8th Informed Cities Forum

[Re]connecting Regions

Rural-Urban Cooperation Challenges and Pathways Forward


2-3 April 2020 | Lucca, Italy

We invite you to join us in Lucca, Italy, to connect with 100 other local and regional government representatives, researchers, entrepreneurs, topic experts, and policy specialists interested in stronger rural-urban linkages at the 8th Informed Cities Forum - a renowned space for open exchange and learning.

Each Informed Cities Forum is rooted in the reality of a specific city, placing local challenges and solutions in the European context. The 2020 Informed Cities edition takes one step further and looks beyond city boundaries to [re]connect regions with stronger linkages and better governance between rural and urban areas.

Forum participants will actively explore how strong, mutually-supportive connections between rural and urban areas can:

  • help realise more sustainable food systems,
  • foster new business models and labour markets,
  • overcome public infrastructure and social services delivery challenges,
  • integrate ecosystem services, and
  • strengthen cultural connections.

Is there a more perfect place than Lucca - a thriving historic city and cultural centre surrounded by fertile farmland - to sit together and discuss the importance, value, and possibilities for stronger linkages between rural and urban areas - especially over a bowl of tortelli lucchese and a glass of local wine?

The Province of Lucca is proud to co-host the 8th Informed Cities Forum as part of the ROBUST project and share some of the best urban-rural experiences in northwest Tuscany.

[Re]connect with us in Lucca


The forum’s plenary discussions will take place in Lucca’s historic Palazzo Ducale, where participants will also be able to hang out and network in the Living Lab Living Room with other rural-urban thought leaders. Here participants will:

  • explore the interconnections and interdependencies between rural and urban areas by asking: Why are inter-rural linkages so important? What is there to win and lose?
  • examine ways of working together with new rural-urban governance models and supportive public policies, including a practitioner-led session that discusses real-world implementation challenges;
  • look for new and innovative ways to connect rural and urban areas in practice, from new business models to new service delivery methods.

Meet our keynote speakers

a l e x i a
r o u b y

Alexia Rouby is a research programme officer at the European Commission’s Agricultural and rural development department’s research and innovation service.

An agro-economist by training, she is in charge of stakeholder engagement, and research and innovation activities on rural and social dynamics and policies, including rural-urban linkages. She also follows smart specialisation strategies, the smart specialisation thematic platform on agri-food, links with EU’s regional policy innovation components and open innovation approaches, such as living labs. Before joining the European Commission, she worked on European network coordination, rural development, traceability and food safety.

c a r o l y n
s t e e l

Carolyn Steel is a leading thinker on food and cities. Her 2008 book Hungry City received international acclaim, establishing her as an influential voice across a range of fields in academia, industry and the arts. It has been translated into seven languages and has become a key text for architects, planners, green thinkers and food professionals.

A London-based architect, academic and writer, Carolyn has lectured at Cambridge University, London Metropolitan University, Wageningen University and the London School of Economics. She is in international demand as a speaker and her 2009 TED talk has received more than one million views. Her new book, Sitopia, is due to be published by Chatto & Windus in March 2020.


Field workshops

Thematic field workshops (FW) will be hosted in the surrounding Lucca Plain.

FW1 - Fuzzy Cognitive Mapping as a tool to better understand rural-urban dynamics

Many real world problems are part of larger systems, where the different elements influence each other, often in unexpected and sometimes even counterintuitive ways. When trying to solve problems, it is important to gain insight in such systems to better understand their complex behavior. One useful tool for this is a Fuzzy Cognitive Map (FCM), which helps define and visualize qualitative stakeholder perceptions and knowledge. In this hands-on workshop at the Palazzo Ducale, COASTAL project team members will present opportunities and constraints of some real-world FCMs from their project to illustrate how they can best be used. Then participants will engage in a collaborative Fuzzy Cognitive Mapping exercise around the real-world system of urban-rural synergy that will demonstrate how to construct FCMs using free software.

This workshop is organized in partnership with the H2020 project COASTAL.

FW2 - Hidden Treasures: Exploring Eco-System Services at the Fattoria Urbana Albogatti

This urban farm, located close to the historic centre of Lucca, has developed strong links to the local community by offering horticultural training for people with learning difficulties, parcels of land for organic production by local residents, and environmental educational links with local schools. In short: an eco-system service profile that strengthens regional rural-urban relations and regional quality of life. After touring the farm, participants will be invited to join a role play that aims to simulate and illustrate the complexity of eco-system service governance as one of the key challenges of rural-urban synergy building. Facilitated by ROBUST-team members with a special interest in this overarching theme, participants will contribute valuable insights to inform currently 'live' experiments within the ROBUST project that aim to produce more stimulating, supportive and sustainable regional intervention strategies.

FW3 – The Rural-Urban Relationships Report Card: A Civic Debate

Trust, engagement, participation, equality, gender: How well are the rural-urban relationships in your region performing? How are they performing in other regions throughout the EU? What needs to change – systemically, structurally, or simply – to foster better rural-urban linkages? After touring Tenuta dello Scompiglio and learning more about this unique rural-urban initiative in the Lucca Plain, participants will self-reflect on rural-urban relationships in their regions and engage in a lively debate on their current status. How do they see the rural-urban relationship evolving? Is the present situation satisfactory? How could a more desirable situation evolve and how could it be supported by the EU? The findings from this workshop will provide input for a future European-level meeting on the same topics in Fall 2020 for the ROBUST project.

FW4 - Rural Repurposing: Connecting culture(s)

What role can culture play in rural regeneration? How can rural-urban cultural connections help repurpose rural heritage? Rural places are often valued for natural landscapes, while our cities are celebrated for culture. Rural landscapes are also cultural landscapes, with complex stories about lives and livelihoods to tell. Yet, socio-economic forces - from urban sprawl to agricultural decline and depopulation - are increasingly putting the positive elements of cultural landscapes at risk. This story isn’t just about preserving the past, but about making sustainable futures. During this interactive workshop at a former Tuscan farm finding new life as a cultural centre, participants will explore the layers of the cultural landscape and envision ways to connect cultures through regeneration processes.

This workshop is organized in partnership with the H2020 project RURITAGE.

FW5 - Prodotti typici Toscani: Sustainable Business Models that (re)connect producers and consumers

A growing percentage of Europe’s food supply – especially fresh fruits, vegetables, and animal products – has come from increasingly distant regions. However, in recent years, consumers have started to demand healthy, high-quality and organic food that is also locally produced – for which Tuscany has become internationally renowned. This increase in demand has important implications for the sustainability of food systems, and offers new opportunities for farmers, food processors, and food markets and distributors that transcend traditional economics. During this interactive workshop at a collectively owned olive oil mill, participants will learn from local food producers in the Lucca Plain, explore new sustainable business models that help (re)connect producers and consumers for more sustainable and resilient food systems, and discuss how these business and cooperation models can – or can’t – be applied in other European regions.

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