#48 Gata de Gorgos: Navigating Tradition and Innovation in a Small Town

Episode 54 October 25, 2023 00:25:54
#48 Gata de Gorgos: Navigating Tradition and Innovation in a Small Town
Smart in the City – The BABLE Podcast
#48 Gata de Gorgos: Navigating Tradition and Innovation in a Small Town

Oct 25 2023 | 00:25:54


Hosted By

Tamlyn Shimizu

Show Notes

In the fourth episode of our Greencities S-Moving series, we explore another small town in Spain: Gata de Gorgos, located south of Valencia. We had a very insightful discussion with Leticia Monfort Peiró, town councillor for European Funding, Innovation and Transparency.

With her, we learned more about the town, its smart and green initiatives, and the delicate balance of preserving tradition while embracing modern sustainability projects.


Overview of the episode:

01:50 - Teaser: Gata de Gorgos in three words

03:21 - Meet Letitia Monfort Peiró: the Town Counselor for European Funding, Innovation, and Transparency for Gata de Gorgos

04:37 - What is Gata de Gorgos all about? 

07:52 - What is Gata de Gorgos doing in terms of innovation and climate issues?

11:13 - Gata's vision: harnessing its abundant sunshine for a cleaner, more energy-efficient future

13:35 - Shifting citizen behaviour toward active mobility

15:35 - How can learnings from bigger cities be applied to Gata de Gorgos?

21:10 - Roll with the Punches: Our guest answers "this or that" questions quickly and with her first instincts

24:25 - Ending Question: To you, what is a Smart City?


