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
  • InContext pilot projects: Smiling May comes into play in Finkenstein

2  |  Upcoming events

  • Informed Cities Forum & InContext Final Conference, 6-7 June 2013, Berlin (Germany)
  • 13th IOPD International Conference, 3-5 July 2013, Cascais (Portugal)
  • ECOCITY World Summit, 25-27 September 2013, Nantes (France)
  • RFSC Conference, 9 October 2013, Brussels (Belgium)

3  |  Improve your local sustainability processes

  • ecoBUDGET Webcentre: Budgeting local resources
  • Transition Management in an Urban Context: Guidance Manual

4  |  New on our bookshelf

  • "Toward Global (Environ)Mental Change", Sacha Kagan
  • "Enterprising Communities: Grassroots Sustainability Innovations", Anna Davies (ed.)

For the latest on sustainable cities, follow Informed Cities on Facebook

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

Read this newsletter online
Have you received this newsletter from a colleague? Click here to subscribe

1 | NEWS

InContext: Final results coming soon

The InContext team initiated three 'transition arenas' and observed four existing initiatives for alternative living in local communities across Europe.The project combines action-orientated interventions with conceptual thinking about sustainable lifestyles. These are exciting times for the research project – in the final project phase, we are distilling what we have learned during the course of the project. The team will present key messages for different target groups in five distinct policy briefs and reports.

The overarching synthesis will be presented in a report titled “The role of transformative communities in addressing societal challenges”. It will highlight the power of transition processes in addressing some of the tremendous challenges facing local communities in a time of austerity and deep structural changes. Focusing on questions such as “What motivates citizens today to engage in long-term thinking about their community?” and “How can existing initiatives for alternative ways of living be nourished and supported?” the report will provide a concise overview of the lessons learnt and point to additional reading material.

The policy brief “Why to go out of the town hall – and what to do there” is addressed to decision-makers at the local level. It will discuss the benefits of engaging with groups and activists who drive change towards more sustainable living in their community.

The policy brief “How the EU can support local transition processes” lists recommendations for EU policy-makers, focusing on funding and research needs.

Many insights of InContext centre on the role of action researchers and on how to draw up successful action research. These results will be presented in the paper “Action Research for Sustainability. Reflections on transition management in practice”.

The papers will be first presented at the InContext final conference, from 6-7 June 2013 in Berlin (Germany). All materials will also be accessible in June via the InContext website.

Calling all change agents: Join us in Berlin

Taking place in Berlin (Germany) from 6-7 June 2013, this exciting event will bring together local government and community representatives, researchers and other actors interested in exploring how, through working together, we can facilitate change and move towards better places, stronger communities and resilient societies.

As a participant, you will have the opportunity to reflect on your own role in making change happen, present your experiences, as well as get plenty of ideas for future action.

Confirmed speakers include Carles Agustí Hernández, the Commissioner for Citizens’ Participation of the Barcelona City Council (Spain) and Co-President of the International Observatory on the Participatory Democracy, Derk Loorbach, Director of the Dutch Research Institute for Transitions (the Netherlands), Eva Maria Skӧld, Political Secretary of the Green Party in Malmӧ City Council (Sweden) and Tessy Britton of Social Spaces (UK).

Participants will explore how to create space for change in communities through discussions and interactive sessions with like-minded people from across Europe. Those present will also experience the feeling of change, thanks to theatre performances woven into the programme and a selection of study visits to Berlin’s most inspiring places.

For more information, click here.

RFSC step by step: Training materials now available

The Reference Framework for European Sustainable Cities (RFSC) is an online toolkit designed to help cities promote and enhance their work on integrated sustainable urban development. It is available free of charge to all European local authorities and offers practical support in integrating sustainability principles into local policies and actions.
For those interested in learning more about the opportunities offered by the tool, a set of training materials has been developed, covering all basic RFSC functionalities. The presentations are available in English and French and can be accessed here.

Interested local governments are encouraged to contact the RFSC Secretariat to schedule a dedicated training session. Trainings might be offered to individual cities or groups of cities, online or offline.

