Awareness on the importance that city identity has on attracting tourists and businesses and even on retaining population has been exponentially increasing on the last ten years. However, this race against the machine (!) can be very tricky at times.
From all the strategies used by Atlantic Cities, four main dimensions arise when building the city brand:
First, a city brand is more than a logo. Choices are multiple when it comes to graphics, some of the CAAC cities have chosen to keep old logos as a sign of identity, and others have created more modern ones. Nevertheless, the core of their brand strategies is the city project, the city they want to be, planning ahead for the next ten or even twenty years.
Second, a city is more than a city council. As CAAC mayors remind at every meeting, a city is composed by citizens that should be taken into account. Atlantic Arc Cities have a large expertise creating participation structures, from decision-making rules to observatories, including participatory budgets and local currencies.
Third, the city is larger than its legal boundaries. So as to make a consistent brand, the habitat of the city has to be anlysed: i.e. how the city functions in relation to the surrounding areas, considering flows like short delivery chains or commuting as part of the city. In an eco-systemic approach, the city cares for sustainable development in and out of its own borders.
And, last but not least, coopetition. When founding the Conference of Atlantic Arc Cities in 2000, Atlantic Arc Cities created a fundamental tool to stand out. They translated their identity, social and cultural values into a formal structure. Bilateral relations (many of them are twinned to each other) were not enough anymore. Each of them has different expectations from the network (competition) but all are ready to pool resources (cooperation.)
From all the literature, three main factors in placemaking can be stressed:
– People: If the community, the civil society and the individual citizens / artists are not involved to a degree that makes them own the initiative avoiding tokenism… we’re just before another regeneration project with good intentions but not enough impact. However, for this transition to happen, people must be given enough means to maximize shared value. That’s where the other two factors become essential:
– Public Authorities: Regulations, funds, political will, council involvement… many readings for a simple statement: the local authority has to be part of the process, as an actor but also as a facilitator. And this dialogue, to be fruitful, cannot be limited to formal events / memos or a testimonial representation.
– Project: Placemaking cannot be the answer to a lack of interventions neither the response to an indefinite “let’s do something”. So the project approach becomes the basis; meaning that the vision has to be identified by the community, that the resources have to be gathered and implemented, that triangulation has to be searched for and that roles should be clarified.
These three P’s can be summarized in the fourth: Partnership.
To this regard, Atlantic Cities sums up the promotion of our cities through initiatives such as the AT.Brand Project, done between 2014-2015, that demonstrates how the Atlantic Territories, specially cities, can be promoted together. Looking beyond individual city branding, it explored the feasibility of a long-term strategy to co-brand the Atlantic area, building on developments in the Nordic countries and the Baltic Sea region.
Another initiative is the Atlantic City of the Year: A contest that aims to give visibility to the efforts of the Atlantic Cities aligned with a sustainable urban development.
In due course, the Stella Atlantis is a project that will enhance the cohesion between our cities of the Atlantic Façade, contributing to an Atlantic identity through its shared history and culture, highlighting festivals, routes and traditions all across the Atlantic Arc, such as the Way of Saint James or the Hansa.
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