Multi-stakeholder engagement for a resilient future of small and medium-sized towns
Lately, the world has been exposed to multiple, often unpredictable, challenges, such as the COVID-19 pandemic or weather anomalies, like heat waves or severe flooding events. The ability to withstand these forces has been strongly susceptible, and therefore there is a further necessity for embracing the development of resilience-building at all planning levels. In order to do so, events like the European Urban Resilience Forum (EURESFO) are organised, aiming at addressing these issues and enforcing inter- and transdisciplinary exchange on urban resilience between scientists and practitioners.
EURESFO is an event organised yearly by ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability, which is an international non-governmental organisation that promotes sustainable development. After a one year break due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it eventually took place on the 19th-20th October 2021 in Malmö, Sweden, in a hybrid format.
EURESFO 2021 offered a range of resilience-related topics focusing on the EU Adaptation Strategy by separately addressing its socio-economic, ecological, financial and political aspects in the context of implementation in cities and regions. With over 150 participants from all over Europe attending in presence, a variety of opportunities to get involved were offered on-site, such as multiple discussion panels, field trips and workshops.
By actively participating in the event, I strived to enrich my knowledge on topics that partly fall within the scope of my dissertation; namely, focusing on resilience and sustainability aspects of adaptation planning in small and medium-sized cities from a governance perspective. Additionally, I was looking forward to learning about other covered perspectives of resilience with an open mind, and especially to the offered workshops, where an exchange on a science-practice axis took place successfully. These workshops resulted in very insightful and valuable discussions on the challenges small and medium-sized towns are facing while approaching sustainable development. One of the critical remarks addressed the issue of a still often deficient bridge that brings together practitioners working in small and medium-sized towns and scientists to cooperate with each other. From our experience, we have unfortunately come to the conclusion that such synergies are still not often seen as valuable by both, and therefore further awareness-raising is necessary.
Particularly valuable for me was that the organisers strongly encouraged the possibility of networking and transdisciplinary exchange within the context of small group projects. By introducing a unique gamified approach to one of the workshops, I was able to broaden my understanding on resilience-building in historic urban areas. Additionally, I was able to learn how to deal with specific challenges, as well as gain direct expert insights from practitioners working in the cities of Maribor, Slovenia and Alba, Italy. At this point, I would like to thank my project partners from Alba, Italy – M.Sc. Stefania Balocco (Environmental Economics) and M.E. Davide Anolli (Energy Engineering) – for the fruitful exchange throughout the event and for introducing me to the challenges that practitioners have been facing lately; primarily related to the demanding communication between politicians and technical experts that might impose a risk of not reacting promptly enough to climate-related crises.
The participation at the EURESFO 2021 has not only given me a chance to deepen my knowledge on all of the above-mentioned topics, but also allowed me to widen my horizons through a deeper understanding of the complexity of the practices cities and towns use to build resilience as part of their strategic actions towards sustainable development. Besides, it was eye-opening to realise how much consciousness-raising is still needed for the research community and especially for the local practitioners to understand that only a collaborative approach might enhance the transformation of urban areas successfully. With these impressions and acquaintances made during EURESFO 2021, which in the future may, in fact, turn into transdisciplinary scientific papers, I look forward to the upcoming editions of this event.
The Academy for Territorial Development in the Leibniz Association (ARL) fully supported my participation in the event due to thematic compatibility with my dissertation, for which I am very grateful!
Doctoral candidate in the TRUST/ARL Research Training Programme
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