21 February 2022

The objective of the session was to inform the Intelligent Cities Challenge (ICC) and the European Committee of the Regions on latest policy developments linked to the Proximity and Social Economy Ecosystem and to invite cities and regions to contribute in shaping the transition scenarios and future steps. The survey closes on February 28 17.00 CET so contributions are encouraged now to join the EU’s policy co-creation for the green and digital transition of the Proximity and Social Economy Ecosystem.

Dana Elefteriadou, Head of the Cities and Proximity team in DG GROW, European Commission led the session, remarking that this “was only the beginning of the journey” and invited participants to actively contribute their ideas.

Alessia di Gregorio, Deputy Head of Unit of DG GROW, European Commission, presented the Transition Pathway of the “Proximity and Social Economy” (P&SE) ecosystem which outlines of possible scenarios for the transition towards a more resilient, green and digital ecosystem. She explained that the goal is to co-create an actionable plan and commitments with all groups concerned in this ecosystem. It would lead to co-created project pipelines, policy actions and stakeholder pledges with a highlight put not only on citizens but also on businesses. It would also lead to a greener, cleaner and smarter way of living. Cities communities and proximity economy actors are key levers in this process.

The building blocks and key milestones for the P&SE ecosystem were also introduced. A clear vision is necessary for the green transition, digitalisation and stronger resilience. For that purpose, we should look at bottlenecks and install a monitoring mechanism. Competitiveness governance, R&I technology, infrastructure and skills should be put at the centre of the attention without forgetting the social impact.

The Scenarios for the transition pathway were presented, that were shared in December 2021 along with the Social Economy Action Plan (SEAP). Participants were encouraged to respond to the stakeholder consultation which will be open until 28 February 2022. The development of the transition pathway will be finalised with a number of workshops, and the validation in the third quarter of 2022. Only persons and organisations that will have contributed to the consultation will be invited to the workshops.

A link between the EU Digital Compass action, translating digital EU ambitions for 2030 into concrete terms and the P&SE ecosystem was made clear. All are united by the overall aim to facilitate the green and digital transition at the local level. Ultimately, the outcome should not come from the European Commission (EC) but by the stakeholders.

Hanna Zdanowska, Mayor of the city of Lodz, Poland, and Member of CoR, presented how over the past six years the city of Lodz has transformed from being an industrial city to a city for the citizens. She explained the revitalization process with the support of the social sector thanks to the use of new technologies and businesses taking part. As part of the green cooperation for job creation, Lodz’s Eco Pact involves a citizens’ assembly and businesses acting together for greening while focusing on decarbonizing the economy. At the end of the transformation, the city is envisaged to be closer connected to citizens and their needs and highlighted the economic benefits that will come from it.

Finally, different possible scenarios were discussed to get to a social and proximity economy. The example of ICC city Amsterdam Metropolitan Area’s LEAP (Lower Energy Acceleration Programme) initiative was given. It aims at supporting the future generation of distributed data centres and at speeding up the transition to a sustainable digital infrastructure through addressing the energy-saving potential of ICT.

The ICC looks forward to continuing its work on the Proximity and Social Economy Ecosystem and encourages cities to share their ideas.