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Lessons Learned from the 2019 Pritzker Forum on Global Cities

From talking about global issues, such as urban violence or stemming carbon emissions, to getting traction on policy initiatives that directly address the challenges facing cities, many panelists sought solutions on how to scale for sustained growth.

Catherine Sheehy, head of Advisory Solutions, discuss sustainability at the 2019 Pritzker Forum on Global Cities
June 17, 2019

Scaling for growth – whether it’s an idea, technology, advocacy or policy change – was an overarching theme at 2019’s Pritzker Forum on Global Cities, an annual event that draws people from around the world who are interested in the health and future of global cities. From talking about global issues, such as urban violence or stemming carbon emissions, to getting traction on policy initiatives that directly address the challenges facing cities, many panelists sought solutions on how to scale for sustained growth.

Here are some of the often-repeated answers given by participants at the annual event, solutions that we hope will help you scale your efforts into success.

Communicate, present and participate

Events such as the Pritzker Forum on Global Cities allow us to exchange ideas, discuss solutions, and explain what’s worked and not worked in local communities. This back-and-forth not only plants the seeds of propagation, but it helps us master messaging and look continuously for opportunities to exchange information. It will help you build a network of like-minded people, some of whom might become future partners in scaling an initiative.

Examine biases

During one of five workshops at the event, an academic observed that much of our failure to reduce urban violence stems from the failure to include all stakeholders in the discussion. Why? Biases often lead to discounting the perspectives and experiences of some and reduce our effectiveness. To move ahead, we need to stop looking at some stakeholders with suspicion, and instead, value their unique experiences and perspectives. This solution-oriented approach will help us focus on what’s really important, finding a way to help solve a problem.

Keep it simple and stay focused

We don’t have to solve every problem or communicate every idea to achieve impact. Keep your messaging simple and your programming aligned with your organization’s long-term vision to reduce complexity and allow for growth. Research shows that a person can commit to only three resolutions at a time; often, it is the same for great ideas. Bind them with too much weight, and they can’t get off the ground.

One size doesn’t fit all

While global cities have many commonalities, each one is uniquely wired. Growing to scale doesn’t mean that a concept has to be a miniature version of a concept. Vishaan Chakrabarti, the associate professor of practice at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation, pointed out in his flash talk, “The Architecture of the Cosmopolis,” that glass skyscrapers do not make sense everywhere. He’s currently working on one with a client in Mongolia where “it’s really cold.”

For the Mongolian high-rise, the skyscraper mimics the metal armor of Genghis Khan instead of being made entirely of glass. This change helps with energy efficiency while helping to contain urban sprawl, plus it speaks to the nomadic culture of the East Asian country.

“It’s important that people recognize the materials as their own,” Chakrabarti said.

Public-private partnerships

Public-private partnerships (PPP) help smart city evolution perform for all stakeholders. PPPs advance initiatives as diverse as installing fiber optic cables, improving air quality, and bringing the arts to low-income communities. PPPs can also work together to create coregulatory approaches or improve standards for safety.

Final thoughts

As one Global Cities participants pointed out, realities differ across levels, economies and regions. By staying informed, you will accumulate knowledge that helps you advance and grow. Being curious is a strong position to take as it changes our perspective by taking in different viewpoints and absorbing stories told by others – whether half a world away or in your own organization.

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