European and International
As well as being the national centre of excellence for sustainable communities in England, ASC has a growing international role. ASC is involved in promoting and developing the skills and knowledge needed to create sustainable communities across Europe.

Skills for the Future

In November 2006, ASC hosted a major skills symposium involving more than 30 countries from across Europe. The ‘Skills for the Future' event provided an opportunity for 200 European experts to consider the central role of generic skills in the creation and maintenance of sustainable communities.

It is intended that the symposium leads to the creation of a European-wide network of organisations committed to building the skills of place-making. A new Skills Commitment, which was discussed and refined at the symposium, will form the basis for shaping a future agenda for collaboration and action across Europe.

Complementing this work, ASC is the host of the UK National Focal Point for the European Urban Knowledge Network, in partnership with the Department for Communities and Local Government. This allows us to showcase good practice in the development of skills and knowledge in this country.

» To download presentations and video clips from the symposium sessions, see Skills for the Future.

A changing Europe

Across Europe, as in the rest of world, there is a renewed emphasis on making places where people want to live, where companies want to invest and where citizens can find real opportunities and good services. These complex needs present both challenges and opportunities for practitioners and policy-makers.

Globalisation allows for a new scale of mobility of populations and businesses, creating new opportunities but also placing more emphasis on making places strong and appealing. Labour mobility can create great social and economic enrichment in some places, while leading to fracture and economic collapse elsewhere.

Demographic challenges are also emerging rapidly. In Europe, an ageing population means communities will need to provide appropriate services and support for four or more generations at any one time. Meanwhile, climate change has profound implications for the planning and construction of the built environment and for the provision of effective transport.

These social, economic and environmental imperatives impact different places in distinctive ways. The shared challenge is the need for communities and places to adjust and respond effectively. By making communities across Europe genuinely sustainable, countries will be able to reduce the likelihood of major population shifts, abandonment, economic failure and neglect. This is dependent on having the right skills in the right place at the right time.

Sharing skills and knowledge

The UK Government believes that investing in skills, knowledge and capacity building is essential to creating sustainable communities across Europe. A new, integrated approach to skills development and knowledge exchange will help all European Union countries to deliver the Lisbon agenda for growth and the Rotterdam Urban Acquis, which is an agreed set of common principles on urban policy.

An investment in the right skills and knowledge can:

  • Reduce the cost and increase the efficiency of public sector interventions.
  • Increase interest and partnership from the private sector.
  • Embed skills and capacity permanently at the local level.
  • Learn and build on lessons from past projects.
  • Engage and empower communities.
  • Develop a more integrated approach between sectors and partners.
  • Ensure that people's skills match needs in a fast-changing environment.
  • Encourage long-term thinking and a creative approach to what works best.

It is essential to share lessons about what works but also to acknowledge that similar issues often require diverse solutions because of differences in culture, geography, climate, economy and other factors such as labour supply. Understanding these differences will help to provide a richer range of solutions available to everyone working to achieve sustainable communities.