Cities represent a critical actor in our efforts to reach climate targets in the coming decade. Several cities across the world are stepping up efforts in response to the challenge. This work is extremely difficult under the best of circumstances, however, and transformational progress has been slow. Cities are making headway, but programmes, projects and activities often are not well uncoordinated or focus on a particular sector or activity. Transformation depends on systemic actions that are connected, which is something cities need help in order to do well. Our experience is that many incremental and uncoordinated efforts could actually hinder progress by creating obstacles to systemic changes.
How are we going to deliver systemic change for radical climate action in cities? This was the focal point of the workshop in Paris in December 2019 with EIT Climate-KIC Cities Team and Dark Matter Labs, Material Economics, Bankers Without Boundaries and The Democratic Society, the partners we selected to work with us on our Healthy Clean Cities Deep Demonstration (HCC DD) programme. We created this programme after working with cities for over a decade and drawing on all our experience of what has worked, and what has not. With HCC DD, EIT Climate-KIC aims at leading 100 cities to net-zero emissions, inclusive and climate-resilient societies by 2030.
Our workshop was therefore aimed at exploring which type of methodology can generate co-creation processes in practice, cutting horizontally and vertically across existing sectors and stakeholder structures to break down current ‘siloed’, individual, uncoordinated practices towards a collaborative, compelling and coherent narrative for cities and for our society.
Setting up an interdisciplinary working structure
In a way, the workshop replicated the process HCC DD puts into action in each of our cities but within a collective space. Each organisation brought in their own methodology, we then leveraged on past experiences to extract learnings and generate a collaborative process roadmap.
Plenty of time was dedicated to exploring the individual organisation’s background processes and expertise, extract learnings and grow as an interdisciplinary team working towards a common vision.
A parallel track of work began at the very start of the day, ran in the background all the way to the end of the workshop, and was followed up extensively after everyone went its own way. This essential ‘anchoring’ work focused on establishing trust and creating a common language within the team. Anchoring is the foundation on which we build partnerships with the cities in HCC DD.
“Healthy, Clean Cities was created in recognition of the work done by cities over the past two decades. Real progress has been made, but cities need help to work toward more urgent transformation goals. Our approach provides cities with the expertise, resources, and a community of solution providers needed to advance radical and systemic change” says Thomas Osdoba, EIT Climate-KIC.
The genesis of a collaborative, dynamic framework for Deep Demonstrations of Radical Climate Action
During the second part of the day, we felt equipped with a common understanding of our organisation’s angles, and all pointing at the common challenge ahead. Our next move was to start exploring how to deliver systemic change in cities through a methodology of co-creation leading to practical results. The outcome of this first exploration was a conversation captured by DML’s Joost Beunderman in a whiteboard sketch, pictured below.
“Cities in Europe are facing an era of chronic emergency, with the accelerating climate crisis intersecting with other fundamental challenges such as rapid automation of jobs, growing inequality, and an ageing population – let alone the Covid-19 crisis and its likely impact on our society and economies. In this context, Dark Matter Laboratories works with cities and the design partners to collaboratively make sense of strategic risks at the city level, and to develop portfolios of strategic experiments in accelerated decarbonisation.
“Our role in this Deep Demonstration is to support cities with the strategic framing of this work across policy silos and to devise the strategic experiments in such a way that they have multiple co-benefits (environmental, economic, social, health, etc) as well as having a learning return for the cities (growing new capabilities in the face of a fast-changing context). As we are unprecedented terrain, capital made available by governments and the private sector will have to be optimally used in order to enable inclusive, democratic transition towards a thriving future,” explains Joost Beunderman, Dark Matter Labs.
This exploration was continued in the follow-up workshop in Brussels on January 2020, during which each element of the initial collaborative whiteboard sketch was structured in an essential component of what would become the HCC City Flow, a framework for Deep Demonstration of Radical Climate Action.
Essentially, the complex but deeply informative whiteboard sketch defines the need for an iterative roadmap representing a flow framed in three phases and an overarching, ‘anchoring’ process.
- Let’s start with the three phases: these are represented with circular shapes called ‘baseline/diagnostic’, co-ideation’ and ‘co-development’. Circles indicate both the presence of a physical encompassing boundary as well as the underlying nature of each process being a feedback loop. The feedback looping nature of each phase manifests the fundamental shift required in societal mindset to enable systemic change: that of constant transformation and improvement as something valuable and desirable for society. The three loops became the Frame, Probe and Experiment phases of the City Flow.
