Cities are the scene of resistance and innovation, often in terms of spontaneous ruptures: the place where social protests erupt and mutual cooperation unfolds, where street mobilisations and processes of cultural creation and productive innovation emerge.
European Alternatives has long been committed to supporting social dynamics, citizens’ platforms and local governments in the construction of transnational networks and exchanges. Cities are indeed pioneering in new forms of participatory governance throughout Europe. For more than five years, we have been supporting city representatives and citizens’ initiatives across Europe in sharing their experiences and innovative democratic practices. We have organised different encounters and events in cities to promote the exchange of best-practices between governments and activists, and raise awareness of the importance that cities play an effective role in the international arena.
In that respect, the project Cities of Change and the idea of the online map has emerged as a cooperation between individuals in a number of different organizations, including European Alternatives, Transnational Institute, Habitat International Coalition and the University of Sheffield’s Urban Institute.
We knew that the case mapping is undoubtedly important task. However, we wanted to think how to go beyond the text and simple description; to show the initiatives in the cities in a visually engaging manner. Our interactive online platform that we are building will be focused on the Europe-wide networking of cities and their actors who experiment with projects of digital and participatory democracy. We want to show that the change has various shapes in different contexts. The final product will be the website as an interactive map of Europe in which the various innovation processes and their actors are visualized. We are aiming to make the map user friendly, visually pleasing and the most important, fully understandable.
To conclude, the European Commission itself has recently stressed the leading role of cities and metropolitan areas and the need for stronger coordination and exchange between them. More than 70% of Europeans live in urban areas, where 75% of energy consumption and 80% of emissions are also concentrated, placing them at the core of the environmental crisis. Precisely in such a critical context, cities – as was the case in crucial moments of transition in European history – can play again a leading role. They could be places of innovation in politics, spaces of actual reinvention of democracy. And in this way they could provide answers to major challenges of our contemporary world. Let’s display them and start the change!