Covid report


Nearly four years after the first detected case of Covid-19 in 2019 and ensuing global state of emergency that had implications for every aspect of the modern life, the World Health Organization downgraded Covid-19 from a global health emergency to a long-term and manageable health threat.

Modern life, and especially urban life, may have returned to normal, however, the aftermath of the global pandemic and the changes it has bequeathed for the way we build our cities and live our lives will have longer lasting effects. Although the global pandemic was highly damaging, it was the catalyst for many inspiring solutions that are now an integral part of the way we think about cities. This study focuses on these inspiring practices implemented by UIA supported cities.

In collaboration with a team of three experts, the UIA therefore led a study on the experiences of a selection of cities implementing innovative urban projects during the pandemic. The objective is to provide cities across the EU with concrete recommendations, derived from the experience of their peers, to help them build their resilience in the face of unforeseen challenges. The study had two main phases (see Appendix 1 for more details):

a) Data gathering.

A preliminary screening of the UIA projects and their challenges and the solutions they had implemented was carried out by the study team and the UIA Secretariat to identify the main study questions. The UIA cities showing potential to contribute to the study were then invited to focus group discussions to provide more details about their practices. An initial version of the “Handbook for crisis-resilient Innovation” was drafted following this step.

b) Learning workshop and final output.

3 parallel learning workshops addressing the main study questions were held. This enabled us to present cities with the results of the study and concrete recommendations on how to better prepare and respond to an unforeseen crisis. The workshops were open to all cities, whether UIA supported or not. The present final version of the handbook was then drafted following these workshops.

Although the study is based on the experiences of UIA cities, the challenges confronted and solutions put in place offer useful insights for cities across the EU. The Covid-19 pandemic serves in this study as an example of a large-scale unforeseen crisis that affected all cities in a similar way. The distinguishing factor between them was their level of resilience in managing and recovering from Covid-19’s impacts.

We hope this handbook and its insights into operational factors of resilience will be a useful reference for innovative urban projects.

Executive Summary

Facing numerous challenges related to the COVID-19 pandemic, cities are testing and creating the future of local public action through multiple innovations in urban policy delivery. It is important to understand how these innovations will affect the way cities operate and how they will better prepare cities for the next crisis and increase their resilience.

Learn more


Several months after the Covid-19 crisis hit, the UIA programme decided it was necessary to step back and learn from the challenges that had arisen and from the successful (or not) practices implemented by UIA cities to overcome them. In light of the secular uncertainty in which cities must now develop and implement policies, the adaptive measures implemented by UIA projects during the COVID-19 crisis should be valuable to other UIA projects and EU cities.

Learn more



Cities and Resilience - An Overview

UIA urban innovation projects are complex because:

  • They are designed to break new ground from a technological, organisational, and end-user perspective - projects pioneer the use of novel approaches to produce solutions for intractable urban challenges.
  • They are highly inclusive/participative and integrated - multiple stakeholders are involved...
Learn more

Theme 1 - Project & Partnership Management

As social distancing and isolation were one of the first measures taken to counter the spread of COVID-19, the first challenge to collaborative projects was a need to rethink and reorganise their forms of communication and gatherings with and between partners and colleagues. The question they faced was, ‘how do we keep alive the daily and periodic human interaction and communication that generate new knowledge, ideas, and innovation?’.

Learn more

Theme 2 - Citizen & Stakeholder Participation

The pandemic stopped processes in their tracks and led to questions about goals

Most UIA projects rely on or seek to foster citizen participation, co-creation with stakeholders, and inclusivity, etc. These processes, which are both means and ends, were severely undermined or even stopped in their tracks by the pandemic and the social distancing rules that were brought in.

Learn more

Theme 3 - Public Procurement & Finance

Public procurement is a crucial instrument for city authorities when they implement any project and it is no less crucial for UIA projects. Procurement and financial management are integrated activities and delays in procurement have a direct impact on project delivery. This section summarises the procurement and financial management challenges facing projects and the responses project teams considered were successful. It also shows how procurement, financial management, and project management are intertwined.

Learn more


Theme 1 - Project & Partnership Management: In terms of Project and Partnership Management, the shock brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic created significant challenges in three main areas considered here: 1) the forms of communication/interaction among partners and colleagues...

Learn more


About this resource



About UIA
Urban Innovative Actions

The Urban Innovative Actions (UIA) is a European Union initiative that provided funding to urban areas across Europe to test new and unproven solutions to urban challenges. The initiative had a total ERDF budget of €372 million for 2014-2020.

Go to profile
More content from UIA
1137 resources
See all

Similar content