Industrial Symbiosis Programs: International Lessons

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By Tracy Casavant, Executive Director, Light House Sustainable Building Center and James Woodcock, International Manager, International Synergies Ltd (UK)

Canada is set to become the 21st country to launch a National Industrial Symbiosis Program. In the past ten years since the first NISP was launched in the UK, the NISP model has been evolving, meaning Canada is in a good position to apply the lessons learned from other countries. And so, in no particular order, here is what we have learned.

Lesson 1: It Matters Who’s in Charge

While government support of NISPs is critical, government agencies don’t make the best delivery agents, even if they are agencies that do not have a regulatory role. Delivery agents from the private sector who employ people with experience in industry are better received by businesses.

In Canada, a research report prepared by students at Concordia’s John Molson School for Business determined that a not-for-profit, arms-length organization would be an ideal delivery agent. A not-for-profit structure demonstrates to businesses that the program provider is not seeking to profit from the businesses efforts, but really is there to champion the businesses’ efforts. A not-for-profit structure is also important to access many types of government and private funding in Canada.

Cities (local governments) can be involved as financial and logistical supporters; advisory council participants; and even program participants – a municipal wastewater treatment plant can participate as a ‘business’. And of course, NISPs help cities to achieve many of their policy goals (see our previous blog post); provide important feedback regarding policy issues and economic development opportunities, and can provide data to support sustainability reporting.

Lesson 2: Capitalize on Existing Networks

Industrial associations can be important for recruiting large numbers of members. Working with trade associations, depending on how they are organised, can lead to rapid replication of synergies.

In Canada, this will mean working with organizations such as the Alberta Industrial Heartland Association, local Chambers of Commerce, or ClimateSmart, which has more than 700 business members. And, local economic development officers / agencies associated with Cities will also be important partners helping NISP-Canada to connect with local businesses.

Lesson 3: It Takes Two, Baby…. Or Three or Four

Apart from simple by-products, say wooden pallets, it is rare for materials to go from A to B without some form of transformation (which is often where jobs and new business start- ups are created) and added value. Working with a number of companies in one synergy can make something that individually would not be economical viable. The NISP model helps to identify these opportunities through its special workshop process, and through the use of dedicated regional practitioners who can connect companies working on similar synergies within a region… or even within the international NISP network.

Lesson 4: Pilot Wisely

The scope of a pilot should also be similar to the scope of a full-program, or the benefits may not be substantial enough to generate support for a full program. For example, it can be detrimental to launch a pilot without resources for at least one, dedicated practitioner to start and without at least a one year commitment so that multiple workshops can be delivered, and there is sufficient time for synergies to progress from idea to implementation (and performance measurement).

NISP Canada is seeking enough resources to launch each pilot region with at least 2 practitioners, for 2 years.

Pre-feasibility work around the specific delivery model can also be helpful.

Cities for People specifically supported pre-feasibility work for NISP-Canada that supported the development of the business plan for the pilot.

Pilot activities can raise awareness and enthusiasm but it is important that there is not too much time passing between pilot and realisation of practical delivery to not dampen expectations and enthusiasm.

The NISP model allows for frequent performance measurement. As the NISP-Canada pilot proceeds, these interim results will be used to seek support for a permanent program so that a permanent program can begin right after the pilot.

Lesson 5: Be Practical

It is important to balance academic research in potential synergies with practical delivery. Don't get lost in researching the potential of a synergy to the detriment of progressing the synergy through to practical completion. This is one of the most counter-intuitive lessons of NISPs – we do not need to conduct exhaustive material and energy flow analyses to identify synergies. Life is too short for full life-cycle analysis every time!

The NISP model relies carefully structured and facilitated workshops and specially, consistently trained practitioners to ensure a practical focus. NISP-Canada will of course adhere to that model.

Lesson 6: Research Does Have a Role

It is important to connect with research institutes, incubator companies, and venture capital to realise demand-pull on innovation from identified innovation synergies.

