ABCitiEs policy evaluation report

This policy evaluation report is based on the ABCitiEs project - an Interreg-funded project which focuses on enhancing Area Based Collaborative Entrepreneurship in Cities across Europe, and transforming policy to support this activity. Project partners include Manchester (England), Vilnius (Lithuania), Varaždin- Čakovec (Croatia), Athens (Greece), and Amsterdam (the Netherlands). This report presents local learnings from each partner about how ABCEs function, conditions for their success, and how they can be better supported by policy instruments to foster collaboration, networks, and partnership working.

Date added 29 September 2020
Last updated 29 September 2020

This policy evaluation report is based on the ABCitiEs project- an Interreg-funded project which focuses on enhancing Area Based Collaborative Entrepreneurship in Cities across Europe, and transforming policy to support this activity. The five project partners include: Manchester (England), Vilnius (Lithuania), Varaždin- Čakovec (Croatia), Athens (Greece), and Amsterdam (the Netherlands), with a university institution and local government organisation paired in each city. As the authors explain, ABCEs are "geographically delimited, networked communities of entrepreneurs (and other stakeholders) that jointly enact their business environment to pursue economic goals as well as social and/or environmental goals” (p.3). The report outlines the seven main types of ABCEs identified across the cities:

  1. Regional clusters (e.g. food valleys, industrial clusters)
  2. Retail clusters, business and office parks
  3. Urban streets, neighbourhoods, parks and squares
  4. Farmers’ cooperatives
  5. Energy/sustainability co-operations
  6. Co-lab office spaces, incubators, and start-ups
  7. Temporary usage in abandoned buildings.

Based on an analysis of existing policy supporting local collaboration to improve the local business environment, the report first investigates the national and regional policy instruments influencing ABCEs in each city, such as Business Investment Zones in Amsterdam, The ‘Our Manchester’ policy in Manchester, and Art Incubators in Vilnius.

Results from an analysis of 16 case studies of ABCE initiatives across the cities are next presented, with a focus on their varying collaborative governance arrangements. Although each ABCE case is unique, as are the cities in which they operate, they are plotted across two dimensions. The first, is whether the ABCEs began collaborating from bottom-up (5 cases) or top-down (11 cases) governance mechanisms; and the second, is whether they are driven by either defensive/reactive (collectives created from a perceived problem in the area), or offensive/opportunity motives (collaborators attain synergies from sharing resources and facilities). The authors suggest those with bottom-up mechanisms are usually driven by more defensive/reactive motives initially, whereas those with top-down interventions, are typically motivated by more offensive/opportunity driven motives at first, although this can change over time. Each case study ABCE initiative is briefly detailed.

Several key obstacles to collaboration in each city are also identified, both communal and systemic, as summarised below.

Obstacles to collaboration

  1. Poor interpersonal relations within the community and lack of trust (communal).
  2. The absence of competencies and capacities (communal).
  3. Conventional roles and relations between stakeholders can block more collaborative ways of working (systemic).
  4. Tensions around the free market, the commons, and who has rights to access and usage (systemic).

Potential solutions

  1. Support and intermediaries- guidance and leadership from those with experience in networks, partnership working and collaboration is important.
  2. Access to funding- methods of financing that are sensitive to collaborative endeavours are recommended.
  3. Monitoring- data should be regularly analysed and shared with stakeholders to enable the monitoring of any interventions.
  4. Experimental learning environments– analysis and interventions should be collaboratively co-created and incremental.

The report concludes by summarising the action plans created by each project partner to address such challenges, and embed ABCE thinking within local and national policy.

For more information about the ABCitiEs project, please see here.