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Regenera Final Report: Process, Gender and Conspiracy 25.2.07 [EN]

Updated: 01.03.07

22/23 February, we participated in the Final Conference of the Regenera URBACT Network in Lyon (France). See announcements and comments in the Agenda Archive and in the Journal (The Hague: A 'pragmatic approach ... [etc.], about adapting to the cultural environment, when constructing emancipation-prone initiatives with cultural and ethnic minorities).

Former contributions in e-urban about the Regenera mission can be found in the Journal Folder > "Full List by Date" Page here.

An extensive documentation by the Regenera Secretariat is in the Regenera Section at the URBACT Website [EN]. Many of the texts there, are being referenced to below. 

Jacquier Model, showing weaknesses in current diagnosis and evaluation (click for full size).
The exceptionally rich PowerPoint presentation by Claude Jacquier on the complex and multi-layered environment in which integrated urban area-oriented emancipation projects have to be developed, is accessible here in pdf.pngPDF format (which format doesn't reproduce most of the subtle developments that are in the PP version, which we hope to store soon here on e-urban). We will create in the UrbiPedia a more elaborated article on what we perceive as a "Jacquier Approach", as compared to the LUDA Approach which is already there.

We prepare a "You-Tube" video on e-urban, in which Jacquier explains, at the conclusion of the Regenera Conference, two of his main conclusions, i.e.: the role of gender in the neighbourhood as well as in the regeneration teams, and the central role of the "conspiring" urban practitioner.

In e-urban, we dealt also with this last ("conspiracy"-) phenomenon, when we talked about the current obligation for project leaders, to 'translate' back into bureaucratic language their real practice. (HomePage [EN]: 1. Skills (Subtexts).)
As you will have seen, we acknowledge the existence of this onerous and unproductive task, but we do not condone or glorify it. A solution has to be found in better and more realistic diagnostics (see UrbiPedia on that lemma) and subsequent (participative) evaluation moments. Paradoxically, the obligation of 'transparency' in project design, imposes fixation on temporary and politically desirable objectives and methods, that tend to become redundant within a short lapse of time. The need for urban practitioners to "conspire", is understandable and inevitable at this point, but is is one of the main weaknesses of urban regeneration practice as it exists now. An empowerment of urban practitioners, who are engaged in a holistic project (integrated approach, emancipation goals, sustainable objectives) and of their scientific supporters and monitors, as well as of the urban politicians and managers, may be a key solution to this anomaly
The 'conspiracy' proposition reminds us of the sixties' slogan that came up in front of the growing isolation of radical militants: Let us start "A Long March through the Institutions", where the Long March refers to Mao Tse Tung's one with his ailing army at the end of the Thirties, from Southern China to the grottoes of Yenan in the North. Although the move of the babyboom generation was, at that point, undoubtedly a positive development, saving them from growing sectarianism, the logics of institutions got, however,in most cases the upper hand over the logics of reform that had inspired initially the 'Marchers'. - Not the fact of going into the institutions in order to make them work together and renovate, was wrong, but doing so without sufficient power, in a too individualistic way, was. And as long as the part-time 'conspirators' of urban regeneration remain individualistic, isolated and unempowered, in many cases (but not in all, see below: Turin) they will sooner or later become victim of procedures and poorly designed political objectives. Which entails too often either their bureaucratisation, or the sudden and precocious ending of their project.

That being said, we should acknowledge that the Regenera Conclusions and Recommendations, deal, in principle, correctly with this key problem (page 55 sqq., English version), under the headings 'Diagnoses' and 'Policies, Programmes and projects'.

In diagnoses, the role of institutions is too often neglected, while we know, that in practice, as also Regenera says, a large part of our workload consists, not in dealing with problems, but in dealing with institutions, whose behaviour is often dictated by their short term institutional interests as they perceive them. Their responsibilisation and their implication into the ongoing refinement and updating of diagnosis and of processes (which, as Regenera establishes, are quite different from procedures), is, as Jacquier says, a struggle, a permanent contest. That struggle is hidden by the rosy way in which we are used to talk about partnerships, which are mostly designed as procedures, and not open to processes.

The contributions of the two other experts, Stéphane Bievenue from St-Étienne and Hans Schlappa from Birmingham, are valuable studies of, respectively, the domains of ethnic minority roles and education, and that of NGO's and voluntary organisations, as observed during the study visits to different Regenera cities.

