3rd Convention of the ‘Civic Cities and Towns’ Experience Exchange Network in the TriCity Area
During the Network Convention in Gdańsk and Gdynia from 31 May until 2 June 2023, participants from various urban centres visited TriCity facilities fostering joint governance with local residents.

At all facilities, EMPIRIAE Network representatives were welcomed by invaluable presenters, who introduced Convention participants to the inner workings of their responsibilities, describing the road travelled to reach measurable results.

Location 1

New Community Centre, Dolna Brama 8, Gdańsk

Hosts presented the story of how the ecosystem of supporting community initiatives was developed in Gdańsk, along with a list of completed projects. Participants were informed of the entire system any innovation has to go through before it is implemented. An interesting discussion transpired, duly and well summarised by the following conclusions: “Each major change begins with a small step”, “Let’s draft failure reports, they are as important as success reports and help us evolve”, and “While this yields no political benefits, we are developing interpersonal relations. Even if our work changes the life for just one or two persons in Gdańsk, it gives meaning to our efforts…”

Location 2

“Welcoming Harbour” Community Centre, Orunia, Gdańsk

The process to develop the “Harbour” was inspired by British community centres. Network participants were introduced to centre programme development methods assuring the best match with local needs. A visit to the facility apart, a meeting and exchange with Przemysław Klus of the Gdańsk Foundation for Community Innovation, initiator and manager of the “Harbour”, were of great value. Many Convention attendants are responsible for creating community activity centres in small Polish towns. Interactions with “Harbour” staff provided them with excellent practical guidelines.

Location 3

Old Smithy, Orunia, Gdańsk

The small and enchanting Café Kuźnia (Smithy) was the final location on the Gdańsk itinerary of visits. The location is owned by a network of community companies run by the Community Innovation Foundation, and was established in 2012 with intent to support professional development of young people raised in orphanages and child support centres, to facilitate their entry into the labour environment. The Café offers opportunities for early customer service and teamwork experience. It was a small place with a big mission and excellent coffee, closing Day One.

Location 4

UrbanLab at the Pomeranian Science and Technology Park

UrbanLab Gdynia is a knowledge sharing programme, designed to create space for dialogue between local residents, non-governmental organisations and municipal institutions, including the science and business community. More of a mental space than a physical room, it fosters mindset change.

Conversation topics included preferable ways for municipalities to react to ideas responding to actual community needs, desirable concept assessment committee membership, preferred individuals in liaising with authors of individual ideas, and ways of encouraging authors to join the process of idea delivery pro bono. As it turns out, embedding interesting grassroot notions in the existing system (e.g. of social welfare) remains the greatest concept delivery barrier.

Location 5

Gdańsk Contact Centre

Gdańsk received an award from the Association of Polish Cities for this particular project during the “Local Government Leader of Governance 2022” Competition, triggering participant interest in the city’s largest call centre, the single one-stop-shop municipal contact facility for 500,000 residents. Attendants were informed i.a. how crisis staff centre operates in emergency and/or hazardous conditions, and how the municipality keeps local residents briefed under such circumstances.

Network participants concluded that the TriCity had provided them with an enormous information volume, and that the Convention ought to be followed by introducing presented solutions to scale, in smaller cities and towns.