NISP-Canada will work with organizations such as universities or angel investor networks in each region, for example inviting representatives to observe at workshops to identify synergies from which they might benefit in supporting e.g., as an investor or to develop new technology that will remove a technical barrier.

Lesson 7: All Aboard – Engage Key Stakeholders Early

Building a broad understanding of the NISP model, such as including key stakeholders in some of the initial training, yields big benefits later in programme life.

The NISP-Canada Pilot will include key stakeholders, such as representatives from industry associations, in some of the early practitioner training. This will also help to create regional program ambassadors who can support practitioners in engaging as many businesses as possible as quickly as possible. (See also Lesson 2)

Lesson 8: Data Can Be A Common Language

The use of a common database system (SynergIE™) allows for regional programs to be linked, ensuring cross-regional activity can occur (even occasionally across different countries). The use of the SynergIE™ platform also facilitates the sharing of synergy opportunities and lessons learned across the network of countries with NISPs.

NISP-Canada, including the pilot phase, will also use the SynergIE™ platform. i.e., expertise and implementation tricks from one region will be available to all in the network.

Lesson 9: NISPs Can Be Many Things to Many People

NISPs can be driven from many directions – social, economic, and environmental. This is a strength of the model. Initially, the UK programme was based on landfill diversion because a landfill tax was due to be implemented. The tax was delayed and the drivers of the programme needed to be changed. . Although initial engagement by some companies may have been because of the landfill tax, they soon began to recognise NISP as a business opportunity programme. From institutions and governments, NISP has been recognised as a tool for climate change mitigation, eco-innovation, regional economic development and material security.

As discussed in the last blog post (URL), NISPs help cities to achieve goals as diverse as boosting businesses’ competitiveness to diverting waste from landfill. NISP-Canada is reaching out to a diverse group of partners, recognizing this strength.

Lesson 10: Return on Investment Can Be Fast!

Return on investment can be quick and often doesn’t require new regulations or complicated agreements. The experience of NISPs has shown that there are quick wins that can appear within 3-6 months. Although some synergies involving innovation/new technologies do take some time, there are many synergies that can be implemented quickly and have a culture change effect on the companies involved to want to do more. As the programme incorporates measurements, these quick wins can be quickly turned in to case studies/examples to encourage others.

Industrial Symbiosis: Helping Cities Strengthen the Circular Economy

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By Tracy Casavant, Executive Director, Light House Sustainable Building Center

Cities for People is proud to be supporting the National industrial Symbiosis Program in Canada or “NISP-Canada” (see ).

Refresher – What is Industrial Symbiosis?

Industrial Symbiosis (IS) establishes relationships between organizations to improve their bottom line through more efficient and effective resource management.

IS accelerates the shift towards a circular economy by identifying waste-to-input linkages and promoting collaboration around energy, water, materials, technical expertise, and transportation.

NISP-Canada Pilot

The NISP-Canada Pilot will adapt the UK’s (and now EU’s) highly successful NISP model in several regions across Canada. The Pilot will run for two years in three to five regions and set the stage for a permanent, broader program.

The UK / EU model is the most successful in the world, having been adopted by over 20 other countries. The UK government saw an astonishing benefit cost ratio (BCR) of ~40:1 on its investment in NISP. Through independent verification and studies NISP has been found to be the most cost effective, efficient program for delivering economic, social and environmental benefits.

The NISP Canada Pilot will demonstrate that comparable benefits can be achieved in Canada and will inform the model for a long-term and fully national NISP-Canada.

NISP-Canada Will Benefit Cities

NISP Canada brings numerous benefits to local governments, and directly supports a local government goals. NISP Canada can:

Strengthen businesses’ competitiveness: IS reduces business costs, diversifies revenue streams, and fosters innovation. After 8 years, NISP-UK cut participant operating costs by $2.07 billion and increased participant sales by $1.88 billion. In the UK, 20% of all implemented opportunities involved innovation, e.g., development / demonstration / commercialization.

