A Shared Future for Cities: Notes from the Young Leaders Symposium at the World Cities Summit

A Shared Future for Cities: Notes from the Young Leaders Symposium at the World Cities Summit

Guest Blog by Professor Jem Bendell, WCS Young Leader 2014; Founder, Iflas.info

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Thursday, June 12, 2014 - 8:00am



“A smart city is a city that shares” concluded Singaporean Ambassador Burhan Gafoor, after a round of discussions at the Inaugural Symposium of Young Leaders, held recently at the World Cities Summit in Singapore. Fifty-seven leaders from 28 countries were discussing common challenges in our cities, and innovative new ideas for tackling them. Aged between 30 and 45, we comprised government officials, urban planners, industry experts, architects, economists and researchers (like myself). From this diversity, a common theme had emerged: the potential of unprecedented levels of hyper-connectivity to empower citizens and city officials to transform urban environments for greater liveability.

The opening Young Leader keynote was given by Rt Hon Stephen Yarwood, Mayor of Adelaide. All of our hands went up when he asked if we all had a smart phone, illustrating his argument that we live in an age of digital geo-location that enables mass coordination of people and services. Next up, Ridwan Kamil, Mayor of Bandung, dispelled any doubts that this connectivity is limited to advanced economies, by explaining how he uses his half a million Twitter followers to reach millions of Indonesians and solicit their input on public policy. Mayor Kamil explained how connectivity could help create a “collaborative city” as it provides means for people to organise collective action. He gave the example of Bandung Berkebun, where technology is helping people come together to farm idle urban land.

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Jem Bendell is Professor of Sustainability Leadership, Founder of the Institute for Leadership and Sustainability (IFLAS) in the UK, lead author of ‘Healing Capitalism,’ and a WCS Young Leader 2014. jem.bendell@cumbria.ac.uk