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Cities can profit from car sharing 2 July 2014

Posted by cooperatoby in Amsterdam.
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When a fleet of shared cars is introduced in a city, this can arouse resentment among existing car owners because they can’t park in the reserved parking bays. Cities typically bill the operator for these spaces. An evaluation of the car2go free-floating car sharing scheme concludes that Amsterdam actually makes a small profit from it.

a mass of car2go carsThe car2go scheme, using 300 electric smart cars, was launched in 2011, and the impact assessment published in November 2013 shows that the income from the parking charges alone, less the estimated loss from selling resident’s parking permits and from visitors using parking meters, is €39,100. This without taking environmental and convenience benefits into account.

The calculation is as follows. Car2go now has 17,500 members who make 10,000 trips a week. The city charges €675 for parking each of 300 cars, which brings in an income of €202,500. As against this, it sells 320 fewer residents’ parking permits at €205 (= €65,600) and earns €105,000 less from parking meters paid for by visitors. The combined loss is €170,000, leaving a profit of €39,100.

In comparison there has been some controversy in Seattle, where car2go pays $1,330 (€973) per car per year, which one blogger reckons is too cheap, given the market price of parking. The city’s report is here.

The rising star of social economy in urban policy 18 June 2013

Posted by cooperatoby in social economy, Social enterprise.
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180620133040 Urban seminarSome would call it rivet-counting but I am always happy to see the social economy get recognition in any sort of policy. So it was with pleasure that I sat through two back-to-back presentations this morning – both of documents I had the pleasure of editing.

The first was the set of 50 urban development case studies published by DG REGIO. These are Rolls Royce case studies, coming equipped with a standfirst (for MEPs) and an executive summary as well as an 8-page journalistic story (for Economist readers) and a 16-page analytical template (for nerds).
The third sector is an important partner in urban projects dealing with social inclusion, said expert Laura Colini. Excellent examples include Creggan Enterprises in Derry and Limerick Enterprise Development Partnership. But social enterprises also figure at the ‘hard end of the spectrum, in the form of the Key Fund. This Sheffield-based fund is, according to Peter Ramsden, the first social investment fund to benefit from ERDF finance, and an excellent example of an ERDF financial engineering instrument that gets money to where it is needed. This against a background where there seems to be an inverse relationship between the size of a project and the transparency of how this pubic money is spent.

Cities of Tomorrow: Action Today

The social economy also features in the set of 6 thematic reports URBACT launched today. My pleasure is only slightly attenuated by the fact that the place the social economy gets the highest billing is in the report on Shrinking Cities. This topic in itself is fascinating, and curiously overlooked by policy. Although about half of Europe’s cities are shrinking, almost everybody is in denial about it. They cling hard to the paradigm of perpetual growth, which stops them looking for more creative ways to move forward. These are ways, suggests the thematic expert Hans Schlappa, such as polishing up neglected jewels and finding interim uses for empty buildings. Demographic change is a particular issue for shrinking cites as they tend to have more than their share of older people, which places a strain on social services. Part of the solution is to realise that these people are just as much assets as liabilities; you can bring their skills into the provision of services by venturing into ‘coproduction’. This is where the social economy comes into its own.

Social enterprise – a tool for integration

The chief message of these two publications is that urban policy works best when it is integrated – and that means focusing more on people, and not just things – doing ESF-type actions as well as the traditional ‘hard’ ERDF-type actions. NGOs and social enterprises are of course the perfect vehicle through which people can be empowered to improve their own localities. The social enterprise sector’s profile is steadily rising given the attention being paid to it through the Social Business Initiative, and it is likely to rise further once the €90m investment fund to be launched under the Programme for Social Change and Innovation gets under way next year. So I hope it is given a big role in the partnership contracts and operational programmes that are now being thought about and written.

