BETTER project – Newsletter #04

Newsletter #04      

July 2021       

Dear Reader,

Welcome to the fourth Newsletter of the BETTER project! BETTER is an Interreg Europe project that focuses on the promotion of e-Government solutions. With our project we aim to create a win-win situation for everyone by enhancing the use of e-Government solutions. Using these instruments local and regional authorities can stimulate regional innovation while private individuals and businesses gain better public service. In the following pages we would like to give you a short overview of our initiative. You will find information on the BETTER partnership, objectives and methods, and the steps we will make to reach our objectives.

The BETTER Newsletters will be published in every semester through a 3-year period. With these materials we will keep you updated on the progress achieved as well as elaborate on plans for the next period of the project.

Please visit our website to get our latest news! You can also find us on social media, where we welcome your questions and comments. We hope you enjoy reading our newsletter!

The BETTER project team!


BETTER supports public authorities to develop their regional innovation strategies and improve them with e-government services to stimulate regional innovation chain.


The project
Project duration
How have we proceeded since the last Newsletter?
How did we get prepared for the study visits?
Study visits in a nutshell
Study visit #01
Study visit #02
Study visit #03
Study visit #04
Any more news? Yes!
So what is next?

The project
“BETTER” offers an innovative approach to a crucial priority for the EU: encouraging Public Authorities to develop Regional Innovation Strategies in which e-Government solutions can stimulate Regional Innovation chains, as well as improving their services.

The main problem addressed by this project is the need to support Public Authorities in the development of innovation infrastructures and be the drivers of smart specialization strategies; Insufficient public sector investment in innovation activity poor adaptation to specific needs, particularly in less developed countries has contributed to the ‘technology gap’ between EU regions and tends to perpetuate or increase the ‘cohesion gap’.

Information Communications Technologies (ICT) are crucial in ensuring that citizens have easy access to local government information, services and decision-making processes as well as in helping and improving citizens’ participation and consultation of towards local governments. However, the level of innovation among EU regions is not measured only by ICT tools but by the general strategies that regions put in place in order to support and enhance innovative local dynamics and improve the performance of their regional innovation systems.

The EU regions show a wide diversity in regional innovation systems. The implication of this diversity is that there is no one-size-fits-all policy that can be applied to any region.
Rather, policies need to be adjusted to specificities of the industry, innovation culture, political system, and the level of autonomy held by regional authorities.

The partnership includes 5 partners from 5 Member States covering a balanced geographical spread from North (SE&EE) to West (UK), South (IT) and East (HU).
The partners are all Public Authorities selected for their specific abilities related to the project topic. Genoa and Birmingham are already working on digital tools in the IE “Pure Cosmos” project and want to strengthen their competence in regional innovation strategies; Tartu, Gävle and Nyíregyháza have specific skills in Digital Transformation and RIS strategies.
BETTER will link e-Government with the “innovation chain” to create a win-win initiative. On the one hand, municipalities and regions need to improve public services, while cutting costs: e-Government is one way to do this. On the other hand, adopting e-Government solutions could be used in turn to stimulate the local or regional innovation chain: for example the design, supply and maintenance of specialist services, such as Artificial Intelligence.

The consortium will:
– analyse partners’ plans through four Thematic Events;
– identify good practices that will improve these plans, studying them through Study Visits, importing them via special workshops and Regional Action Plans;
– build the capacity of all relevant public authorities including ERDF Managing Authorities;
– increase the societal impact of the innovation process outcomes.


Photo by Nick Fewings on Unsplash

With BETTER – as an overall objective – we aim to: strengthen the role of Public Authorities as stimulators of regional innovation chains by improving e-Government solutions by 10% by 2022. This goal will be focused along with the sub-objectives as follows:

1) develop by 2022 at least 3 innovative instruments (e.g. digital platforms, Artificial Intelligence) that will improve municipal services

2) increase by 10% by 2022 the societal impact of the innovation process outcomes thanks to the development of new e-Government services.

