A Swedish delegation, representing five Swedish cities as well as RISE, Vinnova and Viable Cities, made a study visit to Paris and Nantes on 27-29 May. The study visit was organised by the Swedish Innovation Platforms for sustainable and attractive cities.
The 18 participants, all engaged in innovation processes for smart sustainable cities, had valuable opportunities to network and learn from colleagues who face similar challenges in the two countries. The visit was very timely since president Macron and prime minister Löfvén met shortly after to sign the agreement for the second phase of the French-Swedish innovation partnership, on 7th June – in which the collaboration on smart and sustainable cities is a priority.
The study visit was organized as a part of the Vinnova funded National Cooperation between the Innovation platforms for sustainable and attractive cities where the six cities; Malmö, Lund, Borås, Gothenburg, Stockholm and Kiruna are engaged. RISE, the coordinating party in this project, planned and arranged the study visit in collaboration with the 27th Region, OECDs Observatory for Public Innovation (OECD-OPSI), the City of Paris and the City of Nantes.
The work of the Swedish Innovation Platforms is focused on building innovation capacity and exploring sustainable governance. This means identifying barriers both within the municipality and in interaction with others, finding ways around or new ways to cooperate, co-work or just exploring new mindsets and a more systematic approach together as well as supporting both active and reflective learning- by-doing-process involving partnership between public, private, research and civic society organisations.
In this work, the strategic innovation programme Viable Cities (jointly funded by Vinnova, the Swedish Energy Agency and Formas) is also an important actor. Viable Cities, whose mission is to achieve inclusive and climate neutral cities by 2030, also strongly underlines the need of building organizational innovation capacity to enable sustainable impact in the long run and getting a system transformation fast enough. Therefore, stakeholders from both the Innovation platform projects and the Viable Cites programme were invited to take part in Swedish-French learning exchange visit.
Systems and design thinking, organizational capacity building for enabling a sustainable societal development together with inclusive dialogue processes as methods of both empowering individuals, organizations and the system were main themes during our trip together.
These are all themes that the 27th Region, a French Laboratory of transformation as they call themselves, has been exploring and works with since 2008. Stephane Vincent, founder and the executive officer of the 27th Region presented its work as two-fold. It conducts action-research programs, such as Territoires en résidence and la Transfo to prototype new methods for designing and implementing public policies by engaging in experiments in the field. La Transfo, for instance, is run in close partnership with 10 French cities, with the support of Foundations such as Bloomberg Philanthropies. The 27th Region is also a resource center set up to build and pool knowledge and know-how, and to encourage peer-to-peer interchanges in the public sector.
Since 2013 the OECD also has a special innovation team, the Observatory for Public Innovation, OPSI, working with governments and other public actors on different levels to understand and encourage innovation. This includes developing new approaches to address society’s complex problems by empowering public servants with new insights, knowledge, tools and connections to help them explore new possibilities.
The study visit from Sweden started in Paris at the beautiful and interesting place of Les Halles Civiques in the city district of Belleville, a new civic space provided by the City of Paris and run by a group of 25 organisations in the field of civic design, citizen empowerment and participatory urbanism. Together with OECD-OPSI and the 27th Region as facilitators we had world café dialogues exchanging experiences around five burning issues that we all struggle with, such as, the roles of “boundary spanners” (‘gränsgångare’ in Swedish), emerging system innovation methods for municipalities, tactics for systemic change and how to build legitimacy for a new kind of more sustainable governance.
Besides the lively group discussions we also learned from interesting experiences of the Innovation team in the city of Paris and were impressed by the way Paris has developed their work on its recently launched Resilience Strategy. Head of Resilience Office Noémie Fompeyrine, presented the ambitious and systemic approach. Examples included work with Paris OASIS school yards transforming them to be used by everybody in the neighborhood in case of heat waves. Another important aspect in the strategy involves training for both politicians, civil servants as well as citizens.
OECD-OPSI’s team, represented by Angela Hanson and Piret Tonurist, also introduced us to their work. OECD-OPSI were keen on highlighting the Declaration on public sector innovation recently signed by a number of countries including France and Sweden. This declaration is a set of five principles, and associated actions, that governments or public organisations can use to enhance innovation.
The principles are:
- Embrace and enhance innovation within the public sector
- Encourage and equip all public sector servants to innovate
- Cultivate new partnerships and involve different voices
- Support exploration, iteration and testing
- Diffuse lessons and share practices
The team from OECD-OPSI presented the set of valuable instruments for public sector innovation they have developed, openly accessed in a “Toolkit Navigator”, including information about common methodologies and best practice examples. One particular tool of interest they presented is the diamond model illustrating four different facets characterising innovation processes developed within OPSI. The first facet is mission-oriented innovation which is about aligning activities towards a common overarching goal. By creating a big and audacious purpose, it can activate the interest, engagement and investment of others towards achieving an important goal. This is an important facet within the Viable Cities programme, where the mission has been set to inclusive and climate neutral cities in 2030. In the diamond model, three more facets are applicable to transformative innovation: Enhancement-oriented innovation characterises activities we take on to learn and become more effective; Adaptive innovation is to closely follow how things work in reality and adapt existing procedures by implication; and Anticipative innovation is to explore radically different possibilities and how they might develop over time. Are all the four facets as prominent in our Swedish innovation platforms? Is it useful to discuss the ratio between facets? We are curious to reflect further on these questions. Potentially a useful tool broadening the top-down/bottom-up discussion and probably a useful theoretical framework in public sector innovation. Might it also help in cultural comparisons between Sweden and France?
