The new year is in full swing, we’ve just come back from the annual strategic meeting in Zagreb, so it feels like the perfect time to take a look in the rearview mirror. For IPoP, 2019 was marked by the expansion of our organization, important shifts in the advocacy of walking and active mobility, as well as developing our efforts to achieve effective collaboration among the various actors in spatial planning and management. We successfully completed some projects and ensured the continuation of others while setting our sights on new challenges.
IPoP as an organization
In 2019, we welcomed four new team members; one of us is focusing on motherhood, for now, another went in search of new challenges, a new project created one new employment position, the development of our organization required the creation of the other.
In June, we received the decision from the Ministry of the Environment and Spatial Planning awarding us the status of a non-governmental organization working in the public interest in the field of spatial planning. This status has also formally confirmed our role in representing public interests and neglected actors and areas in the spatial planning system, which has been at the heart of our activities all along.
Last year, we also offered training to two foreign students. We welcomed Clotilde Duvernoy, agronomy student at the National Institute for Agronomy and Food Science in Paris, and Laurens Oostwegel, student of urban geography at the University of Utrecht in the spring and summer months. We were also joined by Marta Jaskulska for a week, professor and cycling activist from the University of Gdansk, who wanted to gain some insight into our activities and shared her experience on sustainable mobility, spatial planning and participation in Poland with us during her Erasmus professor exchange.
Walking as a mobility practice
Last year, we made strides in encouraging walking as a mobility practice.
In the Pedestrian (Pešec) project we dedicated an entire website Pešec.si to the advocacy of walking and organizing an international poster design competition called Cities for Pedestrians! The expert jury selected the best posters from the 159 received pieces, which became promotional material for the advocacy of walking. We translated the International Charter for Walking into Slovenian and began collecting Slovenian signatories among Slovenian municipalities, organizations and individuals. We launched the formation of a network of organizations in the field of walking and compiled the Action plan for the Advocacy of Walking. We became partners in the LIFE IP CARE4CLIMATE project and will be preparing and carrying out 6 campaigns over the next 7 years for promoting active mobility on short distances (up to 5 km) as part of the project.
Active travel to School (Aktivno v šolo) project continued to encourage Slovenian schools to organize the Walking Bus and Bicycle Train; we were joined by 15 new schools and now have almost 100 schools who organized them since 2016. In the previous school year, the Walking Bus and Bicycle Train rode in as many as 72 schools, while 63 schools have signed up for the fall edition of the programs in the 2019/20 school year. Altogether, the Walking Bus ran on 150 routes, stopped on 370 stations and transported at least 2,500 kids to school. In relation to that, we carried out a pilot project of planning school routes in collaboration with the municipality, the school and the pupils in the town of Bled and introduced the new “Kiss and Ride” signs at the pupils’ initiative. We successfully organized the program’s closing conference and are especially proud of the fact that we have received support from the Ministry of Health to continue the Actively to School and Healthy City program.
During the season of Jane’s walk urban walks, 23 walks were organized in 18 towns across Slovenia, led by over 80 volunteers connecting over 50 local organizations. The walks were attended by about 600 participants. IPoP has supported and encouraged Jane’s Walk urban walking organization in Slovenia since 2011 and we are especially glad to see these “urban walks” have also caught on in practice as a working method. We have noticed that an increasing number of organizers have been executing them in the framework of analyses of the situation and placemaking processes.
We spent quite a bit of time at IPoP thinking of how to adequately translate the word “placemaking” into Slovenian, so much in fact, that we decided to hold a competition early last year to find the right term. The expert jury selected “ustvarjanje prostora” as the winning term. We are now diligently spreading its use and ask you to join us in cementing Slovenian technical terms in spatial planning.
Placemaking was also actively supported in practice with the Outside (Zunaj) project. Support to the residents was provided in collaboration with prostoRož at the initiative of the City Municipality of Ljubljana. An impressive 60 initiatives were submitted to the public call and the selected 10 of these got the chance to implement their small local action. The City Municipality of Ljubljana covered the material costs in the amount of EUR 500, while prostoRož and IPoP provided expert guidance to the residents carrying out the measures to improve conditions in their locally significant public space.
