Most Dutch people live and work in urban environments. Cities are bustling, restless, dynamic places. This means that many social issues manifest themselves ++CitiesWe do not wish to belittle the importance of non-urban areas: on the contrary, issues such as shrinking populations, the brain drain and inequality between regions also deserve urgent attention (see also here). We work on the basis of “place-based innovation”: every location has its own unique history, residents, characteristics and thus also strengths, which can be harnessed for innovation.
: it is here that the greatest inequality exists, the most crime, the greatest logistical challenges and where the bulk of ++CO2 emissionsCities are responsible for two thirds of global energy consumption and more than 70% of all CO2 emissions. Read more about this on the C40 cities site. originate. At the same time, cities are ++Problems and chances for solutionsIn recent years, cities have attracted a lot of attention as unique places where problems and opportunities for solutions arise side by side: The New Urban Agenda van de Verenigde Naties, If Mayors Ruled the World van Benjamin Barber, Sustainable development goal.: they are home to knowledge institutions and students, industry and small businesses, the enterprising creative class and residents who work together to make their lives and their neighbourhoods a little better. Kennisland is working to create inclusive cities and to investigate new ways of involving all the experience and expertise present in the city and beyond.
In recent years, many government responsibilities have been passed from the national to the local level.The municipal agencies tasked with implementing these transformations at the local level are not in a position to fulfil their new roles effectively. This means that municipalities have new tasks and responsibilities, and that a great deal of policy is now developed and implemented in an urban context. We have observed that many municipalities are struggling with this – how should these duties be realised in practice, and how can citizens be involved in this process? Professors Jan Willem Duyvendak and Evelien Tonkens believe that the decentralisation process has been presented too much as a necessary transformation that citizens must simply adapt to: they must participate, but have no say in how this transformation must take shape. Citizens, communities and municipalities have been insufficiently involved in shaping the decentralisation process and the new roles that go along with it. In practice, this means that ++Inequality in the NetherlandsThe economist Robin Fransman believes it is very difficult to make any definitive statements about “the real level of inequality” in the Netherlands. He ends this piece (in Dutch) with: “Any conclusion that there is relatively little inequality in the Netherlands is certainly not based on statistics.”. The municipal agencies tasked with implementing these transformations at the local level are not in a position to fulfil their new roles effectively.
At the same time, many companies and institutions claim to know what is best for the city. They argue that enticing large companies and employees to move to the city will permit more construction, and that this growth is unquestionably good for cities. They also claim that by collecting data about the activities of city dwellers and how they move through the city, it will be possible to organise the ++Smart cityRead about the risks of the smart city here. oIt’s important to ask how the public interest and values should be represented when these are no longer automatically defended by elected authorities. ptimally. In this context, many people have pointed to the dominance of financial logic in cities. For example, ++Morozov warnsSee Morozov’s lecture “The ‘Smart City’ as a Transition Point Towards the ‘Private City’” here. run by tech companies, and ++Saskia SassenSassen claims that real estate in cities is increasingly being bought by large corporations and used as a basis for speculative financial constructions. This trend has a de-urbanising effect on the city, argues Sassen: the takeover of parts of the city by corporations threatens the mix, complexity and diversity that are so characteristic of urban environments. Read more here. argues that real estate is no longer used to house citizens, companies and public facilities, but as a safe haven for money. Who really benefits from cities dominated by financial logic and economic growth?
These developments demand more research in a local context, to allow the development of new strategies and approaches for these urban problems. A new administrative landscape and the influence of players who lack democratic legitimacy give greater urgency to the question of how we should organise cities most effectively. This is especially so if we recognise that we are only just beginning to deal with issues such as the sustainable transition, inclusivity and inequality. Many of these major changes will have the greatest impact on the most vulnerable groups in the city. It is most important to ask how the public interest and values should be represented when these are no longer automatically defended by elected authorities.
Who makes the city?
Kennisland is investigating these developments and working on ++Theory of Doughnut EconomicsThe British economist Kate Raworth came to prominence last year with her theory of Doughnut Economics, which she used to attack mainstream economics: markets are inefficient and growth cannot continue forever.
oTo function as a machine for solutions and emancipation, cities need space to experiment.f organising the city. We ask ourselves which type of governance will produce a city that is open, inclusive and successful. Which role can governments, citizens, community initiatives and business play in this? How can we ensure that all residents benefit from the wealth of opportunities offered by the city?
That is why Kennisland is working on:
- Forging new partnerships
We believe that smart cities can make good use of all the talent, experience and brainpower present, and that a smart city is a learning city, where ++Amsterdammers, Maak je Stad!With “Amsterdammers, Maak je Stad!” (People of Amsterdam, Make your City!), we support city-makers, active citizens and social entrepreneurs in developing initiatives to ensure Amsterdam is and remains a liveable city for everyone, in partnership with the municipality, the Amsterdam Economic Board and other parties. In this way, we contribute to a democratic innovation ecosystem that stimulates dialogue and imagination. work together. In doing so, they can jointly determine how the city should be governed, which problems must be solved, and how we should go about doing so. There is no single dominant logic, but instead an exchange of ideas – there is conflict, but also understanding, because different groups encounter one another in many different situations.
- Experiment in the city
To function as a machine for solutions and emancipation, cities need space to ++Social labsIn our social labs, we experiment with inclusive policymaking for complex social problems in multidisciplinary teams consisting of local residents, professionals and policymakers.
. TKennisland is experimenting with new interventions and solutions for the city by tackling urban problems at the local level, based on the stories and experiences of those directly involved.his includes the space to try out new forms of participation and democracy. In this way, we can learn about citizens’ own capacities and the role that local government must play to facilitate and support effective participation. We can also experiment with new types of entrepreneurship, which allow entrepreneurs to test out new business models that create social value, and in which business, government and non-profit organisations are logical partners, rather than existing in separate worlds.
- New ways of shaping policy
To develop inclusive policies, all those affected by an issue must be involved, and all the knowledge present in the city must be mobilised. We involve residents in research and use their personal experiences and stories as data. In addition, we help policymakers gain practical experience and facilitate constructive discussions between policymakers, professionals, researchers and residents. We always look for inclusive processes that focus on creating social values and sharing the burden fairly. Only by working on urban problems together as an inclusive group can we arrive at solutions that really serve the whole city.
Towards an inclusive city
Kennisland is experimenting with new interventions and solutions for the city by tackling urban problems at the local level, based on the stories and experiences of those directly involved. This may take the form of a challenge, such as in Challenge Stad van de Toekomst (Challenge City of the Future), as a stimulus and educational programme for newcomers to the city, as a social lab in which we investigate, experiment with and develop prototypes for issues such as Growing old well in Amsteldorp, or in other ways. The stories and needs of all city residents are key, as is the conviction that everyone can and must contribute to the discussion and work together to ensure that the city remains a place for everyone in the future. We must continue to question power relations, and expose their underlying logic: Kennisland is committed to cooperation, experiment, and democratic policy that will facilitate transitions towards an inclusive society.
More information: Nora van der Linden (firstname.lastname@example.org)