Public space is where we build trust 25 November 2012

Posted by cooperatoby in Uncategorized.
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On this sunny Sunday morning, I just watched an inspiring presentation by Alexandros Washburn, New York’s Chief Urban Designer, at a TEDx event in Christchurch, New Zealand, on 1st September. His essential points are:
• Public space is where we build trust – where we meet each other as equals.
• Urban designers work at the intersection of politics, finance and design – and design is the weakest of the 3 forces. Things only change if these 3 forces align.
• Start with the pedestrian: make the ground floors interesting, plan pavements at last 3m wide, then plant a row of trees for shade, then a bike lane… the width of a street is finite, so you have to make choices. NB Rue de la Loi!
• The smallest dimensions matter – even the height of kerbs. This is a thing I continually notice in the Netherlands, where paving is a refined artform.
• If it’s worth remembering, it’s worth drawing – as Christopher Alexander, author of A Pattern Language, knew. It’s shame the website is payable but the book is well worth £34.

To show how to use market forces, Mr Washburn gives the example of the High Line, a linear park made out of an elevated railway line in the West Chelsea district of Manhattan. The viaduct was only preserved because the city had the power to transfer the ‘air rights’ (something I never knew existed) to plots on the edge of the area. This removed the incentive for property owners along the route to lobby for its demolition.

PS “Design is disruptive when it lowers the threshold” – an idea borrowed from Wikihouse site.

PPS This year the TED Prize went for the first time not to an individual but to an organisation, City 2.0, which is full of ideas for urban redesign.

Social innovation incubators discover the need for support for the social economy 18 July 2012

Posted by cooperatoby in Brussels, social economy, Social enterprise.
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I’m glad to see that the agenda of social innovation is still bumping into that of social economy. They must be held together.

An interesting quote in (page 4 of) the report on the Social Innovation Europe How do we incubate social innovation in Europe event on 21-22 March at The Hub Brussels:

Enter Sergio Campanella… sharing his experience from the perspective of regional development. Sergio has worked on urban development issues and recently on setting up a network of incubators through URBACT N.O.S.E.
Sergio highlighted the big difference between “social” enterprise and enterprise is the lack of public sector promotion of the social economy. He continued to emphasise that there is information attesting to the contribution of social enterprise to the new economy, but that politicians fail to understand this and see the role that special conditions can play in stimulating more. Sharing examples from his context on the ground in Sicily, he asks, “How can we better place this emerging new economy in relationship to the traditional economy?”

In praise of dedicated budgets 27 June 2009

Posted by cooperatoby in EU.
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It is rare for policy-makers to confess their errors, so some honest rueful contrition makes a welcome change. Speaking at a meeting of QeC-ERAN: 20 Years of European Urban Policy in the Halles St-Géry in Brussels on 24th June, Dirk Ahner , Director General of the European Commission’s Regional Policy DG, did just such a thing. He explained that the rationale behind mainstreaming was to make more money available for the sort of integrated development projects that the URBAN Community Initiative had supported. These were projects that:
– tackled exclusion and disadvantage
– combined hard and soft measures
– achieved social, economic and environmental goals
– were based on community ownership and local partnerships with the private sector

But instead, as it has turned out in the wash, local government is disjointed. ERDF programmes are in the hands of individual ministries which have gone back to promoting sectoral projects in areas such as transport and the environment, denying cities a voice. The learning of URBAN has been largely forgotten.

There is now probably €30 bn being invested in urban development – a vast improvement on URBAN’s €700m budget – but much of it is not being applied in the way the optimists intended.

By the way I’m still puzzled by the way the Sixth R&D Framework Programme’s problem-oriented structure was abandoned when it came to FP7. FP6 had a Key Action called The City of Tomorrow which seemed to be going in exactly the right direction, but evidently joined-up thinking is as hard to do in the lab as it is on the ground.

I suppose that there will always be a pendulum swing between phases of integration and targeting – after a period of multiple initiatives, these were slimmed down to two (EQUAL & URBAN) and now none. At a moment when the operational programmes for the 2007-2013 programming period are taking shape, it’s salutary to be reminded of the dangers of mainstreaming. You can mainstream good things out of existence too.

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