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UrbanA (Urban Arenas for Sustainable and Just Cities) is a three-year EU-funded project that began in January 2019 and will finish in December 2021. Its main aim is to gather knowledge from previous EU-funded research and other relevant projects and mobilise it more effectively for action and policy influence. It combines the synthesis of existing information with the active engagement of diverse city-makers in a series of four Arena events.


The UrbanA project was developed in response to a funding call on 'Innovative solutions for inclusive and sustainable urban environments' (TRANSFORMATIONS-03-2018-2019) issued within the Horizon 2020 funding programme in late 2017. The project consortium is led and coordinated by ICLEI-Europe, and also includes the Dutch Research Institute for Transitions (DRIFT), FCiencias.ID at Lisbon University, the Barcelona Lab for Urban Environmental Justice and Sustainability (BCNUEJ), Freiburg University, the Central European University, and the ECOLISE network of community-led sustainability initiatives. It was the first EU-funded project to involve ECOLISE directly as a project partner; in addition, ICLEI-Europe, DRIFT and FCiencias are all ECOLISE members. Following notification that the proposal had been awarded funding in July 2018, the project began with a kick-off meeting in Freiburg, Germany, on January 21st-23rd 2019. The project website is https://urban-arena.eu/.


The basic structure of UrbanA combines the synthesis of findings from previous research relevant to urban justice and sustainability by consortium partners with collaborative scrutiny of the findings by a wider group of city-makers working in relevant areas at Arena events. This process has four iterations, each the subject of its own work package emphasising a particular topic, lead by a specific partner and leading up to an arena event hosted by that partner. On this basis, the project will assemble and sustain a community of practice on urban justice and sustainability, consisting of consortium partners, arena participants, non-participants engaging with the project via other avenues (such as webinars and the project wiki), and wider end-users of findings.

The detailed structure is as follows:

Work Package Lead Partner Main Topic and Unit of Analysis Arena Location and Timing
WP3 DRIFT Approaches to urban sustainability and justice Rotterdam, November 28th-29th 2019
WP4 BCNUEJ Drivers of urban injustice Barcelona, June 4th-5th 2020
WP5 Freiburg University Governance frameworks for sustainability and just cities Berlin, Feb/March 2021
WP6 ICLEI Policy recommendations for urban sustainability and justice Brussels, October 2021

The four phases of the project taking place in work packages three through six are organised incrementally. Each incorporate and building on the findings of the previous work package.

In addition, the project has a work package dedicated to arena design (WP2), and lateral work packages (ongoing throughout the project) dedicated to management (WP1) and one to communications and facilitation of the community of practice.


Gathering and synthesis of information from previous projects follows a three-stage process of mapping, distillation and deepening, undertaken by consortium partners under the guidance of the respective work package leader.

Broad surveys to identify findings of possible interest
More detailed examination of mapped information to identify topics of particular relevance
In-depth examination of topics identified during the distillation phase

In the deepening phase, findings are compiled on a project wiki. Wiki pages can be read, commented upon and edited by Arena participants as a first expansion of the project's circle of active knowledge co-creators and establishment of its community of practice, growing in turn beyond direct participants following the first Arena.

This pattern will be repeated incrementally through the four Arena processes and associated work packages. Each Arena and work package takes as its focus a different unit of analysis, and rests its knowledge production upon the foundation developed in the previous iteration.

Arena Events

The design of Arena events builds on the Transition Arena approach developed by DRIFT (TO ELABORATE)

Each Arena event will take a blended format, i.e. combining onsite and online participation, and host around 60 onsite participants (15 consortium partners, 25 fellows and 20 other participants) plus around 40 online participants. Various online activities - webinars, podcasts and blog posts - will precede and follow each Arena. In addition, local side Arenas are scheduled to take place in Lisbon on November 12th 2019 and Barcelone in late 2019 or early 2020.

Community of Practice

One aim of the UrbanA project is to establish a community of practice whose domain of shared interest is sustainable and just cities.

The UrbanA community of practice consists of all active participants in, contributors to and followers of the UrbanA project, its online and offline activities and/or outputs of the UrbanA. The practice it undertakes together is its ongoing engagement in UrbanA through the four Arena events, Arena side events and other project activities. Through these, participants will engage in learning processes that develop and/or deepen local, translocal and regional networks over the three years of the project – and beyond.

UrbanA Fellows

UrbanA Fellows are a group of 25 supported participants at Arena events, selected to represent a diversity of city-makers from a range of European countries, sectors and backgrounds. Fellows commit to active participation in the UrbanA Community of practice by taking part in all four Arena events, contributing to the delivery of events (Arenas and/or side events), and being active users of the project's online communication platform and social media channels.

Local Arenas and National Programmes

Local events complementing the main arena programme are scheduled to take place in Lisbon and Barcelona (the home cities of UrbanA partners FC.ID and the Barcelona Urban Environmental Justice Laboratory. The Lisbon events form part of a national sub-programme, UrbanA-Portugal.