City Deal approach to sustainable urban innovation

Cities are confronted with complex problems which require collaboration across different levels and sectors of society. City Deals are issue-based partnerships for urban sustainable innovation between frontrunners in the public and private sector. Ministries, local and regional governments, and businesses working together to experiment and develop solutions for issues such as circular buildings, smart cities and shared electric mobility.

Innovation Summary

Innovation Overview

Dutch cities wanted to experiment with electric shared mobility in housing development. Developing the necessary solutions required collaboration across multiple cities, 3 different ministries (Interior, Infrastructure and Economics), grid operators, real estate developers, shared mobility providers and charging station providers. In a normal situation, each stakeholder would have addressed part of the problem from its own silo. For any individual city, the task of bringing these diverse parties together in a single partnership can be daunting, especially when dealing with complex environmental transition themes.

The proposed approach creates collaboration between different departments of cities, municipalities and government where they would not otherwise. The end result shows that through such collaboration, the sum is more than its parts. In case of the City Deal Electric Shared Mobility, the Ministry of Infrastructure is supported by shared mobility as a shift toward a multi-modal mobility system, the Ministry of Interior can build more and more liveable housing because 1 shared car replaces 5-18 private cars, the Ministry of Economics is supported by electrification of the car-park, and by using electric cars as batteries to support the energy transition, and businesses are supported because cities provide the regulatory space to experiment with new technologies. Finally, all benefit from the City Deal as a platform where different societal actors meet, interact and learn together.

Since 2015, Agenda Stad works as a broker to bring together these parties in issue-focused partnerships. Through on-going dialogue with cities and ministries, topics for potential Deals are raised. The Key here is that the focus of the partnership is not on financing but rather on the content of the issue at hand. This increases innovative strength and the overall desire to collaborate.

The City Deal Electric Shared Mobility in Urban Development project developed as follows: After a process of partnership building and negotiation, all parties signed an agreement where each commited to its own contributions and learning objectives. The Deal then provided a platform for collaboration and exchange between the partners as equals. By involving design thinkers and community builders from the onset, the project employed creative approaches, for example, by creating a City Deal Community of Practice (CoP). The CoP provides a space to learn and explore around diverse questions that cut across Deals from the dealmakers, project leads and partners: How can we use imagination to develop a common vision? How can we deal with resistance among partners?

Since 2015, the method has been further developed and improved through 25 City Deals, with many more to come. The development of the instrument itself was very much a process of learning by doing. It has proven itself as a successful instrument for public policy innovation and is gaining attention to be implemented as an instrument for public innovation across the national government.

The City Deal approach early-on inspired the Amsterdam Pact which underlies the European Urban Agenda. A close interaction with the European Partnerships, as well as URBACT networks is therefore obvious.

Innovation Description

Innovation Development

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Year: 2015
Level of government: National/Federal government


  • Implementation - making the innovation happen
  • Evaluation - understanding whether the innovative initiative has delivered what was needed
  • Diffusing Lessons - using what was learnt to inform other projects and understanding how the innovation can be applied in other ways

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