Top 5 Reasons to Know Your City!
Cities of all sizes are growing and transforming; in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia alone, the urban populations are expected to double over the next 20 years.
Despite major advances in technology, there is little reliable data and recognition on how these urban areas are growing and changing — who lives in the city, where they came from, where they live, and how they earn a living.
This is especially true for informal neighbourhoods, where the vast majority of urban growth is taking place, and which are often completely off the grid of formal planning and governance processes.
A better knowledge of cities can help bridge the engagement, information and accountability gaps between city governments and their citizens. It can also support good governance and inclusive planning. Here are some of the ways cities and citizens can benefit from Knowing Their City:
- More effective city planning. Without knowing how many people live in a city and where, it is very difficult for a city to provide services or plan for future growth. Once mayors or city officials have accurate data on the entire city – not just the formal areas – they can make more informed policy choices, such as where to provide services, housing and infrastructure so that residents benefit most.
- A more inclusive city. Because the urban poor generally live in informal areas, they are often excluded from the formal governance and planning process and effectively locked out of the city’s economic growth. Once the poor are counted and acknowledged by city officials, a debate can take place about the city’s future involving all residents so that everyone can benefit from the city’s growth.
- Better governance and accountability. When residents are counted and recognised as part of the city and as citizens, they can have a voice and participate to the future of their city. They also have the capacity to hold city officials accountable for the progress in their neighbourhoods and push for more transparent and participatory decision making and planning.
- Dialogue between city officials and residents. When communities of the urban poor collect data about their own neighbourhoods in partnership with their local and national governments, they develop a constructive dialogue based on collaboration that allows both parties to work together to develop the city. City authorities begin to learn what their residents’ priorities are, and the citizens learn how to work with city officials to improve their communities.
- Empowered urban poor. The process of collecting information on their own communities helps the poor mobilise and obtain the necessary tools to interact effectively with local authorities. Once they have acquired the data on their neighbourhoods, residents can create forums to discuss the issues affecting them, develop a community participatory plan for resolving those issues, and how to obtain funding for their community projects.
The Cities Alliance is a global partnership for urban poverty reduction and the promotion of the role of cities in sustainable development. Learn more about us at www.citiesalliance.org.
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 MeetingoftheMinds.org
Spotlighting innovations in urban sustainability and connected technology
OurStreets origins are rooted in capturing latent sentiment on social media and converting it to standardized data. It all started in July 2018, when OurStreets co-founder, Daniel Schep, was inspired by the #bikeDC community tweeting photos of cars blocking bike lanes, and built the @HowsMyDrivingDC Twitter bot. The bot used license plate info to produce a screenshot of the vehicle’s outstanding citations from the DC DMV website.
Fast forward to March 2020, and D.C. Department of Public Works asking if we could repurpose OurStreets to crowdsource the availability of essential supplies during the COVID-19 crisis. Knowing how quickly we needed to move in order to be effective, we set out to make a new OurStreets functionality viable nationwide.
The best nature-based solutions on urban industrial lands are those that are part of a corporate citizenship or conservation strategy like DTE’s or Phillips66. By integrating efforts such as tree plantings, restorations, or pollinator gardens into a larger strategy, companies begin to mainstream biodiversity into their operations. When they crosswalk the effort to other CSR goals like employee engagement, community relations, and/or workforce development, like the CommuniTree initiative, the projects become more resilient.
Air quality in urban residential communities near industrial facilities will not be improved by nature alone. But nature can contribute to the solution, and while doing so, bring benefits including recreation, education, and an increased sense of community pride. As one tool to combat disparate societal outcomes, nature is accessible, affordable and has few, if any, downsides.
I spoke last week to Adrian Benepe, former commissioner for the NYC Parks Department and currently the Senior Vice President and Director of National Programs at The Trust for Public Land.
We discussed a lot of things – the increased use of parks in the era of COVID-19, the role parks have historically played – and currently play – in citizens’ first amendment right to free speech and protests, access & equity for underserved communities, the coming budget shortfalls and how they might play out in park systems.
I wanted to pull out the discussion we had about funding for parks and share Adrian’s thoughts with all of you, as I think it will be most timely and valuable as we move forward with new budgets and new realities.