We meet. We learn. We act.

Report of the City Makers Pre-Summit

This report appeared earlier in Dutch on Nieuw Nederland – Steden in Transitie.

On the 4th and 5th of February, Pakhuis de Zwijger was the stage for the two-day New Europe City Makers Pre-Summit. City Makers from 60 different European cities participated and exchanged knowledge and experiences during this successful conference. The City Maker networks of Nieuw Nederland – Steden in Transitie and New Europe – Cities in Transition teamed up to provide input for a ‘City Makers Agenda’ (in Dutch: Agenda Stadmakers). This Agenda will be presented on the 30th of May to the Secretaries of all the EU member states, when they sign the ‘Pact of Amsterdam’, the outcome of discussions around the EU Urban Agenda. The City Makers Agenda represents the bottom-up perspective on and solutions for urban issues, whereas the EU Urban Agenda and the Pact of Amsterdam provide the view from top-down.

“We discuss the same issues as politicians. Why not work together?” – Charlot Schans, Project leader New Europe

We meet.
Niesco Dubbelboer, director of Agora Europa, kicked off the New Europe City Makers Pre-Summit. City Makers from all over Europe were challenged to search for answers on how to establish constructive cooperation between governments (top-down) and City Makers (bottom-up) to intensify urban social innovation.

“All European Union countries represented at City Makers Pre-Summit! Great exchange!” – Like van der Ham, Utrecht

Jan Rydén introduces the urban issues in Stockholm. © Jitske Schols

“Citizens make the city. To set the agenda we need to bridge the gap between tactical and strategic decision making.” – Elien van Riet, Amsterdam

City representatives from every city were given one minute to introduce themselves and present the current urban issues in their city.

The challenges various Dutch cities are facing range from flows of incoming refugees in Zaanstad to the search for a new identity for cities such as Breda and Heerlen. In Zwolle, new ways of collaborating are explored and in Venlo desolated real estate is reconquered. Issues in European cities are at least as diverse. Lissabon is battling urban poverty, whereas public space in Vilnius is badly accessible. To take a look at all the presentations, please click here.

Various cities were present. © Jitske Schols

After an educational stroll past The Wall and a dinner for all participating City Makers, the conference continued with a programme open for not only City Makers, but also to other interested people. Marta Zakowska opened the evening by explaining the issues concerning public housing in her hometown Warschau. City Makers had to advocate for the preservation of public housing to maintain their city’s identity.

Nicolaas Beets, Special Urban Envoy of the Dutch Ministry for Internal Affairs, introduced the themes of the EU Urban Agenda. These include, amongst others, urban poverty, circular economy and climate change. City Makers in Europe have lots of local knowledge on these subjects. Transparency, encouragement and a framework for cooperation have to be the pivotal concepts on the urban agenda. This evening programme can be viewed here.

“You City makers are here to make the new plans!” – Nicolaas Beets

Urban Envoy Nicolaas Beets. © Jitske Schols

After Marta and Nicolaas, other City Makers took the floor to share their stories. Artist Jan Eric Visser presented the air purifying concrete that he uses for his newest artworks. Christian Grauvogel discussed how he keeps the Mörchenpark in Berlin running, a community-based park in Holzmarkt. Another example of City Making came from Sandra de Haan-Morlog, founder of Rotterzwam. Her organisation uses coffee-grounds to cultivate mushrooms. Their goal is to work together with other organisations in BlueCity010, to exchange knowledge about circular economies and sustainability.

Amal Abbass-Saal and Laura Pana provided tools how to deal with issues concerning refugees. They shared beautiful stories and images to show the power of people to get each other further, not only to get by.

The programme finished with a panel discussion between Amalia Zepou (Athens), Levente Polyak (Budapest) and Elena de Nictolis (Rome/Bologna). They discussed how the power of City Makers in local initiatives can be converted into a strong voice in European legislation.

“Citizens should be taken serious as experts and legitimated partners in urban development projects.” – Levente Polyak, Boedapest

We learn.
The second and last day of the conference hosted a rich selection of expert meetings. The dynamism of the city was viewed from 16 different angles. New forms of value creation were examined, democracy was redesigned, community building was discussed and cooperative area development was investigated. Speakers from all European countries addressed urban transitions. Reports of these sessions will follow soon.

“If citizens own the solution, they will sustain it.” – Amalia Zepou, Athene

Expert session 'Redesigning democracy' with Amalia Zepou (r) and Danielle Arets. © Jitske Schols

“Another point for the EU Urban Agenda: Pulling Economy is more than sharing, it’s about collaborating together to make more.” – Like van der Ham, Utrecht

Expert sessie Co-Creation. © Jitske Schols

On the 30th of May, the City Makers Agenda will be presented to the Secretaries of the European Member States. Project leader Charlot Schans: “We are given 15 minutes to explain our City Makers Agenda. We have more minutes than the member states have!”

“I am amazed how similar and different we are.” – Thandi Dyani, Copenhagen

We act.
Egbert Fransen, director of Pakhuis de Zwijger, concluded the Pre-Summit on Friday night: “This is not the end but the start of it, towards the 30th of May!” The video below summarizes the powerful energy of the two-day conference.

“We make the cities. We make Europe. We are Europe. We are City Makers. New Europe City Makers.”

New Europe City Makers Summit May 27-30

Save the date! During these four days City Makers from all around Europe will come to The Netherlands to work together on the City Makers Agenda.

The networks of City Makers from The Netherlands and Europe will meet, work and exchange their experiences and ideas from the Pre-Summit in February. This Summit will be the follow-up on this combined energy and dynamic exchange.

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