PUJ workshop
The PUJ project in Prato has been selected as one of the twelve good practice cities within the study on Integrated Territorial Development (ITD) as part of the analysis of all Urban Innovative Actions projects. The research has been carried out through the analysis of the available documentation as well as through interviews with the municipality and local stakeholders in order to assess how the project has managed to be implemented through an ITD approach. 

The UIA study on integrated development can be found here, along with the PUJ case study.

What is integrated territorial development?

First of all, Integrated territorial approach is one of the EU’s main objectives. Already the New Leipzig Charter, adopted in 2020, underlines the need to better coordinate urban development at spatial, sectoral and temporal levels. This integrated territorial approach relies on the “simultaneous and fair consideration of all concerns and interests relevant to urban development”. In the same vain, the EU has put an emphasis on integrated territorial development through the regulation of the Cohesion Policy in adopting policy objective 5, “Europe closer to citizens by fostering the sustainable and integrated development of all types of territories”. Integrated territorial development (ITD) proposes a different way of shaping solutions to territorial challenges regardless of administrative boundaries. 

The concept of ITD is widely recognised and has been at the core of EU urban policies for several decades. The New Leipzig Charter has proposed 4 key principles that are commonly used as good urban working principles:

  1. Place-based approach: focusing urban strategies at a coherent scale, beyond administrative boundaries, in order to foster endogenous urban transformation and reduce socioeconomic inequalities.

  2. Integrated approach (multi-sectoral): coordinating all areas of urban policy in particular the environmental, social and economic dimensions. It aims to overcome the political silos that do not take into account co-dependencies or interdependencies with other sectors.

  3. Participation and co-creation: involving all urban actors to strengthen local democracy and letting citizens having a say in processes that affect their daily lives. It includes new forms of co-creation and co-design practices that can help cities in managing conflicts, share responsibilities, find innovative solutions.

  4. Multi-level governance: tackling challenges jointly across all levels of urban and spatial policy. It requires the cooperation of all societal actors, including the civil society and the private sector. Vertical and horizontal multi-level and multi-stakeholder cooperation, both bottom-up and top-down, are key to good urban governance.

These working principles translate into a methodological approach and lead cities and territories to adopt new ways of designing urban policies. In particular, these principles help incorporate the complexity of conflicting objectives and interlinked challenges.

Although the principles of integrated territorial development are not new, cities still face difficulties in effectively implementing ITD.

Via Turchia pilot site. Photo by Eutropian

Why is the PUJ project a good practice of Integrated Territorial Development?

The Prato Urban Jungle project has been evaluated, amongst the 86 project funded in the first round of UIA projects, as a good practice for Integrated Territorial Development as it demonstrated in practice how the different elements of the ITD approach could be combined from idea conception to evaluation of the project results throughout the entire implementation of the project activities. The PUJ project demonstrated how it could combine being place-based, participatory, multi-sectoral and have a multi-level governance approach combined in a successful impact on the municipality. 

In fact, the goal of the Prato Urban Jungle – PUJ – project was to renew its city districts with greater social, productive and environmental dimensions turning itself into an urban jungle through the added  value of nature based solutions (NBS) and the plans developed by the city of Prato to use plants in the improvement of the local urban conditions (more information here). 

What does place-based mean in the PUJ project? 

In the Prato case, being place-based implies the purpose of having such different places is to test the urban jungle concept in different environments, so that the city’s ambition to become a forested city can be achieved. This was explained during the hearings by a representative from the city:

“Of course, we decided to test these innovative solutions on three different pilots, from various eras, and, one of those was on social housing for the buildings, and the other one was on their own private enterprise. So we pretty much involved ESTRA as a partner in this step, because we also wanted to work on the benefits for employees and SMEs. And then Macrolotto zero, was in a very problematic area of the city that is characterised as an industrial area with a lot of big buildings that are not used anymore. And where we don't have a lot of green areas, and also with social problems in the area, we also have the settlement of the big Chinese community. And so we also had to work on integration and besides on the greening of the Area.” 

Furthermore, the place-based approach is also strengthened by a monitoring process, as the Prato Urban Jungle in Prato installed over 30 sensors with CNR IBIMET, to complement the only two existing ones. The sensors were able to capture before/after data related to the impact of the forestation interventions, but also map mobility patterns. As such, these new datasets and especially the methodology of how data is collected will be used in the future to support the city reach its climate neutrality goals.

Prato Urban Jungle sites. Photo by Eut


What does participatory mean in the PUJ project?

Combining citizen engagement and innovation tools into the Prato was essential through the Junglathons were a very important part of the PUJ project.  These Junglathons were three days of intensive co-design with stakeholders, citizens, residents and creatives. Prato Urban Jungle deployed  a number of participative approaches such as placemaking activities and events, combining them with longer-lasting actions such as the development of digital monitoring platforms and awareness toolkits to ensure long term durability and lasting impacts on the ground. Through an innovative approach applied to a design thinking process, project partners involved the citizens of the Soccorso (St. Giusto) and Macrolotto zero neighbourhoods, through anthropological walks and discussions as a preparatory phase to the co-creation workshops. The aim of the Junglathon was that the ideas that emerged would be taken into consideration in the completion phase of the PUJ interventions. The Junglathon has seen intergenerational and heterogenic participation, where young students, the elderly and designers confronted each other. At the end of three participatory days, four of the project concepts from among several conceived during the workshops were presented with respect to the two areas of St. Giusto and Macrolotto zero. 

