Deadline: 17 Apr 2019   - 25 days

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 Social Affaires and Inclusion
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The URBACT III Operational Programme (CCI 2014TC16RFIR003) was officially adopted on 12 December 2014 by Commission Implementing Decision C(2014) 9857. The adopted Operational Programme (OP) can be found on the URBACT website1.

The OP foresees that URBACT III shall improve the design and implementation of sustainable integrated urban strategies and action plans in cities. To do so, the programme will finance transnational networks to be created by means of calls for proposals.

In this context, the “Commissariat Général à l’Egalité des Territoires” (CGET) (France), Managing Authority of the URBACT III Operational programme, issues a CALL FOR PROPOSALS FOR THE CREATION OF UP TO 23 ACTION PLANNING NETWORKS.

The terms of reference of the present call for proposals have been approved by the URBACT III Monitoring Committee on 4th December 2018.

This Call for Proposals is open from 07 January 2019 until 17 April 2019, 15:00 CET2.


The URBACT III Programme is part of the European Territorial Cooperation Objective of the Structural Fund policies for the period 2014-2020. The URBACT III Programme is financed through the ERDF, for which principles and regulations are laid down in EU Regulations N° 1303/2013, 1301/2013 and 1299/2013.

URBACT’s mission is to enable cities to work together and develop integrated solutions to common urban challenges, by networking, learning from one another’s experiences, drawing lessons and identifying good practices to improve urban policies.

URBACT promotes exchange and learning between cities. It uses European Structural Funds to achieve its goals. It does not finance physical investments.

As stated in the Operational Programme, URBACT III is driven by the following specific objectives:

  •   To improve the capacities of cities to manage sustainable urban policies and practices in an integrated and participative way

  •   To improve the design of sustainable urban strategies and action plans in cities

  •   To improve the implementation of sustainable urban strategies and action plans in cities

  •   To ensure that practitioners and decision-makers at all levels (EU, national, regional and local) have increased access to URBACT thematic knowledge and share know-how on sustainable urban development


1.2. Transnational exchange and learning networks in URBACT III

The core strand of activities of the URBACT III Programme is composed of transnational exchange and learning networks. URBACT transnational networks aim to impact local policies and practices by supporting the design and implementation of sustainable and integrated urban policies. There are 3 different types of networks (please refer to the OP and programme manual for more details):

  •   Action-Planning Networks

  •   Implementation Networks

  •   Transfer Networks

The focus of this particular call is on Action Planning Networks. It is the second call for proposals for Action Planning Networks following on from the 20 networks completed under the first call in 2015. Action Planning Networks allow cities to work together to find solutions to common urban challenges. Through exchange and learning with European peers, cities can develop and test solutions to the challenge they have identified. Using the URBACT Method of transnational exchange, participatory approach and co-creation, the cities will develop strong integrated action plans at local level to include concrete actions to deal with the challenge identified. Ultimately, the cities will improve their integrated urban policies and the delivery of these policies on the ground.

The principles and regulations for transnational exchange and learning networks to be implemented within the programme are laid down in the URBACT III Operational Programme. In addition to the Operational Programme, the URBACT III Programme Manual includes specific Fact Sheets outlining how the different tools and actions shall be implemented and shall operate3. In particular, potential Action Planning Networks applicants are invited to refer to the following Fact Sheets:

  •   Fact Sheet 2A – Action Planning Networks

  •   Fact Sheet 2D - Network Creation

  •   Fact Sheet 2E - Network Management

  •   Fact Sheet 2F - Financial Management and Control

1.3. What’s in it for cities?

By taking part in an URBACT Action Planning Network it is possible to make real sustainable changes in cities. Through peer exchange and learning more informed, coordinated and successful local policies can be developed to tackle local challenges. By applying the URBACT method cities can develop a participatory culture in policy making which includes all relevant stakeholders and increases transparency and opportunities for successful implementation.

With transnational exchange and learning networks, the URBACT programme provides cities and urban practitioners with opportunities to:

  •   share and learn from peers in cities across Europe

  •   work with other cities around a specific policy challenge/ problem, to design innovative local solutions in the format of integrated action plans

  •   test new ideas and new solutions during the network lifetime

  •   benefit from tools and training in the field of integrated and participatory approaches to urban challenges and policies

  •   access expertise to support the development and delivery of integrated and participatory policy-making, as well as thematic expertise to feed into local policies and practices

  •   obtain financial support to work with other cities around Europe and develop integrated action plans

3 The URBACT III Programme Manual is available here

More detailed information on what cities can get from taking part in an URBACT network, feedback from previous partners, information about the URBACT method and more about what is expected from partners is available in the Guide to Action Planning Networks published alongside the present call for proposals.


