Seven things Smart Planning can do for all of us

An Introduction – learning from good coffee choices in the office

Seven things Smart Planning can do for all of us

This is the Century of the City: urbanity is already now the dominant form of human habitation and the place where most of us produce, create, study, love and grow old. Cities are also the big economic engines of our world: hubs of production and productivity, employing more people than manufacturing, trading more than any global enterprise, creating and disseminating knowledge and innovation in a way that includes and multiplies any research and high education institution.

 Some of our largest cities have a GDP/ GVA that is bigger than the largest corporations in the world.

 But if cities are as powerful and important as the largest companies in the world, how many of them have a management structure to match? How many local authorities have underpaid staff and minuscule resources?

 And… which company with a balance sheet of billions and hundreds of thousands of people would not invest in a business strategy that is well-defined, ambitious and quantifiable? And on a growth and investment plan that stakeholders and investors could easily understand?

 A city plan should be just like that of a company: essential and clear, goal orientated and measurable. Even more so because the city plan has great complexity and very varied stakeholders: not everyone is just after profit. Many are after self-fulfilment, sense of belonging or well-being – or maybe just culture and fun.

Just like a business strategy gives a strong sense of direction to a company, and leaves out concerns of minutiae like stationery consumption or coffee supply, so a city plan should have direction, key actions, and key targets, and leave to good day-to-day managed planning the smaller scale: not because irrelevant to daily life – but because a different, and localised level of planning may be more appropriate.

 Think about the office coffee analogy. Would it not be crazy if a multi-national company board got directly involved in the choice of office drink supplies? Should they not leave that decision to local preferences of the staff and concentrate on something more strategic?

 In a similar way, a city plan should promote local decisions at the local level – where they greatly matter – and be primarily concerned with the critical big issues: population growth, housing, key activity centres, the big green spaces and so on. To do this, a completely different approach is needed: not a big book of policies and stipulations published every 10 years (or more!). An agile and responsive strategy for the big things, a shared and clearly communicated vision and an effective management system that can be tailored locally and be automatically updated.

 Smart technologies are opening up new possibilities: from geographic information systems to analytical dashboards. We could simply use them to do the same job a local plan does today (and cut city management budgets further) or we could use it strategically and programmatically for a new entrepreneurial city plan.

 Over the next weeks I will sketch out the details of such Smart City Plan, as follows:

 Part 1  - Smart Vision

 Part 2 – Smart Visualisation

 Part 3 – Clever Selection of Priorities 

Part 4 – Transformative Implementation Dashboards 

Part 5 – Alarm Bells for Advance Interventions  

Part 6 – People-Centred Evidence  

Part 7 – Localised Urban Management at the Tip of One’s Finger

We cannot afford to keep failing our precious cities – and we cannot afford to get this one wrong: the Internet of Things may use very clever tech, but does not guarantee that the coffee we want will be chosen. Nor that the city strategy we need emerges from the digitalisation of the big policy books. We have to think differently and be sufficiently smart ourselves to change system.

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Director at URBAN Silence

URBAN Silence is friendly and fun, but committed to intelligent work

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