To find out more about the RFSC, click here.
To request a training session, contact the RFSC Secretariat at

Image: See Ming-lee/

Urban Nexus: Competing for urban land

Smart densification is promoted as a key response to challenges at local and global levels. Cities cannot continue to sprawl out. But what is the relation between density and other urban qualities, such as resilience, quality of life or access to public space? This was the question explored by the participants of the Urban Nexus Dialogue Café, held in Gӧteborg (Sweden) from 10-11 April 2013.

The Urban Nexus consortium has produced a background report “Competing for Urban Land” that addresses the challenges of growing and shrinking cities, focusing on three dimensions: socio-cultural space, green-blue infrastructure and building mass and physical structure. Drawing on numerous examples from cities all over the world, the report argues that the distribution of land use can be understood as a contest between diverse interests in a context of asymmetrical power relations, and offered a number of recommendations for building better, more liveable cities.

To download the report, click here.

Interested in data and monitoring systems for sustainable urban development?

Join the upcoming Urban Nexus Dialogue Café in Sofia (Bulgaria), 18-19 September 2013.
More information will be available soon at

InContext pilot projects: Smiling May comes in to play in Finkenstein

In the Austrian village of Finkenstein (Carinthia), the 2 years' project “Lebensklima” to develop a vision for good life with the local community slowly comes to an end. Therefore, a workshop taking place in Finkenstein was dedicated to the evaluation of the whole process.

In order to do so, the group reflected on the methods used, personally important results, changes observed due to participation in the workshops and whether the process has taken on board  the personal interests of participants. The whole process was further evaluated focusing on the following dimensions: cohesion in the community and throughout the process, sustainability in principles and personal action, comparative learning due to the process and networking in the community.

Despite the official end of the project in September, the community decided to maintain implemented activities to further enhance the local quality of life. Thus, the first election for a new founded coordination team took place. Organized following a sociocratic methodology, the election proved to be a powerful start of the community in the self-organizing phase.

The team will be responsible to coordinate the processes continuing in the different working groups trying to improve various aspects of local life. Current projects involve the implementation of an open meeting “Hello Neighbour”, workshops on local participation, regular lectures on topics about sustainability and the application for being certificated as “climate and energy model region” together with neighbor communities, among other activities.

The pilot project “LebensKlima” is carried out by the Sustainable Europe Research Institute (SERI). For more information on InContext pilot projects, click here.


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

Have you registered yet for the third edition of the Informed Cities Forum? This interactive and inspiring conference brings together urban researchers and practitioners interested in local sustainability, both from the public and community sector.

This year’s edition, titled "How to create space for change? Rediscovering the power of community"and organised 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 a low-carbon society. Click here to register - last places available!

13th IOPD International Conference “Citizenship for Sustainability” 3-5 July, Cascais (Portugal)

Elected as the president of the International Observatory on Participatory Democracy (IOPD), the Municipality of Cascais (Portugal) is the international ambassador for participatory democracy for the year 2013.

In this role, Cascais is inviting partners from all over the world to take part in the XIII IOPD International Conference to be held from 2-5 July at the Estoril Congress Centre.

Under the theme "Citizenship and Sustainability", this conference will also integrate the V GLOCAL Conference, "Think Global, Act Local", adding to the debate the issues of Sustainability and Local Agenda 21. An important debate will hence take place in Cascais, bringing together two of today’s leading topics: Citizenship and Sustainability.

For more information, click here.

ECOCITY The World Summit on Sustainable Cities 25-27 September 2013, Nantes (France)

ECOCITY is the cross-disciplinary World Summit on Sustainable Cities supported by the NGO Ecocity Builders. This 10th edition, the first to be held in the European Union, positions ”the city as a vital area of work to grapple with the global sustainability issues”. One year after Rio + 20, ECOCITY 2013 must be a platform to accelerate the transition on a global scale, in partnership with the United Nations.

The summit, organised by Nantes (France), the European Green Capital 2013, will be a unique opportunity to organise dialogue between the bearers of a European urban development model and their counterparts in other continents.

For more information, click here.