3) increase by 20% by 2022 the effectiveness of key decision makers’ involvement in Regional Innovation chains and related investments in order to meet their innovation objectives

4) increase by 20% by 2022 the horizontal and vertical cooperation between the different levels of government and relevant actors (including investors) in the development and implementation of the RAPs
Sub objectives 1 and 2 are related to the progress that the partners can make in the field of research and innovation infrastructures. Here ICT systems play a strategic role in ensuring that citizens have easy access to local government information, services and decision-making processes. They are the focus of Public Authorities. They will improve the level and the quality of Public Authorities services in the partners areas.

Sub objectives 3 and 4 are specifically related to the Involvement of stakeholders and Managing Authorities in the decision making. BETTER will not only actively empower the Regional Stakeholders to offer concrete improvements to the policy instruments via the RAPs, but will also empower them through building their capacity – both the key decision makers and the organisations themselves – for continuing effective action after the project-end, applying to R&I programmes and Smart approach.

BETTER brings together 5 partners from 5 countries, offering an innovative approach to a crucial priority for the EU: encouraging Public Authorities to develop Regional Innovation Strategies in which e-Government solutions can stimulate Regional Innovation chains (as well as improving their services).

Photo by Matt Ridley on Unsplash

To reach this aim and – more specifically – the abovementioned objectives, the project includes a wide range of activities. such as:


  • THEMATIC EVENTS that involve staff and Regional Stakeholders, focusing on: Physical and virtual infrastructure/assets to support the process for innovation; Development and application of new innovative products and services; Processes to support new business models and ways of working across private public sector and with citizens; People and skills to make it happen
  • a REGISTER OF GOOD PRACTICES to collect and document the good practices that are relevant to partners’ needs.
  • BETTER RIS Matrix as a management tool to ensure that Project Partners’ learning needs are met, and to provide a guide on good practices to enable policy makers to decide upon investment priorities.
  • 10 in-depth STUDY VISITS using the register of good practices. The good practices will be selected by the partners for their relevance to the identified specifications.
  • ’IMPORT WORKSHOPS’. Experts from other partners will assist the importing partner and regional stakeholders to import their good practices and draft their Regional Action Plan.
  • policy owners using the Regional Action Plan (RAP) to “improve its policy instrument”, with continued support from project-partners.
  • partners monitoring the adoption and implementation of their RAP
  • a European-level conference to disseminate experiences. Partners will undertake an impact survey #2 to measure impact to 2022.


Municipality of Genoa (IT)

Tartu City Government (EE)

Birmingham City Council (UK)

Gävle Municipality (SE)

Municipality of Nyíregyháza (HU)

Phase 1 – Interregional Learning (3 years, semester 1-6) August 2019 – July 2022

Phase one will include activities to help each partner develop a regional action plan to improve European Regional Development Fund policy instruments.

Activities comprise:
  • thematic events for interregional learning
  • study visits
  • an import workshop where the good practice is transferred from one region to another
  • a regional event
  • 6 stakeholder meetings
Phase 2 – Monitoring (1 year, semester 7-8) August 2022 – July 2023

Phase two will involve monitoring the results of the policy change. The objective of the project is to obtain an increase of 10% in regional innovation activity stimulated by eGovernment initiatives by 2022.

How have we proceeded since the last newsletter?

If you, valued readers remember the last Newsletter, we were hoping better times were going to come after the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Unfortunately the third wave came and turned out to be even more severe than the previous one. We had to stick with using virtual-only formats in our events, and kept implementing the project with digital tools.

Since the last edition, we have held four Study visits, focusing on good pratices including: online provision of local services, interactive municipal budget, open data in solutions, smart city alliances, Geographic Information System solutions, and the startups.

For detailed information, see the list and agenda of the events below.

How did we get prepared for the study visits?

