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September 11, 2014

Mobility, poverty big issues at Hungarian launch

Mobility, poverty big issues at Hungarian launch

Key stakeholders in the fields of social innovation and urban planning met in Budapest on September 8 for the inaugural workshop of the Hungarian SEiSMiC national network.

Held in a bohemian-chic restaurant overlooking a refurbished green square on the Pest bank of the Danube River, the meeting drew about 40 participants. They included cycling activists; urban planners and researchers; a landscape designer; and an organiser of a popular support group for new mothers.

Participants heard from Hungarian experts about the state of the art of urban research and social innovation in their own country, and they heard from SEiSMiC work package leaders who described the project’s European context. Soraya Zanardo of Eurocities gave an overview of urban facts and figures in Europe overall and in Hungary specifically, while Doris Wilhelmer of the Austrian Institute of Technology explained the SEiSMiC national networking process and the common goals and challenges for all 10 project countries.

Several Hungarian innovators introduced their start-ups or initiatives. These included:

  • an online route planner featuring crowd-sourced information for people in wheelchairs and parents with strollers
  • an interactive method of collecting community input in urban planning utilising giant maps laid out on the ground
  • a new co-working site for artists, journalists, NGOs and others based on a for-profit model.

After morning presentations, the meeting turned to exercises intended to tease out project ideas that would be worth undertaking in Hungary. At the end of the day, three idea were selected for further consideration during future meetings of the Hungarian SEiSMiC network. They were:

  • a knowledge and information exchange system for young people who work or study outside of Hungary;
  • a bartering platform or second-hand goods exchange for mothers, seniors, students and unemployed people; and
  • an idea dubbed “Perfect plant for the perfect place”, a botanical database that would help urban gardeners match plant species with the right places and habitats.


During the meeting, a group of five local artists under the direction of SEiSMiC partner New Heroes met with network members and some randomly chosen Budapest residents and sketched out their ideas of how they imagined an ideal city or neighbourhood. In her summary of the sketch exercise, Rosa Boon, of New Heroes, said that the urban priorities in Hungary appeared to be water (e.g. drinking water and the Danube River) and urban mobility. Poverty is a big challenge in Hungary, but also a key incentive for innovation. A more detailed report on the Budapest sketch exercise will be posted in Arthur’s blog.