OpenIDEO has partnered with Steelcase to explore the topic of revitalising struggling cities around the world. Together we’re looking to design solutions – from entrepreneurship and education to community mobilisation and campaigns – that reinvigorate and help restore areas facing economic decline, population loss, unemployment and erosion of social/civic services or other critical issues. As our global economies become more intertwined and interconnected, we have a unique opportunity to consider ways that we can each bring vibrancy and prosperity to our own neighborhoods, towns and cities.
This year our global population reached the 7 billion mark – an historic milestone that brings with it new questions of economic, social and environmental sustainability. With over 50% of that 7 billion now living in cities, unprecedented strain is being placed on our urban centers to adapt and innovate, to absorb newcomers or redefine their boundaries, and to continue to support and enable opportunities for their residents.
The Scale of the Problem
Many communities around the world, including Detroit, Michigan; Madrid, Spain; Athens, Greece; and others, currently find themselves struggling with issues like loss of industry, rising unemployment, increased cost of living and decreased access to city services. For example, after a precipitous decline from prosperity in the 1970s and 80s, revitalisation efforts in Detroit have faced an uphill battle. Despite encouraging signs, the latest city census revealed a 25% population loss to surrounding suburbs, which has had severe economic, cultural and sociological consequences.
The Potential for Revitalisation
Nonetheless, for all of their struggles, these regions and communities are brimming with potential. In fact, many efforts – some of them grassroots, some more formalised – are currently underway to mobilise residents, reconnect communities, identify entrepreneurial opportunities, and infuse new economic growth in cities and areas around the world.
Now’s our chance to identify the economic, cultural, social or environmental levers we can pull to usher in the vibrancy and prosperity these areas need to thrive. Steelcase and OpenIDEO are excited to tackle this question with our global community because we believe that the concepts we create together will be relevant to engaged citizens everywhere who want to bring vibrancy to their own areas. So whether we’re in Detroit or Dublin or Dubai, let’s put our heads together to create solutions that bring renewed energy and resources to our own communities.