See below. :)

Study visits in a nutshell

Dates Good practices examined Participants
25 March 2021
  • Urban Dialog: a community-based online urban development tool that involves citizens in decisions regarding urban development projects
  • Online provision of local services: a selection of services which can be accessed digitally
  • Interactive municipal budget: a pilot website that provides detailed information to citizens on the municipal budget in an easy-to-use and understandable format


Genoa; Tartu; Gävle; Birmingham
04 June 2021
  • Open data in Gävle municipality: how can data facilitate better governance and better efficiency
  • Data lake to data warehouse: A user driven approach to large scale data innovation – an example of how an organization can use open data
Tartu; Nyíregyháza
07 June 2021
09 June 2021
  • Innovation Birmingham Campus (Serendip): working with corporations to deliver innovation support programmes
  • Smart City Alliance: how the network has fostered collaborative opportunities
  • Virtual, design-led innovation team: the power of collaboration with a focus on the economy, the health sector and creative digital industries
Nyíregyháza; Genoa; Gävle
10 June 2021
  • Spoku and ARNO: public e-services which allow citizens and enterprises to submit different applications to Tartu City
  • GIS solutions: serving citizens with the innovative use of spatial data
  • sTARTUp Day: the Baltic’s largest business festival
Nyíregyháza; Genoa; Birmingham

Study visit #01

Held on 25th March 2021, hosted by Nyíregyháza

A community-based online tool that involves citizens in decisions regarding urban development projects; the partners could follow the process with their own eyes by logging in to the website and reviewing/commenting on a fictive project. There are several ways this platform is useful:
• It provides transparency; the project ideas are no longer just internal documents – citizens can see and evaluate them.
• By commenting on the website and suggest new ideas, citizens become part of the development process and they can see that their opinion matters, leading to a sense of belonging/ ownership regarding their city.
• Gauging the interest of the citizens throughout the process is a sure-fire way to introduce truly human-centred innovations which solve real problems in an effective way.

The use of ASP (Application Service Provider) is mandatory for Hungarian municipalities. Under ASP, users use the softwares needed to support their tasks by connecting to the service provider’s servers, databases and data management programs over the internet. The usefulness of this good practice is two-fold:
• It provides a base level of public e-administration for every municipality (either large or small), sharing resources and costs.
• Citizens using these services in this centralized way gives the possibility to gather big data about governmental processes that can be used later for development purposes in other fields.
The involvement of people with no digital access or knowledge is still a crucial barrier.

District XIV of Budapest created a pilot website that provides detailed information about the municipal budget in an easy-to-use and understand format. They also actively involved their citizens in budget planning by gathering, voting on and selecting local projects to implement with their participation. This initiative has several advantages:
• Making the budget more transparent and the politicians more accountable is the first step towards responsible citizenship.
• Active participation contributes to building trust which can lead to more active participation.

One crucial takeaway the partners highlighted was the way the good practice was marketed and visualized for the citizens; this can prevent the problem of lacking in interest.
The knowledge transfer was facilitated through presentations about the good practices from people who know the most about them which were followed by moderated Q&A sessions to satisfy the partners’ curiosity.

Key Learnings and takeaways of Genoa

  • participatory process as a form of transparency,enhance a sense of belonging in the local community,engage local residents;
  • it is useful to have all services provided by the municipality in one place OSS), easy access not only at a local level, also great for data gathering.
  • find innovative way to communicate to people (e.g. the idea of the fake banknote to emulate money to spend on a local project);

Key Learnings and takeaways of Tartu

  • Urban Dialogue – in Tartu there are ideas of developing something similar on Esri GIS platform (GIS Hub). This is a great example to integrate maps, surveys and visual apps on the purpose to engage locals more efficiently and organise communication not only between local government and citizens but between the citizens themselves as well.
  • Online provision of local services – very interesting large- scale development. It is important that central government would enable for local governments different platforms as the scale effect gives much wider opportunities on every level e.g. integration of different systems, big data collection and comparability from which there are wider possibilities to use the data for decision models,etc. Still, the ability to initiate or affect some state-level projects from the local government is often limited.
  • Interactive municipal budget – simple, clear and fast loading visualisations as key components in every end user platform.

