PaThOS - Participatory Think tank On Sustainable cities
Organisation : Associazione LAQUP (Turin) , Italy

The action is the beta phase of a virtual/physical space gathering organisations/professionals from various fields (social innovation, town planning, arts, communication, landscape architecture, education&training...) sharing an interest in a more sustainable city and taking action in favour of a better life quality for local communities. PaThoS (CLIPS in Italian: Casa Laboratorio di Idee e Partecipazione sulla città Sostenibile) is a centre that promotes a participatory culture on a sustainable urban environment. The beta phase (6 months) would be the set up of a web portal as a starting point for the set up of a physical centre in Turin.

Agendas addressed
Urban mobilityBiodiversityClimate change
Public spaceSocial inclusion and integrationLocal economies and employment
Pathways followed
  • Involve citizens through participatory implementation
  • Promote social innovation supporting inclusion
  • Nurture a sharing economy
  • Capitalise on local economy and production
  • Pursue a shift towards a circular economy
  • Guarantee equal access to information & digital services
LAQUP/Example of a temporary sustainability hub in Brussels

1. Environment/mobility. According to Legambiente, for the past decade Turin has been the Italian city with the worst air quality (2019 data: 147 days beyond pollution limits set by Italian regulations). Before Covid-19 pandemic, according to Bikenomist, traffic was already a major problem in Italy (3,400 deaths and 250,000 injuries; over 80,000 premature deaths because of air pollution; congestion with a loss of 50 billion euros/year due to inefficient transport/mobility): in Turin, the lockdown reduced the concentration of PM10 from 70 μg/m³ (25th Feb) to 29 μg/m³ (16th Mar); the average travel length in Turin is about 3 km (42% by car and 29% by transit);

2. public spaces, although vital for democracy, are often forgotten and underused;

3. urban greenery is concentrated in public parks but local communities need green spaces nearby in every neighbourhood;

4. the principles of sustainability are not known by the man in the street.

In Action

The transformative action has been planned over the past months but is yet to be kick-started. 

1. Co-design/building alliances: the idea of a think tank on sustainable cities in Turin has been developed by LAQUP and shared with representatives of different categories: local councillors, associations, consultancies, cooperatives, freelance professionals and bank foundations (September 2019-June 2020). The idea is to develop the centre in 2 steps: the Beta Step and the Gamma Step. 

The Beta Step is the set up of a virtual space whose aim is to become a reference point for whoever wants to take ation on a pshyical, social and/or cultural level in order to make cities more sustainable. From a web portal it will be possible to access information about the international debate on sustainable cities; ideas that help turn local strategies into actions; webinars&training courses open to everyone; online exhibitions of works of art by artists who contribute to the culture of sustainability; the websites of all the members of the think tank for specific issues and approaches.

The Gamma Step is the set up of a physical space inTurin (a building and an open space around it), which will be open to citizens and institutions, namely schools. The centre will host:

- a space for exhibitions, conferences, study rooom;

- a co-working space;

- a co-design space where new courses and events on urban sustainability can be imagined and shaped;

- a space showcasing good practice examples of urban sustainability and circular economy actions (community vegetable garden, repair café...);

- a meeting place (cafeteria, shared kitchen);

- a multi-functional open air space;

- an artist residency and guesthouse.

The approach taken is a participatory, inclusive, step-by-step approach. At the end of a series of meetings (in person before Covid 19 and online after March 5th) a document has been prepared and shared with the people involved in the process. The idea is to develop a cultural centre that can be kick-started by a group of pioneers but will remain open to new members who are active in the field of urban sustainability and share the think tank's manifesto.


The Beta Step is yet to be kick-started but the participatory process has already produced a common vision that can be read in the centre's manifesto. Every feature of the sustainable city is linked to one or more goals of Agenda 2030.

THE CITY WE HAVE IN MIND - a manifesto.

The city we have in mind is:

- healthier, with a better air quality, less noise, more road safety and social interaction (SDG 3)

- green, pursuing the ecosystemic services delivered by urban greenery (SDG 13)

- aware of everybody's rights, especially children, women, old people, from all walks of life and nationalities (SDGs 5 and 10)

- inclusive and based on the principle of subsidiarity (SDGs 4 and 11)

- accessible to everyone, men and women, the young and the old, primarily on foot, by bike and by public transport (SDGs 5 and 11)

- equipped with nearby services (both public and private) and conscious of the importance of local productions (SDG 11)

- aware of the role of commons and engaged in looking after them (SDGs 4 and 11)

- lively and welcoming, where there is social cohesion in a socially and culturally mixed community, who is aware of the common good (SDGs 4 and 11).



From a qualitative perspective, the expected impact of the Beta Step is the awareness raising of local councillors, officers, staff, organisations and citizens in general thanks to the range of actions that can be carried out through the web portal:

- translating/publishing dynamic communications materials (interviews with experts, videos, personal engagement stories...) on how urban sustainability is becoming tangible in European cities;

- providing a catalogue of ideas that have been tested elsewhere and proven successful, that can be filtered by users;

- delivering webinars and online training courses to everyone and trying to mix participants in order to help exchange different points of view, approaches and languages;

- organising online art exhibitions that promote the culture of sustainability and invite visitors to react to the works of art;

- offering a wide range of approaches to urban sutainability.

From a quantitative perspective, the web portal is expected to be visited by 5,000 people in 5 months. All visitors will answer a brief questionnaire that can help both the centre better identify the needs of firstcomers and visitors find the inspiration, information or help they are looking for.

Challenges and lessons learned

Sharing is never obvious. It implies change. And change isn't obvious either.

Once an organisation accepts the idea of sharing their know-how and a common space (be it virtual or physical), the decision alters the balance in the organisation itself.

Yet urban sustainability is all about change and balance.

This is the main challenge we have encountered during the co-design phase.

The lesson learned is time: small steps, taking time to think it over and over again, starting small, writing down principles and sharing them before stepping forward.



ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability
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