City2City
COVID-19: Policy responses across Europe
02 July 2020 - Drawing on the content of this database of around 500 policy initiatives (April 2020), this report aims to present an overview of both large-scale government measures and collective agreements that impact on large groups of workers, setting this in the context of the evolving labour market situation.

02 July 2020 - The effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on the lives of individuals and societies, including on the economy and labour markets, is unprecedented.

The impact of the global health emergency has placed a growing number of businesses under threat, putting the jobs of more and more workers at risk and impacting the livelihoods of many citizens.

Policymakers moved swiftly in an effort to mitigate the social and economic effects on businesses, workers and citizens. Eurofound’s COVID-19 EU PolicyWatch database provides information on initiatives introduced to cushion these effects.

This report draws on the content of this database of around 500 policy initiatives as of April 2020. It aims to provide an overview of both large-scale government measures and collective agreements impacting on larger groups of workers and sets this into the context of the evolving labour market situation.

Read the full report here or download the attached PDF of the report.

Voluntary Local Review: The implementation of the UN SDGs in Mannheim 2030
29 June 2020 - The City of Mannheim has developed the “Mannheim 2030” Mission Statement from the 17 UN sustainability goals in a large-scale public participation process. It sets out how we intend to live in Mannheim in 2030 and in doing so live up to our global responsibilities.

29 June 2020 - Since January 2016, the United Nations (UN) 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) have served as a blueprint for all nations of the UN to implement sustainable development strategies. To formulate and implement an effective sustainable development strategy in the Rhine-Neckar Metropolitan Region, Mannheim’s municipal government must take a leadership role and be decisive in this capacity. The slogan “Think global, act local” makes sense here as we must be actively responsible in our efficient allocation and use of resources, especially considering the world’s social, economic, and ecological factors are more internationally linked than ever before.

This notion emphasizes the importance of efficient budget planning, coexistence in international and diverse cities, as well as intelligent consumption of food, water, energy, and other goods. Mannheim’s Fair-Trade Town program is an example of the city’s commitment to international relations, as it demonstrates Mannheim’s willingness to engage in fair economic interaction with other international cities and entities. Another key project is “Smart City Mannheim” which focuses on a strategy for modernizing and coordinating a variety of current and future digitalization and clean energy projects. From the medical technology industry to new mobility and industry 4.0, our future and the development of Mannheim are linked by several factors that will shape the city.

The City of Mannheim has developed the “Mannheim 2030” Mission Statement from the 17 UN sustainability goals in a large-scale public participation process. It sets out how we intend to live in Mannheim in 2030 and in doing so live up to our global responsibilities. We will regularly report the progress we have made in this regard to our citizens as well as the United Nations in a Voluntary Local Review (VLR). In this first VLR, we report on how we are achieving the “Mannheim 2030” Mission Statement with a description of the associated indicators and the measures we are already implementing to this end.

Access the full Voluntary Local Review here: https://www.local2030.org/pdf/vlr/mannheim-vlr-2020.pdf

How can Europe adapt to extreme heat?

Intense heatwaves will become more common in Europe as the effects of climate change worsen. What solutions have other heat-stricken regions used to alleviate the risks?

How can Europe adapt to extreme heat?

Originally posted by DW News on 17 July 2022

Intense heatwaves will become more common in Europe as the effects of climate change worsen. What solutions have other heat-stricken regions used to alleviate the risks?

a young man pours a bottle of water on himself

Countries across Europe are bracing themselves for a sweltering wave of heat over the next week, with mercury bulbs in some regions expected to register record temperatures.

In Spain, where temperatures have already spiked at 46C (115F), authorities have warned of health risks resulting from exposure to extreme heat, and urged people to stick to shaded or air-conditioned spaces and drink copious amounts of water.

"It is affecting large parts of Europe and it will intensify," World Meteorological Organization spokesperson Clare Nullis told a press briefing in Geneva on Tuesday.

As the effects of climate change continue to worsen and bouts of extreme summer heat become the norm in Europe, warnings like these will become less and less exceptional. The continent's historically mild climate is changing rapidly, and that poses myriad challenges as countries attempt to adapt.

These are problems familiar to some of the most heat-prone areas in the world. Many of the solutions they have developed to beat the heat might offer useful models for Europe as well.

