Foundations Shaping the Future of Our Cities
Nine billion people living well within the limits of the planet by mid-century. That is the simple but powerful “Vision 2050” that the World Business Council for Sustainable Development, or WBCSD, has for the future of humanity.
Rampant growth and dwindling resources is creating new vulnerabilities to health and economic well-being, greater pressures for urban planning and governance–all of which require new strategies for building resilience for individuals, communities and cities. As we move toward 2050 we are facing the consequences of accelerating urbanization and population growth, the rise of mega-cities and mega-regions, and the increasing demand for and complexity of mobility options.
But Cities are also places of enormous innovation and opportunity! The key to planning for sustainability cities of the future is to bring together the leadership of city governments and the innovation and delivery capacity of the private sector to drive sustainability towards 2050. Here are a few examples of such partnerships and foundations that are catalyzing this movement:
- Building strategic engagement and “co-innovation” between cities and business has been the core focus of the WBCSD’sUrban Infrastructure Initiative, or UII — 14 leading global companies and 10 cities around the world working collaboratively to identify innovative and practical solutions to help cities realize their long-term vision for prosperity and sustainability. The UII recently presented a report to the City of Philadelphia Mayor, Michael Nutter, on sustainability initiatives to support the city’s goal of becoming the Greenest City in America.
For more, watch the video above.
- CDFIs (community development financial institutions) invest in underserved U.S. markets for social and environmental impact. CDFIs make loans and investments to foster economic equality, environmental sustainability, food access, health care, education, affordable housing and more. As financial intermediaries, CDFIs offer a convenient way for impact investors to target their capital towards particular economic or environmental issues.
- The Rockefeller Foundation takes a systemic approach to issues facing urban areas–such as climate change, sustainable infrastructure systems, and innovation for informal economies–with a focus on spurring equitable growth across societies. The Foundation launched the 100 Resilient Cities Challenge to help cities around the world become more resilient to the physical, social and economic challenges that are a growing part of the 21st century. Nearly 400 cities across six continents applied to be among the first cities selected to receive technical support and resources to improve their urban resilience over three years.
- Sustainable Cities International (SCI) is a non-profit based in Vancouver, Canada. SCI works with cities globally to bring about change towards urban sustainability. SCI focuses on building human capacity within cities by bringing together the business and academic communities, civil society organizations and various levels of government to tackle urban issues through peer learning exchanges. They focus on a variety of projects from large-scale planning strategies for cities to small scale urban sustainability projects.
- The New Cities Foundation is an independent, non-profit organization dedicated to making cities across the world more inclusive, dynamic and creative. The foundation helps incubate, promote and scale urban innovations through collaborative partnerships between government, business, academia, and communities. Their in-house think-and-do tank, the Urban (co)LAB develops applied research projects to better understand and solve the biggest urban challenges of cities. The New Cities Summit 2014– leading global event on the future of the urban world was recently hosted in Dallas, Texas. Such agenda-setting events provide a frank platform for exchange, debate and promotion of major urban issues and their practical solutions.
Rating our performance
Clean Edge recently released its 2014 Clean Teach Leadership Index. The State index rates three subject areas: technology (in areas such as energy efficiency, transportation and green buildings), policy (regulations and incentives), and capital (financial, human, and intellectual). California clearly dominates by having five cities in the top 10. The west coast dominates in clean teach, and the east coast states dominate in the policy arena (clean tech policies, mandates, regulations, and incentives). While the rest of the cities in the U.S are playing catch-up or trying to survive the stress of financial adversity and bankruptcy, foundations like these will help them stand up on their feet again and focus on sustainable development.
Leave your comment below, or reply to others.
Please note that this comment section is for thoughtful, on-topic discussions. Admin approval is required for all comments. Your comment may be edited if it contains grammatical errors. Low effort, self-promotional, or impolite comments will be deleted.
Read more from the Meeting of the Minds Blog
Spotlighting innovations in urban sustainability and connected technology
As Meeting of the Minds well knows, the integration of technology in all aspects of city life will manifest in many ways over the next two decades. Artificial intelligence, crowdsourcing, and data collection and analysis have gotten the most attention, but many of the most striking changes are set to occur in the physical realm – the layout of streets and sidewalks. Planners are hard at work right now trying to anticipate what’s going to be needed to accommodate delivery drones, trackless trams, and of course driverless cars and trucks, which will present their own congestion problems potentially, but also will free up all kinds of urban land no longer needed for traffic flow or parking. The transformation of the urban landscape will be more complicated than the transition from horses to cars, but no less doable.
Replacing grass with climate appropriate plants (and irrigating those plants properly) can reduce a landscape’s water needs by 70-80 percent. During the last California drought, we saw homes across the state doing this, a trend significant enough to be clear on Google Maps. This was a big part of why California’s urban communities were able to meet, in fact exceed, the emergency drought mandate of reducing water use by 20 percent.
The use platform provides information on how to develop and implement approaches in response to complex urban issues in a local context. Each of the case studies offers a summary of a project, program or policy, including challenges, lessons learned, impacts and an assessment of the transferability potential to another location. The use platform is free and accessible to everyone who shares an interest in urban sustainability. Search our database, join the community, and upload your project.