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What is the Action Plan for Cities? We talk to Aleksandra Jadach-Sepioło

Wiktor Bochenek
02 of January '23

Much more often we focus on what annoys us in our cities: the lack of bicycle paths, uneven sidewalks or the ever-lively concretions. Sometimes it's worthwhile, especially at the end before the start of another year, to take a moment away from these problems and think about what in our cities is really worth appreciating. The "Action Plan for Cities" helps with this.

How often do we focus on those things that really work in our cities? Are we able to think of at least one off the top of our heads? Very often, falling into tons of drama, we fail to notice the really interesting and interesting ideas that are changing our environment. With help comes the "Action Plan for Cities," a document compiled by the Institute for Urban and Regional Development. The plan brings together 104 projects from all over Poland, ranging from those involving small steps to those we can call big ones. This document will not only allow us to note the positive sides of our cities, but also become a knowledge base.

"Action Plan for Cities" is available on the IRMiR website - see here.

Aleksandra Jadach-Sepioło of the Institute for Urban and Regional Development talks about how the "Action Plan for Cities" was created, why it's so important to notice small projects and why it's worth being inspired by them.


Wiktor Bochenek:
What is the "Action Plan for Cities" program about? How did this project come about?

Aleksandra Jadach-Sepioło (IRMiR): Let me start from the end, that is, how the "Action Plan for Cities" came about and how the idea for such a document was born. When the Ministry of Funds and Regional Policy began working on preparations for WUF11, it was clear that the Institute for Urban and Regional Development would be a partner in the event. We thought about the accompanying events.

One of the program activities of UN Habitat, is to create action plans for specific cities, not for groups, but individual cases. We started thinking about whether it would be worth creating such a document for Polish cities in a different formula. Creating not a document for each city, but one collective, showing the richness and diversity of their experiences.

In each of the seventeen goals of Agenda 2030, Polish cities have something to boast about. Therefore, thinking about the legacy of WUF 11, we thought to ask cities about their activities related to the UN goals. We first asked, back in 2021, for projects for 2022 with an outlook for the following years, hence this WUF legacy. In no case has the city stopped at one project.

Even if a specific investment is created, for example, such as the Woldenberg museum in Dobiegniew, where one of the program's projects was being finalized, this is only the beginning for other activities around the museum. All the projects that have entered the "Action Plan for Cities," from a total of 104 cities in Poland, are only the beginning, some stage of activities for the end of 2022.

In summary, we have an aggregate perspective. We started from UN Habitat 's approach to "Action Plans for Cities," which covered 104 cities. It was important for us to include local project coordinators, whom we included at the very beginning of the document.

Muzeum Woldenberczyków

Woldenberg Museum

© IRMiR

Victor: What do the cities that were included in the project have in common? Can we consolidate these problems into one project? After all, Warsaw or Krakow live with different problems than Zlotoryja or Sanniki.

Aleksandra: If we look at the very example of Warsaw and Krakow, how you combined them, in our document they nicely combine in goal 12 - responsible consumption and production. When it comes to a very advanced and innovative approach with consumption and use of resources, it is these two cities that have similar projects, which surprised us.

We didn't want to look for common denominators. What unites the cities, not in the document, but in common activities, is openness to innovation and cooperation with other cities. New networks of connections and contacts were formed in the creation of this project. The "Action Plan for Cities" itself is a constellation of projects, not a common key. It is difficult to juxtapose the problems and advancement of Mashchev's activities with those of Warsaw. An important value of the project was the exchange of experiences between cities.

It is difficult to rank them, regardless of their impact and size they are of great importance. I would certainly like to mention the project from Ruda Śląska, which had an intimate, grassroots character that can disappear in the flurry of large investments. Young people, mainly volunteers from the Youth City Council, in cooperation with our staff, mapped architectural difficulties and barriers, also talking to city residents. This is material, for further investment projects in many areas.

It is worth remembering that every project is valuable, from the largest to the smaller ones.

Krakowska Meblarnia

Krakowska Meblarnia

© IRMiR | Cracow City Hall

Wiktor: You mentioned the formation of a network of cities that will consult among themselves, as well as the document itself. It's worth asking what's next for the program and activities for the future.

Alexandra: We are thinking about a platform for cities to exchange knowledge and experience. This is what the workshop I mentioned is intended to serve. In this way, we are laying the groundwork for the structure of this platform and determine in what scopes, not necessarily related to the UN goals, cities could exchange experiences.

The competition for study circles to co-create a toolbox for local communities has ended. This is an unusual tool that could serve practically indefinitely for participation practitioners, local communities and informal groups on how to act together. We currently have about three hundred entries in the toolbox. Study circles competed to complete as many passwords as possible. The two solutions I mentioned should stay with us for a long time, regardless of the ties the cities have established between them. At the beginning of the year, we will be inviting participation practitioners and local community representatives to give examples and co-edit the toolbox.

Poczęstunek wykonany z uratowanych produktów

Refreshments made from salvaged products

© IRMiR | Warsaw City Hall

Wiktor: How can local governments that have not signed up for the "Action Plan for Cities" benefit from these experiences and solutions.

Alexandra: I think they will be able to benefit more and more over time. We wouldn't want to lock ourselves into the horizon of the project. We want to develop, among other things, an educational or training offer based on these experiences. I feel that this is a bank of knowledge that will pay off for many years. Based on this, we would like to create new projects, open and accessible to all.

Wiktor: In addition to the UN 2030 Agenda you cited, the National Urban Policy 2030 document is also important. What does the creation of this document mean, and why might it be important, looking at the fact that it is directly related to the Action Plan for Cities.

Alexandra: Even vice versa, it is the "Action Plan for Cities" that is related to the National Urban Policy 2030. Naturally, we want to use this cooperation and experience for the benefit of other cities for the benefit of the implementation of the NPM 2030.

The group of cities included in the PDM is the right group to work with the Ministries on the implementation of the NPM 2030. These are the cities that have the most work done and want to be in the dialogue. It's not just a project to gather activities, but an important aspiration for dialogue between the government and cities. Regardless of the validity of the document at this point, we will need more solutions in the future.


Victor:
TheNPM 2030 document is a rather broad project. But doesn't it need a more detailed expansion.

Alexandra: I think the "Action Plan for Cities" is just one such expansion. The National Urban Policy 2030 is an expression of strategic decisions and the PDM expands on some of the issues only highlighted in this document. I feel that cities need contact and dialogue on whether this scope should not be expanded.

Dokument powstał przy okazji organizacji WUF 11 w Polsce

The document was created on the occasion of the organization of WUF 11 in Poland

© IRMiR

Wiktor: My question is also related to another issue - whether the National Urban Policy 2030 will be a binding and influential document. We have already had many such documents that did not lead to anything.

Alexandra: This is a document, as in other countries, that is an implementation document, but it is also largely a program-idea document. On the other hand, looking at the previous installment of urban policy, this ideological aspect was of great importance. However, it is difficult to look at the NPM 2030 as a document from which concrete actions are to be immediately derived. We will see to what extent these assumptions will be introduced and implemented.

Victor: Thank you for the interview!

"Action Plan for Cities" is available on the IRMiR website - see here.

interviewed by Wiktor Bochenek

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