Changing how we live and work

Many people in Europe are still thinking of high temperatures as a novelty and unaware of the dangers they pose to health. Health authorities like the British National Health Service have been urging the public to change their habits, avoiding the sun between 11am and 3pm and learning to spot the early signs of heatstroke.

In heat-stricken regions across the world, even more comprehensive awareness campaigns and community-driven responses are used to encourage people to change their habits of working, socializing and exercising during dangerously hot periods.

Ahmedabad in western India, which suffers from regular bouts of extreme heat, has developed a series of Heat Action Plans in the last decade that coordinate responses between the state and local communities. When a heat alert is issued, warnings are delivered by TV, radio and text message, and a special heat hotline is advertised in public spaces.

Community health groups are tasked with reaching the vulnerable; employers are urged to provide shade and rest for workers, many of whom labor outdoors; and temples, libraries and bus stops are repurposed as cooling centers and water distribution points.

Indien | Obdachlose in Neu-Delhi

Homeless people take refuge in the shade of a bridge on a blistering day in Delhi

Employers in Europe will have to change their attitudes to working outdoors or in poorly ventilated spaces, even if it comes at the cost of productivity. German unions have already suggested that on particularly hot days, workers should be entitled to extended lunchtime breaks in sheltered places provided by their employer.

"[Employers] have to protect their workers and then governments have to ensure that workers are protected as well… whether it's siestas, getting flexible working hours, starting earlier or providing more frequent breaks," Sari Kovats, a professor of public health at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, told DW.

Heat-proofing heathcare systems

Summer has traditionally been a period of relative calm for European health services, but with extreme heat occurring every more frequently, healthcare systems need to prepare for increases in patients caused by heatwaves.

Studies have found that heatwaves increase emergency rooms visits by at least 10%, as many people arrive reporting symptoms of dehydration, heat stroke and nausea. Over-65s are particularly at risk, meaning large sections of Europe's ageing population are highly vulnerable.

On current trends and without further adaptation, annual deaths related to extreme heat in the EU could rise from around 2,700 per year to 30-50,000 in 2050, according to a European Commission paper published last year.

A woman sits on Po's dry riverbed

The intense heat is drying out riverbeds across Europe

Preparedness has increased across Europe since the deadly summer of 2003, when temperatures over 40C led to hospitals in France being overwhelmed by patients, particularly the elderly. Now cities like Paris have extensive surveilance systems and special Heat Action Plans.

But Kovats said awareness of the health dangers of heat can still be improved.

"There's sort of a lack of awareness amongst frontline staff, nurses and doctors... and there's also a lack of awareness in the general public, so people often don't perceive themselves at risk," she said.

The state of Odisha in eastern India has achieved success in reducing heat deaths since a deadly heatwave in 1998 that killed more than 2,000 people. There, text messages and billboards are used to issue public health warnings to vulnerable people when temperatures reach dangerous levels, while hospitals create temporary wards for heat-related illnesses and boost staff numbers.

A tourists holds a paper umbrella to protect herself from the sun near the Colosseum in Rome

Umbrellas are an increasingly common sight in summer in Europe

Because intense heat can damage power grids, healthcare infrastructure needs fallback measures. Hospitals in Alabama and California have lost power during heat waves, resulting in soaring indoor temperatures. Newer hospitals in the US are required to have backup power generation to guarantee continued air-conditioning.

Cooler, more sustainable cities

Vietnam's capital Hanoi has incorporated cooling into its 2030 development masterplan, which ensures that existing green areas are protected from the city's rapid expansion, and aims to increase the density of tree and water coverage in the center by seven times per person. As a result, urban temperatures are predicted to be roughly the same in 2030 as they were in 2011, despite an expected increase in population of 2.5 million.

Cities also need to reduce temperatures indoors, especially in homes and workplaces. Air conditioning is a common solution, but is expensive and environmentally damaging.

The Mahila Housing Trust, which operates across 10 cities in India, works with women in low-income areas to help them find affordable solutions to overheated homes. Painting walls and roofs with reflective paint can repel up to 80% of sunlight's energy, and adding creepers, soil and potted plants on top of homes can reduce temperatures inside by as much as 2.5C.

Ahmedabad-based architect Yatin Pandya has looked to traditional forms of architecture to find sustainable solutions for dealing with heat. Many western-style buildings in cities like Bangalore are  constructed with steel and glass exteriors and require constant air-conditioning. But centuries before this was an option, Indian homes used awnings and bay windows to provide shade, and courtyards and shuttered windows to create cooling airflows.

