From January 28 to February 5, 2009, the GMF Comparative Domestic Policy (CDP) program led a study tour and workshop for 20 Transatlantic Cities Network (TCN) representatives to Belgrade, Serbia, and Turin, Italy. The tour began in Belgrade, where the TCN representatives participated in meetings, briefings, and site visits designed by the Balkan Trust for Democracy to provide a context for understanding the particular systemic challenges that the city of Belgrade is facing. These include lack of government reform, crumbling infrastructure, lack of effective land use planning, large populations of largely destitute Roma, and lack of financial resources. Representatives also met with many of the positive forces in Belgrade today, including journalists at Studio B, civic activists with Women in Black, and educators at a school for the mildly disabled.
From Belgrade, the group traveled to Turin, where they spent two days learning about the city's strategy for urban transformation, developed in the mid-1990s and still undergoing implementation today. In meetings and site visits organized by Torino Internazionale, the group visited the Higher Institute for Territorial Innovation (SiTI) for an overview of Turin's urban transformation, led by advisory committee member Professor Franco Corsico, and met with Politecnico di Torino administrators to discuss the school's role in the city. The group also learned about Turin's efforts to improve social housing for marginal populations by offering low-rent apartments to students and social workers to create a sense of community and stability in their apartment buildings. They heard from former mayor Valentino Castellani about how the city was able to win the Olympic bid and how the Olympic bid improved Turin citizens' opinions of their home town. Finally, the group met with Deputy Mayor Ilda Curti to hear about improvements in the Porto Palazzo neighborhood through the project "The Gate: Living, not Leaving" - a multi-year strategic plan to address the housing and social needs of this largely immigrant and working-class neighborhood.
The second TCN workshop took place at SiTI on February 5 and brought together TCN representatives, CDP staff, SiTI staff, and CDP Fellows for three intensive brainstorming sessions in which the representatives from Austin, Detroit, and Rotterdam presented particular challenges that their cities were facing and TCN representatives discussed possible actions. The group also discussed the impact of the current financial crisis on their cities and what they could do to mitigate the effects. Interestingly, what also emerged from this final session was an emphasis on the benefits of decline, including lower climate impact, on cities.