Attract new business: The program’s software platform creates a database of untapped resources to help local governments attract investment. In one UK region, feedstock for a paper manufacturer were identified together with markets for its by-products; the local economic development agency was able to use this information to help attract a new paper manufacturer.

Create jobs: By strengthening businesses’ competitiveness and financial positions, and by generating new business opportunities e.g., for a new business to form around transforming a by-product, NISPs help to create, and safeguard jobs. After 8 years, the UK program created and safeguarded more than 10,000 jobs, with 8,600 of those occurring in the 2005-2010 period which included the global economic downturn.

Support local waste reduction and diversion goals: NISPs divert waste materials from landfill by establishing IS relationships that result in virgin materials being substituted by ‘wastes’, or in the creation of new production lines (or entire new businesses) designed to transform waste into valuable products. In 8 years, businesses participating in NISP-UK saw more than 47 million tonnes of materials diverted from landfill.

Reduce GHGs: NISPs reduce GHG emissions by lowering embodied energy in materials through the substitution of recycled constituents; reducing energy consumption; creating fuel substitution opportunities; reducing transportation energy by driving regional supply chain opportunities with lower transaction costs; reducing biodegradable materials sent to landfill; and creating lower carbon energy generation opportunities e.g., anaerobic digestion with feedstock from multiple regional businesses. In 8 years, NISP-UK reduced GHG emissions by 42 million tonnes. In the UK, the cost per tonne of GHGs reduced or avoided was a mere $0.61 CAD per tonne!

Build skills and capacity: Other NISPs have shown that the majority of participants are small to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). In addition to helping SMEs establish IS relationships, the NISP workshops, also promotes knowledge exchange and business-to-business mentoring. NISPs build SME capacity in waste and energy management; business case development and development and commercialization of new technologies and products.

Support a circular, green economy: NISP is recognized internationally by organizations such as the EU, Global Green Growth Forum, and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) as a key platform for advancing a circular, green economy.

 Delivering NISP-Canada to Canadian Cities

NISPs are delivered regionally. For the pilot phase, a ‘region’ refers to a metropolitan area – we are exploring the following large cities, Vancouver, Edmonton, Hamilton / Sarnia, Montreal, and Halifax. The pilot will help to identify how small or large NISP-Canada regions ultimately should be.

Cities within each region will have access to 2 dedicated IS Practitioners: A key factor of success for the NISP model is its use of specially trained, staff (‘practitioners’) located within each region. Practitioners facilitate workshops and are dedicated to working with businesses to follow-up on opportunities generated at the workshops; identify other IS opportunities; and shepherd IS opportunities to implementation.

Within each region, the NISP-Canada Pilot will deliver at least 4 Industrial Symbiosis Workshops with full practitioner follow-up; a Bi-Annual Performance Report, summarizing participation and key indicators such as number of synergies, projected GHG savings; and a Final Performance Report, documenting lessons learned across regions and providing recommendations, including policy, to support a full NISP-Canada program.

To learn more or provide your support, please contact Tracy Casavant at Light House Sustainable Building Centre

Additional Resources:

*Resource links and descriptions courtesy International Synergies Ltd. (UK)

NISP - The Pathway to a Low Carbon Sustainable Economy

Provides an insight into how some of the issues linked to climate change can be tackled using the industrial symbiosis approach and NISP model. The report charts the program's progress since becoming the world's first national industrial symbiosis initiative and showcases just a number of the thousands of synergies identified by the program and implemented by its members.

The NISP model has also been analysed and evaluated by numerous international bodies, and has won several international awards.

Globe Scan Circular Economy Best Practice Feb 2015

Two NISP programs (UK and South Africa) are cited in the top 30 recommendations for governments world-wide in this multi global consultancy report.