Key Learnings and takeaways of Birmingham

A study visit can act as a catalyst for change – a moment to focus minds of the decision makers (the case of Barnsley). More transparency in decision making makes for a better process. Participatory planning through technology offers greater reach to citizens. Trust can be better established if citizens are engaged.Issue of Platforms for IT delivery – how easy is it for local SMEs to access these platforms and develop new services? Issue of agility v bureaucracy. Local data utilisation takes a lot of resources to manage so can go wrong if not codeveloped with citizens as users. Test new ideas in small projects between 8,000 to 20,000 Euros

Study visit #02

Held on 04th June 2021, hosted by Gävle

Key learnings and takeaways of Birmingham:


  • Need to have simple data protocols in place to ensure the high quality of different data
  • Need to be critical re what data to release as all data has a cost to maintain and many released data sets are accessed so infrequently making it hard to justify its release.
  • It is a good idea to work with other municipalities to ascertain utility of specific datasets.
  • Working with the end user is essential for maintaining efficacy.
  • Data cleansing is essential to remain compliant with GDPR
  • Both national and EU agencies can harvest data if municipalities have followed the method standard approach.
  • Key considerations with data collection: loss of income; is there best practice for this; did another org publish the same data; classified info; GDPR; open data licence and web accessibility directive.

What can Open Data achieve?

  • Growth of innovative companies
  • More efficient governance
  • Geographical/environmental free datasets can result in cost savings of more than 15% for companies.


  • Companies don’t know what kind of data they need or the data they need is not available.
  • Format of data can be too complex or too simple
  • Need to find/combine data for the end user.
  • GDPR requirements.Data washing is very expensive.We can use aggregated data for statistical analysis, but individual data is not permitted.

Birmingham’s learning
Provision of data to companies is not the solution to boosting innovation or growth (see above).
We need to focus on the end user (citizens/companies)in order to produce meaningful OD.
Any portal can harvest from another portal; you don’t need multiple platforms (we did consider aggregating platforms at the start of BETTER) – better to focus on common standards.


Really interesting presentation demystifying IT tools and exposing where resources could be being wasted.

  • Data centric projects in the public domain haven’t got enough focus on the end user and we need to improve this.
  • Be critical re what data is stored in a data lake (ref Marie)
  • Digital twins (having ‘digital copy’ of real world situation.There is no true digital twin.The real world scenario is constantly evolving.There are a few exceptions – doing twins for specific technical applications such as engines is useful. Very difficult to control all variables in other situations.
  • Digital test beds – to be of value you need to know which parts are of value and you must be clear about the benefits/challenges
  • Innovation Hubs – generate business between SMEs; public sector; RDI.But the constant quest for funding creates a downward spiral.Projects need to be allowed to fail fast and hard.
  • Innovation departments – should be treated with caution in both public and private entities as they often are not aligned to the core of the organisation.Organisations are resistant to change.Ideally, innovation should be demand led across the whole system.


  • User centric approach focusing on the problem.
  • Don’t predict the solution.
  • Find user stories and map them out e.g. movement in the city and waste recycling
  • Find out real world problems and potential solutions need to be in line with the goals for the whole organisation.
  • Search for simplest tech solution.
  • Do before and after survey to show impact.
  • How will the project be noticed ? What difference does the project really make?
  • Ensure the potential project is in line with the purpose of the organisation
  • No project should be longer than 3 monthslearning process should be iterative, test and start again.However, you need high levels of trust for this approach. (Failure is part of innovation) Approach taken in STEAMhouse.
  • Data should be created within a project rather than on top of old data.Right KPIs need to be established.

Birmingham’s learning
Birmingham uses “Be Heard” for consultation.  It would be useful to create a more agile, less abstract way – to ascertain user opinion in more concrete terms – when the user is experiencing the service or at the place where a proposed change is being considered.
Agile, iterative projects to focus on simplest solutions rather than building complex and sometimes unwieldy tech solutions (“vanity projects”).
Focus on creating data in the project rather than building on top of old data. Make sure the approach is scaleable.

Study visit #03

Held on 07 and 9th June 2021, hosted by Birmingham

Key learnings and takeaways of Nyíregyháza:


Our local incubator (the Technology Transfer Centre) is at the very beginning of the process to become a true catalyst for innovation. So far, we have “basic” business support which means that the Centre offers a place (co-working offices) to businesses and mediates between the municipality and private companies (cutting through the red tape, so to speak). Based on this presentation, however, what we are missing is a healthy innovation culture in both the public and the private sector – there are significant systemic barriers in the way of progress, especially in the case of public sector innovation. Engaging the local community must be our first step to start our journey towards something similar to the situation in Birmingham.


