Positive urban change - how will it happen?

Written by Kim Markwell 

Last week I attended the THI Urban Change Festival.  This was a completely virtual experience where you navigated between the main stage and break out discussions rooms to listen to great ideas, contribute to engaging discussion and chill out listening to DJ beats. 

I really enjoyed how many different perspectives I was able to get exposure to during this festival.  It gave me a lot to think about including:

How might we build support for urban change?

After hearing the discussions, I can’t help but think this needs several things:

  1. Improved urban literacy – Planning and policy is hard to navigate – we need to make it easier for the community to understand why urban change is needed and how this can be done.
  2. Good examples of urban change – The community needs to see that urban change can be positive, creating vibrant and liveable places for existing and new communities.

How might we build trust in the system?

This is critical to building support for urban change and I agree that the following will be critical for this to occur:

  1. Authentic engagement - We need to make the time for authentic stakeholder engagement that results in a realistic common vision for how urban change should occur to deal with growth.
  2. Deliver on the vision - Make sure planning and development focuses on what is important for the community. The concept of purpose-based planning rather than performance-based planning was introduced.

How might we design for culture and country?

This was such a rich discussion, and I learnt a lot that I would like to apply more in my own projects including:

  1. Understand the country - Really spend time on the country on which we are about to work on. Ideally this would involve taking my shoes off, feeling the country and hearing the stories.
  2. Design all infrastructure as if it is a living family member – Understand how this layer of the landscape we are creating contributes to the landscape, and design for its life and death.

How might we support future urban change leaders?

To change things up in the future, the following ideas were discussed:

  1. Break down the silos and create systems-based thinking – across industry, government as well as education so that people from different disciplines learn other points of view and the importance of effective collaboration.
  2. Provide time and space for ideation – It is important to spend the time to really understand the issue and undergo the process of ideation before jumping to the solution. The potential for governments to put of briefs for problem solving, not just projects was raised.

These are just 8 ideas from the festival, but they are ones which resonated with me.  I will be reflecting back on how I am putting these into practice to help create positive urban change.