Few remarks to serve as conclusion of the INTA36 Congress
INTA36 has been a very intense Congress, with just under 40 speakers in one and a half days, embracing topics across the spectrum of urban development.
We owe our thanks to the CIPUTRA GROUP, the RATP, Logis Transport and SEDP, to the Secretariat and to you as delegates from 20 countries for your attendance and diligent attention.
The diversity of topics and contributions has made the Congress stimulating and rewarding. But it makes difficult a short summary of proceedings. Former President of INTA and also former Deputy Mayor of Lyon, Henri Chabert, and I are going to offer a résumé which we have structured into few topic areas dealt in turn. Do not expect a verbatim account of what you have heard. It is rather a broad brush across a wide canvas, viewed through a glass darkly!!!
Each we retained four concepts and talked about them, sometimes in a bullet point manner. There may be some overlap but our contributions around these eight concepts embrace the content and spirit of the Congress.
Economy and Solidarity
One cannot dissociate solidarity from economy. Without economy that supports the development there is no urban development and even less solidarity. So the underlying act of any urban development is the economy. It is the relationship between the economist and the planner and the creator of wealth that makes possible the construction of the city.
The public funding being increasingly weak, the difficulties to get public support to urban development are more and more evident.
There is no wealth without creativity, without innovation, without entrepreneurship as clearly stated during the Congress.
Governance can be improved through better synergies between public authorities, civil society and private companies. Today we speak about energy-plus buildings, can we extend the notion to economy plus territories. Each territory has its own weaknesses, but also its strengths and opportunities to be developed.
Habitat as a factor of inequality or integration: residential flexibility or should we take aim at the "habitat" arrest?
The land question and its optimization: how can we produce better value from land development?
Intensity rather than density: a city is much more intense than a dense city.
Over regulation or sustainable restraint?
What solutions for the homeless of the world?
Culture is the counterweight of globalization, that is to say the distinctive factor between countries, cities; it is also the expression of the soul of a city. Culture is the mirror of a civilization. We cannot imagine urban redevelopment without amenity and landscape, but we can figure it without an artiste.
No dichotomy between technology and humanity; innovation and technological progress serve Man, all human. Solidarity is not restricted to the administrative boundaries of our cities.
We declare ourselves citizens of the world, but what about global solidarity.
In discussing the re-engineered city we are reminded that technological change is proceeding at a rate unprecedented in history (even to the point where microphones fail to work!). We all know this. All of us concerned with development and urban planning are expected to be familiar with what is happening by way of innovation across the globe, particularly in the most advanced or enlightened cities. Options for travel are increasing all the time and it has been instructive to learn how different cities in different continents are coping with these changes, which are most expensive to provide where they have to be retro-fitted.
Examples in Tainan and Paris showed us how costs can be off-set by capitalising on real estate opportunities which spring from the grouping of activities around transport nodes, and from exploiting air-rights above disused premises. This is not a new idea but the use of land value to help subsidise social housing is worth emulating.
The phenomenal changes in Communications and Information technologies are creating changes in the way we live, work and inter-connect. But it is interesting to note that many of the new technologies are not replacing the older technologies. They are being used to accommodate more travel and more communication. In the most developed cities, many of us have access to public transport options which include train, train-tram, express bus, local bus and bicycle. This is in addition to private modes via the car, motorbike, scooter etc. We learned how software solutions, as well as hardware in the form of electric cars and cable cars, will further improve our mobility. However, we were also reminded of the difficulties facing the developing cities which are struggling to finance and to retro-fit transport solutions into their rapidly-growing cities.
In terms of the concept of « value » the French works better than the English because I want to focus on « valorisation » rather than « valeurs »; that is, « value » rather than « values » (values are equally important but not the issue I want to pick out from what was discussed).
In the feedback forms which most of you kindly filled in, one delegate wrote « I was reminded of the importance of looking beyond an individual project to capture increased value resulting from development. »
Just keep that thought in your minds, alongside another feedback comment that was identical in responses from delegates in the developing as well as the developed world. It concerns the role of « civic society » which many of you see as being of increasing importance.
Social investment is increasing, albeit slowly. I am an advocate of the fundamental importance of the « Third Sector » in the creation of sustainable communities. How the third Sector may evolve is another story for another time. The point to be made here is that many presenters have talked of the value of the projects with which they are involved. But we do not have sophisticated methods of measuring value. This is a research challenge for INTA Communities of Competence.
