Reopening Our Cities in the Midst of COVID-19 Calls for Inclusive Community Engagement

Though public life has been put on pause by the COVID-19 pandemic, the recovery period is predicted to bring a sequence of phases returning us gradually into public spaces with varying levels of social distancing as Coronavirus cases decline. The way to recovery is through collaboration; across sectors, across stakeholders, and across equity gaps. We believe that the careful engagement of all voices, in a collaborative, thoughtful way is critical when forming solutions to the challenges we are facing and to moving forward with confidence and trust.

We hope to provide a framework for addressing the challenges that will come with building back our necessary social infrastructure, by and for the community. From our perspectives as an urban anthropologist at THINK.urban and as a director of stakeholder engagement firm Connect the Dots, we see the following key points as a good place to start.

Recent Webinars

Responding to Waves of Extreme Events: Long-Term and Short-Term Sustainability and Resiliency from Philly and Fayetteville
Original air date: April 15, 2020

Major Trends Shaping our Cities from 2020 to 2060
Original air date: February 12, 2020

The Future of Street Design
Original air date: October 22, 2019

Recent Articles

Dynamic street management, city airspace, and capturing the value of municipal infrastructure

Dynamic street management, city airspace, and capturing the value of municipal infrastructure

I spoke last week with Hugh Martin, Chairman & CEO at Lacuna Technologies. My three key take-aways from this 8-min video:

  1. The hand-wringing over whether streets temporarily closed to vehicle traffic during COVID-19 should be permanently closed or not is unnecessary. Technology could allow us to dynamically manage our streets in the way Hugh describes.
  2. Before we take the next step with drone delivery, cities and the FAA need to come to a conclusion on who controls, and in what manner, the airspace above cities.
  3. Private mobility operators are benefitting (sometimes even with profit!) by the free use of public infrastructure assets like streets (and, one day, air). These assets are built and maintained with tax dollars, but if they are ending up on the assets ledger of private companies, it stands to reason that cities could conceivably capture some of that value for their own revenues. If we can figure out #1 and #2, then we could figure out #3.
“With or without the pandemic, children’s safety should be a priority.” – Dr. Anne Kamau

“With or without the pandemic, children’s safety should be a priority.” – Dr. Anne Kamau

Kenya consistently ranks among the countries with the highest traffic fatalities in the world – #18, according to the World Health Organization, and some estimates put it even higher. One of the most alarming statistics is that 1 in 10 traffic fatalities in Kenya is a child.

I recently spoke with Dr. Anne Kamau, Research Fellow at the Institute for Development Studies at the University of Nairobi, about her research on transportation and children’s safety. Her research, funded by the Volvo Research and Education Foundations (VREF), is in collaboration with Dr. Regina Obilie Amoako-Sakyi at the University of Cape Coast in Ghana.

Unloading commercial real estate burdens, bringing supply chain components back to North America, and preserving cash

Unloading commercial real estate burdens, bringing supply chain components back to North America, and preserving cash

Could organizations unload 50% of their real estate burdens post-pandemic? Should essential components of supply chains be brought back to North America? And what’s the best thing companies can do in an environment like this?

I spoke late last week with Marc Mercier, a senior partner at the law firm Cassels Brock & Blackwell LLP in Toronto. Marc works across multiple business sectors, including public and private finance, and his work gives him special insights into the rapidly changing economic crisis that governments and companies are dealing with right now. His thoughts on business continuity and supply chains is particularly prescient for this moment in history.

One Approach for Cities to Recoup Lost Revenues Due to COVID-19

One Approach for Cities to Recoup Lost Revenues Due to COVID-19

We encourage public sector partners to think about data monetization as a spectrum of opportunities. On one end, there’s indirect monetization, which refers to the obvious idea of getting more value from data by doing more with what already exists. That could mean putting data in a more accessible form or location; sharing it across departments more effectively; or mining it more deeply to identify potential operational insights, anomalies, or efficiencies.

On the other end of the spectrum is the idea of direct monetization, meaning new, incremental revenue flowing directly to the city in exchange for the rental, purchase, or limited use of the city’s data. This is approach requires some focus and a proactive sales effort, but can deliver attractive, meaningful revenue streams.

In the middle of the spectrum is what we think of as the Hybrid opportunity. This is often where cities are most comfortable getting started, since its initial focus is on ensuring that the municipality is getting fair value for the time, effort, and costs of the city’s current efforts supplying data to other entities.

COVID-19 Pandemic Highlighting the Essential Need for Playgrounds

COVID-19 Pandemic Highlighting the Essential Need for Playgrounds

Since our founding over 24 years ago, KABOOM! has worked hand-in-hand with communities to build incredible, kid-designed playspaces that help give kids in every zip code the opportunity to thrive. Right now, we’re in a scenario we never could have imagined: supporting public health recommendations that playgrounds remain closed.

The challenge of COVID-19 is tremendous, but it also presents an opportunity for the nation to rally around an urgent need: investing in the infrastructure of childhood. We believe that through deep partnerships with communities and a range of public, private, and philanthropic partners, we can achieve what we call playspace equity. Simply put, this means a world in which every kid has access to quality playspaces regardless of factors like race, ethnicity, income, or zip code.

How Public Transit Agencies are Responding to COVID-19 & Official Recommendations

How Public Transit Agencies are Responding to COVID-19 & Official Recommendations

The American Public Transportation Association (APTA), the Canadian Urban Transit Association (CUTA), and the International Association of Public Transport (UITP) have all released recommendations to help agencies during the COVID-19 outbreak. Agencies have had to act fast to protect riders and staff, and make difficult decisions to adapt to evolving conditions.

Here, we present APTA, CUTA, and UITP’s recommendations and a window into what they look like in practice, by looking at survey results from Transit, which received information from more than 60 transit agencies on what policies they are putting in place to safely ride out the pandemic

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