The year 2020 was marked by epidemics and health concerns. At IPoP we easily adapted to a flexible way of working, and within the new limitations adapted the content as well. Although we worked from home for more than half a year, we remained strongly connected through daily morning reports, which helped us both personally and professionally. Challenges aside we had another busy and interesting year.
We actively monitored the epidemiological situation and the responses of local communities to the epidemic at home and abroad. Already in March, we responded with the first proposals for community assistance, and in April with articles, exchange of good practices between municipalities and proposals for adapting cities to life with and after the epidemic.
Digitization and teleworking, which we have launched in recent years, has paid off for us and has gained momentum this year. We mastered new tools and learned to conduct quality online events and interesting participatory processes online, from expert consultations and international conferences to public discussions, focus groups and workshops.
We also used the opportunity of the summer relaxation of measures for socializing in Maribor. Our colleagues from Maribor took us up Pyramida hill, where we had a view of the city, we walked through the streets of Maribor and saw the renovated Main Square. After a great lunch, we explored the enormous underground wine cellar of Vinag.
Photo: Goran jakovac
Last year we also hired two new colleagues with whom we had previously worked with, namely lawyer Senka Šifkovič Vrbica and urban planner Anja Slapničar, while Petra Očkerl returned from maternity leave.
In agreement with our financiers, we have adapted many contents of our projects and programs to the epidemiological situation. Despite the limitations, we successfully carried out numerous field activities in Kočevje, Bohinj, Tržič and Črna na Koroškem. In autumn, we launched the Open Streets program with the municipality of Škofja Loka, where we drew attention to the increased need for space for pedestrians and cyclists. Perhaps most gratifying is the fact that, despite everything, we managed to carry out most of the project activities more or less in accordance with the plans, either in the late spring and summer months or online.
One of our core activities remains the promotion of active mobility and changing travel behaviour in line with our efforts for health, sustainable development and climate change mitigation. The epidemic last year, above all, directly showed the important link between health and mobility.
After consulting with the Ministry of Health and following the recommendations of the NIJZ, IPoP encouraged parents and schools in the spring and autumn months last year to enable children active travel to school, on foot, by bicycle, skateboard or scooter, and to continue supporting schools in implementing Pešbus and Bicivlakov. During the European Mobility Week in 2020, 70 schools throughout Slovenia joined in.
As part of one of the campaigns within the CARE4CLIMATE project, we offered municipalities support in adapting traffic to epidemiological conditions by inviting them to cooperate with the project team. The Municipality of Škofja Loka was selected and together with local actors, we implemented an Open Street, a pilot traffic programme based on providing better conditions for walking, cycling and other forms of active mobility while also creating an open common space, safe for children to play and pleasant to socialize.
As part of the same project and in order to better understand the motives for short-distance travel habits, we conducted a survey on the travel habits of Slovenes. The results serve as a basis for the implementation of awareness-raising campaigns and the promotion of active mobility.
We also encouraged walking in Črna na Koroškem by preparing a local walkability plan within the Active travel to School and Healthy City program. Together with the municipality, schoolchildren, key local stakeholders and the public, we have developed a plan that puts walking as the role of healthy movement and transport practice and at the centre of local transport policy.
In the spirit of efforts to change travel habits and active mobility, we also continued developing a parking policy for the Municipality of Tržič within the SaMBA project. Parking policy together with the company LUZ, d.d. is also being prepared for the City Municipality of Nova Gorica.
Placemaking and strengthening local communities
When our lives moved to our homes and the surrounding area on a large scale last year, we all began to perceive the importance of public space differently and became aware of the importance of human contact and connected communities. At IPoP, we understood the new circumstances to be an additional stimulus of our efforts to strengthen local communities and regulation of quality public spaces, which can really make an important contribution to social cohesion, resilience to climate change and other development challenges.
In Kočevje, we are working together with the municipality, to revive the city centre as part of the All to the City! (Vsi v mesto!) project. In the year 2020, we got to know the city and the people through conversations, walks, public and online discussions, field observations and analyses, and the design of the first small interventions and changes in transport policy. Sustainable urban regeneration of the core of Kočevje is a reflection of the awareness that the image of the centre needs to be refreshed, but even more than that, people and events in the city centre need to be taken care of. We cooperate with the public and local actors in the preparation of analyses and the formulation of measures for recovery, and we are also preparing a draft transport policy.
The need for quality local public space in Ljubljana was confirmed by the great response to the tender for the Outside project (Zunaj). For the second year in a row, together with prostoRož and the City of Ljubljana, we supported small campaigns that were developed and carried out by the residents themselves in their local environment with our support.
In the summer, at a time of somewhat more relaxed measures to curb the spread of infections, we organized an event in Ajdovščina, where we together with representatives learned about innovative and effective tools of cities to support the initiatives of residents.
This year’s migration of practically all events and meetings online enabled us, for the first time, to organize a section at the European Week of Regions and Cities. The online workshop “Co-design for new forms of urban life” was organized together with the Council of European Architects (ACE), the Federal Chamber of German Architects (Bundesarchitektenkammer – BAK) and the European Council of Urban Planners (ECTP). We also participated in the organization of the international webinar Children and the City, organized by the working group of the European network Placemaking Europe KIDS.