Although the main goal of this GP (supporting and testing new 5G services) is really far out from our current reality, the methods described in the presentation are related to our previous learning point: engaging with the local business community and educating them about important issues is crucial. Summary of the key learnings: 1. We have to create a positive user experience for SMEs, making it easy for them to find help with as many of their problems as possible. 2. Becoming a centre of excellence in something (like Birmingham in 5G) is a good way to attract talented people to the city. 3. We have to prepare for the future, not just react to past and present events. 4. We need a healthy innovation culture in both the public and the private sector (see above). 5. Reaching critical mass is often only possible by creating partnerships with local organizations, or even other cities. We should focus on cooperation, not competition (or at least some form of coopetition).


  • The ideas and good practices are often there already (in the possession of local SMEs, for example) – what they need is someone to connect them and provide a platform for sharing and mutual learning.
  • If we find dedicated and reliable people and create strong partnerships, we can lessen the costs (e.g. we don’t have to pay rent for meeting places) and share responsibilities. 3. Talking about things, sharing knowledge and brainstorming are important, but to convince decision-makers to invest in risky and/or innovative projects, they have to see actual results (i.e. numbers, prototypes) – we must concentrate on implementation, too, not just planning.


  • Other countries also struggle with decision-makers who are overly enthusiastic in the case of infrastructure development projects, but less so when presented with an innovative, but risky project with high added value. However, there is a solution: see the 3rd point above.
  • Reaching CRITICAL MASS – creating partnerships, sharing responsibilities and reaping the benefits together – was a major learning point in both SV workshops. An innovation centre’s role can be similar to a bumblebee: connecting SMEs, the public sector and other stakeholders (through information exchange, etc.).

Study visit #04

Held on 10th June 2021, hosted by Tartu

Key learnings and takeaways of Nyíregyháza:


  • Understanding the problem. The municipality reacted to a real problem and devised a solution that is tailor-made to that problem, but still flexible enough to get “upgrades” later. •
  • Positive user experience Every new thing can be confusing for the citizens at first, but an easy-to-use interface facilitates the learning process. However, there is a fine line between functionality and style, function and form. Fancy graphics should only be involved if they aren’t distracting. Convenience is also important – pre-filling documents using the data already in the system is one way to not waste the users’ time and to make the service more popular. Moreover, we should keep in mind that in the case of several municipal services, turning to online solutions can actually be detrimental to the overall user experience: e.g. social services (i.e. applying for them) are an area where a personal touch is needed.


  • ”People don’t need data, they need information.” The data is often there (especially on municipality level) but isn’t used for anything – or at least not shared with the citizens. Looking at the available data and finding a way that it can be used to solve urban problems is a smart approach to resource efficiency.
  • Value Proposition Design Designing an online – or any kind of – product/service is not just about the features: again, user experience is crucial, and also the benefits it can provide to the customers; it must react to the users’ needs (expectations) and pains (negative experiences) regarding the given field/area of their life.


  • The success and growth of this event hinged on the community, but the presence of larger companies can also be useful (i.e. Skype in Tartu) if they are involved in some capacity. Nevertheless, the proof that an event like this can be expertly organized and held in a city that is not the capital has become the foundation for local support of future events.
  • Identifying a Unique Selling Point is important if someone wants to stand out among the many similarly focused events. In this case, the USP was the casual wear (and atmosphere) instead of the usual business attire, e.g. sessions named “Share your fuckup” and “From Zero to Hero”.

Key learnings and takeaways of Birmingham:

ARNO – learning tool/website to allocate school.

  • Used for all age groups.
  • It updated an outdated street based system which didn’t account for new residential areas (3k new homes)and old system meant parents could easily manipulate the system. Meaning some schools were over-crowded.
  • Wanted system to account for changing city plan
  • Parents now have a simple way to communicate their preferences without being able to manipulate system.
  • Data inputted to arno includes siblings, data about school places, distance to each school
  • A map pinpoints transport and where the child will go to school and the parents can then decide whether this is a suitable solution and either accept or reject and apply for another one.

Relevance to Bham:  Good tool.  Will need to share with education colleagues.  I know school places are tight and it may not be feasible to have a freely available accept/reject system.