Industrial Symbiosis 3GF 2014: Positive Action for Green Growth

This newsletter was published for the Global Green Growth Forum (3GF) 2014 and provides an update on the progress of the Industrial Symbiosis PPP which aims to take urgent action to advance industrial symbiosis at scale globally.

Industrial Symbiosis at 3GF: Positive Action for Green Growth

This newsletter was published for the Global Green Growth Forum (3GF) 2013 which included a dedicated session on Industrial Symbiosis, led by International Synergies. The newsletter provides an introduction to Industrial Symbiosis as well as an overview of current global applications at local, regional and national level.

Outcomes of IWCAIS: Positive Action for Green Growth

This report sets out the findings of the first International Working Conference on Applied Industrial Symbiosis (IWCAIS), held in Birmingham, UK on 12th – 14th June, 2012. The conference was convened by International Synergies Limited, and co-hosted by Birmingham City Council, to highlight the ability of industrial symbiosis to address current sustainability challenges - economic, environmental and social.

NISP - A Policy Case Study

The study provides a detailed perspective of the progression of the program and considers factors, both positive and negative, that have had an effect on the program. The conclusion of the case study looks at the lessons learned for Horizon 2020 and states, "Essential insights for the planning, design implementation and monitoring of Horizon 2020 activities can be deduced from the key performance factors of NISP.”

Industrial Symbiosis in Action

Yale University produced a report on the highly successful International Industrial Symbiosis Research Symposium hosted by International Synergies in 2006. Leading experts in industrial ecology from across the world gathered in Birmingham in August 2006, marking only the third event of its kind, and the first to be held outside the academic community.

WWF Green Game Changing Report (2010)

International Synergies' applied industrial symbiosis approach as illustrated through NISP is acknowledged as one of the world's top 20 Green Game Changing Business Innovations in a report commissioned by the Worldwide Fund for Nature, 2010

European Union Waste Framework Directive (2009)

International Synergies' NISP is cited as an example of best practice in the European Union Waste Framework Directive published in 2009.

Hidden Gems- How Daylighting Rivers are Revitalizing Cities

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By: Michaela Kramer, Evergreen Cityworks, Intern

The saying “you don’t know what you’ve got until its gone” has come to resonate with cities around the world that are reclaiming their once abandoned natural features. While pressures of industrialization and urbanization at one time led planners to cover up natural sites in cities, many are now coming to realize the social, environmental, and economic benefits of rediscovering these hidden gems. Cities have embarked on what’s known as ‘daylighting’ wherein buried streams and rivers are exposed from beneath pavement or underground tunnels to become vibrant public spaces. The success of such projects, with cases from Yonkers, New York to Seoul, South Korea are inspiring more people to rediscover the hidden waterways in their city too.

The history of covered-up urban rivers and streams is a common one, with examples including Sunswick Creek in Queens, River Westbourne in London, the Neglinnava River in Moscow and most other places. They were usually the result of city officials reacting to flood problems, heavy pollution in streams-turned-sewers, or the demand for more space to accommodate urban sprawl. Once covered with pavement or channeled into tunnels, rivers and streams were soon forgotten, with new generations having no idea about their existence right under their feet.

Yet there has been a renewed interest in the streams secretly flowing beneath freeways and parking lots. Urban explorer and photographer Steve Duncan has found his way into many of these sites and in Toronto, local environmental organization host tours of what they call The Lost Rivers. But it’s not just adventurous urbanites that have become fascinated, city governments and planners are coming to rethink the city’s initial position on these environmental treasures.

CheonggyecheonSource: LAF, Inhabitat

This was the case in Seoul where the Cheonggyecheon River was paved over and replaced with the 1970s Cheonggyecheon Freeway, then considered a symbol a modernism and engineering achievement. As the highway infrastructure began to crumble 40 years later, the city decided against reinvesting in outdated infrastructure that prioritizes cars, and instead worked to reintroduce the river to the city as a public space. Two years, and $348 million dollars later, the five-kilometer daylighted river acts as a centerpiece of the city, attracting 500,000 visitors each week.