"It's not about turning the clock backwards, but vernacular [architecture] gives you a lot of insight into the local responses in the pre-electricity days," Pandya told DW.

 "Those were very simple logical principles which today can easily be adapted."

Edited by: Sonia Phalnikar

Retrieved from https://www.dw.com/en/how-can-europe-adapt-to-extreme-heat/a-62472306

European Handbook for SDG Voluntary Local Reviews
The Handbook provides key examples of official and experimental indicators useful to set up an effective SDG local monitoring system specifically targeted for European cities. 

European Handbook for SDG Voluntary Local Reviews

by European Commission Joint Research Centre (JRC) | Published in June 2022

Abstract:

  • The European Handbook for SDG Voluntary Local Reviews offers to policy makers, researchers and practitioners an inspirational framework to set up Voluntary Local Reviews (VLRs). VLRs are a fundamental instrument to monitor progresses and sustain the transformative and inclusive action of local actors towards the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in general, and competitive sustainability in particular.The Handbook provides key examples of official and experimental indicators useful to set up an effective SDG local monitoring system specifically targeted for European cities. Per each Goal, the Handbook highlights examples of harmonised and locally collected indicators so that local actors can both benchmark themselves with other cities and monitor their own specific needs and challenges.

Authors:

Citation:

  • Siragusa, A., Vizcaino, M.P., Proietti, P. and Lavalle, C., European Handbook for SDG Voluntary Local Reviews, EUR 30067 EN, Publications Office of the European Union, Luxembourg, 2020, ISBN 978-92-76-15402-0, doi:10.2760/257092, JRC118682.

Publisher:

  • Publications Office of the European Union

URI:

DOI:

Access the full report here or download the attached PDF of the report.

Cities are major polluters: Can we make them climate neutral?
This article emphasizes the need for fast-growing cities to adopt clean energy and low-emission pathways in the struggle against climate change. It stresses the importance of equitable access to efficient and electrified urban transport, the decarbonization of buildings through energy efficiency and retrofitting, and highlights notable initiatives on climate-neutral cities from around the world.

Cities are major polluters: Can we make them climate neutral?

by DW News | Originally published on 11 April 2022 | Author: Stuart Braun

Spewing most of the world's heat-trapping gases, fast-growing cities need to be transformed into clean, low emissions ecosystems in the struggle against climate breakdown.

New York cityscape with tall buildings

New York's emissions have peaked but can it soon become climate neutral?

Around 85% of humanity will be living in cities by 2100. Many will inhabit sprawling megacities of more than 10 million people. But these urban jungles are climate killers. Built with high-emission steel and concrete, powered and heated with oil, coal and gas, cities are responsible for around 75% of global CO2 emissions.

The latest UN report proposing ways to address the climate crisis made special mention of cities. Urban building emissions — both operational and during construction — have risen by around 50% since 1990, according to the report. This means the sector must rapidly decarbonize if global heating is to remain within 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels.

Urban emissions could be reduced to near zero by 2050 if cities are powered by renewables, buildings are insulated and made energy-efficient, and transport is electrified. Greening cities will also capture CO2 and help combat deadly heat-trapping effects that are particularly problematic in large metropolises.

But with around 60% of the buildings that will make up cities in 2050 yet to be constructed, the dream of the climate-neutral city, with very low to zero emissions, is within reach, say experts.

Cities can lead on climate mitigation

Cities can be a microcosm of successful climate mitigation, says Rogier Vandenberg, acting global director of the Ross Center for Sustainable Cities at the World Resources Institute, a US-based non-profit. 

"A huge opportunity lies in cities due to the huge concentration of people, meaning you can decarbonize at scale," he said. "The solution is in cities."

But significant challenges remain, primarily in creating a shift to high-density, compact cities with people living closer together and reducing the need for cars. According to one popular metric, the goal is to be able to reach all amenities by foot or bicycle within15 minutes.

people riding bikes and scooters on a main street

Parisians live the dream of the 15-minute city during the pandemic as they abandon cars and even public transport in favor of cycling

Experiments have already taken place in the wake of the pandemic to reduce travel time and enable people to live and work locally, including Melbourne's 20-minute neighbourhoods and the Paris 15-minute city.

"We've already known for decades that cities function better, are cleaner, more sustainable, more equitable, if you create services in the proximity of where people live," said Vandenberg.

