Around the world, people seem to be breathing a collective sigh of relief as cities liven up with a renewed sense of hope. But the road to this point, after a year of loss and hardship, has not been easy. And often, cities were at the forefront of addressing some of the toughest challenges.
It’s no wonder that they’re now getting some much-deserved recognition, and inspiring others with a little positive competition. As we focus on moving our communities forward, it’s important to look back and reflect on our learnings from the last year.
This month’s selection of articles looks at global good practices to fuel your own innovation. Happy reading!
While the pandemic seemed to push many cities towards digital data solutions, it wasn’t exactly an overnight phenomenon. In fact, Bloomberg Philanthropies’ What Works Cities initiative has been certifying cities “based on how well they use data, from measuring goal achievement to making information public” for some time now, and in 2021 16 new U.S. cities were awarded certification.
Why recognize cities for their data usage? Well, for one, “according to a report from Monitor Institute by Deloitte and What Works Cities, city governments that use data also are able to identify the needs of residents more efficiently, and deploy policies where they can have the greatest impact.” Data collection, paired with proper data analysis, can make for swift and much-needed change. Read more to find out how some of the certified cities worked on increasing broadband access, creating housing for homeless veterans, and improving traffic flows.
Trust in government institutions, which is vital to the future of democracy, has been eroding for the last several decades. Now, “this lack of trust, whether in government institutions or the system itself, makes finding and implementing solutions to our communities’ greatest challenges—like policing, COVID-19 responses, and vaccine distribution—even harder.”
Shobita Parthasarathy, director of the Ford School’s Science, Technology, and Public Policy program, notes that “Because community knowledge is rarely incorporated into decision making, individuals are less likely to trust these expert institutions. And when community knowledge is rejected in favor of scientific knowledge, it masks citizen concerns.”
This piece explores learnings from fragile states that show how trust can be earned or lost in feedback loops, and highlights how prioritizing community expertise for institutional change can make a difference.
“Beyond Silicon Valley: the 6 cities building the future of the global tech industry”, by Rest of World
While Silicon Valley may be renowned as the birthplace of countless startups, speculation about the “next Silicon Valley” has been rampant for a while now. And that’s not just because the area’s unsustainable living costs are changing the startup landscape, but because of the incredible talent and support systems that exist elsewhere in cities around the globe.
Many of the world’s new tech hubs are modeled after Silicon Valley’s successes and lessons learned. As these tech hubs grow, what impact will they have on the way their cities and governments utilize technology? How will their growth impact the future of the local communities in these cities?
In this piece, Rest of World takes a deep dive into six tech hubs that have been growing across the world, from Lagos to Medellin. But don’t be too quick to compare these bustling hubs with their OG inspiration: “Some have been called the ‘Silicon Valley of …’ their respective countries, but to compare them directly does them an injustice. Each has its own story and a set of unique factors behind its rise.” We hope technological innovation helps these communities of the future thrive!
It’s undeniable that the pandemic has left “its mark on cities, impacting urban design, transportation and governance”. But what is remarkable is the way this impact has begun to shape our orientation towards resilient cities of the future.
In this piece, five thought leaders weigh in on developing resilience trends, like slow cities and walkable neighborhoods, that could shape the future of their communities. They suggest creative solutions such as “disaster evacuation in reverse”, which considers how to apply emergency planning for stay-home situations, or bike networks for “a fuel-free, all-terrain, distributed transportation system – resilient to disaster”. Their proposed solutions all recognize the vital role that civil society plays in a city.