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Sustainable Urban Neighbourhoods - Research and Implementation Support in Europe

Periodic Reporting for period 3 - SUNRISE (Sustainable Urban Neighbourhoods - Research and Implementation Support in Europe)

Reporting period: 2020-05-01 to 2021-07-31

SUNRISE was defined by two essential elements: 1) A deliberate focus on the neighbourhood as geographical level where people’s everyday life unfolds, where many mobility challenges are most directly experienced and where certain measures can be most effectively applied. 2) A special kind of process, called “co-creation”. This meant a radical involvement of citizens – not only as discussants of a pre-developed plan but as experts who know best what exactly the problems of their neighbourhoods are; what the most effective measures might be; and how the effectiveness and fairness of the process and results should be assessed.

From May 2017 until July 2021, this approach was deployed in six “action neighbourhoods” in six cities and six countries. It made it possible to overcome certain discussion taboos, to bring people around a table who would otherwise have never talked to each other, to make visible the mobility problems of social groups who typically are unheard. SUNRISE made it possible to detect and articulate situations of unfortunate stalemate between citizens and the administration, to discover the spread of frustration about a certain situation, to identify where exactly the problem lies, to utilise the creativity and energy of thousands of people, to remove that one annoying barrier that kept children from walking to school und a lot more.
In essence, the insights gained through SUNRISE helped to lay the foundation for a Sustainable Neighbourhood Mobility Planning concept which can complement the existing Sustainable Urban Mobility Planning approach. The project team extracted and articulated its key insights in a range of documents, guidelines, videos, even an interactive online “pathfinder” tool and an official SUMP “Topic Guide”.
SUNRISE made the following progress towards meeting its objective to “develop, implement, assess, and facilitate co-learning about new, collaborative ways to address common urban mobility challenges at the neighbourhood level”:
Co-identification of problems & co-validation of needs (WP1):
• Each neighbourhood established a local Co-Creation Forum as a strategic alliance of stakeholders.
• Local mobility-related problems were identified through collaborative processes in all neighbourhoods.
• SUNRISE documented this process and its results in the form of six Neighbourhood Mobility Dossiers.

Co-development & co-selection of solutions (WP2):
• SUNRISE produced an overview of best practice examples of participation in the fields of neighbourhood development and mobility.
• All action neighbourhoods tested a broad range of participation methods (offline and online).
• Local partners facilitated the co-development of measures that are appropriate to address mobility related challenges at the neighbourhood level.
• All neighbourhoods finalised a Neighbourhood Mobility Action Plan.

Co-implementation & co-creation of solutions (WP3):
• SUNRISE produced guidelines on co-implementation, a truly novel concept of implementing hands-on measures in a partnership of authorities, NGOs, businesses and residents.
• Most measures that were selected in the co-development phase achieved formal approval by the respective political bodies.
• The implementation of most measures has been completed for tangible benefits of people living in the six action neighbourhoods.
• Creative and pragmatic adjustments were devised to respond to dramatic challenges like the COVID-19 pandemic and to other, more mundane difficulties.

Co-assessment & co-evaluation (WP4):
• SUNRISE developed new processes in which assessment and evaluation are undertaken cooperatively between local SUNRISE staff and the members of the neighbourhood.
• In all neighbourhoods, the situation before measure implementation was documented in a Measure Evaluation Reporting Sheet (MERS). Also “after data” was gathered wherever possible in order to assess the local impact from a systematic before-after comparison.
• Rich qualitative understanding has been generated about the co-creation processes, actors, power relations, suitable participation formats etc.

Co-learning & uptake (WP5):
• SUNRISE facilitated the interaction of stakeholders in each neighbourhood to share their experience by providing cooperation concepts and common communication tools.
• City partners communicated about the local activities to inform and mobilise the neighbourhood community about their opportunity to contribute in a genuine co-creation process.
• The project informed and inspired a community of neighbourhood mobility stakeholders across Europe (=Take-Up Cities group).
• SUNRISE generated visibility of its achievements to and beyond the CIVITAS2020 community and to urban transport professionals.
SUNRISE made significant contributions to improving knowledge on:

• New innovation processes: SUNRISE embraced the principle of co-creation, i.e. the involvement of citizens, stakeholders, and users in the identification of problems, the development of new measures and their implementation and evaluation. Especially the latter two aspects go beyond the current mainstream by applying participation to all phases of the innovation circle.

• New organisational & governance concepts & planning processes: SUNRISE developed a new, district-level governance approach to mobility as “Sustainable Neighbourhood Mobility Planning”. This includes proposals for how neighbourhood processes can be given legal stability, financial support, technical assistance and on effective vertical integration (from neighbourhood to municipal to metropolitan level).

• New forms of urban mobility solutions at neighbourhood or urban district level: It turned out that the selected innovations had a low technological component, which was a direct response to people’s basic needs; it is therefore a genuine lesson that the mundane, mostly infrastructural, opportunities for sustainable mobility need to be provided first before any technological advances might become relevant.

• Co-creation can mobilise previously silenced controversies, esp. about urban space (re-)allocation. If well-moderated, such debates can lead to a very productive and highly civic exchange of different people’s needs, concerns, constraints, visions etc. However, not all controversies can be resolved, which underlines the continued importance of democratically legitimated decision making with consideration not only for majority positions but also for the needs of weaker parts of our societies.

• Impact assessment & evaluation: A conventional before-after comparison is difficult in a co-creation project because the most pressing problems, let alone the most suitable measures, are not known at the beginning of a co-creation project. These emerge only through the participatory process. Therefore, the parameters to be measured are not clear at a time when the “before” data gathering should take place. For this and other reasons, a more qualitative focus is recommended to gain in-depth understanding of the co-creation process, actors, power relations etc.