Saw.MillSource: Steve Duncan, Flickr

Other more modest examples belong to Arcadia Creek in Kalamazoo, Michigan and Broad Branch Stream in D.C. In 2010, Yonkers in New York State restored the Saw Mill River, which had been paved over in the 1920s due to sanitation and flood problems.  Today, the exposed river acts as a successful new space for people and wildlife, a highlight of the city’s ongoing revitalization project.

Beyond the role these serve in introducing natural spaces to the public, daylighting projects boasts impressive environmental and economic benefits as well. Exposed streams and rivers absorb storm water runoff much better than underground pipes, not to mention the money this saves cities from having to repair old pipes that are being overused during storms. This is especially important considering the heavier-than-ever downpours being experienced in many places due to the onset of climate change.

Moreover, rivers and streams are important places of biodiversity: they help to improve water quality and mitigate heat island effect. The Cheeonggyecheon River in Seoul has seen the rise of fish species from 4 to 25, bird species from 6 to 36, insect species from 15 to 192, and plant species from 62 to 308. Also, the average summer temperature in the area has dropped by 5 degrees. Daylightng serves to boost local economies, attracting tourists and investment in nearby areas. For instance, Cheeonggyecheon increased property prices within 50 meters by 30-50% and earns millions in tourist spending.

Overall, these cases bring to light (pun intended) an ideological shift in cities where people are coming to value environmental assets over unchecked sprawl. This is the same line of thinking that has lead many places to reconnect with their waterfronts or remediate polluted wetlands. Nature is no longer seen as an obstacle but instead as something to celebrate, benefitting the city in various ways.

Source: WordPress


Why We Should Care About Zoning

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By: Jesse Darling, Evergreen CityWorks, Urban Project Designer

Canadians cities have been shaped by numerous influences. Natural assets such as waterfronts, canals and mountain ranges have always, and will continue, to play a role in molding the urban fabric. Infrastructure such as ports and railways opened up the door to economic development. But above all, zoning and land development has shaped the built form and morphology of Canadian cities.

While the patterns of land development vary throughout Canada, one unifying theme exists: planning has always been altruistic. Planning is an endless pursuit to preserve public good. The desire to improve economic prosperity, the health and quality of life of all city residents are the pillars of city building.

Planning emerged as a profession to combat urban challenges such as the quality of housing, congestion, urban design and zoning. Almost a hundred years later, these issues still resonate in city building conversations. Affordable housing, congestion and public space are the forefront of debate in municipalities across Canada.

Despite its profound role in shaping not only the physicality of a city, but also its character, zoning evades public interest. Zoning is an omnipresent force that holds political, economic, environmental and design-related implications. It is important for city residents to understand the power and influence zoning has on a wide range of municipal issues.

In the 19th century, zoning was predominately used as a tool to protect the economic interests of landowners. Consequently, comprehensive zoning was enforced to ensure neighbourhood stability and to protect land value from the threat of undesirable development. This resulted in entire parcels of land, whether vacant or pursuing development, to become pre-zoned. Cities remain constrained by these zones today. But, why does this matter?

While the intention of zoning is to take public safety, environmental preservation, community aesthetics and economic development into consideration, most of the time, zoning limits the potential of a place. One of the best examples of this is within Toronto's inner suburbs. Despite being neighbourhoods with high density and diversity, zoning bylaws have prohibited tower block apartment buildings from having farmer's markets, public health services or day care on site. These archaic laws have stunted the growth and potential of these communities.

Mixed-use development is an integral part to building sustainable, vibrant neighborhoods. Having healthy food options, public transit, parks and community centres within walking distance of residential areas are essential for the economic, environmental and social longevity of Canadian cities. While some cities have taken prudent steps to reform restrictive zoning, there is more work to be done.

