“Why don’t these agencies talk to each other?!” You don’t have to live in a major metropolis to live the frustration of systems that seem vitally interconnected, but aren’t.
Yet as Dr. Irving Wladawsky-Berger shared in a recent post, “until recently, we did not have the proper technologies and tools so we can begin to analyze, model and attempt to optimize the city as a holistic system. Advances in technology, as well as in our understanding of complex systems are making that now possible, although we are still in the very early stages” (emphasis added).
Dr. Wladawky-Berger explores the different systems cities will use to grow and distinguish themselves: its infrastructure, its business, and its people.
But, in the end, the top asset of a city is its human capital, – its ability to attract and retain talented people. Doing so requires attention to a number of basic human services, like education, health care and public safety. But it also includes a rich variety of social, community and cultural services that will appeal to the people and families from all over the world that the city wants to attract, both as residents and visitors.
He further suggests that it’s more than just smart management of a city’s systems: it’s specialization in the things that matter most to its residents, and these things will vary from city to city, around the world.
Cities are hardly homogeneous. Each city has its own unique style and character, reflecting the key values that its citizens and their elected leaders choose to emphasize. The style and character of a city are particularly important in our increasingly global, mobile world. While poorer people will clearly go to those cities and regions where they can best get a job and earn a living, those with more education, marketable skills or financial means will choose to live in those places that offer them and their families the quality of life they are looking for. These are clearly the kind of talented, entrepreneurial and innovative people that cities are increasingly competing to attract.
What will your city be when it grows up? And what can a city’s leaders … and its citizens … do now towards those goals? Many cities are defining a new vision, and as Irving summarized from his Berlin experience, “The challenges are enormous, but so are the opportunities to now do something about them.”