The Interreg Europe project ABCitiEs deals with a specific aspect of the involvement and contribution of entrepreneurs to societal development: Area Based Collaborative Entrepreneurship in Cities, which is defined as  “a geographically delimited, networked community of entrepreneurs (and other stakeholders) that jointly enact their business environment to pursue economic goals as well as social and/or environmental goals.” (ABCitiEs Policy Evaluation Report).

The project builds on the observation that “area based collaborative entrepreneurship fosters urban regeneration as the participating firms are most often strongly connected to their neighbourhood and committed to social goals. Neighbourhood liveability and social ties between local stakeholders are enforced. It supports inclusive growth, cooperation and cohesion and helps to address the negative impacts of globalization such as economic restructuring, income inequality and the decline of urban areas” (Patricia van Hemert, Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences, Lead Partner of ABCitiEs).

ABCE in Amsterdam – bottom-up meets top-down

The Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences and the Municipality of Amsterdam are both active partners in the ABCitiEs project and contribute jointly to analyse and improve the local policy instruments that foster or stimulate area based collaborative enterprises.

ABCE is not a fully new topic for Amsterdam. There was already a lot happening in that field prior to the start of the ABCitiEs project. Many bottom-up initiatives are contributing in different ways to develop their local areas on the one side, and the Municipality is running dedicated programmes on the other side. The picture below shows some of the most relevant and successful examples:

Municipality of Amsterdam 

Local initiatives

Business Improvement Districts (BID) Amsterdam

A bid is a demarcated area such as a shopping street or a business park in which entrepreneurs and / or real estate owners invest together in the quality of their business environment.

Noorderpark Onderneemt

As part of the redevelopment of Noorderpark, a trust was founded with wider social objectives for locals, i.e. culture, sports, wellbeing and greening

Street management Amsterdam

Street managers carry out activities on behalf of a business association with the aim of improving the economic climate in an area.

Ik Geef om de Jan Eef

Ik Geef om de Jan Eef is an historic City Makers initiative in Amsterdam that demonstrated the potential of citizens initiatives addressing public challenges.

Frontrunners sustainable business associations

The frontrunner group of sustainable business associations implements concrete and delineated projects that contribute to a sustainable and liveable environment.

Knowledge Mile Amsterdam

An active and growing collective has emerged in a street that has been nominated ‘the ugliest street in Amsterdam’ to develop a more attractive street.


Zero Waste Lab Plein 40-45

Market vendors that are developing an own system for waste processing that minimises dissipation and maximises recycling and re-use in the West of Amsterdam.

Collaboration improvement between local initiatives and public authorities 
on area based collaborative entrepreneurship

In the case of Amsterdam, the bottom-up dynamics from the districts and the top-down policy efforts from the municipality complement and leverage each other. The initiatives implemented by the Municipality of Amsterdam contribute to strengthen and financially support the local initiatives presenting a potential for significantly improving the attractiveness of their neighbourhood and consequently of the City.

The participative approach giving entrepreneurs and residents a big say in the development of their area represents a key success factor  and fosters trust building among the actors on the field and the public administration. The City of Amsterdam pilots thereby the right to challenge, a policy which encourages and gives citizens the right to take over responsibilities usually allocated to civil servants within the Municipality. 

“The right to challenge can contribute to a more democratically owned, more democratically controlled tasks in neighbourhoods. It can be very helpful in strengthening the ownership of residents.” (Rutger Groot Wassink, Alderman for Social Affairs, Diversity and Democratization, City of Amsterdam).

For more information on how things work in practice, you can refer to the recording of a livestream co-organised by ABCitiEs about the Zero Waste Lab Plein 40-45 collective.

The next challenge from the perspective of the Municipality of Amsterdam is to find out how to best scale up the most promising local initiatives to generate a more significant impact on the city level, without losing the ownership at local level for their own initiative.

The challenges of Area Based Collaborative Entrepreneurship in Cities

The work performed by the ABCitiEs partners highlights that the COVID-19 pandemic has brought new uncertainties or reinforced existing ones in the area based collaborative entrepreneurship initiatives in cities, which might turn into threats or opportunities (see ABCitiEs Policy Evaluation Report):

  • Increased digitalisation: the increase of online shopping and remote working practices might induce significant changes for shopping streets and collaborative initiatives built around them.
  • Pressure on tourism: a decrease in visitors to city centres and a change in customer demands would impact city centres and their business dynamics.
  • Regained interest in neighbourhood: during the pandemic, a surge of the interest in the neighbourhood’s facilities and businesses has been observed, which might provide opportunities for area-based collaborative entrepreneurship initiatives.
  • Green and healthy living environment: the transition towards a more sustainable economy and society is a potentially strong field of action for bottom-up initiatives.

Let’s keep following ABCitiEs to learn more and stay updated.

Credit: photo by bialasiewicz on envatoelements