Eurocities Awards nominees 2022

24 March 2022

Young people are getting hands-on with diplomacy and politics, migrants become digital experts, a city experiments with circular demolition, as another moves from water shortages to offering the best quality water, and everyone gets together to plan and plant an urban forest – these are just a few of the ideas that our members brought to the Eurocities Awards 2022.

Category: Dream together – future generations transforming the cities

New skills to build a better Donostia-San Sebastian

Businesses and education institutions in Donostia-San Sebastian recently noticed a gap between the profiles of graduates and the requirements sought by the market. While both sectors picked up on the growing gap, they could not find a solution.

This is where the municipality came into play and started working on the Donostia Innovation Challenge programme, bringing together the city’s businesses, technology centres, schools, vocational training centres and universities.

The Donostia Innovation Challenge brings students on a journey to “learn and develop capacities in line with the skills demanded by today’s job market, which is constantly changing,” reads the city’s submission to the awards.

An illustration of a robot helping a senior stand up.
Donostia Innovation Challenge – one of last year’s project

The programme creates a space for young people to learn how to find innovative solutions to a challenge by working in a team. Because the programme takes the format of a challenge, it can quickly adapt to the current needs, from challenges directly set by the municipality or the business sector to broader challenges like designing the Donostia of the future to topical ones like the health crisis. For example, the 2020 edition proposed solutions such as a robot to mitigate the digital gap and the loneliness seniors felt due to the pandemic.

The programme creates the environment for its young people to “dream together to improve Donostia, with the ultimate aim of creating future generations with all the technical and personal capacities necessary to transform the city we live in”.

Young diplomats in the making – Kharkiv

If you think the pandemic has tested social interactions and relations, international relations have been pushed even more. That’s why Kharkiv decided to run its third edition of an educational and hands-on offline course on international relations and politics: the Young Diplomat School 3.0.

The programme includes theoretical and fundamental lessons and in-depth knowledge and practical skills from experts, as diplomacy can’t be “mastered only within the boundaries of the university without having practical training,” reads the city’s submission to the awards.

Experienced professionals become lecturers and practical leaders in this programme addressing 16 to 25 year olds, and help shape its contents. All thanks to the collaboration of organisations such as the Youth Council under Kharkiv’s mayor, the NGO Public Diplomacy Platform, the Diplomatic Club of Kharkiv and the Faculty of International Relations of Karazin University. Lectures take place in iconic buildings to add a cultural element to the programme.

Newspaper cut with a picture with a group of young participants raising their hands.
Kharkiv Young Diplomat School

The programme lasts a month, with involvement ranging from 6 to 12 hours a week and is free for all participants. A selection process is put in place to keep the group to 25 participants. And the latest edition was the most competitive yet, with 144 candidates for the 25 spots.

As an added value to the programme, participants went on a trip to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine, visited the leading political institutions of the country, had personal communication with the Minister of Foreign Affairs, and followed lectures presented by current officials of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. While participants worked individually during the programme, their final exam was a team exercise evaluated by experts and officials of the city council, putting their teamwork to the test.

Citizen engagement from an early age – Oulu

Cities all around Europe have made citizen engagement and participation one of their priorities. But wouldn’t it be much easier if young people already knew how to get involved? Oulu piloted in 2020 the School of Politics for Young People. The project had young people and policy-makers collaborate to develop and test practices and tools to be integrated into the everyday work of the municipality.

“The School of Politics for Young People is not about party politics,” reads Oulu’s submission. “It wants to discover and try new ways of participation and empowerment for young people.” By putting together young people, city employees and officials, the city wants to create a dialogue that fosters intergenerational learning.

The project took place in educational institutions, where participants learned about societal influencing, youth council activities and city decision-making processes. They were encouraged to voice their views on current issues.

Five local schools were piloted in the School of Politics for Young People project, three middle schools and two upper secondary schools. Through 17 workshops, the project involved 379 young people and 35 youth workers. In addition, 633 pupils got a chance to participate in one of eight visits with seven city councillors and six youth councillors.

A guidebook and an educational toolbox resulted from this first edition, which are now used within the youth services of the city of Oulu.

Category: Act together – skills and competencies for the future

Want to become a digital talent? – Barcelona

In driving its digital transformation, the city of Barcelona realises it needs to provide people with the skills to keep up with this transformation and be part of its active force. Besides, the market demand for digital talent has grown by 80% in the last two years locally. At the same time, the city also faces high rates of unemployment.