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View Full Transcript

Episode Transcript

[00:00:06] Tamlyn Shimizu: Welcome to Smart in The City, the BABLE Podcast, where we bring together top actors in the Smart City arena, sparking dialogues and interactions around the stakeholders and themes most prevalent for today's citizens and tomorrow's generations. [00:00:21] Tamlyn Shimizu: I am your host, Tamlyn Shimizu, and I hope you will enjoy this episode and gain knowledge and connections to accelerate the change for a better urban life. [00:00:31] Tamlyn Shimizu: Smart in the city is brought to you by Babel smart cities. We enable processes from research and strategy development to co creation and implementation. To learn more about us, please visit the BABLE platform at babel SmartCities. [00:00:43] Tamlyn Shimizu: EU. So today I am here live at Green Cities S, moving in the beautiful city of Malaga, Spain. So we are official media partners for the event. So I'm taking in all the lessons and insights from everyone I can get my hands on and giving them all back to you, our listeners. So we speak a lot about Smart City cities, of course, on the podcast, but more and more we're hearing topics around smart towns, smart villages, smaller places in the discussion. So what about the villages and towns that are doing big things? So, with us today is Letitia Monfort. She's a town counselor for European funding, innovation and transparency for the town of Gata de Gorgos. So welcome, Letitia. [00:01:30] Leticia Monfort Peiró: Thank you. Thanks for inviting me. [00:01:32] Tamlyn Shimizu: Yeah, it's a pleasure. We actually just met each other like a half an hour ago and then decided spontaneously to do this podcast. It just clicked, so yeah, exactly. I'm really excited to have you on and do this so spontaneously. The most spontaneous podcast episode I've ever done, I think. [00:01:47] Leticia Monfort Peiró: Oh, lucky me. [00:01:48] Tamlyn Shimizu: Yeah, lucky you. So we'll see how it goes. [00:01:53] Leticia Monfort Peiró: Awesome. [00:01:53] Tamlyn Shimizu: I'm very confident as well, so we always get started with a little teaser to get warmed up. And that teaser is for today. Describe your town in three words. [00:02:07] Leticia Monfort Peiró: I would say sunny, lovely and traditional. [00:02:11] Tamlyn Shimizu: Oh, okay, good. I'm curious how the traditional interacts with the innovation. [00:02:17] Leticia Monfort Peiró: Oh, yeah. [00:02:18] Tamlyn Shimizu: Is that a tricky one? [00:02:21] Leticia Monfort Peiró: Yeah, it's something you have to do very carefully, very slowly, and really trying to convince people to adapt to these little changes every day. [00:02:33] Tamlyn Shimizu: Yeah, absolutely. I think communicating about how it's going to make their lives better right. Is the challenge. Absolutely. [00:02:39] Leticia Monfort Peiró: Just to make them understand why is it good for the town that they've seen very much remaining the same for the last 60 years and yet working? Why do they need anything new? [00:02:52] Tamlyn Shimizu: Right. Don't fix what's broken. [00:02:54] Leticia Monfort Peiró: Right. [00:02:55] Tamlyn Shimizu: What's not broken. But we could argue with climate change and all of that, that it is broken, right. All the systems are broken. [00:03:04] Leticia Monfort Peiró: Yes. Luckily, it's full of very intelligent people. [00:03:07] Tamlyn Shimizu: Good. [00:03:08] Leticia Monfort Peiró: And I guess we have a very progressive government in. So together with my team and my Maya, my new mayor, I think we can do very good things, cool, exciting. [00:03:21] Tamlyn Shimizu: Things happening in Gata. Indeed. So first, before we get more into all of that. I want our listeners to know a little bit more about you. Actually, I want to know more about you as well, because we haven't talked that much. So can you give me a little bit about your background? Are you from yeah, I was born. [00:03:40] Leticia Monfort Peiró: In Valencia City, actually, although my parents lived in Gata, so I spent there until I was 18. And then, let's say I was headhunted by a professor at university to move to Denmark and work in European issues and politics. And then from there they sent me to Poland, from Poland, sent me to Brussels, and then I've been living here, Norway, Denmark, Germany. But most of my time I lived in Brussels and worked at the European Commission, actually in Directorate General of Research and Innovation. [00:04:20] Tamlyn Shimizu: Very interesting. So Gata is very good to pull you in for being such a small. What's? The population of Gata. Like a 5000, 6000? [00:04:29] Leticia Monfort Peiró: No. Well, for many, many years we've been just 5000. Now we are 6243, if I'm not mistaken. [00:04:37] Tamlyn Shimizu: Yeah, very good. It's a really interesting background as well. So also, to give a little bit more context to Gata, can you give some history background? What is Gata all about? [00:04:50] Leticia Monfort Peiró: So, Gata started town in a very touristic area by the sea, only that the sea is like 8 km away. So we don't get this beach and sea tourism, but we get more those who want to see what real Valencian town is, how real Valencian people still live, how we work, our agriculture, our artisany, we make our products, we make hats, we make baskets, we weave. So we have a big industry there, plus the lovely weather, plus everything looking. It hasn't changed. Let's say that one of the good things we've got is that my town has remained very much as it's been for the last almost 100 years. So it