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Reviving shrinking cities – innovative paths and perspectives towards livability for shrinking cities in Europe

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - RE-CITY (Reviving shrinking cities – innovative paths and perspectives towards livability for shrinkingcities in Europe)

Reporting period: 2020-10-01 to 2022-09-30

Previous research by the RE-CITY participants has pointed out a growing tendency towards decline in cities and regions in Europe and other parts of the world, and the severity of its persistence makes clear that shrinkage is a phenomenon that is likely to jeopardize the prosperity of European competitiveness. Crises like the Covid-19 pandemic and the refugee crisis even enhance these risks. While the downward spiral of decline has the same effects everywhere, future prospects are unclear when it comes to dealing with shrinkage. It becomes clear, that shrinkage has to be actively tackled by policy-making and development, in line with Europe’s 2020 Strategy.

RE-CITY proposes a perspective for the robust and positive development of shrinking cities and outlines the concept, methods and strategic approaches towards revitalization of shrinking cities. By utilising international comparative research across disciplines (spatial planning, architecture, geography, economics, social sciences). By analysing case studies and development paths of shrinking cities innovative, integrated and sustainably sound solutions are investigated allowing for enhanced quality of life in the respective cities. RE-CITY is aimed to develop novel methods, training skills and applications for RE-CITY, including instruments for planning, monitoring, collaborating and developing the requirements of shrinking cities tailored to their specific conditions while supporting elements of economic prosperity, liveability, environmental sustainability, social stability and innovation.
RE-CITY results so far, include three finished PhD theses by. While the first one delivers a highly innovative benchmarking system on shrinking smart that goes beyond the state of the art in the field. It particularly offers a practicable and innovative tool on dealing with urban development for cities. The second thesis delivers innovative ways to revitalize shrinking cities incorporating bio economy in the development. While the third one contributes to broadening the understanding of regrowth. In more detail, the research focuses on the drivers for change and on developing tools grounded in European policies. Additionally, the project sheds light on the currently much discussed situation of migrants in shrinking cities the role of cultural assets for redevelopment, the importance of social capital and path dependency, active citizenship and the uncertainties of governance in a shrinking city and spatial injustice. Additional research is finalized on the role of green infrastructures in shrinking cities, both landscaping and technical installations, strategic planning and their potential for resilience towards climate change.

The Research and Training Programme including local and network wide training events with focused on skills in media production, environmental planning and climate change, land-use, governance and civic involvement as well as theoretical and methodological approaches. Furthermore, it supports the transfer of knowledge through practitioners acting as Talent Coaches, teaching entrepreneurial skills and policy formulation. This approach is also strengthened by the close cooperation with the Stakeholders Committee comprising of high-ranking officials in local, national and international organisations.
The Communication and Dissemination activities followed a detailed strategy for public outputs and publications including a dynamic social media presence on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram and a Blog, as highlighted on the project website. Additionally, the RE-CITY MOOC offers a novel tool of application, which goes beyond the state of the art in urban research and can be used by a range of stakeholders throughout Europe and beyond. It also fosters sustaining the collaboration within the network after the duration of the project. A multimedia release features an interactive tool with concise information on the project and was launched to promote the final conference. Furthermore, the project developed a jointly produced teaching video for schools on shrinking cities to be used in the classroom for teaching at high school level perfectly matching with today‘s requirements of education and will ensure a broad distribution. Apart from the PhD theses, the Edward Elgar handbook on Shrinking Cities, published in 2022, edited by K. Pallagst, E. Cunningham-Sabot, M. Bontje and R. Fleschurz is of of particular importance. It presents novel research results of the consortium to be utilized by a range of stakeholders (planning practitioners, policy makers, students).
Parts of RE-CITY’s research results so far uncover, that shrinkage requires targeted policies and approaches in order to enhance the quality of life. Moreover, major challenges such as the COVID-19 pandemic and the “refugee crisis”, have huge effects in particular for shrinking cities.
Since the number of European shrinking cities is increasing and it is most likely that shrinkage is going to get more severe in already shrinking cities. Thus, there remains a shortage of experts to take on the ongoing and future challenges of shrinkage. Collectively, RE-CITY findings point out pathways for shrinking cities to increase the competitiveness in key areas like resilience, economic development, and social wellbeing. These aspects are also highlighted in the publication of a handbook on shrinking cities published in 2022.
RE-CITY made excellent progress on training a new generation of practitioners and researchers, dealing actively with the effects of demographic change and economic transition. The work carried out ensures, the ESRs are benefitting from the participation in RE-CITY’s research, training and networking programme by acquiring skills and expertise from the interdisciplinary consortium including SME’s and non-academic research institutions. Their career paths’ therefore are not limited to academic trajectories but open for practice-oriented careers as consultants, project managers, mediators, or unit leaders.
The project has opened up the perspective for shrinking cities beyond the downwards spiral and it is extending the discussion across the disciplines of research, policymaking, and planning practice. One of the main conclusions drawn from the project so far is the urgent need for more cross- and interdisciplinary research and training of experts to consider new aspects and incorporate additional expertise.
The individual research projects cover a broad spectrum of topics, highly relevant for the quality of life in shrinking cities. Although the effects of current challenges like the COVID-19 pandemic and the refugee crisis may be strong for shrinking cites – by understanding these impacts the findings can be utilised for other cities as well.
The work carried out in the second reporting period further improved the foundations of developing solutions for the Societal Challenge of Europe in a changing world - Inclusive, innovative and reflective societies’. Building on better understanding Europe’s cultural and social diversity and of its past will improve the reflection on current problems and help to find solutions for those and upcoming challenges.
First Training School in Paris
ESRs at Research Workshop in Dortmund
Second Training School in Porto
Second Research Workshop in Dortmund
Field trip to Grünau at Third Training School in Leipzig
First meeting with recruited ESRs in Paris
RE-CITY Consortium at Kick-Off in Kaiserslautern
Kick-Off-Meeting in Kaiserslautern
Third Trainiing School in Leipzig
ESR Research Colloquium in Dortmund
First Research Workshop in Paris