Several activities were carried out in the Urban Education Live project, whose aim is to research and encourage collaboration between universities and communities. We carried out a lot of activities in Tobačna, which is the selected pilot area of the project’s Ljubljana-based project partners (Faculty of Social Sciences and IPoP – Institute for Spatial Policies). We organized Jane’s Walks, participated in numerous events in Tobačna (open art studios, underpass renovation) and encouraged the local community’s participation, all of which was negatively affected at the end of the year by the sale of Tobačna, as the new owner has not expressed any understanding or interest in the contents of community of Tobačna.
Public engagement is one of the drivers of our activities. We continued to operate in an inclusive manner in 2019, organizing and carrying out a number of events that emphasize the significance and practical enabling of active participation of the public in spatial planning and management. In all of our efforts to open up these processes to the general public and civil society, we have been noticing a growing need to also improve collaboration between the expert public. In the past year, this has been most clearly brought to our attention by the actors in the water and landscape management processes, where increasingly deepening rifts are appearing in the collaboration between the various utility services when renovating the urban environment at the local level.
In the scope of the Protection and Development of the Slovenian Landscape project, we organized two meetings and four workshops for the inter-ministerial focus group during the analysis process, bringing together representatives of the Ministry of the Environment and Spatial Planning, the Ministry of Culture, the Ministry of Economic Development and Technology and the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Food. We invited representatives of as many as 66 organizations working on landscape protection, development and management to participate and received responses from 64 representatives implementing sectoral and local policies in practice at the regional and local level.
Over the past year, we continued to receive many messages from residents of different cities looking for support in preserving trees in their local environment. Our efforts to improve the system of public and green surface management are closely tied with our efforts to establish expert standards for handling trees. As part of our participation with the Environmental Defenders via the Green Counselling webpage, we provide explanations and advice to anyone actively working on issues concerning environmental protection, nature preservation and spatial planning. We have also brought the critical situation regarding tree handling, which is also partly the result of the country neglecting its duties in the area, to the attention of Minister for the Environment and Spatial Planning, Simon Zajc, at the Council of the Ministry of the Environment and Spatial Planning and called on him to clearly define new guidelines for executing mandatory local public services and to collaborate with non-governmental organizations.
As part of the Space to the Public – Collaborative Spatial planning, we introduced the process of including the public in the preparation of the draft of the development vision for the Pyramid Hill in Maribor. The project partner group also compiled a list of recommendations to municipalities for public engagement.
We continued our efforts for change in municipalities’ parking policies with a successful collaboration with the Municipality of Trebnje last year. The new parking policy will help the municipality improve the quality of the public space and environment, as well as to ensure more traffic safety for both citizens and visitors. By implementing new rules on the use of public parking spaces, municipalities can decrease the number of cars in the city centre and use these spatial potentials to improve the quality of life. The approach to preparing a new parking policy is universal, but the final solutions differ from place to place. We always conduct detailed parking analyses and use examples of good practices to prepare the starting points for debate, making sure to include the public throughout the entire work process, so that the solutions are accepted. We successfully compiled the technical basis and draft of the Decree on Stationary Traffic, which was presented at the municipal council meeting.
The spring of 2019 was eventful because of a tender for new action planning networks in the URBACT program, which selected 23 networks in which 5 Slovenian cities are participating. The networks launched their activities in the fall. We were also able to track the development of transfer networks, in which Idrija and Ljubljana are participating. We organized the URBACT Campus in Novigrad (Croatia) in collaboration with Udruga gradova as the national URBACT point for Croatia for the Slovenian and Croatian cities that are part of the transfer networks, giving the representatives a chance to meet and exchange experience.
Since November, we have been participating in the Housing for All Network. We organized a public debate on the proposal of the new Housing Act and sent the formulated suggestions to the relevant ministry. We will continue to work towards improving the housing policy and alleviating the housing crisis in 2020 as well.