has this very picturesque and a lovely sense of identity, right? [00:05:56] Tamlyn Shimizu: Yeah, lovely. I will have to come and visit, by all means. Okay. It sounds really interesting. I know that you recently came into your role, so what does that entail? What do you do? What are you going to do? [00:06:14] Leticia Monfort Peiró: Well, very good question. So let's say I'm counsel for three departments. One is European funding. The second one is innovation. The third one is transparency together with governance and good governance. Basically, I'm the first person who's going to do that officially, and I have to put together these three departments, if you will, from the scratch. I have to build everything from the scratch. I'm coming very excited, very decisive, with a lot of knowledge and a lot of energy and a lot of willpower to do good things. [00:07:05] Tamlyn Shimizu: Yeah, it sounds like you have very good energy, so I'm very confident that you can get good things done. I'm wondering if you can dig a little bit more into this innovation aspect, because we focus a lot on that, of course. Been like coming from the smart cities lens. Do you call it a village or a town? [00:07:25] Leticia Monfort Peiró: Yeah. What's really the difference? [00:07:28] Tamlyn Shimizu: Right? Yeah. I don't know the technical I don't. [00:07:31] Leticia Monfort Peiró: Know what's the difference? Feels like a village in the sense that we all know each other. [00:07:37] Tamlyn Shimizu: Okay. [00:07:38] Leticia Monfort Peiró: Because it's so small, but it's not like a village with goats and chickens running on the street. [00:07:46] Tamlyn Shimizu: I'm going to go with town. [00:07:48] Leticia Monfort Peiró: Let's go with town. [00:07:49] Tamlyn Shimizu: I think I'm going to go with town. [00:07:50] Leticia Monfort Peiró: Okay. [00:07:52] Tamlyn Shimizu: What is your town already doing in terms of innovation and what also tying into that? Because I think they're very closely linked. What about, like, climate issues? [00:08:03] Leticia Monfort Peiró: Yeah, so far we've been working on the field of electric cars, electric transport. We have installed a few chargers for electric cars. Quite a few citizens have bought already their own, which that was a very nice surprise. And we recently finalized a really big project of Water Digitalization with the help of European funding, obviously. And yeah, we have many more ideas, but for sure, for that, we need a lot of help from the European Union and from the Spanish government. And I guess that's why here, right? [00:08:53] Tamlyn Shimizu: Yeah, exactly. Do you think that there's some very unique challenges that places like around your size face and what would that be? [00:09:06] Leticia Monfort Peiró: Yeah, absolutely. I think the main challenge always comes together with financing. Right? Because let's say it's very easy to obtain an offer for funding, but then it comes with certain conditions. The town itself has to provide a percentage of the money, which is to be invested. Right. So maybe we can get, I don't know, a million euros funding. But then if you need €100,000 or €250,000 ahead and you don't have them yourself, so you have to say no to that funding. So it's kind of unfortunately, it comes to times where I have to say that we're not going to take that funding because we cannot pay our parts as a town. That's a big issue. And that's happening, I would say, to probably 90% or 95% of towns of this size and smaller. [00:10:12] Tamlyn Shimizu: Yeah, absolutely. We hear that echoed a lot, actually. We have an EU project right now called SMC Net Zero, and we're focused on small and medium sized cities and so giving them a lot more resources. Of course, the funding aspect is always a challenge. It's always so spread out and all the information. So that's also something that we try to do with the knowledge that we can share. [00:10:39] Leticia Monfort Peiró: If you allow me, it's just very much like a Catch 22. You cannot access to that funding. And if the government see that you haven't accepted the funding, that they don't offer you more. So the more you accept, the more they offer. How can you accept it if they don't give you beforehand? So you're kind of always stuck in the loop. [00:10:59] Tamlyn Shimizu: Exactly. [00:11:00] Leticia Monfort Peiró: Stuck in the loop, and it can get rather frustrating, but doesn't matter. You have to keep on going to work with your head high and willing. [00:11:09] Tamlyn Shimizu: Keep trying new things. [00:11:10] Leticia Monfort Peiró: Yeah, exactly. [00:11:13] Tamlyn Shimizu: That's good vision. And speaking of vision, I want to hear about what do you want to do for the future? [00:11:21] Leticia Monfort Peiró: Wow. [00:11:23] Tamlyn Shimizu: Okay, let me frame it this way. If you're still in your position in like, ten years, what do you have hope to accomplish? [00:11:31] Leticia Monfort Peiró: Oh, wow. [00:11:34] Tamlyn Shimizu: Interview question. [00:11:35] Leticia Monfort Peiró: Now, if it was my way, I would like to live in a town that has, let's say, the outside hasn't changed much. Those things, like antique buildings and really beautiful things have been restored in an old way, but with new money, let's say. So it keeps its charm. And I would like to be energy much more efficient. I would like to see my town using really most of energy possible from the sun, from photovoltaic. [00:12:18] Tamlyn Shimizu: Yeah, that's one of your words, right? Sunny. [00:12:20] Leticia Monfort Peiró: Exactly. We have a town where we have more than 