The visit in Nantes
The study visit then continued to Nantes by convenient TGV train. This city is situated on the Loire River some 2,5 hours by train from Paris. The city of Nantes is renown for being the first French city awarded the status of Green Capital of Europe (in 2013) and is driving an ambitious agenda regarding innovation, climate and citizen dialogue. Nantes has also committed to reducing carbon emission rates by 50 percent by 2030 (compared to 2003).
During the visit we had the opportunity to learn about the urban development in the city district of Ile de Nantes. Through Lucie Renou at Samoa (West Atlantic Metropolitan Redevelopment Agency), we had an excellent presentation and guidance of the development of this island in the middle of the city, historically similar to Malmö and Gothenburg in being a former industrialised center for shipbuilding. During the visit we walked around the island to see the ways in which the urban development was concretely taking shape. It is an ambitious urban development process initiated in the 1990s. Among other things, efforts have been made to take into account the industrial heritage of the island, including innovative uses of docks and industrial buildings. Also, digital and creative industries and citizens have been involved in the shaping of the urban spaces and functions in experimental and user driven ways.
To work closely with citizens and local stakeholders, a kind of community support centre has been set up on Ile de Nantes. A fairly large and interdisciplinary team is running the citizen dialogue and initiates many of the activities that range from artistic research to IoT-testbeds. This does sound like a very fruitful instrument and is probably also appreciated both by visitors and inhabitants many of which are students (15 000 today, an increase in population of 10 000 is planned in coming years). By the large number of young people and students present at the various university faculties we pass on the island (many of which are artistic university colleges), we walk away with a feeling that experimentation is everywhere and well promoted in this urban development process.
Through Magali Marlin at Nantes Métropole (a collaboration structure involving 24 municipalities in the area), and her colleagues, we learned about the very impressive systematic work taking place in Nantes regarding citizen dialogue. Johanna Rolland, Mayor of Nantes and president of Nantes Métropole, has made citizen dialogue a cornerstone in her mandate. In the Mayor’s own words:
“There is a lack of trust and legitimacy between citizens and their representatives, which, if not remedied, could pose a genuine threat. I believe that in order to restore trust and legitimacy, we need to create a shared democratic culture that requires elected officials, city employees and citizens to work together.”
The quote is from a report detailing the approach to citizen dialogue of the City of Nantes. and Nantes Métropole . Five goals are set for citizen dialogue:
- Building public policies that are fairer, better tailored, more efficient, more innovative for the benefit of all
- Encouraging public policies, social bonds and collective action
- Sharing a shared vision and encouraging debate between citizens and elected officials
- Supporting social innovation and the power of the people of Nantes to take action
- Developing a culture of efficiency and shared responsibility
In the work on citizen dialogue Nantes and Nantes Metropole sets aside a budget of 600 000 EUR per year (1 EUR per inhabitant), has a team of about 15 professionals that are supporting the different parts of the city administration to carry out such processes, train civil servants in using different methods developed for this purpose and have implemented over a hundred citizen dialogue processes touching upon smaller issues in particular areas or large scale transformations such as organised involving citizens in energy transition and combating climate change called ”The energy transition is us”.
The overall impression was that there are ample opportunities to learn from each other between French and Swedish cities when it comes innovation for smart and sustainable cities. We look forward to developing the learnings and exchanges both between cities in Sweden and with our French colleagues. An important arena for this continued collaboration is the innovation partnership between France and Sweden where the first area of collaboration is presented as follows:
“Smart Sustainable Cities: joint mission to have inclusive climate-neutral cities by 2030. We will further develop cooperation through innovation and research with a global approach to smart accessibility, sustainable urban mobility and transportation, technical solutions for resilient systems, innovation for social inclusion and citizen participation.”
There is a true commitment from French and Swedish actors involved in innovation for sustainable cities to work in ways that are more impactful in achieving sustainable cities with a good life for our citizens. Tackling organisational capacity for transformational innovation and governance is key in this endeavor.
Written by: Anna-Karin Stoltz Ehn, RISE, Åsa Minoz, Viable Cites, Charlie Gullström, Viable Cities
Quotes from some of the participants
”In order to stay relevant in a rapidly changing world, the public sector needs to embrace a culture and empower leaders that support innovation. To meet and exchange experiences with professionals who strive to make this happen was very inspiring.”
Ann-Christine Nyberg, Region Stockholm
“During the visit to France, I was most impressed by the work done in Nantes and especially the development of Ile de Nantes. Ile de Nantes has a great resemblance to the development of Malmö. I am looking forward to go to Nantes again in the future”.
Åsa Hellström, City of Malmö
“It was a true pleasure to participate in this study visit. I really appreciated the discussions with the French team and colleagues from the Swedish innovation platforms. I had a real aha-moment when we talked about innovation capacity as a key success factor for implementing innovations on a broad base.”
Emilie Zetterström, Communications strategist, Innovation platform, City of Stockholm
“It was inspiring to see the way that Nantes had worked consistently and strategically using art and culture to enhance the urban environment and as a driver for economic development”.
Trevor Graham, Urbanisland, Malmö Innovation arena
“During this peer-to-peer session, there was no more cultural barriers between Swedish and French cities, just colleagues having an honest and passionating conversation about the innovation strategies and tactics, the pitfalls and how to overpass them in order to build more sustainable change in cities. I think we are all looking forward for the next step of this great conversation !”
Reflection on the study visit from Stéphane Vincent, general manager of the 27th Région