A new urban planning vision

But this will require a bold urban planning vision that shifts away from the horizontal sprawl evident in many major global cities. "You really have to think differently about how you plan, how you retrofit cities," said Vandenberg.

Equitable access to efficient, electrified urban transport will also also be fundamental if poorer urban communities are to be transformed into climate neutral cities.

Citizens in low-income countries currently spend around 35% of their income on transportation, partly because of urban sprawl and a lack of access to housing in areas where people work, noted Vandenberg.       

The Ross Center for Sustainable Cities, which aims to support climate neutrality in cities by 2050, is partly focused on the electrification of urban transport, including buses, in fast-growing African cities. The digitization of transport infrastructure will also be key in the effort to better fit transport availability to the needs of commuters.

But while transport is responsible for 20% of city emissions, according to Vandenberg, the elephant in the room remains buildings, which emit three times as much carbon.

More capital market and investor support is needed to construct low-emissions buildings and retrofit others to improve energy efficiency, he explained.

This includes universal standards for sustainable buildings that will inspire investment from pension funds and others looking to decarbonize their portfolios.

The benefits for the economy also need to be better understood. "Currently, the most jobs per million dollars invested is in retrofitting buildings," said Vandenberg.

Europe aims for carbon neutral cities by 2030

In European cities like Copenhagen, the dream is already being realized. The Danish capital is on track to be climate neutral by 2025, working over 10 years to remove the city's 2 million-ton annual carbon footprint through a new smart renewable energy grid.

Meanwhile, a program has been launched to make 100 European Union cities climate neutral and smart by 2030. The ultimate objective is to achieve climate neutrality across all cities by 2050. 

Estimates by Material Economics, a Swedish sustainability consultancy, suggest that the cost could be as high as €1 billion ($1.1 billion) for an average city of 100,000 people to become climate neutral by 2030. Help in accessing finance and know-how will be provided by the EU consortium, Net Zero Cities. 

cars and vans on a main city road

A Clean Air Zone enforces low exhaust emission standards in the city of Bath in the UK

Healthier cities 

With 85% of Europeans estimated to be living in urban areas by 2050, city mayors are realizing the "co-benefits" of climate neutrality, including cleaner air, improved citizen health and reduced noise pollution, said Matthew Baldwin, manager of the EU 100 Climate Neutral Cities project.

"People who live in cities are very climate conscious," he added. This is in part because urban dwellers see the costs of pollution firsthand. Many cities are also built on ports and are threatened by rising seas.

The EU's bottom-up climate neutral program engages with citizens to make them more aware of the co-benefits of climate action. "You can't do a climate neutral project unless you engage with citizens," said Baldwin. Such awareness extends to the need for energy independence in the wake of the war in Ukraine, both through upscaling renewable capacity and building efficiencies that can be quickly implemented.

"The European Commission is looking at all ways in which we can urgently switch our energy out of Russian hyrdrocarbons into renewables," said Baldwin. "What better place to start than cities, due to the density of their populations. You have shorter distances to travel in cities, it's easier to switch to public transport, walking, cycling and electromobility."

'Cities can go further and faster'

Cities globally are ramping up their ambition to become climate neutral in line with, and sometimes ahead of, the Paris Agreement emissions targets.

Some 30 cities already hit peak emissions by 2020 as part of the C40 Cities initiative that aims to support thousands of cities in becoming net zero by 2050 — among them Athens, Austin, Barcelona, Berlin, New York City, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Stockholm and Warsaw.

"Running our cities on renewable energy is the bedrock upon which an equitable, zero-carbon economy is built," said Eric Garcetti, chair of C40 and mayor of Los Angeles, last September. Already powered by 40% renewables, Los Angeles will reach 80% by 2030. A 100% clean energy grid is on targeted for 2035, while a full coal phase-out will see the last plant converted to hydrogen.

"Cities can go further and faster than nations as a whole," said Baldwin. "I feel we're going to go a lot quicker than we think.

Retrieved from https://www.dw.com/en/cities-are-major-polluters-can-we-make-them-climate-neutral/a-61438020

United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) Second Forum of Mayors 2022
The Forum of Mayors is a platform for on-going exchange and mutual learning where Mayors will present their efforts to tackle challenges in their cities. Cities will learn from each other’s best practices in the areas of housing and climate-neutral buildings, green cities and nature-based solutions, sustainable urban transport and safer roads, and smart urban development solutions.