SECTION 2 – ABOUT ACTION PLANNING NETWORKS & BENEFICIARIES 2.1. Main objectives of Action Planning Networks

The main objective of Action Planning Networks is to improve the capacity of cities to manage sustainable urban policies and, more specifically, to improve the capacity to design integrated urban action plans in European cities.
Action Planning Networks are expected to support an organised process of exchange and learning among peers across Europe, with a view to improving local policies through concrete action planning.

By taking part in an Action Planning Network, cities exchange on specific policy challenges and share experiences, problems and possible solutions, generating new ideas to address challenges related to sustainable urban development.

As a starting point, cities willing to get involved in Action Planning Networks shall identify a policy challenge they want to address at local level. Then, they shall commit to develop an Integrated Action Plan that will address this challenge. This Integrated Action Plan will, therefore, be both a driver of the transnational exchange and learning activities, and a key concrete output of their participation in the Action Planning Network.

Cities interested in participating in an Action Planning Networks shall also commit to work on their policy challenges with a participatory approach involving all relevant local stakeholders (from within the local administration and beyond, civil society, private sector, associations, etc.) in the action- planning process. These key stakeholders will be gathered in an URBACT Local Group. They will be actively involved in the transnational exchange activities and in the co-production of the Integrated Action Plan to be produced by the city. The participatory approach shall improve the action-planning process and the subsequent delivery of the local policies (strengthening the evidence base, ensuring understanding and ownership of the problems identified and of the solutions/ policies developed, creating the conditions for a successful delivery, etc.).

2.2. Eligible beneficiaries

For transnational exchange and learning activities (and thus for Action Planning Networks), the URBACT III Operational Programme identifies the Programme area and defines two categories of beneficiaries: the main beneficiaries (city partners) and other beneficiaries (non-city partners).

The URBACT III programme area consists of:

  •   The 28 EU Member States

  •   Partner States Norway and Switzerland. Partners from Norway and Switzerland cannot make use of ERDF allocations. Partners from Switzerland can be co-financed at 50% by a national fund. Norwegian partners may participate in Action Planning Networks at their own cost for this call. The situation for Norwegian co-funding will be reviewed on an annual basis by the competent authorities.

  •   Partners from United Kingdom can apply to this call. The specific nature of their participation and eligibility for funding will be determined by the competent authorities

  •   Instrument for Pre Accession (IPA) countries. Partners from IPA countries can participate in operations using IPA funding, without receiving ERDF co-financing

  •   Other countries. Partners from other countries, anywhere in the world, can participate with their own funding.



The main beneficiaries (city partners) for Action Planning Networks shall be cities from EU 28 Member States, Norway and Switzerland.

Under URBACT III, the beneficiary “city” refers to the public local authority representing:

  • Cities, municipalities, towns;

  • Infra-municipal tiers of government such as city districts and boroughs in cases where they

    are represented by a politico-administrative institution having competences for policy- making and implementation in the policy area covered by the URBACT network concerned in which they are willing to get involved;

  • Metropolitan authorities and organized agglomerations in cases where they are represented by a politico-administrative institution having delegated competences for policy-making and implementation in the policy area covered by the URBACT network.

    There is no limit of population size for cities wishing to participate in URBACT activities. Cities with no previous URBACT experience are particularly invited to apply.

    For the specific purposes of this call for Action Planning Networks the beneficiary category ‘city’ also covers:

• Local agencies defined as public or semi-public organisations set up by a city, partially or fully owned by the city authority, and responsible for the design and implementation of specific policies (economic development, energy supply, health services, transport, etc.)

In addition to city partners, Action Planning Networks can also include a limited number of other beneficiaries (non-city partners). In the case of Action Planning Networks, non-city partners as defined below are eligible:

  • Provincial, regional and national authorities, as far as urban issues are concerned;

  • Universities and research centres, as far as urban issues are concerned

    In order to be eligible, non-city partners must be public authorities or Equivalent Public Bodies4. Please refer to Section 4 for further specific details about eligible beneficiaries for this call.



As defined in the URBACT III Operational Programme, the thematic coverage of the URBACT III Programme 2014-2020 is in line with the Thematic Objectives (TO) of the EU Cohesion Policy for 2014-20205 and thus strongly linked with the pillars of the Europe 2020 strategy for innovative, sustainable and inclusive growth.

