Greg Clark is an urbanist with more than two decades of experience. Currently leading the work of HSBC on cities and mobility, he will be moderating the first session of the Eurocities annual conference 2020 on Future cities – do cities have a future? Ahead of the event, we took a moment to find out his thoughts on the way forward for cities.
What do you see as the greatest challenges cities are having to deal with today?
I can see three important things.
- Pain and injustice. Many citizens are suffering and will suffer from both the health pandemic an the economic recession. So it is time for cities to create conditions for citizen support and for mutual aid. The city needs to be civic and supportive.
- Change. Many of the old models and patterns will emerge changed from the pandemic. We are seeing shifts and accelerations that are not yet complete. This plays out at a global scale and in cities. There are shifts in every aspect of live, work, travel, and place. We need to note and track the changes.
- Populism. It is easy for the media and certain voices to spread panic and to find simplistic solutions and scapegoats. So it is important to promote clear communication and to reassure people that the situation can be managed.
What can city leaders do in these uncertain times to take their citizens on the journey to recovery?
The main task is to spread leadership across teams and organisation to optimise capacity and increase capability.
Again 3 ideas occur:
- Improve. Recognise that the pandemic is an invitation to improve the city. Begin the discussion with citizens about improvements that can be made. Use it to deepen democracy.
- Experiment. Although it will seem odd to say it, this should be a great time of experimentation and innovations This is a time to make changes that would not be possible in other circumstances.
- Reform. Make changes that make sense in the short term but have a positive impact in the long term.
Do cities still have a future beyond the pandemic and what will it look like?
Yes, they do.
In my view there are 3 ideas:
- The city as ‘a sharing platform’. The reinvention of the city as the place that enables sharing to occur. We will need to reintroduce public space, public transport, and civic facilities to people with a new identity.
- The City as a Service. More hybrid, agile, omni-channel and blended cities that serve different activities and people in combined ways that are both physical and virtual.
- Magnetic Places. Much greater importance of place, face to face, and the role of city as a venue and stage to off-set and complement the increased digitisation.
You can watch the Eurocities 2020 Conference, taking place 4-5 November, via livestream here: https://eurocities.eu/latest/eurocities-2020-reinventing-cities-livestream