360 days of sun, pure sun per year. [00:12:28] Tamlyn Shimizu: Wow. [00:12:29] Leticia Monfort Peiró: So it's very much a waste that we have to take our electricity on someplace else. It's clean, it's free. And then you look at all the roofs and it looks beautiful. So it was up to me, would just be solar panels everywhere. [00:12:47] Tamlyn Shimizu: Just solar panels on all the buildings everywhere. That's your vision. [00:12:51] Leticia Monfort Peiró: Also, I would really like to see a decrease of cars because as there's not so much public transport available, every family has like two or three cars, which I find someone that has been living in Europe and never had a car before at my age, for me particularly, I find it excessive. Excessive and sad because I see with every exhaust pipe, there's another tree who's crying. That's a bit how I see that's. [00:13:28] Tamlyn Shimizu: A good vision to have in your head. [00:13:31] Leticia Monfort Peiró: Maybe a bit simplistic, but I see it like that. [00:13:35] Tamlyn Shimizu: No, that's really nice. But also with I guess your vision then is what are the steps to get there? [00:13:49] Leticia Monfort Peiró: Yeah, well, the steps is, first of all, creating a team that wants to achieve the same goals, then have funding. This team would create a plan, obviously, and then have the funds to bring this plan to reality. And in the third place, people that would agree to that and would like to collaborate in this beautiful project. [00:14:19] Tamlyn Shimizu: Yeah, the car thing is always a difficult thing for people to part with. [00:14:26] Leticia Monfort Peiró: Yeah, definitely. [00:14:29] Tamlyn Shimizu: Where are they driving to? Are they commuting to work with their car? [00:14:33] Leticia Monfort Peiró: Yeah, they're going to, but just the simplest things. They're going to work, they're going to do grocery shopping, they're going to secondary school. And that's also another catch 22. There's no public transport because everybody, by tradition, always drove a car. They drove a car because there's no public transport. So again, there's a loop. But what about motivating people to take the bikes just ride your bike. Everybody has a bike. At least go Russia shopping with your bike or with one bike, with this little trolleys on front. This kind of thing, like in other countries, bringing small steps and small ideas from other European countries to the south. [00:15:18] Tamlyn Shimizu: Yeah, it's hard. It's a culture shift. It's a mind shift. Indeed. [00:15:24] Leticia Monfort Peiró: It shouldn't be. It shouldn't be because I think it's quite obvious that it's best for all. But yeah, traditions are tradition because they're so attached. Right, yeah. [00:15:35] Tamlyn Shimizu: That's also a good phrase. Wonderful. Small places, as you've said, they have challenges, they have limitations on what you can do. So a lot of the cities are doing big things, really cool things, really big projects, of course. From your perspective, how can you transfer these learnings from these cities and apply them to your town? [00:16:06] Leticia Monfort Peiró: Wow. That's an excellent question, I think. Well, first, you have to have your eyes open enough to see and to want to learn what's being done outside. [00:16:20] Tamlyn Shimizu: Right. [00:16:20] Leticia Monfort Peiró: Abroad and in bigger cities. And second, you have to downscale very much. Every project idea you have downscale budgeting. You very much have to know how to apply in your town and also whether it's something that your town could profit from. [00:16:48] Tamlyn Shimizu: Yeah. [00:16:49] Leticia Monfort Peiró: Because I don't know. There are amazing ideas on sea conservation or boats or motor engines in big fishery boats, but wouldn't apply to a town that doesn't have a sea to be very, again, very simplistic. [00:17:11] Tamlyn Shimizu: Right. [00:17:14] Leticia Monfort Peiró: I would think that you always have to start for small steps with very small steps, or steps which are big, like this water digitalization system, but they are not directly seen by the people's eyes. So you introduce changes that are good for them, that will be better, makes their life better, healthier, but that they don't disturb their lives. That's very important. Just to do things, in a way, introduce novelty, introduce new ideas. But that doesn't change their lives too much. [00:17:53] Tamlyn Shimizu: Yeah. Because then they will retract. [00:17:56] Leticia Monfort Peiró: Yeah. I think you have to be very much like a smooth operator. [00:18:01] Tamlyn Shimizu: Smooth operator. You have a lot of good lines. I like it. [00:18:07] Leticia Monfort Peiró: Thank you. [00:18:08] Tamlyn Shimizu: You learned that in Brussels, right? [00:18:10] Leticia Monfort Peiró: Yeah. That's what polypig does to you. Yeah. [00:18:16] Tamlyn Shimizu: I love what you said. Actually, I was facilitating a discussion, an online seminar yesterday with our EU project called SMC. Net Zero for small and medium sized cities. And we had the mayor of a small German town on, and he was speaking, and one of his main advice also was to catch the low. Like step one, catch the low hanging fruit, catch those easy wins. [00:18:44] Leticia Monfort Peiró: Right. [00:18:45] Tamlyn Shimizu: Keep the conversation going and then look for the big impact after that. I think it aligns with what you were just talking about as well. [00:18:55] Leticia Monfort Peiró: Very much. I wouldn't talk in terms of fruits. [00:19:01] Tamlyn Shimizu: Yeah. There's a million analogies. Yeah. Wonderful. So this is