Meeting of the Minds took a few moments to talk with Herrie Schalekamp about new working relationships between researchers and paratransit operators in South Africa and beyond. Herrie is the ACET Research Officer at the University of Cape Town’s Centre for Transport Studies. In addition to his research, teaching and consulting in the fields of paratransit and public transport reform he is involved in specialised educational programmes for paratransit operators and government officials. Herrie’s activities form part of a broader endeavour to investigate and contribute to improved public transport operations and regulation in Sub-Saharan African cities under ACET – the African Centre of Excellence for Studies in Public and Non-motorised Transport.
AMP-ing Up Collaborative Urban Solutions
Rapid urbanization is a global phenomenon. The number of people predicted to live in cities is anticipated to grow by more than 2.5 billion over the next 40 years. Though cities have been a source of jobs, wealth, and economic opportunity generating 70% of GDP globally, poorly planned urban development can result in socio-economic and environmental problems that are all-too familiar, including increased gridlock, violent crime, and air pollution.
In light of population growth, climate change, and other global challenges, cities around the world are exploring ways to be more sustainable, inclusive, and resilient. Traditionally, governments have approached city management by sector – housing, transportation, environment, and welfare – all in different departments with varying resources, objectives, timelines, and tools.
To make cities more sustainable society must collaborate as though our children’s future depends on it – because it does. This will require integrated planning and imaginative approaches to non-traditional partnerships that draw on the strengths of diverse stakeholders, including the efficiencies of the private sector, the community awareness of the non-profit sector and the capabilities of the public sector to strengthen the business enabling environment.
A New Platform
Launched in collaboration with the U.S. Department of State’s Global Partnership Initiative, Accelerating Market-driven Partnerships (AMP) serves as a global collaboration platform to harness the power of markets to create economic value while driving positive social and environmental outcomes.
AMP is a cross-sectoral network of governments, corporations, multi-lateral institutions, foundations, and NGOs with the goal to catalyze, facilitate, and scale impactful innovations and address specific social, environmental, and core business challenges. Founding partners include the Rockefeller Foundation, Hewlett Packard, Georgetown University, the World Bank, Mercy Corps, Waggener Edstrom, Arent Fox, Grupo ABC, Machado Associados, and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, with the Tides Center serving as the secretariat.
AMP’s initial focus area is sustainable cities and housing. The vision is to create a marketplace for collective action where those who seek social innovation—such as corporations and municipal governments—can partner with each other to integrate expertise, capital and other critical resources to generate enduring social impact.
For example, the AMP platform could help effectively scale business solutions to mitigate flooding in a region with new regulation requiring stricter safety standards. An entrepreneur who fabricated an inexpensive roofing system to capture rainwater could collaborate with construction supply companies to adapt the product for modular application. The entrepreneur could also be matched with private financing needed to scale up production, thereby promoting wide-spread adoption in new community development projects and mitigating the social and environmental costs of frequent flooding.
Brazil Pilot Program
In recent years, more than 30 million Brazilians rose out of poverty, contributing to a growing middle class. The rise of Brazil’s consumer society has also created significant environmental and social challenges. Approximately 87 percent of Brazilians live in urban environments; about 24 million Brazilians live in informal housing.
That is why AMP’s first pilot program will focus on assisting Brazilians to innovate and create environmentally, culturally, and economically sustainable cities—promoting the equity, safety, and well-being of residents, maximizing the efficiency of use of vital resources, creating inclusive housing and vibrant communities, and developing resilient infrastructure systems to support robust growth.
The U.S. Department of State and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development have been working closely with the government of Brazil to identify opportunities to promote collaborative social innovation. Brazil is investing heavily in housing infrastructure; over one million low-income housing units will be built by 2014 under the mandate and support of the federal government.
AMP intends to work with diverse stakeholders, including the Brazilian Ministry of Cities, to identify the technical and financial innovations to drive sustainable development, and then facilitate the partnerships required to accelerate those innovations. AMP is developing a framework to document this process and curate its discoveries on an open-collaboration platform so that these innovations can be replicated in other urban markets.
The scale of these projects will enable the AMP network to help the government better leverage their combined resources and layer on additional sustainable, inclusive, and adaptive elements to their housing projects.
For example, a 20,000 unit residential development project can offer the economies of scale for an engineering firm to design, implement, and manage a renewable energy system that would otherwise be cost-prohibitive to install retroactively or on an individual basis for private residences.
What’s New / What’s Next
AMP recently hired an Executive Director, Robert Foster, in April 2013. Priorities for AMP in the next few months are to hold a series of convenings to gain critical input from stakeholders, define the specific opportunities for collaboration, and harness existing partnerships to accelerate social and environmental investments in the housing sector in Brazil.
AMP invites new partners to collaborate on local efforts to help solve complex global problems.
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Spotlighting innovations in urban sustainability and connected technology
Brownfields are sites that are vacant or underutilized due to environmental contamination, real or imagined. There are brownfields of some kind in virtually every city and town in the U.S., usually related to a gas station, dry cleaner, auto repair shop, car dealership or some other ubiquitous local business that once benefited the community it now burdens with environmental hazards or old buildings.
In addressing this issue, technology has not been effectively deployed to promote redevelopment of these sites and catalyze community revitalization. We find that the question around the use of technology and data in advancing the redevelopment of brownfields is twofold:
How can current and future technology advancements be applied to upgrade existing brownfield modeling tools? And then, how can those modeling tools be used to accelerate transformative, sustainable, and smart redevelopment and community revitalization?
Across the country, urban parks are enjoying a renaissance. Dozens of new parks are being built or restored and cities are being creative about how and where they are located. Space under highways, on old rail infrastructure, reclaimed industrial waterfronts or even landfills are all in play as development pressure on urban land grows along with outdoor recreation needs.
These innovative parks are helping cities face common challenges, from demographic shifts, to global competitiveness to changing climate conditions. Mayors and other city officials are taking a fresh look at parks to improve overall community health and sense of place, strengthen local economies by attracting new investments and creating jobs, help manage storm water run-off, improve air quality, and much more. When we think of city parks holistically, accounting for their full role in communities, they become some of the smartest investments we can make.