Interestingly, the event also revealed that the primary necessity of the social housing setting in St. Giusto was the renovation of the units, heating system and better insulation instead of greening the area. While in Macrolotto zero, a neighbourhood with the highest concentration of Chinese community in Europe, there has been an almost complete lack of local community participation, as the market project did not involve any specific function addressing the needs and interests of the Chinese community.  Thinking on how to involve marginalised groups has been evolving since then. he involvement in the project of innovative start-ups and companies, like greenApes and Treedom, but also engage citizens in gamification and co-creation activities, as well as in the governance of green initiatives was successful.

In this regard, through the engagement of innovative start-ups such as Treedom and greenApes, and the creation of new digital platforms, such as Prato Forest City and the inclusion of the City of Prato in the greenApes app, citizens were able to directly present an urban forestry initiative and to promote virtuous behaviours. Local NGO Legambiente provided urban walks, seminars, talks, courses and toolkits all focusing on the importance of trees and biodiversity. Importantly, the main action of Legambiente took place in schools (more information here). All these digital activities and tools had as their goal to empower citizens to act for their own well-being and form a new responsible and sustainable generation of citizens.

What does multi-stakeholder mean in the PUJ project?

Prato Urban Jungle in Italy, aiming at creating urban forests in three different urban areas, relied on a partnership including architecture studios, a research institute, a public utility provider, as well as environmental SMEs and an NGO. In order to coordinate cooperation between partners, the consortium used participatory and collaborative design approaches, shifting from plenary meetings to working groups involving a smaller number of participants and therefore allowing for more operational work. A key element in the project’s multi-stakeholder cooperation was the platform Prato Forest City facilitating the cooperation between public bodies and citizens, associations or private businesses, helping bottom- up initiatives to promote urban forestry projects. The platform acted as an “organisational interface between municipality, civil society and private partners” helping the city “manage conflicting interests, share responsibilities and find innovative solutions while also reshaping and maintaining urban spaces and forming new alliances to create integrated city spaces.”

Greening of parts of cities can make them more attractive but could also lead to gentrification to the detriment of long-standing residents. This is a potential risk in PUJ Prato, though one that the city is aware of. National regulation can affect how innovative financial instruments are used and may cause residents issues with taxes and benefits.

What does cross-sectoral mean in the PUJ project? 

The PUJ project has made great efforts to link with investments made under ERDF operational programmes, as Integrated Sustainable Urban Development adds value in both directions and may help ensure financial sustainability.

In Prato Urban Jungle the cross-sectoral approach aimed at overcoming the political silos that fail to take into account co-dependencies or interdependencies with other sectors. The Prato Urban Jungle project brought together different professional disciplines, including among others social scientists, architects, urban planners, designers, environmental researchers and botanists, in a multi-stakeholder partnership in order to use urban forestry as a means for the environmental, social and economic regeneration of a former industrial city. The city was able to cluster around its cross-sectoral approach a number of European funds, starting from structural funds of the Toscana Region as well as other direct funds of Horizon Europe and other programmes. Recently the City of Prato was recognised under the EU Mission for Climate-Neutral and Smart Cities, which offers a great potential towards the upscaling of the PUJ experience. In fact, as the Municipality of Prato has been  selected by the European Commission amongst the cities that will participate in the mission “100 smart and climate-neutral cities by 2030”, the so-called “Cities Mission”, is a highly relevant upscaling experiences for the Prato Urban Jungle project.  

In the two-year period 2022-23, the mission will be able to count on approximately 360 million euros of funding from the Horizon Europe program, to launch innovation paths to achieve climate neutrality by 2030, based on these key sectors:

  • Energy efficiency and production;

  • Transportation;

  • Waste management;

  • Industrial processes;

  • Agriculture, forestry and other land uses. 

Fundamental to the realisation of these goals will be the effective involvement of citizens at large, including civil society, private sector and research organisations, working in close collaboration with public institutions. This is what the City of Prato will continue doing based on the Prato Urban Jungle participatory practices carried out up until now. 

How can we upscale this experience?

One of the ultimate goals of the European Commission by supporting financially innovative actions with the European Urban Initiative is to ensure that learnings in cities can be shared, replicated and upscaled throughout Europe. Although there are no widely accepted definitions, one definition used by UN agencies in the context of rural development (IFAD, 2015) and others (Jowett & Dyer, 2012) describe scaling up as: the expansion, adaptation and sustainment of successful policies, programmes or projects in different places and over time to reach more people. 

Sustaining and scaling up are ways in which cities can leave a legacy from their project.  Cities participating in EU funded projects should be able to find ways to continue their activities after developing good practices. It is also important to ensure that practitioners and decision makers at all levels have access to the knowledge and know-how that was created during an innovative project to improve the design and implementation of integrated territorial development strategies and action plans in the new programme period. Some key learning points in this direction are: 

  1. Dedicate specific resources and work towards sustaining and scaling up the project from the outset. 

  2. Every project should plan for its financial sustainability for the medium term after the UIA financing ends.

  3. Replication starts at home. For any administration it is important to understand from the outset what it entails, in organisational terms, to replicate the actions of a project previously implemented elsewhere.

  4. Engage in transnational exchange and transfer activity. 

  5. Mainstream the approach developed under UIA for future strategies at local and national level. 

About this resource

Daniela Patti
Prato, Italy Small sized cities (50k > 250k)
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.

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