GIS to improve decisions and operations 

  • Full set of tools including a real time data component collecting sensor/movement data.
  • GIS should be about user needs including integrated authentication
  • Tools for support include ‘e’ forms; dashboards; notification services and smart controls
  • Easy to use and understand and provides greater transparency.  For instance it deals with complaints about parking.  You can enter your complaint and upload photos.  Actions taken to resolve the complaint are displayed and transparent communication maintained.
  • Tartu city general plan 2040+ is digital including location guidance.
  • The user is able to see what you can do in a specific location including transport data
  • It also provides population data and shows changes to this.
  • Graveyard management is on-line-public can locate specific plots

Web-based appln for 7-19 yr olds

  • Data is collected through Tartu city portal SPOKU and there is a map application connected to this where service providers can perform data entry regarding hobby group info including sport and nature.
  • There includes a search option:  age, accessibility, language, bus stops and locations on the map.
  • ‘People don’t need data, they need information’

The GIS is an effective tool for reporting real time problems in the city.  However, politically this may not be acceptable?

May be a useful tool for Birmingham Youth Services as they have budgetary pressure and it would be a great way to promote activity in the city.

START-UP (TARTU!) Ecosystem in Tartu (Marili and Ermo)

  • Estonia is the best start-up nation globally
  • 7 unicorn companies – sykpe; Playtech; Zego
  • Different definition of what constitutes a start-up in Estonia (eg needs to be a replicable business model, needs to be innovative and be 10 years old – ref to presentation)
  • Start-up mindset includes risk taking and agility
  • 12k + start-ups; 6k new jobs; €100m in yearly employment taxes; €2bn investment
  • Ecosystem for start-up growth has become very international
  • Primary sectors in Estonia include: business software; ad tech; creative; fintech; health and life sciences; clean tech and consumer products
  • Ecosystem is very bottom up – includes public sector, unis, not for profit
  • Involves the community with a monthly business saunas (Startup day idea came from sauna meeting); quarterly round tables, weekly events and meetups; incubation, acceleration and members; yearly community trips


  • Includes small local events up to events for international flagship for startup mindset innovation and entrepreneurship.
  • Is the largest festival in the Baltic region and is not in the capital!
  • Fastrack Tartu provides a framework for incubation, acceleration and mentoring progress in Tartu
  • The event offers an incredible opportunity to learn from mistakes and successes.
  • Started in 2016 and has grown year on year. (4K attendees last year).  Quality has improved yr on yr.
  • Head organiser was originally a volunteer and there is a huge volunteer base (95%) supporting its delivery.
  • Aim to bring event to corporates and individuals
  • 2020 event had 4,400 participants, 60 countries, 150 speakers, 350 Start-ups; 120 pitches; 85 companies exhibiting
  • Majority of start-ups – software
  • Match making session 2,500 one-to-one.
  • Demo area has 200 youngsters for high school programme
  • €.5m equity free cash for successful pitches.  Usually about 300 participants
  • €400k budget to deliver it.
  • Market research key to see if event is relevant to target audience.
  • Also collaboration with other festivals such as latitude

Also shared info on how the municipality is working with local university through challenge events.  One idea to increase the number of users engaging with ‘e’ services was to reward new users with Tartu Tokens

Any more news? Yes!

Sandbox challenges by Tartu City

To find fresh ideas and implement more user-centric methods in service-design, Tartu City Government provided two assignments for the Sandbox programme in the spring semester 2021. Sandbox is a design thinking and digital product management programme for master’s students at the University of Tartu. The programme provides a unique opportunity to engage in real-life challenges of companies, enhancing professional skills, and delivering value at the same time.
The first assignment or problem was driven from the great number (over 430) of different direct and indirect public services in Tartu city government and the fact that most of citizens have no idea about most of them. The challenge for the students was how to offer public services in a more accessible, personalizes and convenient way. Although this time the students` outcome did not solve the problem, the cooperation process itself gave several thoughts to carry on and aspects to pay attention when addressing the development of Tartu e-service portal.
Additional problem was given to another group of students from Estonia and Germany. This time the overall aim of the programme was to look for innovations that could change the world a little bit better place, thus, not so much business oriented solutions. The challenge provided by Tartu was how to engage young people to the city they live and motivate them register as local residents. The final prototype of the solution – a website for citizens to interact with and engage in the city – is very promising and thoroughly worked out.  Its introduction is seriously considered within closest months.
Why it is relevant for BETTER? This is a good example how to support discovering new ideas from the grassroots. Also encouraging partnership between companies and universities to improve the local ecosystem.


