KNOWLEDGE EXCHANGE: FAs IN THE EU

Takeaways from the Knowledge Exchange on Capacity Building for Functional Areas

Discover the main insights from our workshop on Capacity Building for Functional Areas, attended by 93 representatives from various functional areas, European Commission, and the World Bank. This workshop is part of a series of knowledge exchange activities organised under the “Functional Areas in the EU” project.

The knowledge exchange began with introductory remarks from Grzegorz Wolszczak, Urban Development Specialist at the World Bank. He outlined the objectives of the Functional Areas in the EU project, announced the conclusion of the project, and presented the results of a survey on capacity building completed by participants before the meeting. The survey covered effective formats for capacity building, topics of interest for capacity building and networking, types of capacity building instruments used by functional areas, and the most engaged European Commission-level capacity building formats, namely URBACT, European Urban Initiative, and TAIEX.

Following the introductory session, Bruno Mola from DG REGIO, Competence Centre for Administrative Capacity Building, outlined the range of services provided by the European Commission for administrative capacity building. These include studies, pilot projects, handbooks, e-learning platforms, training courses and peer learning. Particularly emphasised was the importance of peer learning for functional areas, which can be fostered, for instance, through the Regio peer-to-peer learning scheme. This scheme encompasses TAIEX-REGIO and the Peer2Peer Communities, both of which welcome participation from program authorities and other public bodies engaged in the management and execution of ERDF, CF, or JTF programs, fostering the exchange of knowledge and best practices on both bilateral and multilateral levels. TAIEX-REGIO is mainly suitable for exchanging existing knowledge promptly and upon request, whereas the Communities facilitate deeper discussions, which cultivate new knowledge and develop innovative approaches and tools. As such, TAIEX-REGIO Peer2Peer covers exchanges, short-term missions, study visits, workshops and online events aimed at sharing knowledge and experiences. Conversely, REGIO Peer2Peer Communities are focused on collaborative efforts to tackle challenges and establish best practices through a combination of online and in-person meetings, group discussions, surveys, and collaborative document and tool creation, with external consultants providing facilitation. Establishing a Peer2Peer Community focused on functional areas could present a significant opportunity to further strengthen these approaches at the EU level.

Next, Laura Hagemann Arellano from DG REGIO, DG Regional and Urban Policy, underscored the importance of knowledge exchange activities for capacity building in functional areas. This presentation provided an insightful overview of the European Urban Initiative, highlighting its significance as a key support initiative for cities and functional areas. As such, three primary activities under the EUI initiative were introduced: City2City Exchanges, Peer reviews, and Capacity Building Events. The session concluded with an introduction to Portico, a platform serving as the gateway to urban learning, which connects urban actors with knowledge, individuals, and initiatives aimed at achieving sustainable urban development in Europe.

The third presentation, held by Raluca Toma, Head of Capacity Building at EUI, elaborated on capacity building initiatives for functional urban areas through the services offered by EUI. This intervention provided an overview of the application process and detailed each service offered, namely City-to-City Exchanges, Peer reviews, and Capacity Building Events. The target audience and the dual objectives of enhancing skills and capacity, as well as improving the design and implementation of sustainable urban development (SUD), were explained. The main takeaways are:

  • A City-to-City Exchange facilitates a short-term visit between an urban authority encountering a particular SUD implementation challenge, and another urban authority from a different EU Member State possessing expertise to assist in addressing this challenge. The Call for Applications for City-to-City Exchanges is continuously open, allowing applications to be submitted and approved for implementation on an ongoing basis.
  • EUI Peer Reviews entail a series of predefined activities conducted by a group of cities, with the objective to enhance the development and execution of SUD strategies by engaging in benchmarking, peer learning, and offering recommendations. A new call for peers to participate in the EUI Peer Reviews will be announced in the next period. However, interested functional areas are encouraged to regularly check the EUI – Peer Reviews page to remain informed about updates.

Functional urban areas can take advantage of both these opportunities. For precise details on the eligibility criteria, please refer to the Guidance for Applicants: City-to-City Exchanges and Peer Reviews.

  • Capacity building events bring together urban authorities and managing authorities to exchange information and address SUD implementation and policy issues. These events aim to encourage networking, exchange of good practices, and capacity building among stakeholders involved in SUD strategies.

During the workshop, participants raised various questions regarding joining and initiating peer2peer communities, login procedures for specific platforms, facilitator roles, engagement tools, and the inclusivity of meetings. Discussions also explored the structure of peer visits and potential civil society involvement. These inquiries highlighted a strong interest in utilising European Commission tools for effective knowledge exchange and collaboration.

Before Grzegorz Wolszczak, the moderator, concluded the workshop, Gabriel Onaca, representing DG REGIO, closed the event by emphasising the significance of functional areas and the applicability of the presented instruments at this level, referring to the eligibility of functional urban areas as potential applicants. Additionally, he stressed the importance of the Functional Areas in the EU project and its contribution to enhancing functional approaches at the EU level.

If you’re interested in learning more about capacity building tools for FAs provided by the European Commission, we encourage you to review the presentations to gain a comprehensive understanding of the ideas discussed in this article and watch the video recording of the workshop.

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The Knowledge Exchange Presentations:

You can access the presentations below:

European Urban Initiative

Capacity Building for FUAs through Exchanges

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DG Regional and Urban Policy, EC

Knowledge Exchange Activity on Capacity Building for Functional Areas

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REGIO Competence Centre for Administrative Capacity Building

Peer learning for Administrative Capacity Building

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