Our work in the field of urban policies and under the URBACT program has almost entirely moved online. This deprived us of the opportunity to get to know new places and meet people in person, but at the same time gave us access to events, experts and content that would otherwise be harder for us to reach. The year 2020 marked the German presidency of the EU and ended with the approval of the new Leipzig Charter and the Territorial Agenda 2030.
We strengthened the exchange of good practices between Slovenian cities. In June, we published the second publication Cities to Cities (Mesta mestom), in which we collected good practices of Slovenian cities’ efforts for sustainable urban development. In autumn, we prepared a new call Cities to Cities, in which we selected 15 good practices from 29 applicants. Those practices will be presented in 2021.
Last October we organized an international conference, together with the Ministry of the Environment and Spatial Planning and the Community of Municipalities of Slovenia. We titled it “Green Urban Actions” and successfully moved it online. We hosted interesting representatives of foreign and domestic cities and regions, who brought us closer to their solutions for addressing climate change.
URBACT organized an e-university in the fall to train partners in action networks. Representatives of five Slovenian partners participated, and IPoP supported the implementation of the program by leading one of the working groups.
We have made some steps towards understanding the importance of strategic planning and integrated management of green spaces and especially trees in cities. An analysis of the legal status of trees has been prepared. We supported the Maribor based NGO in planting the first Miyawaki forest in Slovenia. We vigilantly monitored changes in the implementation of public utility services for environmental protection and disseminated knowledge about the links between urban green spaces, health and climate change. We participated in an international comparative survey on urban green spaces during the epidemic and together with the PIC – Legal Information Center of NGOs organized the well-received online conference, How do we care for trees in cities.
We were also active in the field of housing within the Housing for All network and launched a For housing cooperative project with our partners in October, in which we intend to develop solutions for strengthening housing cooperatives in Slovenia. For the Municipality of Bohinj, we developed a Housing Strategy, in which we identified key development challenges and designed measures to achieve the goals of housing policy at the local level.
In 2020, unfortunately, we also had to face problems that did not have much to do with the health situation. During the spring wave of the epidemic, intense pressure began on NGOs from various fields, including environmental protection and spatial planning. We were faced with legal solutions that demolish the spatial planning system and abolish some key environmental safeguards, and significantly worsen the conditions for timely public involvement in the preparation of spatial acts and decision-making on the environmental acceptability of spatial interventions. Unfortunately, more and more countries’ key documents and projects are being prepared and adopted without proper public consultation.
The year 2020 will be remembered for the fact that, while the awareness of the importance of public participation in matters of public importance grew among the people, the standards of the possibility of participation were systematically lowered by intervening in the legislation. The year 2020 further demonstrated the importance of connecting non-governmental and other organizations to achieve common goals and protect public interests. From spring on we will continue with the activities of the Mreža za prostor (Slovenian network of NGOs in the field of sustainable urban planning, local initiatives and organised public) with a new Climate Program, which will support and strengthen member NGOs in the field of climate change and sustainable spatial planning. At the “Idea Breakfast” in July 2020, the members of the network selected three projects of our fellow members, the implementation of which we monitored and supported in the next four months. We have launched a series of online Climate Trainings, in which experts present data, concepts, documents and policies that are key to a good understanding of climate change.
We also continued our cooperation in the Coalition for Sustainable Mobility and even more closely connected the work of the Mreža za prostor with the Project Plan B (a network of Slovenian environmental non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and experts), the Housing for All network and the Pešec network, and in international networks: the Western Balkan Network on Territorial Governance and the network Placemaking Europe.
We have participated in many online events with presentations, and we have often provided comments for various media.
What does the year 2021 bring?
Last year, the epidemic did not cut our wings, but it reminded us that it is always good to have a backup plan. We are moving into 2021 motivated to accomplish new tasks and continue what we have started. We will advocate, with even greater devotion, the planning of a healthy living environment, design and execute training courses, support the involvement of residents in the design and implementation of projects and programs, changes in travel habits and integrated planning and management of urban green spaces and adaptation to climate change.
Among other things, we are preparing for the time of Slovenia’s presidency of the European Union in the second half of the year, for the communication of good practices of Slovenian cities from the Cities of Cities # 3 tender and practices created within URBACT transfer networks. We will again help one of the Slovenian municipalities to prepare a local walkability plan and one municipality to test the Open Street – a measure to improve the conditions for cycling and walking. We will also promote the health and environmental benefits of walking and changes in travel behaviour for everyday chores. We will continue with activities in Kočevje, Nova Gorica and Tržič, as well as with the activities of the Network for Space and the Housing for All network. We are also planning some major events, including an international meeting of the Western Balkan Network on Territorial Governance (TG Web) and an autumn international conference in connection with the Slovenian Presidency.
Climate change and the current epidemic remind us that existing social and economic patterns are no longer working well or towards the benefit of all, and that radical change is needed if we are to improve the quality of life for all while operating within the confines of our planet. Above all, we are already very well aware that we will have to change our travel and consumer habits and rethink the ways of living and working, and take care of the quality of public space and the development of strong and healthy local communities. At IPoP, we believe in the strength of the community, in the responsibility of the individual and the solidarity of society in achieving common goals, and with that in mind, we will work together with our partners in various projects and programs in 2021.
IPoP team. Photo: Aljoša Videtič
Photo: Goran Jakovac