Urban territories are facing tremendous challenges in being able to offer socially sustainable environments. Cities in particular are becoming the natural ecosystem for inequality. The wealthiest, the “squeezed middle” and the growing poorest couldn’t live physically closer to each other.
During the last two decades, many interesting social innovation interventions have been implemented within these ecosystems. Even the most successful ones have always acknowledged that the challenges are too complex and interrelated to be transformed applying a technical “project delivery” mentality.
Better interconnected and larger scale interventions need to be co-created until a genuine movement of transformation is generated at the city/region level. Projects need to be incorporated as necessary tools of the “transformation movement” but always integrated within a deeper aspirational goal.
Urban communities and XXI century citizens are demanding practical solutions to their growing local needs but if given the opportunity, joining a “city transformation movement” would allow them to be part of a much more ambitious and mindful enterprise.
These new movements can only be co-created generating a new narrative of transformation capable of connecting the identity of the territory with a “collective decision” to build a socially sustainable city, proud to be associated with, proud to be living in.
Identity building is a human process that combines local culture and values with historical facts in a non-objective way. Local communities and territories identify themselves with a certain set of values that can be found in those historic facts but many other values and facts that could also be interpreted as part of their local identity are left aside. Identity building is therefore an evolving process that can be positively or negatively channeled through collective action.
Those cities and territories who have been able to associate themselves with a positive narrative of transformation are more resilient and socially sustainable, even more competitive. Those who have allowed a negative narrative about themselves to emerge face much more serious problems to deal with the current global challenges.