The ABCitiEs project launched earlier this month, with the partners convening for a kick-off meeting in Vilnius (Lithuania) on 9-10th October. Gareth Roberts and Dr Steve Millington attended the meeting, representing the Institute of Place Management. They were joined by James Shuttleworth, of Manchester City Council, who together with IPM represent the Manchester city region in the project.

The partners began to dig deeper into good and bad practices on how collective power can boost urban development and local entrepreneurship, and how policy makers can support these initiatives to reap the benefits of such actions. The aim of the first partner meeting was threefold: firstly, the group aimed to get a grip on the project plan, workload of the different partners and project administration. Secondly, they discussed the theoretical framework and ways to study cases. Thirdly, all the partners wanted to get to know each other, both the ABCitiEs projects in the cities and the people from the different cities involved in the project. Each partner city delivered a presentation, and the group were shown examples of area based collaborative entrepreneurship in Vilnius.

The approach

The consortium is using the Institutional Analysis and Development (AID) framework to study area-based collaborative enterprises (entrepreneurship initiatives). The AID framework is based on the Commons theory of Nobel prize winner Elinor Ostrom, and Sheila Foster, and others, who introduced the concept of Urban Commons. The framework will provide guidance in the way different cases in the cities will be analysed, will provide more knowledge on how they work, and the roles played by the different stakeholders and the impact these collaborative initiatives have.

The initiatives in the cities

During the initial workshop in Vilnius, partners shared their experiences and discussed possibilities to strengthen collaborative initiatives. Presenting the situation in Manchester, Steve Millington gave an overview of the region, covering some of the prevalent issues that need to be addressed from a place management perspective. Drawing on previous research - our Vital & Viable Centres project in particular - it is clear that involving local stakeholders and encouraging collaboration is a key factor in ensuring that Manchester and its centres are successful in the future. The work on this project will further seek to consolidate and develop this place-based, stakeholder led approach.

In Amsterdam, different entrepreneurship collectives are active with aims varying from urban regeneration to knowledge sharing and innovation. While a shopping street collaborative like Plein 40-45 focuses more on social cohesion, the innovation collaborative Knowledge Mile has the ambition to improve the living and working climate in their area by linking education and research, connecting people and knowledge and exchanging good ideas.

The Zagreb area experienced drastic economy changes after the collapse of Yugoslavia. Current trends of economic development are based around community-based structures like their Creativity Centre and Urban Research Factory schemes. Their focus is very much on cultural heritage.

Athens is the largest city participating in the project, with SMEs playing a particularly big role in an  economy still dealing with the huge impact of the recent economic crisis, and characterised by weak ties between firms and local economies and societies. This makes it difficult to form synergies and undertake joint action. Nevertheless, Kypseli Municipal Market was opened in October 2018 - the first social entrepreneurship market in Greece - which transformed an otherwise demolished building into a collective space.

Vilnius has introduced the Innovation and creativity centre “Linkmenų fabrikas“ at Vilnius Gediminas Technical University and Užupis Art Incubator as initiatives, boosting community cooperation for entrepreneurship development such as providing start-ups and artists with product development, prototyping and marketing opportunities.

The kick-off meeting provided a great insight into collaborative place management activity taking place across Europe, serving to exemplify the similarities and differences in the issues that are being faced. We look forward to developing our research in this area over the coming years, learning from our European colleagues, and contributing to a project that can have a positive policy impact going forwards.