City makers from across Europe gather at first UrbanA Arena, in Rotterdam

Some 60 people from all corners of Europe and beyond gathered in Rotterdam recently for the first UrbanA Arena. It was a lively, energetic event, reflective of the passion, knowledge and creativity of those present, both in person and online.

The core focus was ‘What makes cities just and sustainable?’ Drawing on engaging participatory techniques, there were round table discussions of the approaches to #SustainableJustCities that the UrbanA team, of which ECOLISE is a member, have mapped during the year. These range from governance and participation processes to nature based solutions and the right to housing, and are compiled on the UrbanA wiki.

There was discussion on how knowledge about solutions for #SustainableJustCities, such as policies or initiatives, are shared; the extent to which different approaches can replace dominant structures; and a creative investigation of the best possible participatory process for what to do with an imaginary patch of urban land.

Colleagues from Barcelona Lab for Urban Environmental Justice and Sustainability gave a presentation about green gentrification – whereby ‘greened’ cities become unjust cities, alienating existent communities and hiking property prices, rendering neighbourhoods unaffordable. Their research is a stark reminder of why UrbanA is focussed on both just and sustainable cities.

There was Open Space, with a session on building eco-feminist cities, decolonized cities + cities of care, amongst others, and then a glimpse into the next UrbanA Arena (in Barcelona, 4th-5th June 2020) focussed on what drives injustice in cities.

As blended meeting coordinator, ECOLISE’s Nenad Maljković brought excellent technical and online facilitation techniques to the meeting, showing how the skills born of necessity (a community-led network with a very tight budget!) can connect people in a low-carbon, creative way.

It was a good start to the four UrbanA Arenas, which are an integral part of this collaborative project to distil clear policy recommendations for #SustainableJustCities