Who is Shaping the Future of Cities?
When we talk about cities, it’s easy to focus on the macro – systems and networks, infrastructure and industry. But if you zoom in closer you’ll find a very different story – one of passionate people working every day to shape a better tomorrow.
This is why we’re excited to share People Changing Cities, a new series to spread stories of remarkable individuals leading urban change.
Each week we’re spotlighting someone we think is worth knowing, and we invite you to follow along at UIXCities.com. Join us to meet people like:
- Sommer Woods, bringing her passion for community engagement to building better public transit in Detroit;
- Rose Broome, creating an app to help San Franciscans donate nearly a million dollars (and counting) to the homeless;
- Randy McShepard, shifting the conversation and building bridges in Cleveland through research, advocacy and community development;
- Bobby Zappala, promoting a culture of innovation and collaboration in Pittsburgh with Thrill Mill and Thrival Festival;
- Yael Lehmann, improving food access and healthy living in Philadelphia, and sharing best practices across the country.
What do these people have in common? They’re all deeply committed to creating more sustainable and equitable cities.
As Mayor Betsy Hodges of Minneapolis reminded us at this year’s Equity Summit: “Our cities were not designed and built for equity. It is incumbent on us to take what we have and make it better.”
If you subscribe to one of our partner publications, you may have already seen an email in your inbox. We hope you’ll keep reading and sharing these stories as a reminder that the “who” shaping cities is us.
“People Changing Cities” is presented by Urban Innovation Exchange, in partnership with Meeting of the Minds, The Kresge Foundation and Issue Media Group. Signup for emails at UIXCities.com and follow us on Twitter @UIXCities.
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Spotlighting innovations in urban sustainability and connected technology
I see the outcomes of Duke Pond as a representation of the importance of the profession of landscape architecture in today’s world. Once obscured by the glaring light and booming voice long-generated by building architects, landscape architects are steadily emerging as the designers needed to tackle complex 21st century problems. As both leaders and collaborators, their work is addressing the effects of rising sea level on coastal cities, creating multi-modal pedestrian and vehicular transportation systems to reduce carbon emissions, reimagining outdated infrastructure as great urban places, and as with the case of Duke Pond, mitigating the impacts of worsening drought.
AI has enormous potential to improve the lives of billions of people living in cities and facing a multitude of challenges. However, a blind focus on the technological issues is not sufficient. We are already starting to see a moderation of the technocentric view of algorithmic salvation in New York City, which is the first city in the world to appoint a chief algorithm officer.
There are 7 primary forces determining the success of AI, of which technology is just one. Cities must realize that AI is not the quick technological fix that vendors sell. Not everything will be improved by creating more algorithms and technical prowess. We need to develop a more holistic approach to implementing AI in cities in order to harness the immense potential. We need to create a way to consider each of the seven forces when cities plan for the use of AI.
In New Zealand, persistent, concentrated advocacy and legal cases advanced by Māori people are inspiring biocentric policies; that is, those which recognize that people and nature, including living and non-living elements, are part of an interconnected whole. Along the way, tribal leaders and advocates are successfully making the case that nature; whole systems of rivers, lakes, forests, mountains, and more, deserves legal standing to ensure its protection. An early legislative “win” granted personhood status to the Te Urewera forest in 2014, which codified into law these moving lines:
“Te Urewera is ancient and enduring, a fortress of nature, alive with history; its scenery is abundant with mystery, adventure, and remote beauty … Te Urewera has an identity in and of itself, inspiring people to commit to its care.”
The Te Urewera Act of 2014 did more than redefine how a forest would be managed, it pushed forward the practical expression of a new policy paradigm.