A network of urban changemakers working collaboratively in innovative ways for more sustainable, inclusive and just cities.

We connect and train actors from nonprofits, private enterprises and public institutions, then bring them into a peer network where they can exchange, inspire and learn from each other.

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In the program Actors of Urban Change, teams across Europe work for positive change in their cities – in a collaborative, inclusive and participatory way.  These teams are made up of one actor each from the nonprofit, the public and the private sectors. Together, they form a cross-sector partnership to tackle an urban development challenge within their city: how can growing cities best integrate newcomers? What can citizens do to green their communities and make them more resilient? How can civic life be renewed in neglected public spaces? The topic of each local project is determined by the actors’ passions; the project design should center on cultural activities and engage the local community.

An international jury selects ten teams from different European cities every two years. Over a period of 18 months, the Actors teams receive multiple forms of support. Grants of €10,000 support their local project activities and their learning through the process. Additional grants offer actors the chance to travel individually to fellow cities in the Actors network to learn more deeply from the experience of their peers.

A safe space to try out new ideas

At the heart of our program are five international meetings, each taking place in a different European city in our network. During the four-day summits, the Actors community comes together, and participants exchange intensively on topics such as project management, processes for citizen participation and co-creation, advocacy and more. Field visits, workshops, open spaces and one-on-one coaching offer opportunities for learning, and expert facilitators create space to reflect on and speak freely about the challenges of cross-sector collaboration and urban change work. Beyond sharing learnings and resources, the Actors draw energy and inspiration from each other.

As participants and alumni of the program, Actors join a growing network of committed and creative changemakers across Europe, representing many countries and areas of expertise. Within this network, the Actors have the opportunity to continue learning as well as sharing their expertise with the new generations. They can also co-create new projects with fellow Actors across Europe. A great example of this is the CityToolbox platform, which was initiated by six Actors teams from the first generation.

Actors of Urban Change work in cities and towns all over Europe. We help them kickstart and shape local projects so they can become models for social innovation within their cities and throughout the continent.

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To tackle today’s complex urban problems more effectively, we need a new way of acting: collaborative across sectors and borders; bringing local culture and local voices into the processes shaping the future of communities – for collective, lasting change.

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Why Cross-Sector Collaboration?

We believe people can join forces and combine their passions, talents and resources to tackle the problems their cities face. We want to connect them beyond their own contexts – regions, topics, institutions – and help them translate their concerns and ideas into action.

In an era of complex urban challenges, we are convinced that collective, lasting change can only happen if people with diverging ideas, experiences and perspectives work together. Our program enables innovative partnerships between private entrepreneurs, public institutions and civil society, providing them with a space for experimentation so they can discover new, creative ways to collaborate to improve their cities.

Why a Culture of Co-Creation?

Culture—our ideas, art and ways of socializing, thinking and behaving—is a vehicle of creativity, social life, heritage and the values we bring to shaping shared space. Culture, as a driving force for urban change, shapes places that better reflect our humanity, where people experience a sense of belonging and are motivated to care for place, each other and for the future. Fostering the potential of culture in the practice of urban development helps facilitate more diverse participation, deepen understanding and strengthen community solidarity.

We believe that it sometimes takes a nudge to change local ways; we do this by showing the potential of co-creation. True co-creation of urban spaces asks for changed practices, a change in the culture of doing things. Old ways of thinking can create obstacles on the way to real transformation— whether thinking about change only in institutional silos, or making an administration responsible for local problems that could easily be solved through community efforts. Actors of urban change aim to overcome such barriers by rooting ideas radically within their diverse communities from the very beginning.

Why International Exchange?

We support actors to kick-start and shape local projects that can become models for how to tackle urban problems collaboratively within their cities and across Europe. Actors projects act as laboratories, coming forward with new methods and practices that allow people from many different backgrounds to participate in urban change.

Cities everywhere are facing similar challenges — climate change, population movements, demographic change, the quality of housing and other urban infrastructure — and they can all benefit from sharing experiences and solutions.

Not just the “what” to do but “how” to do it is crucial:  participatory processes enable solutions that are widely supported, sustainable and lasting. By using and shaping our program as an international platform, the Actors become part of and co-create a good-practice network: they show how to carry out initiatives that can inspire and drive positive change in cities everywhere.

Actors are curious problem-solvers who are passionate about their cities and want to make them better. Whatever sector they may belong to, Actors are interested in partnering across boundaries and engaging local voices to find creative solutions together.