The remarkable historic town of Dresden in Germany was the place selected to host and welcome the 5th Informed Cities Forum on building alliances for urban sustainability transitions. The event was powered by the ARTS Project Accelerating Transitions and ICLEI Local Governments for Sustainability in Europe.
The conference was aimed to share and summarizes the reflections and lessons learned, and the progress attained from an experimental exercise that required connecting researchers and local transitions initiatives in five main transition-regions across Europe. This EU-funded research project was created to integrate the theory, policy framework, and processes related to accelerating sustainability transitions. For instance, one of its greater contributors has been the ARTS (Accelerating and Rescaling Transitions to Sustainability) Project. The ARTS Project is a three-year research project for which the ARTS team is in the final stage of its work. The project has brought together researchers, practitioners, policymakers, and civil society into the study of the role of actors and the impact of the conditions needed to accelerate the change toward more sustainable communities. The project so far has analyzed and reviewed the progress of sustainable transition initiatives and their interactions in the following five European cities: Brighton-United Kingdom, Budapest-Hungary, Dresden-Germany, Genk-Belgium, and Stockholm-Sweden. Thus, the informed cities forum was an open discussion table to expose key findings and the progress made on research work for local sustainability initiatives.
The conference was also designed to discuss three main topics: people, partnership, and power. They were divided into sections, and for each chapter, each of the city-regions mentioned above presented their results and shared their experiences so far in accelerating transition initiatives towards sustainability.
Session 1: People
This session illustrated the power of people as an inexpensive tool to reach a high level of sustainability development. The idea presented in each of the presentation was the importance to give voice to people who truly work in pro of sustainable practices. Also, this section looked into concrete examples of transition initiatives for which Dr. Leen Gorissen from VITO, Belgium did a great job presenting four guest speakers who addressed the power of people through beautiful real life examples. The figure of the moment was Tiago Mundano from Brazil. A graffiti artist who has impulse a powerful initiative called Pimp My Carroça. In an inspired talk, he described his work with the “catatodores” people who collect junk and recyclable materials. He has transformed with picturesque art the heroic workers’ cart into attractive tools of communication to spread environmental, social and even political messages and to raise awareness about sustainability issues. In fact, he has become known as a pure ‘artivist’ (artist+activist).
I would like to invite you to check the following links for more information.
Session 2: Partnerships
This session was aimed to expose the path from theory to practice, by presenting the experiences of five transition regions that were part of the ARTS project on what makes up the acceleration of sustainability development. The session was facilitated by Dr. Niki Frantzeskaki from Drift and presented by Dr. Markus Egermann from the Leibniz Institute of Ecological Urban and Regional Development. In this session, each change agents in charge of one of the five transition regions presented the findings, clear examples and implications of sustainable transitions. The initiative that most caught my attention was “Cargomania” from Budapest, Hungary. Cargomania is a sustainable urban logistical solution which integrates the use of bikes as a promotion of low carbon transportation and the distribution of local organic food through well-designed cargo-bikes.
The following links illustrate how the initiative works
Session 3: Power
Diving into the section of power Prof. Dr. Loorbach from DRIFT facilitated the session by motivating spectators to explore and debate innovative ways of public policy. The greatest outcomes derived from the discussion was (1) to build more democratic power structures and (2) to challenge the existing dominant governance frameworks. In this regard, I would like to summarize by citing Paola Cannavó, one of the member of the Scientific Committee and the Board of Trustees of the Laboratory for the Governance of Commons – LabGov. She expressed in precise words “We need to co-create a new kind of power: governance of the commons! Start with individuals who recognize commons and build on the power of doing!”.
The forum gave the opportunity to participants to engage in one of the six enriching workshops. The workshops were envisioned to give a taste of the different transition initiatives as tangible examples of how to take small steps on accelerating sustainability. The purpose of this exercise was to create a space to engage genuinely with people and see how creative processes can be used as a way to discuss sustainability with a broader audience. The field workshop I attended was about Entrepreneurs for Transitions: Economy for the Common Good. Basically, this workshop addressed local economies and a range of alternative models of economic activities. Great examples of that were presented during the showcase. For instance, Elbtaler Regional Currency, a local complementary currency for small businesses; Quartiermeister Beer Company, a community-based enterprise that supports social initiatives, and Lose Laden, a sustainable business that promotes shopping without packaging. In summary, a delegate from the Elbtaler initiative explained the competitive advantages of how local currencies provide smooth solutions to a global disruptive financial and economic crisis. On the other hand, the founder members of Quartiermeister Beer Distributor elucidated their socially-oriented business model oriented on brand recognition and strategic alliances while supporting and funding local projects, and working in an economically, socially and ecologically sustainable manner.