GAVIUS has been selected to host two Study Visits from Italy arranged by the University of Venice Ca’ Foscari Challenge School during September and October 2022.
Ca’ Foscari Challenge School is the executive ‘Lifelong Learning’ school of Ca’ Foscari University of Venice that provides specific, specialised courses for recent graduates, professionals, businesses and public organisations to enhance their professional expertise.
A series of projects, good practices and initiatives in Catalonia – among which GAVIUS - have been involved for their relevance to the subjects of the postgraduate training courses delivered by the School i.e., urban regeneration, social innovation and green mobility.
During the visits, the participants were given the chance to get to know the peculiarities of the lively urban innovation Catalan context by meeting and listening from representatives from local public bodies, cooperatives and private entities engaged in strategic planning and management of European funds for the implementation of active citizenship policies and social innovation projects.
Specifically, during the first Study Visit held from the 25th to 28th of September 2022, more than 20 urban practitioners from the Region of Veneto (Italy) enjoyed the trip and learned about good practices and initiatives in place in different Catalan cities and organisations. Some of the participants were students of the Masters in Public administration, Mobility management and Sustainability management of the Venezia Ca' Foscari Challenge School. The other participants were public administration servants, researchers and local entrepreneurs interested in the above fields. The full programme of the Study Visit series - titled “Strengthening the territory through urban regeneration, sustainable mobility and social innovation” - is available here.
The Veneto region is famous for its global cultural tourism hub of Venice and has a strong manufacturing base across a network of cities of different size. Veneto is the fifth-largest region in Italy, with 5 million inhabitants. It covers a large and diverse territory from the Dolomite Mountains to the Adriatic Sea. While it is best known for its historic heritage and creative industries, in the last decade, the region – in synergy with the local authorities - is pursuing a forward-thinking digital strategy to better serve its citizens. Thus, for several reasons, the Study Visit participants were specifically interested in exploring the similarities between the two regions and learning about how Catalan cities are coping with the challenges posed by the need to accelerate the twin transition while maximising the positive social impact of the digital transformation of public service delivery.
Our Project Manager, Mònica Sagredo Cárcel, and our Communication Officer, Cristina Salido Igualador, have illustrated the GAVIUS’ mission, its expected results and current activities. They also answered questions from the participants about several aspects of the project ranging from the origins of GAVIUS idea, the composition of the consortium to the post-project’s plans for implementation and sustainability. Specific attention was raised by the social innovation approach of GAVIUS, namely, the way the co-creation process has been conducted and citizens have been proactively engaged despite the difficulties posed by the COVID-19 pandemic and the consequent containment measures (see the Interview with Enric Ruiz-Esteller from Inetum, GAVIUS partner responsible for the design and running of the co-creation process).
Valentina Tageo, Lead Expert of GAVIUS, provided an overview of the current urban digital transition policies and support mechanisms at the EU level and highlighted how GAVIUS aligns with the priorities settled by the EU Digital Decade, the Urban Agenda for the EU as well as the European Pillar of Social Rights. She has pointed out the uniqueness of GAVIUS and its ambition which stands at the intersection of social innovation and digital transformation.
The audience has engaged in a lively debate around the need to increase investments and projects like GAVIUS to bring fair and inclusive digital transition in a complex and mostly unexplored field such as social services and management of social aids.
In fact, Veneto and Catalonia regions share similar degrees of maturity for what concerns the digital transformation of healthcare, while digitisation of social services is still in its early stage. This situation has been corroborated by several EU-level studies showing that most of the policy initiatives dealing with the digitalisation of social services have focused on healthcare so far and highlighting that a more tailored approach dealing with data protection, ethical issues and user involvement would be beneficial for the successful implementation of digitally enabled social services.
Also, the participants showed high expectations about the possibility to transfer, replicate and/or adapt the GAVIUS concept in other cities. In fact, social services and aids constitute one of the pillars of the welfare state and the backbone of local policies aiming to reduce social inequalities. In this context, cities have the opportunity and responsibility to facilitate access and eliminate obstacles for those citizens who could benefit from them. Thus, actions like GAVIUS hold the promise to result in greater social cohesion, generate savings and efficiency gains and improve the perception that citizens have of public institutions. Transferability is indeed one of the core activities on which GAVIUS team’s efforts will be concentrating in the final phase of the project. Thus, as the project’s end is approaching and GAVIUS white papers and guidelines will be disseminated soon to other Catalan, Spanish and European cities willing to adopt its concept and technological solution, the connections established through the Study Visits set a fertile ground for further collaboration opportunities.
Along with GAVIUS, the participants also had the opportunity to visit other entities benefitting of Urban Innovation Action and URBACT funds such as Viladecans city council which, thanks to the VilaWatt UIA project, has set up an energy company based on citizen participation to promote the shift to environmentally friendly power sources and the renovation of homes to make them more energy efficient.
We have been extremely happy to welcome them at the Gavà city council’s premises on September 26th and we are looking forward to meeting the second group of students who will visit us on October 18th.
 See e.g., Eurofound (2020), Impact of digitalisation on social services, Publications Office of the European Union, Luxembourg. https://www.eurofound.europa.eu/sites/default/files/ef_publication/field_ef_document/ef19043en.pdf.