The power of cities and the Intelligent Cities Challenge initiative have been recognised as crucial to the proximity and social economy, Tech4Good solutions are also identified as key for the green and digital transition of the ecosystem. Cities are invited to support the initiatives, firstly through completing this survey on the green and digital needs and potentials.

Package of proposals

Last week, the European Commission adopted a package of proposals related to the proximity and social economy ecosystem, which are key to implementing the European Green Deal, and recognise the important role of cities, the Intelligent Cities Challenge (ICC), the Local Green Deals and the Tech4Good Marketplace. The package consists of “Scenarios towards co-creation of a transition pathway for a more resilient, sustainable and digital Proximity and Social Economy industrial ecosystem” and the Action Plan for the social economy 2021 – 2030. The ICC community is strongly encouraged to contribute with their ideas and commitments to shape a list of actions to implement the transition.

This transition pathway is an overall strategy to make the ecosystem part of the green transition that consists of various recommendations and focuses on the following key issues:

  • Innovation, professionalisation and skills development
  • Start-ups, scale-up and networking
  • Council Recommendation
  • Investment on national, regional or local scale
  • Access to funding
  • Public investment

Proximity Economy

The proximity economy is directed at the local level towards businesses and services that focus predominantly on short value chains for both local production and consumption. It mainly concerns SMEs and contact services such as small shops, bars and restaurants, repair, cleaning and maintenance services, etc. Its stakeholders share different roles as users, producers, consumers, educators and investors.

Cities are one of the ‘proximity hubs’ identified as a characteristic of a proximity economy, alongside local communities, community initiatives, businesses clusters, and public private partnerships. The city’s ability to connect a range of people makes it essential is a key for the proximity economy because it enables people to connect.

Social Economy

People are at the heart of the social economy. The objective is not to make profit, but to reinvest in social or environmental activities or in the general interest. It has a significant impact on society with its contribution to the EU GDP being at least 6.54%. The social economy impacts a huge range of sectors such as construction, energy, information and communication scientific and technical activities, education, human health and social work activities and more.

ICC: Local Green Deals and Tech4Good recognition

Along with the Action Plan, the Commission released a Staff Working Document for “Scenarios towards co-creation of a transition pathway for a more resilient, sustainable and digital Proximity and Social Economy industrial ecosystem”.

The ICC is mentioned in relation to engagement models for civil society, social and proximity economy actors to develop Local Green Deals and an action plan for the social economy. It is listed as one recommended way of fostering participation of civil society and social economy in Local Green Deals and promoting green digital solutions at local level. It is further mentioned as an example of networking and peer learning facilitated by the Commission – which it says are key features for building a European social economy community.

Tech4Good solutions are referred to as “key for the digital transition of the ecosystem”. The promotion and showcasing of TechforGood, specifically the Tech4Good Marketplace, amongst proximity and social economy actors is one suggested priority for the Commission. To this end, by 2030 it is hoped that there will be a “considerable increase of social tech enterprises and scaled-up TechforGood ventures”. And a “dedicated EU community of practice to share knowledge on TechforGood solutions at EU level, based on the Digital Innovation Hubs network.”.

This is a positive endorsement of the Tech4Good Marketplace and offers great promise for its future. ICC therefore further encourages all cities to continue to contribute their solutions and products to the Marketplace and help to grow the community.

This new initiative is an opportunity for cities to receive recognition for its important work and for further development and investment in its citizens. The ICC invites cities to consult the Action Plan and Scenarios and complete the survey by 28 February 2022.