Five Intelligent Cities Challenge (ICC) cities shared the experiences and insights gained through their work to incorporate collaborative governance and innovation ecosystems into their communities at the World Urban Forum on 29 June 2022. Representatives from Amsterdam Metropolitan Area (Netherlands), Porto (Portugal), Milan (Italy), Gliwice (Poland) and Barcelona (Spain) joined the event, which took place in Poland, to share their stories.
Ahead of hearing from the cities, Natalia Gkiaouri, Policy Officer, Proximity and Cities at the European Commission and Sene Segbedzi, Champion Mayors for Inclusive Growth Coordinator at OECD, presented to the audience.
Ms Gkiaouri spoke about the important role that cities play in addressing modern challenges, like food shortages, the COVID-19 pandemic, global conflicts and rising energy prices. She explained that the ICC is designed to empower cities by linking them to funding sources, providing a wealth of shared knowledge and connecting them to other cities facing the same challenges. Finally, the audience were invited to consider how their cities will move into a green and digital future, emphasising that increased citizen participation and powerful local partnerships, such as Local Green Deals, can make cities more resilient in the face of adversity.
Ms Segbedzi then shared research findings illustrating the positive correlation between a city’s investment in innovation and level of stakeholder engagement and their citizens’ wellbeing and life satisfaction. The research also found that cities that prioritised partnerships were able to accomplish more with fewer resources and expand their skills. It was stressed that cities should beware of the fine line between partnerships and outsourcing in order to best support their local community.
The ICC cities then took to the stage to present their unique approaches to collaboration and innovation. Many of them had a similar message to share: prioritising citizens, local economic actors and involving diversely skilled stakeholders are crucial elements to success.
Amsterdam Metropolitan Area’s people and planet focused projects
Leonie van den Beuken, Programme Director at Amsterdam Smart City, represented the Amsterdam Metropolitan Area during the session, sharing the city’s efforts to engage stakeholders. Her presentation reflected the idea that projects must “work for people and the planet, now and in the future.” To do this, Amsterdam follows the principles of the doughnut economy model, striving for balance between ecological and societal wellbeing.
When considering best practices, Amsterdam believes that successful innovation is a result of partners being more aligned towards values than goals. Further, that regardless of the level of technology involved, the human perspective must always stay in mind. This mindset recently inspired the reduction of parked cars and vehicle traffic around the popular Johan Cruijff Arena in the city. The action has meant that the city has been able to drastically cut the carbon emissions resulting from each match or event and make attendance more enjoyable for citizens and visitors.
Porto’s innovative spirit
Ana Carneiro, Head of Project Management for the City of Porto, presented the city’s digital toolbox capabilities, focusing on the Explore Porto platform. Citizens, visitors and businesses can access mobility information, points of interest and tourism guidance from anywhere thanks to digital touchpoints across the city. The development of this platform relied on co-creation between the city and stakeholders from conceptualisation and research to design.
To support the innovation ecosystem, the city relies on dedicated involvement from municipality employees. Over 700 city servants participated in workshops to find solutions to diverse problems and figure out how to replicate and scale their results. Looking towards the future, Porto hopes their innovative spirit continues to grow.
Milan’s urban digital ecosystem
Agnese Bianchi, Head of the Smart City Unit of the Municipality of Milano, shared how Milan’s digitisation efforts are aimed at making daily life easier and more efficient for residents. The city’s government functions as a platform paradigm, collecting the data generated from citizens’ use of public services and harnessing it to better serve residents and streamline operations. Data has even led to improved energy efficiency by allowing informed control over infrastructure, including public lighting fixtures.
Despite these advancements, Agnese acknowledged challenges the city faced along the way. There is often a clash between open data use and business models that rely on monetising the same data. Due to this, the city found creative ways to get businesses on board. In the end, participation in EU programmes and receiving guidance from other peer cities allowed Milan to expand a single data collection project into an entire ecosystem for the benefit of their citizens.
Gliwice’s open ears to citizens
Katarzyna Kobierska, Director of City Development Bureau at Municipality of Gliwice, explained how the city’s efforts within the ICC are focused on developing new patterns of collaboration. Over the last few years, the city has expanded their approach to governance. Their current collaborative government moves beyond institutions, inviting individual citizens to take part in decision making and build trust and communication.
To do so, the city created a digital citizen engagement platform. Here, residents participate in workshops and online surveys to relay their feedback. The city even opened its ears to the voices of children, inviting youth to share their ideas through an art contest. Now, both citizens and institutions come together in thematic groups to address issues within the categories of environment, economy, social affairs and spatial planning. These initiatives have added value to the city and helped inclusively define their strategic goals.
Barcelona’s innovative approach
Isabella Longo, Project Director (BIT Habitat) at Barcelona City Council, presented the city’s various Urban Innovation initiatives. Through the Urban Innovation Platform, 100 city representatives from various business sectors act as a consultant group, bringing important issues to the government’s attention. Beyond this, the city crowdsources creative solutions and through their Urban Challenge programme, it invites grant applicants to try to co-finance solutions.
The city’s Innovation Lab is perhaps its most impactful solution. It relies on both proactive and reactive approaches to utilise the city as a testbed for solutions, preparing them for market readiness. All of these initiatives are highlighted and celebrated during Innova Week in the city. This event embodies Barcelona’s goal of engaging the community in the process of reimagining their city.
Stefan Oblakowski, Senior Consultant Arup Poland and moderator, closed the session by asking speakers to reflect on the most important considerations for weaving collaborative governance and innovation ecosystems into the fabric of their city. Cities must keep their businesses and citizen’s needs at the centre of their strategies and ensure they feel valued for their input. Finally, collaboration is constantly evolving, and each city agrees that flexibility, reactivity and open-mindedness are essential to making it work.
These five cities embody the power of collective knowledge and sharing experiences. The ICC looks forward to witnessing their continued success in becoming more collaborative, inclusive and innovative places to live, work and visit.