Second Forum of Mayors 2022 

by United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) | Dates: 4-5 April 2022

At its 80th session the UNECE Committee on Urban Development, Housing and Land Management agreed to dedicate one of the three days of the Committee session to discussions concerning, and involving the participation of, local authorities, in particular mayors, following a similar format to the Day of Cities. The Forum of Mayors will be organized on the first day of the Committee session and focus on a specific thematic issue related to sustainable urban development, housing and land management.

It also invited the Forum to transmit its recommendations on how to address the challenges that local authorities/governments face in achieving sustainable urban development, housing and land management to the Committee in the context of assisting the Committee in its activities in the ECE region.

It further invited the Forum to transmit its recommendations relevant to other ECE bodies to the relevant bodies for information and possible consideration (e.g., Committee on Sustainable Energy, Inland Transport Committee, etc.).

In addition, the Forum of Mayors is a platform for on-going exchange and mutual learning where Mayors will present their efforts to tackle challenges in their cities. Cities will learn from each other’s best practices in the areas of housing and climate-neutral buildings, green cities and nature-based solutions, sustainable urban transport and safer roads, and smart urban development solutions.

More Details

Boosting gender equality through innovation and digitalization
Investing in digitalization and promoting digital inclusion is crucial to provide remote support and access to services to professionals and customers. Powered by UNDP’s Innovation Team in Europe and Central Asia, and facilitated by leading international experts in the field of business acceleration and impact investment, the first round of BOOST, a regional acceleration program, scouted, supported and helped scale 37 innovations in the areas of digitalization, low-touch economy, and wellbeing. 

Boosting gender equality through innovation and digitalization

by Giulia Zoppi | UNDP Innovation Team in Europe and Central Asia | Originally posted on 11 March 2022

In 2022 living solely offline seems like something from a bygone era. Connectivity and technology have indubitably become integral parts of most people’s daily lives. As governments around the globe imposed lockdowns and movement restrictions to curb COVID-19 infections, businesses and organizations have more swiftly than ever adapted to reinvent themselves and survive. To do so, technology was fundamental.  

Beyond the heavy toll on the global economy, public health and policymaking, COVID-19 worsened social, gender and racial inequality. The progress made thus far towards closing the gender gap has been obstructed – in 2020 it was predicted it would take 99.5 years to achieve gender equality, and in 2021 this had increased by one generation to 135.6 years. 

In this critical moment, UNDP has embarked on a new Strategic Plan to accelerate the achievement of the 2030 Agenda and build a more equitable future. Strengthening gender equality enablers is at the core of these efforts – a more inclusive economic system, a more equal social contract and changing gender norms.  

In Eastern Europe and Central Asia, there are some worrying signs of regression – the gender gap in access to technology and digital inclusion is widening, in contrast with the global trend. At first glance, digitalization appears to be democratic, yet when we look closer technologies and the internet are not accessible to all people, and gendered differences in digital access, participation in the digital economy, and visibility in data are marked. Across Europe and Central Asia more than 60 million women have no access to mobile internet and so are more likely than men to miss out on learning and economic opportunities. 

Credit: Harnessing ICTs for gender equality in Europe and Central Asia, UNDP Report

Structural and economic issues faced by women is a primary barrier to accessing technological tools and improving digital literacy. As a result of the pandemic, women are more at risk of losing their jobs as they are more likely to be working in the service sector. In addition, girls and women are often limited by domestic chores and unpaid work responsibilities, much of which fall along gendered lines. Finally being less likely to have advanced ICT skills means that women also face more difficulties adapting to the changing circumstances. This obstructs their journey to pursuing online learning or work from home, which has become the mainstay of the “new normal.”  

Today’s digital transformation opens avenues for women’s economic and social empowerment and can be used to boost gender equality if we are strategic about it. Digitalization potentially supports women in myriad of ways – from earning income and growing employment and networking prospects to accessing knowledge and information. Thus, closing the digital gender gap is an ever more urgent priority. Many essential goods and services are now accessible online; and digital skills are required in people’s businesses and daily lives. Countries that had already set out on a digital transformation path, e.g. by digitizing their public employment services, have responded more promptly and efficiently to COVID- 19 challenges that we continue to face.  

