The main goal of the Small Giants Initiative is to provide an access point for smaller cities to collaborate within an action-focused, thematic network. Through this approach, very practical solutions can be developed to address the common needs of smaller cities by delivering solutions that are better, faster, and more affordable. Smaller cities are where most European’s live – so we neglect this largest market at our peril!
There are now some 20-40 smaller cities involved in the joint, informal network created through collaboration between the Small Giants initiative and the Small & Medium Cities (SMC) network.
A survey of Small Giants Mayors and senior officers highlighted some common and pressing challenges:
- Capacity gaps – minimal and stretched staff resources with a lack of access to deep expertise (that larger cities often have)
- Market engagement – the difficulty to gain access to and influence on the supply market, given their modest scale
- Funding challenges – knowing what grant funds are available; justifying local budget investment; and accessing market funds.
The research also highlighted a strong desire to collaborate to address these challenges through: -
- sharing resources, expertise and learning
- co-creating solutions and,
- potentially aggregating demand to be more attractive to the market.
We believe that this that can result in solutions that provide more certainty, de-risk implementation and operations, and, most importantly, can be cheaper to acquire.
It is worth noting that smaller cities also have some significant advantages over their large counterparts. They are closer to society, nimbler in action and the impact of actions can be more easily evidenced.
The Small Giants initiative helps smaller cities see what is going on around Europe and participate where it makes sense to do so. Our survey revealed a number of themes where smaller cities can work together to develop shared solutions to common needs. Top of the list is ‘Circular City’, amongst other topics like Mobility Transition, Digital Responsiveness, Societal Insight and Engagement, Performance Management, Market Engagement, and Smart Infrastructure.
Initiatives bring together manageable, small groups of cities to: -
- unpick each of these challenges
- develop a clear understanding of smaller cities needs
- outline a pragmatic plan of action and,
- seek to resource delivery of common tools and approaches that can be shared across all the Small Giants community.
Wise use of limited resources and a win for all!
Significant progress has been made on the shared challenge of Mobility Transition through collaboration on the transition roadmap and a specific measure, “Mobility Islands”, that stimulates the shift to clean, affordable, shared micro-mobility. Around 20 cities from across (and beyond) Europe are presently collaborating on a common approach, design, tools, and project development and are seeking to access a combination of grant funds, EU SCM ‘Matchmaking’, and Institutional financing.
The overall route map for the Small Giants involves the following measures: -
- Proactively communicating in the market about the scale, benefits, and potential of these cities (for instance, a Barcelona Smart City EXPO ‘Agora’ event on 15th Nov 2022)
- Continuing to engage politically, and at senior officer level to expand the Small Giants network, whilst keeping a focus on the wise use of limited resource and pragmatic operations
- Demonstrating the value of the approach through the lead ‘Mobility Islands’ measure
- Developing a realistic and sustainable financial model for the Small Giants community
- Cultivating the “Small Giants” as a “Smart Brand”
- Facilitating a “hub and spoke” approach by identifying a single focal point to drive communications and activity in each country and for each theme as well as providing the main link back to the lead city and secretariat (activity started)
- Aligning with the Covenant of Mayors, and other EU city networks (that have multiple, smaller cities as signatories).