Social investments have to be much more structured in terms of the social benefit they create. The parameters are of course related to financial outcomes not just to more subjective social criteria. To give you an example, a social investment company may be set up to reduce the percentage of ex-prisoners who re-offend. A calculation is made as to how much it costs society for an ex-prisoner to re-offend. Ex-prisoners are assisted by the social investment company and monitored to affirm whether or not they re-offend. Government remunerates the social investment company, according to each percentage point by which re-offending is reduced.
Thus it is not difficult to envisage a research project which produces a list of criteria and a set of parameters by which the value of development projects can be measured.
Competitiveness & Identity
These topics are considered together because it is clear that there are issues of identity at a local and at a metropolitan level. This is a common issue across developed and emerging countries. (Competitiveness and Identity are also issues at regional level – as pressures in Catalonia and Scotland, for example, readily confirm. But that consideration is for a political forum.
General de Gaulle once said to Winston Churchill « Imagine the difficulties in governing a country with more than 300 varieties of cheese. » Today he might also have said « Imagine governing a metropolis with 1,300 communes. »
I am not sure what the appropriate metaphor would be in other places, but I am sure that Mayors of Lima, Jakarta, Porto Novo and Rotterdam will have their own image about fragmentation, identity and governance.
Cities are major economic drivers. This is particularly true today when half of the world’s population live in cities. That proportion is growing fast, creating the bigger groupings of cities and settlements that form metropolises. The shift from strategy for the City to strategy for the Metropolis brings with it other issues of consistency, connectivity and identity.
Metropolises that do well give their host nations significant advantages in terms of output, employment, skills, research and innovation. At the macro level of the Metropolis we can see in this information age that the use of « competitiveness metrics » will increase. Typical indictors which were mentioned several times will include : Human capital; Innovation capacity; Entrepreneurship; Information Technology; Infrastructure; Economic Policy factors; Economic Performance; Sustainability; Quality of Life…
INTA is very well placed to use the many and diverse talents of its members to advise on these issues. In that sense we are all ambassadors. The association has endured the same difficulties as our economies. It needs members and clients. I would encourage you all to help in this regard, even though it is obvious that there is great pressure on everyone due to the day-to-day work commitments. The Congresses and Panels are exceptional occasions from which to learn and exchange. And just to finish on the issue of Identity, I want to tell you a story. It involves a monkey, an owl and a lion.
The monkey had lived in the forest for 5 years and was very fed up with his life. He wished for greater fulfilment. He went to the wise old owl to ask for advice. He told the owl that he was fed up with climbing up and down trees all day and being the subject of jokes, abuse and insults from the other animals. He confessed that he disliked the use of phrases like « monkeying around », and « monkey business » and asked how he could change his identity.
The old owl listened patiently to the monkey’s story of dissatisfaction. He then said to the monkey. « I think you want to be like a lion ». The monkey replied, jumping up and down excitedly, « Yes, that’s it. A lion. The Lion is the king of the jungle ». « Well the transformation might be difficult » said the owl, but it may be possible. What I recommend you do is to develop your voice to try to mimic the Lion’s roar. For the next week try breathing deeply and then roaring. Then come back and see me ».
A week later, the monkey came back. His roar was nowhere near that of the Lion but the Owl thought it was not bad for a start. OK said the Owl, keep at the roar but try growing your claws also, by not climbing so many trees. »
A week later, the monkey came back. His claws were longer, his roar was stronger but neither was close to that of the Lion. Not bad said the owl. Now, keep roaring and growing your claws and try leaping for a week with your jaws open; don’t leap too far at first but build up towards the end of the week. »
A week later, back came the monkey. He grabbed the owl by the throat and said « This is all nonsense. There’s no way a monkey can become a Lion tell me why I should not kill you for all this poor advice. » « You should not kill me » said the owl « because I am only responsible for policy, not for implementation! »
The lessons we learn from this are:
1. Deal early with expectations. They need to be realistic. The bar should be set high but at a point where the expectations can be exceeded if all goes well; not at a point where they can barely be attained.
2. Make the most of what you have. It is easier to build on your assets than to change completely your identity.
3. Try to evaluate potential outcomes relative to the investment before you start and not after.
4. Consult with those most affected by the change you are proposing. This is important for three reasons:
- people who are directly affected by development proposals have a right to be informed and involved;
- nobody has a monopoly on good ideas and consultation can generate options and solutions that were not thought of previously;
- thirdly, if people feel involved there is likely to be less opposition to implementation and a greater sense of celebration when projects are achieved.
By Roy Adams and Henry Chabert