In the spring, we were invited to present the concept of sustainable spatial planning as well as the Reader on Sustainable Spatial Planning to the mayors and representatives of Slovenian municipalities at the Urban Forum in Ljubljana.
We responded to topical issues
2019 was marked by a number of topical issues. We responded to them by organizing events, issuing press releases and writing our own posts, participating in discussions and roundtables, as well as the column I Think My City (Mislim svoje mesto) by our director, Marko Peterlin, which is now published regularly in Dnevnik newspaper.
Last year’s international conference for municipalities and other actors in spatial management at the local level was prepared in collaboration with the Ministry of the Environment and Spatial Planning and the Association of Municipalities of Slovenia and was dedicated to water management. The Water Governance in Cities conference drew lots of interest; Slovenian and international guests and attendees discussed and recognized good practices in water management exchanged experience and pinpointed the problems that should be addressed in the future.
By issuing press releases, we joined other organizations in opposing the expansion of the Ljubljana Ring highway and obligatory cycling helmets for all. We raised awareness of public transport systems and other forms of sustainable transport and commented on the wider implications of newer mobility trends, such as e-scooters.
We also highlighted the importance of creating and maintaining areas for creative contents in processes of urban renovation and urban construction; we were most actively engaged in the story unravelling in the area of Tobačna, but also actively advocated for the preservation and professional management of green spaces in cities.
We took a more systematic approach to emphasizing the correlation between the locals’ health and spatial planning. We participated in efforts addressing the climate crisis in Slovenia more actively through our press releases, participating in various radio and television programs and attending both major protests for climate equality in Ljubljana.
Participating in other events
In addition to organizing events in the framework of our own projects, we regularly attend other events, where we contribute to expanding people’s knowledge and perception of the topics we develop. Last year, we once again attended the Sustainable Mobility in Upbringing and Education conference organized by the National Education Institute in Bled and the Municipal Economics Conference in Olimje. We also helped spread awareness in the area of health: we participated in the 31st Days of Rehabilitation Medicine, the Meeting of Healthy Cities, the Co-creating the Environment expert meeting encouraging physical activity and the presentation of the concept of accessibility for representatives of the City Municipality of Ljubljana.
We were also active participants in several international events in 2019, at which we gave various presentations: Merging the Split, a conference by the Polis network, European Week of Regions and Cities, Helsinki Impact conference, Walk 21, Smart city, Advocate Europe, Placemaking Europe, TG web, CitC – Children in the Sustainable City, SLP Budapest.
What is in store for 2020?
IPoP is planning a number of important activities and projects for this year as well. We will continue with our efforts to strengthen walking as a traffic practice with the pešec.si advocacy organization and utilize the support of the Ministry of Health to expand our efforts for an active way to school, in collaboration with a selected municipality in the Active travel to School and Healthy City program. We will work with our partners to continue to support sustainable modes of travelling to school in the Sustainable Mobility in Kindergartens and Elementary Schools project supported by the Ministry of Infrastructure. The first part of the research will run through the LIFE CARE4CLIMATE project to pinpoint why people choose to use cars for short journeys; these results, combined with other preparatory studies will be the foundation for the first campaigns encouraging active mobility.
Our activities for a Sustainable urban regeneration of the centre of Kočevje project already started in late last year. We are planning a series of activities for 2020 that will be used to connect the municipality, local service providers and the public and to actively include them into the revitalization of the city centre. The execution of the traffic policy will run simultaneously, focusing mostly on the parking policy in the city centre. We will continue to collaborate with prostoRož with the support of the City Municipality of Ljubljana to once again support small community actions across the city’s neighbourhoods in the Outside project in the coming months.
We will continue our advocacy in the field of housing policy in Slovenia in the Housing for All network, exchanging good practices between Slovenian municipalities and learning about the latest foreign spatial planning practices with the support of the URBACT program, and to support experience and knowledge exchange for sustainable urban development in our role in the National URBACT point. We are also planning a number of activities with the support of URBACT to promote good practices in Slovenian cities.
Cover photo: IPoP team at a strategic meeting in Zagreb / Photo: Vanja Radovanović, Jane’s Walk Zagreb