BETTER is all about finding solutions which became particularly important during COVID-19. The pandemic had/has many long-term societal & business effects which forced communities to come up with new (good) practices.

In Birmingham one of the major problems was food distribution. See their responses to the issue.

1. COVID-19 Emergency Food Response (2020)

Birmingham City Council commissioned Fareshare (a food surplus charity) and TAWS (The Active Wellbeing Society) to purchase food and redistribute to vulnerable communities during the pandemic. TAWS set-up and co-ordinated the Food Justice Network (a network of over 200 orgaisations) to ensure efficient re-distribution. An Emergency Food Plan has been drafted to ensure the City is prepared for future food system shocks.

C – Fareshare takes good quality surplus food from across the food industry. The food is nutritious and good to eat and is also used to supply charities that are focused on supporting the health and wellbeing of the most vulnerable groups in the community. Funding Fareshare (rather than a major food distributor) provides additional benefits to the network of community groups/charities that rely on this food. Some of these groups/charities turn this food into nourishing meals or sell it at very low cost through community pantries. (If we considered a system approach Fareshare may also have purchased from local food producers rather than the big chains. This has been reflected in the emergency food plan). The council benefits from working with the voluntary sector as they are specialists at reaching target groups. The voluntary sector benefits from the funding. Everyone benefits from the network and co-ordinated action. This relieves pressure on anyone organisation to respond to such a humongous challenge.

L – TAWS co-ordinated the Food Justice Network and for the first time, different community groups (including different religious groups) started working together. The benefits of this include community cohesion. Activity is being sustained as the groups continue to work together to tackle food insecurity and create opportunities for engaging communities through food projects (including cooking and growing). As well as sharing food the network is distributing other essential items from sanitary towels to baby clothes and digital equipment.

 3. Jewellery Quarter Food Hub – Set up in Nov 2019 in the Jewellery Quarter to provide a no-waste business championing locally grown, seasonal food from farmers practicing agro-ecological principles. Shoppers order online and collect from a pick-up point in a local pub (during Covid orders were sent out). Completely volunteer run.  Surplus revenue is channelled to the emergency food effort.  The ‘Pay Up Forward’ scheme involves shoppers buying a veg box and donating one for people in food poverty.  £3,000 donations were collected enabling the hub to supply 400 bags to families in the October 2020 break.  About 180 meals were also supplied.  Kate Smith, Director of Slow Food Birmingham runs the hub and has undertaken many other initiatives to raise awareness of food waste such as the ‘week of guest chefs’ cooking zero waste menus, some from foraged food, some from off cuts.  The hub is also part of the Food Justice Network, set up to deal with the emergency food response during Covid. Currently campaigning to transform Birmingham into a ‘Right to Food City’.

 4. Potato project – the JQ hub also helped to salvage potatoes that a local farmer was unable to sell due to business drying up during Covid.  The project paid the farmer a fair price for his potatoes then set about selling and donating them.  People could purchase 10 kg of potatoes and keep 2kg and donate the other 8kg to the emergency food initiative.  Potatoes that were not suitable for sale were used to make meals for people in food poverty.  This project was replicated due to similar circumstances arising again.

So what is next?

We carry on

BETTER continues its its five-stage, systematic journey, through which e-government solutions are improved in the partner cities. Stages consist of 1. Assessing needs & assemble good practices2. Observe good practices, 3. Adopt good practices, 4. Improve policies and 5. Monitor policy improvements.

We have high hopes that Coronavirus / COVID-19, is out of the way now, and travelling and entering restrictionswill not enter in force again, therefore the upcoming Study Visits could be held in a physical format.
For the results of the events and more information about BETTER please visit us at



Do you want to be updated? Get in touch with us through:
Lead partner: Municipality of Genoa
Contact person: Mrs. Enrica Spotti

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