An animated gif promoting the IT Academy
IT Academy Barcelona promo

This is why Barcelona piloted the IT Academy in 2017, a programme offering specialised digital training for all citizens. The programme aims “to give participants the most demanded professional profiles in the market,” reads Barcelona’s awards submission.

Free of charge, open to everyone and running both online and on site, the programme offers to reskill people from different backgrounds interested in a new career in the digital sector. Or it offers to upskill your digital profile to one that is more in demand, for example, an artificial intelligence expert.

The programme mixes self-learning and self-training periods – where students rely on the offer of an online library – to traditional classes, specific skills courses and practical project development. Collaboration and peer learning is also encouraged within the programme. So far, 1,000 students have been trained through the IT Academy, and the city can boast a labour insertion rate of 81% within six months of the final test.

With such a success, the city confirmed the programme and is not envisaging ending it any time soon as the demands in the digital sector will continue to grow and change. The city is committed to training another 3,000 professionals between 2020 and 2024.

For any city that might be interested in replicating the project, Barcelona Activa, the local development agency in charge of the project, published a manual, ‘Plug and Play,’ explaining the process to set up the IT Academy and implement it.

New ‘green’ skills for young people – Gothenburg

Gothenburg noted how the pandemic affected unemployment rates amongst the youth from deprived areas and was worried about their mental health and job prospects. At the same time, the city and the Swedish parliament have been pushing for solutions for a more sustainable future.

The Gothenburg Green New Deal project wants to respond to both issues by training a labour force that is sensitive to sustainability. The project offers a three-month internship to 18-25 year olds who dropped out of school or are unemployed. By working in secondhand shops run by one of Sweden’s largest NGOs Stadsmissionen, the youngsters gain theoretical and practical knowledge around sustainable consumption, waste prevention, and waste management.

Young people folding clothes on a table
Young people working in the secondhand shops

By the end of the internship, participants receive the Gothenburg Green New Deal Diploma and will have acquired new skills that will be valuable for the labour market.

“We have worked with empowering the youth during the Covid pandemic and created job opportunities afterwards in all different industries. We have created a platform where changemakers can meet people. Because we believe that well-educated Green workers that know both how to work green – the practical knowledge in the circular economy – and why working green is a must – the theoretical knowledge in why circular economy is needed – are the future workforce of our city,” reads Gothenburg’s submission.

With a success rate of 70-80% of participants getting into work or education after their internship, the programme is expanding. It has already proved to be flexible and agile. When the city noticed that participants needed extra help to integrate into the labour market, for example interview training or specific skills, these were promptly incorporated into the programme.

Digital integration – Munich

In 2017 there were over 50,000 open IT jobs across Germany. Inspired by a private initiative in Berlin, the City of Munich decided to bring the idea of the promising ReDi School to Munich. ReDI stands for Readiness and Digital Integration.

In Munich, the programme has kept its essence. It is a non-profit coding school for tech-interested newcomers (migrants and refugees) without access to digital education. As Munich writes in its submission, it’s “a win-win-win situation for the companies (looking for more diversity and tech talent), for the society (to leave no one behind and to integrate the newcomers into the society via the labour market) and for the newcomers (looking for a better future).”

Today ReDI Munich offers three different programmes: one offering high-end tech courses for talents who want to start a career in tech; one specifically addressing women who need digital literacy; and a youth programme.

Four women, three in front of a computer, one showing something on a screen
ReDI School Munich

Participants don’t only get coding classes but become part of a professional public-private local network. ReDI creates a community for students, volunteering tech trainers and partner companies. A sense of community exists because the volunteering trainers, who are working in their daily lives as coders, consultants, managers etc., are teaching the ReDI courses in their free time after work. And the 80-something local partner companies are involved through corporate volunteering, equipment, company visits, tech talks, workshops, recruiting and networking events.

In addition to coding classes, participants also receive training and coaching sessions to improve their soft skills and support them in finding a job. The ReDI School is officially certified as a state education provider. This means that starting in 2022, Munich can begin offering the first full-time courses together with the Jobcentre and Munich Employment Agency, giving the city the possibility to access funding for its courses as the course will be financed through educational vouchers from the Jobcentre.

The model has proven to be replicable as ReDI today is present in nine locations and two countries.