- The whiteboard sketch also set preliminary scopes and conceptual approaches for the three phases, from top left clockwise: trust building and ‘tough love’, ‘research-by-doing’, the ambition of implementing the full methodology in 10 cities by 2020, ongoing loops after 2020, ‘regulatory sandboxes’, ‘ongoing baseline revision’, a ‘full stack of portfolio investments’ and ‘possible collective experiments’.
- The second essential aspect of the three phases is their connection to an anchoring thick black line connecting an ideal starting point in both space and time with a target point represented by vertically aligning fields of regulation, data, finance, and societal collaboration on a place-based local (regional) scale. The anchoring line became the Strategic Narrative, while the vertical fields became the Strategic Investmentportfolio components of the City Flow.
- The black, grounding line is itself surrounded by brackets representing the overarching need for extraction of data and learnings from the process at all times, as well as the need for processing and sharing this content through, for example, storytelling, provocations, manifestos, and more. This became the Collective Strategic Learning
The City Flow’s component parts and why they are there
The next section describes the City Flow’s components and why they are part of the methodology.
The HCC City Flow is an iterative roadmap aimed at identifying Strategic Investments on portfolio scale. The combination of the scale of investments and their strategic nature can unlock decision pathways, funding opportunities, and value creation through civic capital, all at once.
The co-creation journey envisioned in the City Flow starts with the development of a collaborative, evolutionary Strategic Narrative for the city as an anchoring thread that leads through the iterative feedback phases of Frame, Probe and Experiment, all the way to the final target of the Strategic Investments portfolio.
The Strategic Narrative behind the City Flow answers the need for a dynamic, living process generating a compelling vision for all stakeholders: citizens, the political sphere, and society as a whole. This vision is successful if
- It bridges political divides,
- It installs a new mindset of constant transformation and improvement as something desirable and valuable for society,
- It creates a feeling of belonging to one’s community, while at the same time also generating a sense of personal value through individual empowerment in co-creating the carbon-neutral, resilient, inclusive and circular city.
Anthony Zacharzewski, from the Democratic Society, one of the design partners, said “the challenge of climate change is that it touches every part of city life, so it changes every part of city life. Our work in the HCC partnership ensures that those deep transformations are built with citizens, implemented with citizens, and have long-term public consent.”
Each phase of the City Flow feeds information to the parallel track of Collective Strategic Learning, where it is processed and fed back as insights aimed at capacity building. CSL’s sensemaking work offers a set of structured interfaces for cities working along the HCC City Flow framework. Through these interfaces, cities in various stages of the Flow enquire, learn, share and ultimately build capabilities to take back into their individual journey of evolution.
Frame: This phase leads to deeply understand the status quo in and around cities, surface problems and blockages through a systems lens, and identify potential risks in the internal and external environments that may affect the cities’ ability to achieve its ambition for the future. Material Economics cooperates closely with city representatives at this stage, to deliver a City-wide economic case for investments into climate mitigation and adaptation, considering co-benefits. The economic case is supported by a model which remains with the city and can be used for ongoing baseline revisions of data and levers of transformation.
“Ambitious climate action is not only urgent but for cities, it is also proving to be an overall positive economic transition. Taking climate action has many co-benefits; on air quality, health, job creation, property value etc. In addition, the solutions and technology required for this transition is developing rapidly, resulting in significant cost reductions and many solutions are already today more cost-efficient than incumbent high-carbon solutions. This transition will be challenging for all cities, but the cities that succeed with this transformation will also benefit economically over time”, says Robert Westerdahl, Partner at Material Economics
Our current thinking for this stage is based on three tools, experimental probes, speculative design, and gap analysis and enrichment. The co-creation process means that we can and will expand and enrich the tools at our disposal as we grow and learn. Experimental probes explore which opportunities would yield the greatest ‘strategic learning return’, and what form these opportunities might take. Speculative design aims at pushing beyond current Climate Action plans. Gap analysis and enrichment identifies opportunities where action is underdeveloped. This stage is the realm of expert professionals in citizen engagement. For this purpose, the Democratic Society’s team places valuable local connectors with extensive local knowledge in each HCC DD city.