The URBACT III programme covers the following Thematic Objectives:

  •   Strengthening research, technological development and innovation (TO1)

  •   Enhancing access to and use and quality of ICT (TO2)

  •   Enhancing the competitiveness of SMEs (TO3)

  •   Supporting the shift towards a low carbon economy in all sectors (TO4)

  •   Promoting climate change adaptation, risk prevention and management (TO5)

  •   Protecting the environment and promoting resource efficiency (TO6)

  •   Promoting sustainable transport and removing bottlenecks in key network infrastructures (TO7)

  •   Promoting employment and supporting labour mobility (TO8)

  •   Promoting social inclusion and combating poverty (TO9)

  •   Investing in education, skills and lifelong learning by developing education and training infrastructure (TO10)

A detailed description of the urban dimension of the 10 Thematic Objectives for EU Cohesion Policy 2014/2020 is available in Fact Sheet 1 of the URBACT III Programme Manual.

Over the Programming period 2014-2020, URBACT III will concentrate 70% of resources for exchange and learning activities on Thematic Objectives 1, 4, 6, 8 and 9. Currently this rate is around 75%. Nevertheless the present Call for Proposals for Action Planning Networks is open to all 10 Thematic Objectives. Cities are encouraged to come forward with themes they consider to be relevant to address a local challenge, the above list of themes is non-exhaustive.

Applicants shall submit their proposal under one of the 10 above listed Thematic Objectives, depending on the main policy challenge selected. When considered from an integrated approach perspective, all 10 topics are strongly inter-related. For instance, fostering economic competitiveness goes hand in hand with improving social inclusion, and vice-versa. It is expected that the selected Thematic Objective will be the main entry point into the network while allowing partners to explore connections with other Thematic Objectives.

To date the URBACT III programme has financed 48 networks. Overall these networks provide a very good thematic coverage of the 10 thematic objectives. The table below illustrates the number of networks financed under each TO:


This second call for proposals for Action Planning Networks is looking to ensure a strong coverage of these Thematic Objectives. New proposals should demonstrate added value compared to the networks already financed. Full details of the topics tackled under each existing network can be found on the URBACT website: http://urbact.eu/all-networks

3.2. Urban Agenda for the European Union

Since the 2016 Pact of Amsterdam6, the European Commission, EU Member States, cities and other stakeholders have been working together in multi-level partnerships for the Urban Agenda for the EU. The Urban Agenda focuses specifically on three pillars of EU policy-making and implementation, namely better regulation, better funding and better knowledge. Twelve thematic partnerships linked to sustainable urban development policies in the EU were launched from 2016 to 2017 and have produced action plans (draft or final) tackling specific issues within the three pillars. A further two partnerships will be launched in 2019.

The full list of the UAEU topics can be found below:

  •  Affordable housing
  •  Inclusion of migrants & refugees
  •  Urban poverty
  •  Jobs & skills
  •  Circular economy
  •  Sustainable urban mobility
  •  Energy transition
  •  Climate adaptation
  •  Digital transition
  •  Sustainable use of land & nature based solution
  •  Air quality
  •  Innovative & responsible public procurement
  •  Culture and cultural heritage
  •  Security in public spaces8

Applicants are encouraged to take into consideration, when relevant, how the network can link to the partnerships developed for the Urban Agenda for the European Union, for example by tackling one of the actions signposted in the Partnership Action Plans. More information about the Urban Agenda for the EU, and the detailed action plans, can be found on the Futurium website: https://ec.europa.eu/futurium/en/urban-agenda



4.1. General framework

Transnational partnerships are cornerstones of URBACT Action Planning Networks. The rules defined below shall apply to all partnerships involved in Action Planning Network proposals. These rules translate into eligibility criteria (see section 8.3.) and shall therefore be respected. Eligibility criteria are requirements, all of which must be fulfilled for a proposal to be declared eligible. Only eligible proposals shall be considered for further assessment and approval.

4.2. Lead Partners

All Lead Partners in Action Planning Network MUST be cities according to the description provided in section 2.2 above. Each network has to appoint a Lead Partner. Lead Partners are key actors of transnational partnerships for Action Planning Networks. They have full responsibility for network management, coordination of activities among the transnational partners, and implementation of the work programme. The Lead Partner also bears financial and legal responsibility and liability for the whole partnership towards the Managing Authority.

Only cities (according to the definition provided under section 2.2) from the 28 EU Member States and from Switzerland and Norway (Partner States) can be Lead Partner of Action Planning Networks.

