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ECOSOCITIES - Crisis ecosocial, iniciativas ciudadanes y gobiernos locales en el sur de Europa

On going


Abstract: ECOSOCITIES aims to understand how city strategies for growth and cohesion are being reframed in Southern European cities in the context of the COVID-19 crisis and the need to cope with environmental challenges. The project analyses cities from Spain and Portugal, including Barcelona, Bilbao, Sevilla, and Oporto, and focuses on two intertwined aspects: the development of recovery agendas and strategies and the role of civil society actors in the development of new views and socially innovative initiatives to cope with the ecological crisis and social justice. The post-covid scenario draws new opportunities for European cities in terms of investments and economic transformation. The European strategy for recovery brings the possibility of investments in ecological transition and digitalisation in different fields, allowing for the transformation of public space and transport systems, improvement of digitalisation of small and medium-sized businesses, transforming energy systems, or fostering circularity in the economy, amongst others. Besides, the Paris agreements bring more responsibility to cities in terms of implementation, opening the scope for their autonomy. 

The project wants to assess in the first place how Southern European cities are developing recovery strategies in this framework, attending to the influence of the European programs, the existence of previous agendas, and the inclusion of different actors in the policy process. We are especially interested in how environmental and social issues are tackled in the proposals for economic development and the role of civil society actors and organised citizens in developing such strategies. We are also interested in the role of urban regeneration in such strategies and how sustainable urban development is understood and negotiated. Secondly, we want to focus on socially innovative initiatives in providing views and initiatives to transform critical aspects of cities' economies. As many authors point out, civil society groups and social movements have had a key role in providing new views and solutions against social exclusion during the financial crisis that started in 2008. These solutions were based on community-based and solidarity practices, often with the formal or informal collaboration of the administration. This was particularly important in Southern European cities, which were affected by the flexibilisation of the labour market and the imposition of austerity. 

We want to analyse the emergence of socially innovative initiatives that combine elements of social justice and empowerment with the transformation of the socio-natural metabolism of the city. In this regard, we are interested in initiatives linked to the creation of new food and energy provision mechanisms (consumer groups, food cooperatives, community gardens), the transformation of public space and transport (biking groups, anti-pollution movements, initiatives to transform derelict space), and the provision of new economic models (initiatives from the solidarity economy, groups for degrowth, etc.). We want to analyse the discourses behind these practices and their relationship with the local administration. As we have seen in previous research, these initiatives do not appear out of the blue but are linked to their institutional context. We want to analyse how these initiatives collaborate or not with the administration, and what is the role of existing social infrastructures such as schools, public libraries, or cultural centres in the emergence of strengthening of these initiatives, as they offer resources for sociability and debate and often technical support from workers involved in these services. Finally, as a first step to assess impact, we want to explore the relationship between these environments and initiatives and the performance of specific neighbourhoods in terms of education, health, or the environment. 

This research aims to contribute to the debates on the role of citizens in developing strategies for ecological transition and social inclusion. This aim is in line with objective 11 of Sustainable Development Goals, on resilient, inclusive, safer, and sustainable cities, which includes objectives on sustainable transportation, green spaces, local production of food, and reducing the environmental impact of cities in health amongst others. This aim is also related to the fifth strategic line of research of the Spanish strategy for science, technology, and innovation 2021-2027, which includes research on sustainable cities. Nevertheless, the project wants also to bring knowledge on how to improve governance and the involvement of citizens in city development beyond formal processes of participation. 

 Timetable: September 2022-September 2025

External Coordinator

Marc Pradel

Universitat de Barcelona
Team Members
Universitat de Barcelona (proposing institution)
Universidad Pablo de Olavide, Universidad de País Vasco, Universidade do Porto (participating instititutions)
Entidade de Financiamento
Ministerio de Ciência, Innovación y Universidades del Gobierno Español programa de generación de conocimiento (PID2021-123912NA-I00)
Start Year


Faculdade de Letras da Universidade do Porto
Via Panorâmica, s/n
4150-564 Porto, Portugal

Phone: +351 226 077 132


Other Contacts




Ref. UIDP/00727/2020

Ref. UIDB/00727/2020