In the current City Flow, work undertaken in the Frame and Probing phases informs the Experiment phase. This phase is aimed at building a portfolio of strategic experiments, and can be split into Portfolio Design, Deep Dive, and Lead Practice tasks. Portfolio Design connects strategic experiments in a combination that maximises strategic learning and value creation for cities. Deep Dive establishes capabilities and capacity to implement the Portfolio through a ‘lead’ experiment. Lead Practice learns from and builds upon global exemplars related to city opportunities. During this phase, BwB works especially closely with cities on delivery models aimed at raising interest in capital markets, which fit well with some large-scale strategic experiments that cities need and wish to put in place. BwB role will be essential on exploring external finance options to fund climate action plans, while freeing up internal finance to establish a City Fund.
“BwB’s team worked closely with cities and our partners to explore innovative fund models and governance structures to mobilise capital. With a focus on excellence and innovation, BwB applies its intellectual capital to help cities address citizen concerns around air quality, mobility, carbon emissions and climate resilience,” says Rupesh Madlani, Bankers without Boundaries.
Even though the role of design partners has been presented at specific stages in this overview, the entire delivery team consisting of CKIC’s Cities Team and the five Design Partner organisations support and co-create with cities in the HCC DD programme along each and every step of the way.
Our influence does not end at the end of the programme, either. We aim at installing a culture of ‘big picture’ thinking within local systems and networks, and at equipping cities with an ongoing, personal narrative through which to grow and thrive.
In practice – examples and insights from implementation of the first phase in the city cohort
In 2019, HCC DD has led ten cities through the Framing phase. During this phase, CKIC and design partners ME, BwB, DemSoc and DML have worked closely with city representatives to understand the city missions through systems mapping exercises covering baseline diagnostics, interdependencies and co-benefits, and strategic risks.
Here are some specific examples from some of our cities:
- Amsterdam, The Netherlands. We focused on integrating the several ongoing programmes and initiatives, such as Roadmap Amsterdam Carbon Neutral or Aardgasvrij Amsterdam, with the HCC DD process. Together, we surfaced overarching questions that appear fundamental to Amsterdam in its ability to achieve its goals as a thriving, resilient and sustainable city. 1) How to rethink city government as an enabler? 2) What do we want the city of the future to look, feel and sounds like? 3) What is the decarbonisation value proposition at city level? 4) How to initiate a large-scale retrofit programme for dwellings? 5) How to future-proof the city’s assets in the built environment (e.g. parks, roads, etc.)? 6) How to develop mobility in a way that is smarter, fairer, and (in general) less of it?
- Kraków, Poland. The majority of efforts was put into identification and engagement of key stakeholders from the public administration, both local and regional, citizens, civil societies, academia, and local businesses. Key outcomes were broad stakeholder mapping, widespread engagement and perception review. Among other initiatives organised in the city within the framework of DD HCC were personal interviews with local opinion leaders, a hackathon to explore solutions for green mobility, workshops built on “Future Tables”, an online consultation game, a climate policy mapping workshop for municipal staff, and a Public-Private-Partnership (PPP) framework analysis.
- Leuven, Belgium. Leuven 2030, the project lead, worked on aligning its Roadmap of 18 programmes to reach carbon neutrality by 2030 with the process of DD HCC. This included working sessions on portfolio logic and methodology, as well as the identification of potential areas of collaboration: multi-modal mobility infrastructure, large-scale building retrofits, a city climate fund, citizen engagement, and adaptation. Regionet, a comprehensive and ambitious mobility plan for the region, has become the focus of the mobility workstream. The workstream on building retrofits has closed in on a district approach with strong focus on citizen engagement and cross-sectoral integration. A well-received economic case for decarbonisation will be used to help identify priority areas for the City Fund.
- Madrid, Spain. The focus in Madrid has been on new strategy development, building on identifying and mapping existing and new climate plans, city projects and programmes; refining activities to engage and activate citizens and stakeholder groups; and strategic alignment work across ranges of city departments. Madrid takes a personal approach to the organisational model for the Deep Demonstration by proposing a Platform composed of 3 layers: Ecosystem: coordination structures, functions and roles, and action and governance principles, Portfolio: Definition of the “demonstration areas” in the city that will contain the first portfolio of projects, Methodology and tools: Working methods, including key processes and planning. Themes that will be a priority for the city in 2020 are mobility, adaptation with nature-based solutions, and place-based demonstration.