Investing in digitalization and promoting digital inclusion is crucial to provide remote support and access to services to professionals and customers. Powered by UNDP’s Innovation Team in Europe and Central Asia, and facilitated by leading international experts in the field of business acceleration and impact investment, the first round of BOOST, a regional acceleration program, scouted, supported and helped scale 37 innovations in the areas of digitalization, low-touch economy, and wellbeing. An excellent example is DokTok, accelerating the transition to remote working for health professionals and advancing the use of independent-work platforms. Such flexible telework forms undoubtedly have a positive impact, particularly for women workers and entrepreneurs, who could benefit from these platforms’ flexibility and reach.   

As demonstrated by BOOST’s first cohort, technology can be a vector for economic growth and societal progress, including gender equality. Now, how can we create an enabling ecosystem of innovators to boost women’s digital access, participation in the digital economy, and visibility in data? With the generous support from Koç Holding and the Slovak Ministry of Finance, UNDP launched BOOST: Women Innovators to address these challenges. The program aims to support women innovators in the start-up, nonprofit and academic ecosystems driving change across a variety of fields, while at the same time accelerate innovations that give visibility to women in data, promote women’s digital access and use, and propel more women to join the digital economy and STEM. 

Through an intense, 16-week virtual acceleration bootcamp, BOOST will connect women-led startups and businesses, non-profits and academic institutions from across the region leading gender equality or tech-driven innovations with financing, resources, training and mentorship. BOOST, uniquely rooted in systems thinking, seeks to generate a coherent portfolio of innovations, make sense of the system in which they act, reveal inherent yet unseen interconnections, and generate actionable intelligence to accelerate system transformation. 

Aren’t there enough business and CSO acceleration programs for women out there already? Absolutely not. Firstly, women’s entrepreneurial opportunities in the region remain scarce – only 16% of founders in the ICT sector are women in South Caucasus and Western CIS. What’s more, data shows that even when women are tech leaders, innovators, and entrepreneurs, they receive much less investments than men. Globally, only 2.3% of venture capital funds went to women startups in 2020. At the same time, we see from studies that women-led businesses have higher revenues, while greater gender equality in teams leads to higher innovation. Women entrepreneurs and women pioneering cutting-edge technologies could also further inspire and pave the way for other girls and women throughout the region to fulfil their potential, pursue education in STEM-fields, and support informal businesses to shift to the formal sector and expand.   

Credit: BCG

UNDP Europe and Central Asia works with partners such as STEM4ALL to build a gender-responsive digital ecosystem through several streams, bringing together different actors to create enabling ecosystems, learn and accelerate the closing of the gender gap. BOOST Vol. 2 supports these efforts, innovating with women for women, with the firm belief that bridging the gender digital divide while supporting tech innovation is essential for building resilient and inclusive realities

Retrieved from https://innovation.eurasia.undp.org/boosting-gender-equality-through-innovation-and-digitalization/

Cover Photo Credit: Cecilia Castelli for TheGreats.co

City Experiment Fund: Applying systems thinking to urban transformation
Less than a year ago, five cities from across the Europe and Central Asian region embarked on an exploration of a new approach to problem solving, which is rooted in systems thinking.

City Experiment Fund: Applying systems thinking to urban transformation

Originally published on 10 February 2022 by UNDP | Author: Justyna Krol, Urban Development Expert, UNDP IRH

When you talk to urban development practitioners, they seem to agree that there are no silver bullet solutions to the challenges cities face. What is even more difficult is that the number, scale and complexity of these challenges keeps increasing. Simultaneously, our cities do not have the resources to ‘fix it all’. They never will. So where does that leave us? 

Stepanavan (Armenia), Almaty (Kazakhstan), Prizren (Kosovo), Pljevlja (Montenegro) and Skopje (North Macedonia) began designing what we call portfolios of options. ‘Portfolios’ because there are no simple, singular solutions to complex problems. ‘Options’ because addressing complexity (esp. If it’s wicked problems [1]) requires an approach based on experimentation, learning, and dynamic management.  

The process of portfolio design 

During the first phase, the UNDP Country Office teams spent several months going through the processes of portfolio design and deep listening to be able to implement and test out the first iteration of their sets of interventions. Part of the teams used the Agora Urban Transformation Stencil, while others applied strategic risk analysis and solution design. Overall, the key phases were similar for all.  

