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By Politecnico di Milano

Milano2020, Strategies for adaptation is an Open Call that was launched by the municipality of Milan a week before the end of the lockdown period (the so-called “phase 1”) and designed to last until the end of May (“phase 2”). The call was an invitation for citizens to submit ideas, make suggestions, highlight problems, discuss proposals and identify resources and opportunities for the future of the city — either for a potential upcoming emergency or after the COVID-19 emergency: the term “adaptation” being used as the need to “organize a coexistence with this virus beyond the short-term horizon”. 

However, the epidemic very much remains in the back of our mind, led by a diffuse crisis generated by the virus containment policies. In this complex scenario, the Open Call guidelines set a framework for the future of the city emphasizing the priority of the economic and social dimension and a strong focus on mobility behaviours and opportunities, ways of living and new functioning of the city: “La Città a 15 minuti” (the “15-minute-away city”, wherein all daily needs can be found within a 15-minute walking distance).

Vision (thematic frameworks):

– Governance, rights and inclusion;

– Economy, resources and value;

– Jobs;

– Opening hours, places and facilities;

– Sustainability.

Strategies, actions, projects (priorities and approaches):

– Maximize flexibility / Rhythm and opening hours;

– Mobility / Decrease work flows and diversify the offer of means of transportation;

– Public space and wellbeing / Regain space for (outdoor) physical activity;

– Digital services / enlargement and easy access;

– Facilities and neighborhood / all in 15 minutes walking;

– Culture / culture diffusion;

– Economic activities / innovation and inclusion;

– Infrastructure, building sector and public works / streamline bureaucratic procedures;

– Collaboration and Inclusion / reinforce social collaboration;

– “La Città dei Bambini” ( the City of children) / open and diffuse schooling

In recent years, Milano has devoted large attention to social innovation supported by wide campaigns of public hearing, an effective trigger behind small-scale urban transformations and public policies with a user-centered imprint. In a moment of significant request and need for social innovation, public consultations (like this here Open Call), the “voice of the city” plays a great role in setting a rhythm and a direction for future public strategies and actions. 

The compilation of the citizen’s proposals on more than 20 thematic areas (among which participation, culture, green, school, neighborhood, sport, volunteering…) is available online. It serves as an interesting and rich evidence of the needs, aspirations, threats and resources pertaining to the community. The list also highlights asymmetries of interests and importance between the themes, as well as the polarization of the citizens’ concerns: with Mobility coming on top of all themes (25%) , followed by Enterprises (12%) and Environment (6%).* An overview of the comments shows a common understanding that actions should be systemic, made of material and immaterial actions, so as to produce relevant short-term impacts, with a long-lasting capacity.

On Mobility, beyond the strong request of expansion of the city’s bike lanes system, optimizing accessibility to different modes of transportation seems to be of particular interest to the citizens. To achieve this, a large range of strategies were suggested: tax incentives on the purchase of private means of transportation — e.g. bicycles, scooters, electric cars; agreements with vehicle-sharing operators to reduce prices during the period of coronavirus-linked restrictions; taxi vouchers; changes on condominium regulations (bike parkings in the courtyards); bike facilities on working places; mobile apps (rewards for users not resorting to private cars); flexible working hours; free car parking around peripheral metro stops; opening up of public transportation opening hours, etc. 

“Actions should be systemic, made of material and immaterial actions, so as to produce relevant short-term impacts, with a long-lasting capacity.”


A great number of notes and remarks in the Enterprises category (i.e. jobs, employment and business) were also deeply related to mobility: There is a frequent request for actions towards more diffuse smart working, even after the end of the restrictions, and more flexible working hours; both actions intend to avoid rush hours for car traffic as well as public transportation overcrowding.

Another issue often highlighted is the strong demand on services and facilities oriented to the management of children in the city, of particular importance during the suspension of all the indoor educational activities up to their restart in mid-September. In this regard the proposals include a wide range of actions from tax incentives, to services and places: babysitter vouchers; a public list of babysitters by districts; parental leaves (for workers with children under 16); co-working spaces with babyparking; summer schools on public parks; use of alternative spaces like churches, cinemas, museums, communitarian centers, empty buildings and sport facilities by the community (specially children and elderly).

As far as childcare issues are concerned, the issue of gender equity was a regular point of focus for participants: the lockdown ensuing home office and homeschooling situations had a strong impact on women’s personal and professional life. Other proposals include encouraging unemployed people (or any volunteers) in temporary jobs to be refunded by vouchers or tax incentives (“Smart citizenship”); an online platform devoted to rural farms around the province; use of public open space by commercial activities (by a necessary streamline of the bureaucratic procedures), to name but a few.

“An easy-to-agree-on vision of the future”


When it comes to the Environment thematic area, many voiced their support of actions aimed at improving air quality. During the lockdown, citizens got a taste of a calmer city, where the air is less polluted and where living suddenly feels cleaner, where the sound of birds (and their quantity) increased — all in a very short timeframe. A side effect to this unexpectedly pleasant situation is that a number of comments were in favour of increasing car-free zones in the city, by reclaiming more open public pedestrian spaces out of car-parks, roads, abandoned areas and implementing policies to increase slow mobility. Both the environmental and social dimensions were taken into account as part of several proposals, like the use of restaurant leftovers to create “take away boxes” for fragile communities like elderly and homeless, or the promotion of programs such as “Spesa solidale e Spesa sospesa” ( i.e. donation of food products and packages by consumers) on markets and supermarkets. Another concerning issue for the citizens is the waste disposal of masks and gloves that are now found all around the city. 

The document elaborated by the municipality contains an “easy-to-agree-on” vision of the future; however, the time frame of the agenda remains uncertain. The intent was not to create an operative or programmatic document but to set a mind framework by looking at and analyzing the citizens’ proposals: mostly focused, easy-to-do, convergent, short-term actions. 

*The OpenCall received 1.949 inputs, including around 500 for the thematic area Mobility, 250 for Enterprises and 130 inputs for Environment.

Lead photo: Christian Fregnan