“This will be the battle of the century” – City of Amsterdam on social inclusion in Smart Cities

During the Annex63 meeting on Energy in urban planning in Amsterdam and Leiden, the City of Amsterdam shared some of their experiences and concerns. They have recently gone through an organizational change and say that they overarching trend is that people and politicians want to see more impact and less processes. This means that, as they put it,

“The biggest challenge is ourselves. Specialists cherish their own craftmanship, but more integrated solutions will require more generalists”

This conclusion fits with the observation made by the Norwegian Art and Design Association DogA, which also explains that companies and management look to Design Thinking for ways to integrate and connect in a general and innovative way. Further, social inclusion is, according to the City of Amsterdam, the core challenge when we develop SMART Cities:

“If you are only talking about density, you are making a mistake. (…)  We need to talk more about sustainability. Social inclusion will be difficult, because as the cities grow, differences will also grow. This will be the battle of the centrury. “

What she refers to, is how densification and smart-solutions currently seem to increase gentrification. Urban planners often feel as if their knowledge is not taken into account in the final decision making by politicians.Designers and design thinkers have the mindset and tools necessary to include the concern for the end-user into urban planning; this challenge should therefore attract design thinkers or ‘alternative design scholars’.  This expressed need by cities to integrate social issues into city sustainability as the city becomes more technology dependent, suggests that design thinking can connect multiple agendas in a meaningful way.




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