Teams began their work by unpacking the complexity of the challenges they initially selected. This phase included deep listening, which is a process of identifying local narratives that surround both the challenge at hand, but also, more importantly, the city and its future in general. Once the teams developed a deep understanding of the issues they were attempting to tackle, they established their intent – what is it exactly that they want to change, who are they to change it, and what resources would they tap into? For some of the teams it meant reframing the entire challenge altogether, like shifting the focus from air pollution to alternative job opportunities for vulnerable groups, like in Pljevlja. For others it meant moving from a broader scope to a very specific challenge – like in the case of North Macedonia, where the team shifted from green growth to circularity in biowaste.  

With a clearly defined intent, each team then moved on to identifying the best places in selected systems to intervene. This sounds abstract, but in practice it is about noticing levers, bottlenecks, elements of the system that either attract the most or the least attention and that – when interacted with – can generate the biggest impact. This is what you design options for. And that’s what the teams did.  

From July to August 2021, the teams went into experimentation mode and began implementing their portfolios of options. What is critical to remember, though, is that the first iteration of an option is merely a beginning. It should never be the end (or the goal in itself, for that matter). Working with complex challenges requires continuous learning. Each implemented option provides new insights and allows us to keep developing more impactful interventions with consecutive iterations of a portfolio.  

[1] Quoting SpringerLink Design Dictionary: “Wicked problems” is a phrase first coined by Horst Rittel and Melvin Webber, theorists of design and social planning respectively, at the University of California, Berkeley, in 1973. A wicked problem defies any standard attempt to find a solution because it is a symptom or result of multiple, contingent, and conflicting issues.

Retrieved from https://innovation.eurasia.undp.org/city-experiment-fund-applying-systems-thinking-to-urban-transformation/

Cover Photo Credit: Unsplash

City Experiment Fund: Applying systems thinking to urban transformation
Less than a year ago, five cities from across the Europe and Central Asian region embarked on an exploration of a new approach to problem solving, which is rooted in systems thinking.

City Experiment Fund: Applying systems thinking to urban transformation

Originally published on 10 February 2022 by UNDP | Author: Justyna Krol, Urban Development Expert, UNDP IRH

When you talk to urban development practitioners, they seem to agree that there are no silver bullet solutions to the challenges cities face. What is even more difficult is that the number, scale and complexity of these challenges keeps increasing. Simultaneously, our cities do not have the resources to ‘fix it all’. They never will. So where does that leave us? 

Stepanavan (Armenia), Almaty (Kazakhstan), Prizren (Kosovo), Pljevlja (Montenegro) and Skopje (North Macedonia) began designing what we call portfolios of options. ‘Portfolios’ because there are no simple, singular solutions to complex problems. ‘Options’ because addressing complexity (esp. If it’s wicked problems [1]) requires an approach based on experimentation, learning, and dynamic management.  

The process of portfolio design 

During the first phase, the UNDP Country Office teams spent several months going through the processes of portfolio design and deep listening to be able to implement and test out the first iteration of their sets of interventions. Part of the teams used the Agora Urban Transformation Stencil, while others applied strategic risk analysis and solution design. Overall, the key phases were similar for all.  

Teams began their work by unpacking the complexity of the challenges they initially selected. This phase included deep listening, which is a process of identifying local narratives that surround both the challenge at hand, but also, more importantly, the city and its future in general. Once the teams developed a deep understanding of the issues they were attempting to tackle, they established their intent – what is it exactly that they want to change, who are they to change it, and what resources would they tap into? For some of the teams it meant reframing the entire challenge altogether, like shifting the focus from air pollution to alternative job opportunities for vulnerable groups, like in Pljevlja. For others it meant moving from a broader scope to a very specific challenge – like in the case of North Macedonia, where the team shifted from green growth to circularity in biowaste.  

With a clearly defined intent, each team then moved on to identifying the best places in selected systems to intervene. This sounds abstract, but in practice it is about noticing levers, bottlenecks, elements of the system that either attract the most or the least attention and that – when interacted with – can generate the biggest impact. This is what you design options for. And that’s what the teams did.  

From July to August 2021, the teams went into experimentation mode and began implementing their portfolios of options. What is critical to remember, though, is that the first iteration of an option is merely a beginning. It should never be the end (or the goal in itself, for that matter). Working with complex challenges requires continuous learning. Each implemented option provides new insights and allows us to keep developing more impactful interventions with consecutive iterations of a portfolio.  