By allowing different types of zoning to work simultaneously, it encourages strong development around transit routes, reduces reliance on the personal automobile and maintains the vibrancy and safety of communities. Strategic zoning can act as a source of municipal innovation and serve as a mechanism to introduce novel planning ideas to the city landscape. The challenges of our urban regions are interrelated and complex. Creating flexibility in the laws that determine their built form and character will create more creative, interesting and meaningful places.

Webcast: Choosing the Happy City (Charles Montgomery)

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Tune in on March 26th at 7pm (PST) to hear Charles Montgomery, author of the book, Happy City, share his thoughts about how cities shape our happiness.

charles montgomery"Can we build transportation systems that maximize future happiness in Metro Vancouver? It won’t be easy: In the complex modern world, humans have proved not to be experts at what economists call “maximizing utility”— or choosing what’s actually best for us. But there is hope. Montgomery will offer a powerful new vision of city life and novel strategies for how to get there."

CityScapes: The Natural & Built Environment

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With more than 80 percent of Canadians living in cities, the need for resilient and livable cities has never been greater. Our economic, social and environmental success depends on the quality of life provided by cities.

And yet, our cities face unprecedented challenges- from aging infrastructure and increased traffic congestion to inefficient energy systems to urban sprawl. Our cities need to work better.

Innovation is a key driver of our prosperity, but our urban centres seem to struggle to find ways of encouraging and adopting innovation. Nowhere is this more evident than in our built and natural environments- our parks, public transit, energy and housing.

Smart planning, innovation, experimentation and investment will be a determining factor in the resiliency of our urban centres. We cannot build the next 100 years of infrastructure using the concepts and methods of the past 100 years.

CityScapes will be a platform for driving innovation that tackles our critical infrastructure issues and advances our economic, social and environmental prosperity. It will bring together the public, innovators and decision makers to accelerate the shift to more livable and resilient infrastructure in cities across Canada and beyond.

Transformative change can happen when Canadians are engaged with new ideas, in ways that are relevant to them.

Civic urbanity & Cities for People

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By Charles Landry

Ten themes shape the dilemmas, challenges and opportunities for the 21st century city. Each has relevance to how we live and shape our places. They provide an urban narrative I call civic urbanity that seeks to contain the explosive mix of centrifugal and centripetal forces we increasingly find in cities. It fits the spirit of the Cities for People initiative well.

Urbanity and being urbane has a proud history. It is important to rethink and recapture its best features for the 21st century. The tradition of urbanity is by origin European and it focuses both on ‘the right to the city’ and ‘responsibility for the city’.

Urbanity, as we understand it, first arose in the Italian city states, especially during the Renaissance, and it then marked the movement towards meritocracy and freeing individuals from the yoke of feudalism. The German phrase ‘Stadtluft macht frei’ (city air makes you free) encapsulates this idea. In time though the notion of urbanity degraded ending with the idea of the flâneur, someone who watches urban life go by, but uncommitted to the needs of the collective whole.

Ten interlinked concepts can reshape how we can rethink urbanity:

  1. Holistic thinking
  2. Planning and acting
  3. The shared commons
  4. Eco-consciousness
  5. Healthy urban planning
  6. Cultural literacy
  7. Inclusivity
  8. Inter-generational equity
  9. The aesthetic imperative
  10. Creative city making and an invigorated democracy.

Together they frame the modern idea of civic urbanity. This idea seeks to realign individual desires and self-interest within a collective consciousness focused as much on responsibilities for ‘us’ or ‘our joint world or city’ rather than choices that are only for ‘me’ and my more selfish needs.

Ten themes

The starting point is to think in an integrated and connected way. Only then can we discern the linkages and dependencies that help us understand the deeper dynamics of cities and how to make the most of our potential. This requires a changed mindset and is difficult to prescribe. Yet increasingly decision makers realize that silo thinking and strict departmentalism does not offer the complex solutions we need.

