The Power of Place
Place is alive with unfolding possibilities. It is animated by stories, a keeper of memories. We create it together, each contributing our own gifts. Every community has its own DNA, woven from shared hopes and lives lived. It’s where we belong, where we gather, where we connect with the world. It is home.
“Place,” Michael Jones writes in his book The Soul of Place, “is the wellspring from which all life flows.”
Richard Florida writes in his book Who’s Your City:
“Places that are open let us freely express ourselves and be part of a bigger picture, a larger whole. They provide us with the space necessary for personal discovery and self-actualization – for realizing our potential and dreams; for building and raising the family we truly desire. They enable us to be part of a whole and to be ourselves, adding real meaning and fulfillment to our lives.”
Challenge and Change
More than 3 billion people now live in cities. This will double to 6.4 billion by 2030 — 60 per cent of the world’s population. In developing countries 60 million people are moving into cities every year. The World Bank says the number of people living in slums has increased from 35 million to more than 1 billion people over the last 50 years.
Cities will still have to provide mobility, food security, access to water and energy, waste management, education, health care, safety and security as they grow. They will also have to cope with global climate change. Many will be subject to heat stress, drought, extreme weather events, and sea level rise. Urban life and livelihoods will be impacted by the effects of climate change on their surrounding regions.
Creating the Future Together
We will have no choice but to live differently, and cities will have to be the engines of that change. It is there, collectively, that we will create the future.
Cities are linking up globally to deal with these issues. United Cities and Local Governments, an association of mayors and elected officials, was formed in Paris in 2004, representing half the world’s population. Many networks connect cities around the world, focusing on issues such as climate change, environment, energy efficiency, economic development, transportation, sustainability, safety, security, and resilience.
New catalysts for change are emerging in cities, including maker spaces, civic labs, social innovation labs, incubators and accelerators. Cities are also engaging creatively with designers, hackers, and social entrepreneurs. They’re involving citizens directly in brainstorming, experimenting, and developing new ideas.
Cities generate the white-hot energy for change from their core – community connections and social capital. In The Death and Life of Great American Cities, Jane Jacobs says harnessing this energy will be our salvation:
“Dull, inert cities… do contain the seeds of their own destruction and little else. But lively, diverse, intense cities contain the seeds of their own regeneration, with energy enough to carry over for problems and needs outside themselves.”
Our shared future will depend on tackling challenges together. This will happen in our communities. It’s there that we learn to be citizens, and it’s there that we become true citizens of the world.
This article is an excerpt from a book in progress on collaboration and transformative change. It was first posted on October 10, 2017, on LinkedIn.