Future Communities: (un)defining an urban manifesto for innovation and inclusion

19 October, 2018

The Launch of the area Future Communities is the outcome of an articulate path. We first made a profound thematic reflection that took place in the last months, due to contingent factors (internal and external) of the Italian and European context. We have then worked taking into consideration the legacy of Nesta in the field of government innovation and its peculiar weight given the current political crisis

With the forthcoming launch of the first project in the area Future Communities we decided to write down the first scope of the area. With respect to this broad and ambitious mission we want to work to empower new forms of democratic and pluralist participation in urban agendas. We want to undertake a path that starting from the local may be able to foster systemic change through organisational innovation, recombining cities’ material and immaterial resources.

Before we start, a quick thought.

All the ideas at the core of our work in Future Communities have been discussed in passionate and controversial debates among experts and practitioners over a long period, repeatedly eluding each attempt to find general consensus around their meaning.

We’re not aiming at finding new definitions or embracing a favorite one: we want to adopt an explorative approach open to ambiguity, with the intention of outlining a point of view that we’ll permanently question as we develop our research and projects.

  1. Inclusion. When we talk about inclusion, we want to refer to inequalities in having access to the same opportunities and services, to cultural segregation, to the lack of open and porous urban areas (as referred in the Quito Papers by Richard Sennet and Saskia Sassen). Inclusion refers also to the need of decentralising public responsibilities for various forms of citizens participation, engaging them to improve their living conditions in cities and neighbourhoods. In this sense, inclusion has an implicit role in activating local communities
  2. Community. Today, talking about community necessarily means overcoming the dichotomy between the centres of our cities and their outskirts, shifting our attention to citizens’ ability to experiment their ability to self-organise which represents both a value and a tool to guide the management and development of collective, innovative solutions. The communities of the future we’re looking at face the challenges of the society Collective Intelligence: a network of infinite connections among human abilities, machines and emerging technologies with a still unexplored potential.
  3. Laboratory. We think about a Lab as a physical and virtual place where citizens, institutions and intermediaries meet and exchange competencies and experiences, creating a learning process able to enlighten practices, schemes and relations in the existing systems; in which ambiguity and uncertainty are peculiar and essential elements to build effective experimentation able to mutate with the constant changes of our communities. An innovation lab must be able to go beyond the experimentation of new technologies and solutions, providing scenarios and vision of the future and adopting a dynamic, creative and experiential approach
  4. Innovation practices. They’re processes shaped by the comparison among individuals as knowledge and competences holders, in which technologies are enabling tools for the production and management of goods and  services. The existence of these innovation practices depends on the coordination of the hierarchical apparati, more or less structured, embedded in urban context; on the collaboration among these systems and on citizens’ contribution to the skills and information flows that bring these practices to life. These practices are source of narratives that, complementary to data and scientific evidences, have the ability to inspire and guide policymaker, citizens and organisations in the adoption of original, radical and creative solutions.
  5. Urban ecosystem. We refer to urban ecosystem as the set of ecosystemic conditions useful to the experimentation of practices able to generate change in different areas, combining relations and resources. Urban ecosystems are the places where we can observe and exploit the opportunities that rise from the links of complex social challenges, considering needs, resources and running initiatives, for the ideation of iterative mechanisms capable to produce local solutions for a systemic change.

A rich panorama of innovation populate urban areas, reclaiming policymakers attention to the need of supporting and enhancing these experimentations through a precise agenda ad mechanisms of institutional co-production. Everyone need to participate to this process, even the traditional actors (as universities, political parties and institutions) that influence opportunities in urban areas.

Future Communities rises from our observations on the field and from the awareness of the presence of a vibrating movement that’s bringing to life small scale and extremely interesting glimpses of the future, already able to transform the main social challenges in opportunities.

In the next months, we’re going to tell what we saw, listened and, above all, one of our most ambitious projects.