[1] Quoting SpringerLink Design Dictionary: “Wicked problems” is a phrase first coined by Horst Rittel and Melvin Webber, theorists of design and social planning respectively, at the University of California, Berkeley, in 1973. A wicked problem defies any standard attempt to find a solution because it is a symptom or result of multiple, contingent, and conflicting issues.

Retrieved from https://innovation.eurasia.undp.org/city-experiment-fund-applying-systems-thinking-to-urban-transformation/

Cover Photo Credit: Unsplash

BOOST impact acceleration programme launches call to advance gender equality in Europe & Central Asia
Powered by UNDP Europe and Central Asia, BOOST, a regional acceleration programme for social impact innovation, is launching a new call for innovative ideas that leverage the power of technology to support women and girls to thrive and advance in the digital economy.

BOOST impact acceleration programme launches call to advance gender equality in Europe & Central Asia

Originally published by UNDP on 1 February 2022

Istanbul, Turkey –

As digital transformation and new technologies propel us forward, a widening gender digital divide is impacting women’s socio-economic opportunities in a wide range of fields. To close the gap, BOOST: Women Innovators calls for women-led startups, SMEs, social enterprises, non-profits or academic institutions in Europe and Central Asia* to submit innovations in four key thematic areas: women and digital access and use, women in the digital economy and STEM, women in data, and women driving technology innovation.

“As digital transformation in our societies and economies accelerate, new and emerging technologies and digital tools hold immense promise as enablers of women’s empowerment. BOOST provides an opportunity to strengthen ecosystems of women innovators in the region and boost women’s voices, economic participation, and civic engagement through the use of technologies,” says Gerd Trogemann, Manager of UNDP’s Regional Hub for Europe and Central Asia in Istanbul.

Launched in collaboration with public and private partners, the call consists of two tracks open for different kinds of applicants. Track 1 is open for applications from women-led startups, SMEs, social enterprises, non-profits, and academic institutions operating in Europe and Central Asia* with innovations in the three key above-mentioned thematic areas. Track 2 is open to applications from women-led start-ups registered in Turkey working on innovations in any industry.

“As a global leader committed to gender equality, we are working to narrow the gender gap in leadership and participation in technology and innovation. BOOST: Women Innovators in Turkey provides a unique opportunity to support women-led start-ups and to mobilize our diverse set of experience, skills, and resources. Together with our partners and Koç University Entrepreneurship Research Center (KWORKS), we are pioneering a model for inclusive design, leadership and implementation of digital solutions and innovative practice.” says Oya Ünlü Kızıl, Vice President of Corporate Communications, Sustainability and External Affairs, Koç Holding.

Over 30+ innovators from across Europe and Central Asia will be selected to join the BOOST regional acceleration programme to access world-class trainings and mentorship to develop, reimagine and scale their impact innovations – and compete for US$10,000 in equity-free capital. The innovations will become part of a region-wide portfolio that lays the groundwork for a better and inclusive future.

“Diversity is critical in all aspects of human development, including tech. It brings unique ideas and perspectives to the table, helps create results that benefits all sections of society. The ambition of BOOST is to support women in playing an active role in conversations and processes which shape our common future and provide a platform for bringing together a community of innovators from across the region,” says Tatiana Zilkova, Team Leader, Development Cooperation, Ministry of Finance of the Slovak Republic.

BOOST is financed and supported by partners across the region and beyond, including Koç Holding, the Ministry of Finance of the Slovak Republic, and the Islamic Development Bank through its Tadamon platform. BOOST is also working with STEM4ALLStartup GrindKWORKS and ImpactAIM, amongst a growing list of partners, to amplify the call across the region and deliver an impactful program for BOOST’s new cohort. 

The application deadline for BOOST: Women’s Innovators is March 1.

Apply here: boostimpact.org/challenges/boost-women-innovators.

*Eligible countries/territories are as follows: Albania, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kosovo1, Kyrgyzstan, North Macedonia, Moldova, Montenegro, Serbia, Tajikistan, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Ukraine, Uzbekistan.

Contact information:

Svetla Baeva, Communications Lead, Innovation Team, UNDP Europe and Central Asia 
Email: svetla.baeva@undp.org

Article and image retrieved from https://www.eurasia.undp.org/content/rbec/en/home/presscenter/pressreleases/2022/boost-impact-acceleration-programme-launches-call-to-advance-gen.html