- Malmö, Sweden. Malmö established an internal process management team and an external Innovation team of local stakeholders to lay the foundation for transformative change. The Deep Demonstration process has already made the city internally, and externally with the stakeholders, work together more effectively. Results from the first iteration of the socio-economic analysis of Malmö’s transition, together with materials compiled on the topic of community scale deep building retrofit has been used internally in dialogue with Malmö politicians resulting in a request to explore options on how the city could engage in these themes. Additionally, as part of the Deep Demonstration process, Malmö is updating its energy plans and environmental program.
- Milan, Italy. In 2019 the City of Milan has gone through an initial programme shaping stage – the mobilisation process – used for identification of needs, areas for experimentation, understanding of local context and needs for evolution. With the strong involvement of the stakeholder community (city authorities, regional government bodies, national government departments, financial institutions, real estate developers, commercial and agriculture sectors, academia, etc.), elements for the definition of a roadmap and key steps to be implemented in 2020 and onwards were identified. Key outputs describing the steps were a “Baseline review” on the existing climate change local plans; the “Stakeholder Engagement and Citizens Awareness Strategy”; and the definition of a “Work Plan” to be implemented in the framework of the Deep Demonstration context.
Essential insights from 2019’s Collective Strategic Learning in 2019 led us to learn that
- progress on climate action will not happen as long as stakeholder’s focus shifts from finding solutions to asking the right questions. Storytelling combined with large-scale engagement supported by digital tools could be key to this challenge.
- Society requires a new conversation around redefining what it means to be ‘rich’ in a deeper sense compared to financial and monetary value.
- The underlying common message is that we need to realign societal objectives around justice and sustainable economic growth. At the same time, the perception of climate urgency is very different across cities, so that we have to tailor our message and our channels to the local context.
- There is clearly a barrier to implementing a low carbon pathway and this is likely to be in part connected to the existing power structures, decision-making processes and priorities and ability of a democratic society to take decisions that might lead to short-term costs but long-term benefits. There is an opportunity for municipalities to share responsibility for change with the wider community, and in so doing not increase their perceived political risk of short-term action. The political evolution needed must be towards something far more collaborative than today’s, something that truly includes collective community responsibility.
In 2020-2021 the first cohort of cities will enter the Probing frame, during which we will explore opportunities for strategic innovation. For our Portfolio plans, we need to work over two parallel streams: along with the high-level, strategic long-term methodology, and on delivering tangible effects in the short term through action on the ground. This two-track system requires close collaboration across vertical and horizontal power and cooperation structures. For this, we need to build trust, meaningful relationships, and new models of value that leave no one behind. In practice, we need to slow down to go fast. This is an especially hard task now that time seems to be running out in the face of an escalating global climate and environmental emergency. But if we build a strong foundation and a clear plan, we will recover this time and be better for it.
About our Designers
Bankers Without Boundaries (BWB) is an innovator in finance and the application of investment banking talent to benefit the environment and social good. The organisation provides advisory and research services to mobilise private capital. BWB’s unique value proposition is to pursue transactions outside the traditional mandate of the financial sector, for example, because of perceived complexity and high time investment.
Dark Matter Labs (DML) discovers, designs and develops institutional infrastructure to respond to the technological revolution and climate emergency we face. The team works with partners, clients, and collaborators across the world, researching and developing new institutional support frameworks for collaborative system change. DML describes the different approaches to the central idea of a support framework in editorial pieces called ‘provocations’.
The Democratic Society (DemSoc) is a non-profit organisation working for greater participation and dialogue in democracy with an independent, non-partisan and politically non-aligned approach. DemSoc brings in expertise from its projects Public Square, Open Government Network for Europe, Populism and Civic Engagement, Civil Society and EU citizen’s consultations, improving resident engagement as part of decision-making processes, Participatory Budgeting, and on strengthening local governance, among others.
Material Economics (ME) is a management consulting firm specialized in the challenging strategic issues related to sustainability and climate. ME advises top management levels of companies and public institutions on how to integrate an economic and business view to climate and sustainability topics, to improve environmental and economic performance at the same time. Previous experience includes projects and publications on industrial transformations to net-zero emissions, Circular Economy to tackle climate change, corporate strategy for circularity and climate, transforming real estate towards long-term sustainability, zero-emissions urban mobility, and more.
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