There appear to be two ways to "capitalise" more on this material:

  1. More integration of the three contributions. The dynamics of ethnic community development and of education, as well as those of voluntary organisations (the "third sector") are potentially perfect fields of illustration of- and concretisation into - better practice models, and can be elaborated on the Jacquier basis, taking into account a supplementary feed back from the participating cities.
  2. The studies that have been done, justify more concrete proposals for daily practice in European cities. Although more study and research is certainly desirable, and, even more, a continuation of cross-fertilising among cities within thematic or solution-driven networks under the 2007-2013 Commission budget, it appears possible, with the Regenera material at hand, to proceed to practical model-designing for cities, for instance in the fields of:
  • diagnostics, taking into account the institutional environment and its dynamics,
  • participative evaluation - driven processes,
  • provisions for evaluation of the hitherto not sufficiently evaluated relations between objectives and results within an integrated policy,
  • gender: while marginalised urban areas are characterised by a series of very hard 'ruptures' (breaks) between, for instance, old and young (generations), cultural traditions (ethnicity), working and not-working (unemployment and apathy), there are significant differences in gender behaviour and perception, too, that have given birth to interesting and uncommon initiatives by women, enough to develop a matrix for mobilising those forces in urban regeneration areas (In my opinion, the gender of the members of the project teams is less relevant, as long as they work in a 'feminine' way, i.e.: in stead of -masculine- problematisation exercises, simply use the instruments, the elements and the institutional or pre-institutional configurations that are present.)
  • empowerment of project coordinators (the city politician who is charged with the integrated approach), of project leaders and -managers (the urban practician), the experts who monitor the project (academic integration of scientific domains, peer-to-peer counselling) and the NGO's of the neighbourhood, who should in the end produce the desired sustainability of the project results (by strengthening them with independent experts, for instance).

All in all, however, we welcome the breakthrough the Regenera analysis opens in the domains of institutions, gender and the pivotal role of independent project leaders, as compared to other evaluations. It should not disappear into a bureau drawer!

 For more reading on the analyses and conclusions of the experts, we refer to the issues of Regenera documentation on the URBACT website:

A. Opening statements (22 February):

Claude Jacquier, Regenera expert on physical regeneration

Stéphane Bienvenue, Regenera expert on cultural diversity
Hans Schlappa, Regenera expert on voluntary action

B. Plenary Session - conclusion and reflections (23 February):
The participation of residents: the point of view of the local politicians.
Hella Dunger-Löper, Secretary of State, Berlin
How do European exchanges impact on the daily work of the cities?
Xavier Valderrama Bertomeu, Santa Coloma de Gramenet
The network Quartiers en Crise - European Regeneration Areas Network

Ilda Curti, Deputy Mayor of Turin
The Urbact II programme (2007-2013)
Jean-Loup Drubigny, Director of the Urbact Secretariat
Closing Statement by Claude Jacquier 


It is our intention, to present and comment in another article in the Journal, the following great contributions to the Conference:

Workshop 5: Organising transversal projects
Presentation by the “Porta Palazzo” project manager on her profession.
Ilda Curti, Deputy Mayor, former project manager
Greater Lyon: The link between neighbourhoods and intercommunal level
Rémy Nouveau, Greater Lyon and Valérie Pottier, Project director, Bron Parilly, Greater Lyon
Budapest: Implementing European experiences with the integrated approach. The local development company REV 8
Gyorgy Alföldy, Director of REV8

As well as these: 

Plenary session: The voice of the inhabitants of the Regenera cities
Berlin: The citizen jury system
Kerstin Rietz, Neighbourhood Management coordination, district Mitte
Reinhard Fischer, Neighbourhood Manager, Soldiner Straße
Greater Lyon: Citizen participation in the Lyon la Duchère regeneration project
Catherine Falcoz, Lyon la Duchère regeneration project team, in charge of participation
Community representatives
Birmingham: Community involvement in urban regeneration
Ghaz Hussain, Birmingham City Council

Mr. Jean-Loup Drubigny and Mrs. Sylvie Harburger (resp.: URBACT director, and Urban Dept. of the EU Commission Regio Directorate) shared important information about the opportunities and the intentions they see and have for URBACT II Some are being revealed on the URBACT website at this point. Commission- and URBACT-proposals will have to be adopted at the 15 March Berlin EU Council meeting. There are some significant novelties and changes that should be taken in account by cities who intend to network under the new programme. This means some more (partly 'conspirational') work for urban practicians. After 15.3.07, we will come back to you on that subject.

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