The RFSC Conference: Towards a European Model of a Sustainable City, 9 October 2013, Brussels (Belgium)

Taking place during the 11th European Week of Regions and Cities (EU Open Days), this event is addressed to local governments and national institutions supporting sustainable development at the local level.

Featuring high-level speakers, including EU Commissioner for Regional Policy Johannes Hahn, the conference will offer practical solutions for advancing integrated urban development at the local level, as well as encourage an exchange of experience between European cities working with the RFSC toolkit.

Mark your calendars to make sure you don’t miss this important learning and networking opportunity – registration will open in June 2013.

For more information, contact


ecoBUDGET Webcentre: Budgeting local resources

The ecoBUDGET webcentre is a tool that supports local governments in managing and monitoring their local resources. It is free of charge, easy to use and generates quick results that enable politicians as well as members of the administration to comprehensively improve their local sustainability work.

As the name implies, the ecoBUDGET webcentre is based on the idea of the environmental management system ecoBUDGET. ecoBUDGET follows the assumption that natural resources can be managed in the same way financial resources, such as money, are managed. Hence, natural resources are treated similarly to financial resources.

ecoBUDGET takes stock of the local resources and helps municipalities to draw up a budget for their annual use. By using ecoBUDGET, local governments can monitor and influence the use of local resources, which in turn leads to more sustainable consumption patterns.

The ecoBUDGET Master Budget states the short and long-term targets of the local administration, while the ecoBDUGET budget balance shows how advanced the administration is in achieving these targets, and how much is still to be done. The ecoBUDGET webcentre helps create both budgets in a simple and efficient way.

To visit the ecoBUDGET webcentre, please click here.

Transition Management in an Urban Context: Guidance Manual

In the last decades a new field of research has emerged that attempts to understand and explain the dynamics of fundamental, long term societal change: transition studies. From a transition perspective, the ambitions of European cities to make structural changes towards sustainability represent fundamental changes in institutional frameworks, mindsets and practices.

This practical manual is aimed at inspiring and guiding city officers who work on creating a sustainable future for their city. It introduces Transition Management, a governance approach that aims to influence the pace and direction of societal change dynamics.

The approach is illustrated by experiences from five European cities working on energy transition, including Ghent (Belgium), Montreuil (France), Aberdeen (Scotland), Ludwigsburg (Germany) and Rotterdam (Netherlands).

The publication was written by DRIFT as part of the MUSIC project and can be downloaded here.

For a quick introduction to transition management and the MUSIC project, click here to watch a short video. 


“Toward Global (Environ)Mental Change”, Sacha Kagan, Heinrich Böll Foundation, 2012

This paper, published by the Heinrich Böll Foundation, explores the causes of the global sustainability crisis from a unique and interesting angle.

It argues that the search for a more sustainable development in the ‘developed’ world has, so far, been focusing too much on hardware updates, such as new technologies, economic incentives, policies and regulations. By doing so we have forgotten about the need for “software revisions”, that is cultural transformations affecting our ways of knowing, learning, valuing and acting together. The paper highlights the potential of art in changing current mindsets and fostering a sensibility to Nature-Culture’s dynamic complexity. It is a plea for cultural transformation that hopefully helps bring about social-ecological reforms and the future we need.

Click here to download the paper.

"Enterprising Communities: Grassroots Sustainability Innovations", Anna Davies (ed.), Emerald Group Publishing 2012

This book provides an internationally grounded and critical review of grassroots sustainability enterprises, specifically focusing on the processes that lead to their formation, the governing context that shapes their evolution, the benefits they create and the challenges that they face in different contexts.

For the first time grassroots sustainability enterprises and their actions and impact receive comprehensive academic analysis from the perspective of their contribution towards more resilient development. Numerous examples include low impact housing in the UK, eco-villages in Ireland, community gardening in Germany and turtle conservation in Costa Rica. The authors conclude by looking ahead to the future, specifically at governing frameworks for grassroots sustainability enterprises and the smart, green, clean-tech economy.

Prof. Anna Davies will be one at the panelists at the Informed Cities Forum 2013 & InContext Final Conference, taking place from 6-7 June in Berlin (Germany).

For more information, 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