Sustainable Communities Programme

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ECOLISE Sustainable Communities Programme

Rebuilding Citizenship and Democracy for a Sustainable Europe

What is the Sustainable Communities Programme (SCP)? The SCP is a programme to support increased engagement of citizens in local, community-led initiatives to help meet global climate and sustainable development goals.

What is it trying to address? The urgent need to engage citizens and communities in local-level action to support the transition to a more sustainable, resilient future, addressing the root causes of climate change, environmental destruction, increasing inequality and deepening social divisions.

How will it work? The SCP will create a Europe-wide platform to support collaborative design at regional (sub-national) level of multi-stakeholder programmes to encourage and enable community-led action, mutual learning and exchange across regions, and mainstreaming through policy integration at national and EU levels.

Who is involved? ECOLISE, the European network for community-led initiatives on climate change and sustainability, provides overall coordination, along with various technical support partners. A consortium of regional partners from the community, public and other sectors will oversee development and implementation of regional SCPs (RSCPs).

When will it happen? Initial preparatory actions will be launched with selected pilot regions in the autumn of 2018. Further actions and regional roll-out will follow in 2019, in accordance with the availability of resources.

Communities as drivers of a societal transformation

Unprecedented ecological and social challenges in Europe, and across the globe, are catalysing a mass, grassroots response, which is gaining in magnitude and impact. The threat of climate change, biodiversity loss, pollution, concerns about growing inequality and the erosion of public services, and loss of confidence in the institutions of liberal democracy, are prompting citizens everywhere to self-organise and to transform fears and frustrations into positive action at local, community level.

In Europe, it is estimated that many thousands of communities are already actively engaged in projects and initiatives aimed at strengthening local resilience and sustainability: from community energy to local food production, waste management, sustainable mobility, circular/solidarity economy, social care and much more. A feature of these bottom-up initiatives is that they tailor responses to local circumstances, be it a specific need, opportunity or concern, giving rise to a rich diversity of activities.

The results are also impressive. Research shows that communities can and are making a difference; reducing GHG emissions, promoting sustainable lifestyles, building social cohesion, reviving local economies, modeling new ways of decision-making, and addressing deficiencies in local services and amenities. There are also important indirect benefits: active citizenship is a cornerstone of healthy, functioning democracies and a prerequisite for overcoming the major political challenges that Europe faces today.

Supporting grassroots, community-led action

Grassroots initiatives are, by their nature, conceived and developed from the bottom up; they do not follow any centrally imposed policy framework. However, real progress in tackling serious global challenges will only be achieved when citizen initiatives are connected to, and become drivers of, mainstream policy processes. Integrating bottom-up and top-down is essential to achieving long term social, economic and environmental goals, as well as to restoring the credibility of political institutions widely perceived to have lost touch with the needs and aspirations of the citizens they exist to serve.

The Sustainable Communities Programme (SCP): supporting collaboration within and across European regions

Goal: To support increased engagement of citizens and communities in local action to help meet global climate and sustainability goals

Objectives: - To promote public awareness of opportunities for and benefits of local, community-led action on climate and sustainability; - Facilitate access to support for communities interested in launching such initiatives; - To ensure bottom-up participation in designing and delivering this support, including by providing opportunities to network with and learn from other active communities.

SCP Europe will bring together the main movements of community-led initiatives, together with researchers, educators, public sector partners and other stakeholders. It will develop a collaborative approach to supporting the mainstreaming of community-led action on climate change and sustainability in Europe. The SCP will have three main elements:

1. Europe-level coordination and technical support, including SCP promotion, as well as the gathering, synthesis, evaluation and sharing of data, good practice and methodologies;

2. Regional sub-programmes (RSCPs), developed and implemented by regional partners (ECOLISE members, other community and third sector initiatives, public sector bodies and others). RSCPs will co-create and support tailored, community-led responses to climate change, sustainability and related issues, building on local needs, capacities and concerns.

3. Europe-wide networking and mutual learning: building on the experience of participating regions, other European regions will be invited to set up new RSCPs and to join an expanding ‘community of practice (CoP)’. The CoP will be a platform for sharing, and adapting to new contexts, knowledge, experience and insights into good practice derived from the work of regional SCPs. Lessons and experience will also be shared, and recommendations made, to support improved policy making at national and EU levels.

Getting involved: ECOLISE is inviting involvement of a wide range of stakeholders interested in contributing to different aspects of the SCP: - European partners: networks, associations, funding bodies and other organisations interested in providing European-level support to the SCP. - National partners: national level stakeholders (networks, associations, NGOs, governments, etc.) interested or already engaged in facilitating and supporting regional level collaborations. - Regional partner: partners at the regional (sub-national) level interested or already engaged in facilitating or supporting a collaborative process in their region (community initiatives and networks, regional authorities, NGOs, research institutes, etc.)