22 June 2022

5th ICC City Lab - Engagement of local ecosystems and collaborative governance

The second week of the Intelligent Cities Challenge’s 5th City Lab opened with a public session on 21 June 2022. Attendees heard from both keynote speakers and city representatives from Milan (Italy), Mannheim (Germany) and Florence (Italy) about the importance of engaging local ecosystems and collaborative governance, recognised the value of enhancing citizen and business participation and focused on creating powerful public-private partnerships and coalitions among local government, businesses, citizens and social economy actors.

Moderated by Igor Kalinic, Head of Sector, Competitiveness & Internationalisation from EISMEA, the session highlighted how cities can integrate the public and private sectors to develop sustainable, inclusive solutions. In the opening address, Anna Athanasopoulou, Head of Unit, Proximity, Social Economy and Creative Industries from DG GROW, explained that collaborative governance is key to implementing the European Green Deal through concrete local actions. These can instigate social innovation and engage businesses and citizens to resolve specific urban challenges and participate in the decision making process for the future of the city.

Advice from keynote speakers

Two important speeches were given by high profile experts to inspire the cities and those attending. Karen Maguire, Head of the Local Employment, Skills and Social Innovation Division at OECD, spoke about the benefits of collaborative governance, including the ability to obtain data, expertise and financial resources and influence actors in the local ecosystem. She further outlined the different means for accomplishing this such as ongoing consultation, advisory councils and joint projects between public and private actors. Ms Maguire ended by acknowledging existing challenges, like limited ambition and awareness among businesses.

Dr. Erik Stam, Professor and Dean at the Utrecht University School of Economics shared his insight on the effect that entrepreneurship has on prosperity. His framework of the entrepreneurial ecosystem rested on ten key elements: physical infrastructure, demand, intermediaries, talent, knowledge, leadership, finance, formal institutions, culture and networks. In his perspective, through analysis and action, cities can prioritise elements that are lacking and move toward financial, environmental and communal prosperity.

Hearing from the ICC Cities

Some of the following initiatives and experiences from multiple cities were shared:

  • The City of Milan’s Guido Arnone introduced the urban digital ecosystem and the government’s role in building and managing their data sharing platform. Milan joined forces with the G20 Global SmartCity Alliance to refine the skills and policies needed for the initiative.
  • Milan’s Chamber of Commerce representative, Ilaria Bonetti, spoke about the Chamber’s Digital Desk, which provides training and financing to support SMEs’ digital transition.
  • The City of Mannheim has used the ICC Local Green Deals Blueprint for Action to facilitate successful partnerships with businesses, industry organisations and service providers, resulting in their iDEAL for Mannheim campaign. In the spirit of collaborative governance, this effort included an expert advisory panel, City District Managers, the Mayors’ Department Conference and other city administrators.
  • Mannheim has also addressed the challenge of financing sustainable solutions by engaging banks, local businesses and educational institutions, as well as individual citizens.
  • The City of Florence shared how collaborative governance allowed the region’s tourism industry to bounce back from the pandemic. Actors such as the Visitor’s Bureau, Destination Florence Convention, the Mayors’ Conference, surrounding municipalities and tourism agency Toscana Promozione have co-designed initiatives and developed products aligning with a yearly theme. Together, these groups have been able to sustain the traditional art and culture of the region.

Through sharing their experiences, it became apparent that all three cities faced common challenges. Representatives had encountered difficulties when fostering motivation among the private sector. Going forward, they agreed that they must provide creative incentives for businesses to invest and participate. The cities also acknowledged that they expect to struggle as they scale up their efforts, especially in rural regions. The importance of employing a bottom-up approach that involves many actors early on to reap the full benefits of collaborative governance, namely diverse knowledge and ideas, was recognised as a potential solution to this issue.

This session showed that engaging a city’s entire ecosystem – from higher education and trade organisations to entrepreneurs and financial institutions – fosters success. By bridging the gap between the private and public sectors, Milan, Mannheim and Florence have made significant progress toward becoming digitally advanced, sustainable and inclusive cities.