A city MUST NOT be Lead Partner in more than one project per call for proposals.

Further information on the roles and responsibilities of Lead Partners and Project Partners is available in Fact Sheet 2E “Network Management”.

4.3. Action Planning Network Partnership

A full partnership shall be set up for the submission of the Phase 1 Application.

The partnership to be proposed for Phase 1 of an Action Planning Network must include a minimum of 7 and a maximum of 10 partners from eligible Member and Partner States. One city (as defined under section 2.2) will be designated as Lead Partner.

Partnerships shall respect the following rules:

  •   The partnership may include 2 “non-city partners” maximum (as defined under section 2.2);

  •   A beneficiary (city and non-city partners) may not be partner in more than two approved

    Action Planning Networks at a time;

  •   A city can be Lead Partner of one Action Planning Network only;

    A balance of cities from EU regions is necessary as follows:

  •   a minimum of 3 cities from Less Developed regions where the total number of partner cities is 7;

  •   a minimum of 4 cities from Less Developed regions where the total number of partner cities is 8 to 9 partners.

  •   a minimum of 5 cities from Less Developed regions where the total number of partner cities is 10 partners.

Transition regions are a category of their own. Cities from Transition regions are not assimilated to cities from Less Developed regions

The map showing the categorisation of EU Regions can be found here. 



Action Planning Networks shall operate and implement the network activities for a total duration of 30 months, structured into 2 phases:

Phase 1: a 6-month phase dedicated to developing detailed network activities Phase 2: a 24-month phase dedicated to the implementation of network activities

Each phase has a separate assessment and approval process. Networks are approved for Phase 1 and shall submit a new proposal which is assessed before entering into Phase 2. The passage from Phase 1 to Phase 2 is not automatic.

The activities to be implemented by Action Planning Networks, in each of the 2 phases, are organised around work packages. Work packages allow partners to develop a shared understanding about the project’s structure. Each work package has specific objectives, defined actions and related expected deliverables.

5.1. Phase 1 of Action Planning Networks

During Phase 1 partners involved in approved networks will work, with the support of an URBACT validated Lead Expert, on the development of the project final application, the identification of relevant local stakeholders to be involved in an URBACT Local Group, refining the network topic to meet the needs of the cities involved and completing a Baseline Study.

The duration of Phase 1 is 6 months, starting from 2nd September 2019.

Phase 1 shall be structured around 2 work packages:

  •   Work package 1 (WP1) – Project management and coordination

  •   Work package 2 (WP2) – Project development

The main deliverables of Phase 1 shall include:

  •   To organise 2 transnational meetings gathering all partners (one kick off and one final meeting)

  •   To complete a Baseline Study presenting the theme of the network and the relevance to all

    the partners. This document will also outline the methodological framework for the action planning network activities (further detailed guidelines will be available to approved projects at the start of Phase 1)

  •   To complete and submit the Phase 2 application including consolidated partnership, activities to be implemented by the network, expected outputs, work plan, financial plan, budget, etc.

5.2. Phase 2 of Action Planning Networks

Networks approved for Phase 2 shall be devoted to the implementation of the activities foreseen in the Phase 2 application form, at transnational and local level, aimed at designing integrated action plans in each partner city that use the transnational exchange and learning activities/outputs to inform and detail concrete actions to address the challenge locally.

Phase 2 shall be structured around 4 work packages:

  •  Work package 1 – Project management and coordination
  •   Work package 2 – Transnational exchange and learning

  •   Work package 3 – Impact on local policies and practices

  •   Work package 4 – Communication and dissemination

Main activities and deliverables of Phase 2 shall include:

  •   Transnational exchange and learning meetings, events and activities to identify and share ideas about solutions to the network thematic challenge,

  •   An URBACT Local Group in each partner city responsible for the co-design of the Integrated Action Plan

  •   Integrated Action Plans and testing with small scale actions (more details can be found in the Guide for Action Planning Networks)

  •   Interim and final outputs that capture the learning from all cities and provide clear recommendations to other cities, policy makers and European organisations on the theme of the network.

Detailed information concerning specific objectives, activities and expected outputs under each Work Package are provided in the Factsheet 2A of the URBACT III Programme Manual and in the Guide to Action Planning Networks.

In order to support the implementation of the activities of Action Planning Networks, the URBACT Programme provides each approved Action Planning Network with an additional specific budget for the appointment of experts (see section 6.3 for expertise resources).

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