelines, projects, and institutions that have been developed by cities, sub-national and national governments, academia, and international organizations all over the world.

This publication is a collaborative effort of the Convention of the Biological Diversity, the Stockholm Resilience Center of the Stockholm University and ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability. It has been launched during the Cities for Life Summit, 15-16 October 2012 in Hyderabad (India), a parallel event to the CBD COP 11.

To read more and download your copy, click here.


This edition of the Informed Cities Update is financed by the InContext project, funded by the 7th Framework Programme of the European Union. 

The sole responsibility for the content of this newsletter lies with the authors. It does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the European Communities. The European Commission is not responsible for any use that may be made of the information contained therein.

Published by ICLEI - Local Governments for Sustainability, European Secretariat