Category: Lead together – scalable solutions for positive climate impact

Demolish, sell and reuse – Grenoble Alpes Metropole

A former military hospital in La Tronche near Grenoble will be the site for a new mixed-use district consisting of housing units, of which 40% are social housing, a research centre, student housing units and public facilities. However, before the new project can see the light, there is the little question of the demolition phase.

Grenoble-Alpes Métropole decided to make this phase an experiment for in-situ and ex-situ reuse of building materials. The project not only proposed a circular economy approach to demolition but also heavily involved its citizens at every turn.

This means that 8,000 m² of buildings have undergone a selective deconstruction process where material recovery was systematically applied with reuse in mind. The recovered material was either reused on-site for future landscaping or was put on sale in a temporary store, the Batitec.

The store was one of the many examples of how the city found creative ways to involve its people in an operation that is too technical to be directly carried out by citizens. Open to the general public and professionals, it allowed the direct resale of materials collected on-site, thus without transporting the materials from one place to another. It also functioned as an information point for interested residents.

A series of additional activities with a circular economy aspect ran during the demolition: donations of plants on-site in partnership with classes from the local horticultural high school; and a grant of urban equipment for the development of parks. The project also put together on-site workshops to reflect on the up-cycling potential of retrieved materials that were in too bad a condition to be reused.

The first figures already show the environmental added-value of the project: the demolition of the buildings cost a CO2 equivalent of 1560 tonnes and generated a saving of resources of a CO2 equivalent of 3342 tonnes. While the cost of the deconstruction site is estimated to be 18% more expensive than a simple demolition site, the raw materials kept in the area – like stones, framework, and tiles – produced a saving of 42% on the final costs of the overall urban renewable project.

The project exceeded its initial objective of recovering 85% of the materials, with 98% of the waste from the site recovered. The project has also created new jobs: ten jobs for the project’s duration, which turned into six permanent jobs.

Making the most of your water – Turku

Climate change and extreme weather conditions, such as rainstorms and draughts, pose an enormous risk to water management. Drinking water may become a scarce resource as the groundwater resources dry out or are damaged. Turku is already familiar with this challenge as it doesn’t have enough groundwater to cover all consumption. And more water doesn’t always bring good news either, as heavy rains increase the urban run-offs, which end up in the Baltic Sea and cause pollution.

To face its groundwater shortage, Turku uses an artificial groundwater infiltration method, which imitates the natural groundwater recharge and is both ecological and efficient: no water gets wasted. Compared to many traditional drinking water facilities used widely in Europe, this system requires only a tiny fraction of chemicals. The energy it needs is produced by solar panels or the water current itself.

Functioning of the artificial groundwater infiltration method, Managed Aquifer Recharge (MAR), in Virttaankangas.
Functioning of the
infiltration method,
Managed Aquifer
Recharge (MAR), in

To tackle water pollution, the city has installed a treatment plant for the wastewater of almost 300,000 inhabitants of the Turku region and industrial wastewater from the area. In addition to treating and cleansing the wastewater, the plant collects the sludge, which is then treated at a biogas plant and utilised as heat energy, liquefied biogas in transport, and nutrients within the industry and as a soil improver.

Since the beginning, the water system has been developed in close cooperation with surrounding municipalities, local politicians, key companies (i.e. Turku Energia, Gasum) and research organisations, always keeping in mind the end-users, the residents.

A forest in the city, please – Zaragoza

More than 200 parcels of different sizes have been identified to become the home to the urban forest in Zaragoza. Depending on the space’s type and function, different vegetation will be selected, creating diverse habitats for local flora and fauna. As the spaces that have been chosen are urban spaces, the land needs to be restored and nurtured. To do so, the project will collect organic waste used for the fertilisation of the forest.

The Citizen Forest of Zaragoza is part of Zaragoza’s Green Infrastructure Master Plan and the Strategy for Climate Change, Air Quality and Health of Zaragoza, and it promotes biodiversity, reintroduces nature to the city, contributes to improving air and water quality, curbs climate change and improves the quality of life and health of citizens.

Companies, associations, foundations, institutions and private persons can contribute to the project by planting a single specimen or choosing a large area to reserve planting spaces. Schools are also involved in the project by offering exchanges with an environmental educator and organising a moment to plant some trees together.

Children planting trees
Kids participate in planting the city’s urban forest

The forest, among other environmental services, has a significant role as a carbon sink, and it is essential to the decarbonisation of Zaragoza City and its roadmap for climate neutrality.


Wilma Dragonetti Eurocities Writer