when we come to the interview where I love to give our guests the time to speak about something that we haven't yet spoken about. We give you the open floor if you want it. You don't have to take it. You can also say no. But if you have something that you're very passionate about, that you want others to know about your town, about the work that you're doing, also a call to action. Also, if you want some of our listeners to get engaged with you, this. [00:19:35] Leticia Monfort Peiró: Would be the place. When I was working in Brussels, I was also a member of UNESCO Youth. So there I learned how the civic movement, how beautiful can it be and how useful it is just to engage normal citizens in institutional activities, if you will. So I would love to see all the young people and doesn't have to be only from my town, just the towns around, so that we could all work together in things that are simple enough and that we could make almost like a day out of it or a party out of it. We could go and clean together, we could go and clean the mountains, we could go and plant trees together, could go and paint and restore buildings that need to be restored, but there's no specific funding for it. The episode is good for all, and you just have to devote a couple of hours of your life which you're going to be spending much less relevant. [00:20:49] Tamlyn Shimizu: Yeah. So get involved. [00:20:50] Leticia Monfort Peiró: Get involved. And I like civic society to be there for the government and for the people that we're also civic people, we hold the phone and stand in front of the camera, but we're just people like anybody else, and we cannot do it alone. [00:21:10] Tamlyn Shimizu: Yeah, good words to end on. So now we are coming to well, I like to call it our funnest part, but I think all of it's fun. But now's our little segment, this is my favorite segment, if some of our listeners know that I always say this for this segment, and it's called Roll with the Punches. Roll with the punches. Answer this or that questions quickly and with your first instincts. So there's a silly one. So you just have to choose, that's the goal. Okay. [00:21:52] Leticia Monfort Peiró: Are you ready? Yeah. [00:21:54] Tamlyn Shimizu: Sea or mountains? [00:21:55] Leticia Monfort Peiró: Sea. [00:21:56] Tamlyn Shimizu: Towns or villages? [00:21:59] Leticia Monfort Peiró: Villages. [00:22:00] Tamlyn Shimizu: Innovation or social justice? [00:22:05] Leticia Monfort Peiró: Social justice. [00:22:07] Tamlyn Shimizu: European or national funding? [00:22:09] Leticia Monfort Peiró: European. [00:22:10] Tamlyn Shimizu: Good. Any surprises in there? You chose social justice even though you're building a department for innovation. [00:22:26] Leticia Monfort Peiró: I think bringing social justice for everybody is also quite new. [00:22:32] Tamlyn Shimizu: Yeah. So it's a form of innovation, you're saying? [00:22:35] Leticia Monfort Peiró: Okay, yeah, absolutely. [00:22:38] Tamlyn Shimizu: I just try and make you choose between those. But of course, I'm also a believer that those should coincide. [00:22:44] Leticia Monfort Peiró: At the same time, what's good have innovation and new machinery if the people are not taken care of? [00:22:53] Tamlyn Shimizu: Yeah, and with the European and national funding, I want to dig into that a little bit more. Why do you think European funding is more, I guess, impactful than national funding? [00:23:06] Leticia Monfort Peiró: Well, maybe it's my personal look, because I've been working the European Commission for all these years, and I've seen how Brussels work and how very efficient it can get to be. I can see with national and international funding, there's many more steps to follow. Things can get lost on the way. You need more people and more professionals to really organize it, whereas Brussels, the Brussels structure is made is built in a way that the way I see it. [00:23:54] Tamlyn Shimizu: Obviously. [00:23:54] Leticia Monfort Peiró: It's my own opinion. It feels much more accessible, much more clear, and they have structurally, a better view of what Europe as a unit needs. And I'm a great believer of the European Union as I've been working on it my whole life, let's say. [00:24:17] Tamlyn Shimizu: Yeah, I'm glad that you didn't split and be like, no, I hate it now. [00:24:21] Leticia Monfort Peiró: Oh, my God. I'm just fan number. Yeah. [00:24:25] Tamlyn Shimizu: Okay, good. Now we come to our last question, and that's the question we ask every single guest, and it's to you. What is a smart city? [00:24:37] Leticia Monfort Peiró: Smart city? A smart city is a clean city where everybody feels comfortable with everybody wants to come back to in a city that feels old and young at the same time. [00:24:54] Tamlyn Shimizu: Oh, I've never had that answer. Old and young. So keeping preserving the traditional exactly. And but being open for innovation. [00:25:01] Leticia Monfort Peiró: Yeah, that's how I would picture my city. [00:25:03] Tamlyn Shimizu: Yeah, that's lovely image. So with that, that's all I have for you today. Thank you so much for doing this so spontaneously. It's been a pleasure to get to know you, to get to know more about Gata and to all of our listeners. Don't forget, you can always create a free account at babo SmartCities. EU. You can find out more about cities like Gata, smart city projects, solutions, implementations. So thank you very much. Thank you all for listening. I'll see you at the next stop on the journey to a better urban life.

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