Urban innovation matters: 10 articles and resources to highlight why

By  | 2019

As you may know, at anteverti we work to foster smarter cities. That is, in our view, more inclusive, sustainable, people-centered, enjoyable, comfortable, safe, innovative cities. And, to this end, one thing seems clear to us: urban innovation matters if we are to build a better life for future generations.

To highlight its role in improving people’s lives and resulting from our multidisciplinary expertise, our team co-curated a set of online articles and resources. Here we go!

 

1. THE IMPORTANCE OF DATA

 

Did you know that 4.2 billion people live in cities today? Have you ever heard –or read– about the fact that in 2007 the world’s population turned more urban than rural for the first time in history? Maybe you know that, by 2050, it is projected that 68 % of the world’s population will live in urban areas. Don’t you?

Data is key to understand urban challenges: Our World In Data is home to all city- and urbanization-related figures and charts – such as this one:

 

2. CLIMATE CHANGE: THE CHALLENGE

 

Talking about urban challenges is talking about climate change.

According to C40 Cities, 70 % of cities are already dealing with the effects of rising sea levels, extreme weather events or other impacts resulting from global climate changes.

In a way, innovation is looking to the future. So how will urban life look like in 2050 if bold action against climate change is not taken? This article by John Vidal from The Guardian gives us clues on this field:

CitiesToBe Climate change

 

 

3. IT CAN BE AS SIMPLE AS PLANTING TREES

 

Almost always, nature knows best. And although innovating at the urban level may seem complex, solutions can be based in actions as simple as… planting trees.

The World Economic Forum reviews in this article what big cities such as Athens, Melbourne, New York or Seoul are doing to become not only greener, but also more inclusive cities:

Cities To Be trees

 

 

4. BIG OR SMALL, TRANSFORMATION IS POSSIBLE IN ALL CITIES

 

Transformative formulas towards sustainability are possible everywhere – not only in megacities or capitals. In fact, innovation sometimes is not only the solution, but an obligation.

You may have heard about the story of Alaska’s remote town of Kivalina. It is a powerful example of how community leadership is crucial to ensure a better future for all, even in extreme, life-or-death cases. Global Citizen and this article by Joe McCarthy provide a first-hand insight on Kivalina’s people collaborative, participatory experience:

 

5. CAN VIDEO GAMES TRANSFORM CITIES?

 

However paradoxical it may seem, we often tend to think of urban innovation under rigid schemes – while, in fact, it is all about thinking outside of the box.

And this is what the Block by Block project does. Assuming that video games be a tool for innovation in cities, this initiative uses the potential of Minecraft to involve people from all ages and backgrounds in the transformation of urban spaces.

By doing so, this Mojang, Microsoft, and UN-Habitat-powered project has catalyzed the revitalization of urban neighborhoods in more than 30 countries, impacting the lives of more than 1.5 million people:

 

 

 

6. TECHNOLOGY: FINDING THE BALANCE BETWEEN POTENTIAL AND RISKS

 

It is obvious that technology – and big data – is key to manage cities more efficiently. However, it also entails risks.  

Biased algorithms are one of them. Since algorithms are not neutral, the data resulting from them can lead to unfair, discriminatory decision-making.

Nevertheless, a significant part of the scientific community is carrying out efforts to study, understand and ultimately overcome this challenge. Mathematician and data expert Cathy O’Neil explains the situation in this TED Talk:

 

 

7. CITIES COOPERATE TOWARDS A HUMAN-CENTERED DIGITALIZATION

 

Against the risks that digitalization involves, unity creates strength.

That is why 36 cities from all over the globe signed the ‘Cities Coalition for Digital Rights’: a declaration of 5 principles aimed at protecting and monitor residents’ and visitors’ Human Rights at the digital level.

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Led by Amsterdam, New York and Barcelona, the goal of the Coalition is «to harness technological opportunities that improve the lives of our constituents by providing trustworthy and secure digital services and infrastructures that support communities». Read the Coalition booklet here.

 

 

8. THERE IS NO INNOVATION WITHOUT RESEARCH

 

In any case, it seems clear that there is no urban innovation without questioning, research and experiment – and universities are essential to this end.

Who governs the urban night? Can we look at cities with a better ‘gender lens’? Are dance and mobility somehow interlinked? How to drive inclusive climate mitigation in cities?

These are some of the questions that the research projects carried out by the Urban Innovation and Policy Lab of University College of London tried to answer – with an incredibly interesting, disruptive approach. Find out more on them:

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9. PIONEERS AND CITY-ACTIVISTS: CORNERSTONES FOR INNOVATION

 

After all, it is never too late to pay tribute to all those who have defended the right to an inclusive and human urban innovation. Because the only way to move towards better cities for people is putting people at the core of decision-making.

Jane Jacobs was a journalist, an urbanist, an intellectual and an activist for the rights of people in cities. Once she said that “There is no logic that can be superimposed on the city; people make it, and it is to them, and not to buildings, that we must fit our plans.”

Luckily, Jacobs’ legacy is today still as vibrant as ever – and this is a reason for us to celebrate. Discover more on her life in our blog CitiesToBe and this article by anteverti’s Innovation Director Cristina Garrido:

Cities To be

 

10. PUSHING THE GLOBAL CONVERSATION: 5 BLOGS TO STAY UP-TO-DATE IN URBAN INNOVATION

 

We want to conclude this post by picking 5 blogs that can help you stay up-to-date in the urban present and future.

The Internet is full of knowledge, blogs and media offering insights on the latest trends on cities and urban innovation. However, in a context of overflow of information, being selective is a must. Here is our pick!

 

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  • The Guardian Cities | Photo galleries on cities’ most impactful realities and series of analysis and reports on the most pressing urban challenges in a blog curated by one of the first-class British newspapers.
  • World Economic Forum | From Geostrategy to Economics, this blog includes a solid set of contents – videos, infographics, articles – covering city- and urbanization-related issues.
  • Maptia: #FutureOfCities | Maptia is an organisation dedicated to providing a platform for those who document and capture the world through photography, with a strong commitment for creating a ‘record of life on Earth’.
  • WorldBank Blogs | With a focus on economy and its social effects, this blog publishes success stories and highlights relevant urban projects and initiatives – in English, French, Spanish, Arab, Russian, Japanese and Chinese.
  • CitiesToBe | “A platform for city lovers, experts and urbanites to think about today’s urban challenges and share innovative ideas that help make cities better for people” – our blog offers world’s top experts’ views on the present and future of cities.

 

 

ABOUT | This set of contents and resources is the result of a collaborative process of co-curation carried out by anteverti’s team to celebrate the World Cities Day 2019. , It has been edited by our Communications Coordinator Sergio García i Rodríguez, with the participation of our consultants Alba Soler TurullMarta GalceranMons BadiaMireia Tudurí, Silvia Rubaki and Pierre Coent, our intern Jean Pierre Garrido, our Consulting Director Ana Alcantud, our Innovation Director Cristina Garrido, and our CEO Pilar Conesa.

Want to know more? Follow us on Twitter and visit our website www.anteverti.com

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anteverti is formed by a team of experts from multidisciplinary fields, based both in Barcelona and around the world.