Next there is a demand for a reinvigorated public and shared commons. This ethos argues against our increasingly self-centred public culture. It fosters amongst other things spaces and places from parks to libraries that are free, non-commercial and public and where citizens can express themselves in creative ways as the Cities for People projects try to do. Places underpinned by this ethos can help retrofit conviviality and the habits of solidarity so helping to nurture our capacity to bond and build social capital.

All cities talk of sustainability. Every vision statement mentions combating the effect of climate change. Taking a helicopter view of cities worldwide there are many good initiatives. Yet few cities make the hard planning choices to counteract an economic dynamic, spatial configurations and physical forms that continue to make cities unsustainable. Canadian cities are trying to embed a sense of eco-consciousness. This means building in ‘cradle to cradle’ thinking and new smart technologies. This can become an economic development tool as it speeds up the move towards a clean, lean, green industrial revolution.

We know about unhealthy urban planning. Rigid ‘land use zoning’, which separates functions and gets rid of mixed uses which blend living, working, retail and entertainment. ‘Comprehensive development’ that does initiatives in one big hit often losing out on providing fine grain, diversity and variety is another.  They are joined by ‘economies of scale’ thinking with its tendency to think that only the big is efficient  and lastly the ‘inevitability of the car’ which can lead us to plan as if the car were king and people a mere nuisance.

Mixed uses are coming back forcefully as living, working and playing in the same place becomes the norm again. Seamless connectivity will be key as will walkable cities which give you time and space to experience the city and become healthy by going about your day-to-day business.

Canadian cities are melting pots and seen as a model for addressing diversity, which helps economic growth in the longer term, but absorbing differences will continue to create stresses. Cultural literacy, an understanding of others, helps us negotiate difference, understand better the sources of agreement and dissent. Seeing the world through the eyes of others gives us greater competence in navigating today’s urban world.

Being intercultural and focusing on what we share rather than what divides us will be key as will avoiding housing ghettoes and gated communities. But market pressures will continue to push cities in the wrong direction.

Magnetic cities are increasingly unequal with the divides between rich and poor growing. This creates tension, resentment and leads to unfulfilled potential and even urban rioting. Places with haves and have-nots do not harness the collective imagination and intelligence of citizens nor capture their energy and aspirations. To avoid the negative consequences clever cities will demand greater equality and inclusiveness. It makes both social and economic sense.

The demographic time bomb hangs over everything cities do. There will be pressure to isolate the ageing population into retirement zones with housing adapted to their needs. More innovative places will seek to think through city making from an inter-generational perspective and develop adaptable housing forms that can be transformed through the lifecycle.

The aesthetic imperative reminds us that the city is a 360° immersive experience and it communicates through every fibre of its being; its built structures, its natural forms, its activities and overall atmosphere. Its aesthetics engender an emotional response with psychological impacts. Thus old fashioned words like beauty and ugliness will re-enter the planning debate.

The escalating complexities cities face cannot be solved by a business as usual approach. Imagination and creativity are the pre-conditions to solve the future intractable urban problems and to create interesting opportunities. Unleashing the creativity of citizens, organizations and the city is an empowering process. It harnesses potential and is a new form of capital and a currency. This approach lies at the core of what Cities for People seeks to do.

This reminds us finally that most things have been reinvented - how we do business or how we entertain ourselves. Technology has moved in gigantic leaps. Yet our forms of representative democracy, organization and management have remained largely the same for hundreds of years. This is why civic engagement has atrophied. The future cities will need to reignite the civic spirit by exploring new ways of communicating with citizens, by rethinking the regulations and incentives regime and by empowering civil servants to give of their best.

Yet this requires a new type of administration –a creative bureaucracy. This will be radically different from the target driven, efficiency and effectiveness paradigm associated with the late 20th century and being resourceful, strategically agile, responsive and imaginative will lie at its core.

Charles Landry has written many books about cities including The Creative City: A toolkit for urban innovators and The Art of City Making. See