Cities as Drivers of Systemic Transformation

20230825 091045 LAB efa23 10x100 Cities Lab preview c EFA Bogdan Baraghin

15 Feb, 2024

Cities have transformative powers when it comes to climate action. Participants of the EFA Lab series “10x100” are creating a blueprint for unlocking the potential of metropolitan bioregions.

Europe's ambition to become the first climate-neutral continent by 2050 hinges on transformative local actions. Urban areas are the first places where structural progress, new worldviews and technological and social innovation occur. This makes them laboratories for new ways of working, living and tackling the climate crisis. Cities are the centres of economic activity and knowledge creation, and their residents often the early adopters of technological and social innovation. The 10x100 initiative taps into this resource and analyses how a city can drive systemic transformation. Our food systems serve as an example: Since human survival depends on how we get by with our planet’s limits, densely populated areas are particularly challenged by shortages of basic supplies. The security of food infrastructure is crucial for societal stability. Cities can easily apply novel approaches to production, distribution and consumption schemes. They directly adapt on a regional scale and can quickly commit through local democratic processes.

In order to navigate the socio-ecological transition, participants of the EFA23 “10x100” Lab identified five scopes that cities can uniquely leverage:

  • Strategic gaps: Democracy is essential for human progress, but challenges like false information and a lack of coordination can weaken democracy.
  • Essential capacities: In order to achieve sustainable economies, we need to shift towards using less resources. This involves sharing knowledge, challenging power dynamics, and changing how resources are used.
  • Multilevel bioregions: Changes must involve both urban and rural areas. Natural boundaries that connect these ecosystems can help develop sustainable strategies.
  • Transformation alliances: For transformative action, cities and their surrounding areas need support from their governments. Mayors have an important leading role by creating alliances and investing in vital infrastructures.
  • Connected action learning: It takes collaborative learning and the involvement of different groups to bring the required changes into reality. With a ground-work approach, local communities can establish sustainable practices.

The initiative focuses on city’s bioregions and brings together experts from politics, health, nutrition, education, the food industry, agriculture and climate action and youth representatives. Their different perspectives allow for shifts in public policy windows. Transferring the example of food systems to other realms of human life, the 10x100 initiative became aware of the interdependence of all stakeholders. Systemic transformation of urban governance has thus been studied, with the city of Mannheim as a model project. Ultimately, the collaboration of all sectors is used as a blueprint for the bigger picture of successful climate action, employing democratic participation at all stages of the process.

What started as a kick-off at EFA22 turned into concrete goals at EFA23 and will be extended to four more model cities with EFA24. Evaluation and further roll out are planned for the years 2025 and 2026.

Would you like to take action and participate in the next steps? Feel free to take part in the next Quarterly meeting ("6x100") on 19 April 2024! Please register HERE.