How big a stage do you need to spotlight the future of cities around the world? How do you create the space to inspire city and national leaders, civil society organizations, businesses and citizens to make cities more sustainable and equitable?
Leave it to Next City to accept this challenge to bring leaders from around the world to Quito, Ecuador, to share thoughts, questions, concerns and commitments to address the New Urban Agenda, a seminal international document that is expected to be approved at Habitat III, a bi-decennial event focusing on human settlements. With support from the Ford, Kresge and MacArthur foundations, and in partnership with the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy, the World Stage by Next City is the premier showcase for frank public conversations as well as commitments to implement the New Urban Agenda.
In between panel discussions, keynote addresses and workshops, Next City has contracted with seven artists from around the world to share their interpretations of the urban experience. And, through a competition with over 200 respondents, one of our readers, Tatu Gatere, the Kenya country director of Kounkuey Design Initiative, won the opportunity to present her thoughts on the value of human-centered design as a tool for sustainable urbanization. (See full World Stage schedule here.)
As the curator of the World Stage, I felt both the immense pressure to air the most pressing urban challenges as well as the incredible excitement of enabling creative, passionate and brilliant people from all corners of the globe and many different walks of life to share their stories of challenge and opportunity. So, here’s a peak at the programming: Next City will welcome mayors from across the U.S. and around the world to talk about inclusive growth, climate change and affordable housing. Designers, planners and engineers will share examples of mobility, resiliency and equality that can shape future infrastructure, neighborhoods and civic engagement. Civil society leaders, including those that represent people that in the past have been marginalized in the planning and execution of urban projects, will share their triumphs and defeats, as well as their hopes and fears for the future.
Members of the award-winning social design collective Proyecto NN discuss creating the World Stage on Sunday.
The World Stage is an amphitheater to the world, as well as the spot where civil society leaders and public officials can meet and share stories of opportunity and challenges. With seating for 20 to 120, the World Stage is both the megaphone and the salon for urban change. We have an LED screen measuring 5-by-4 meters, able to show graphics depicting changing population densities, migration patterns, climate change effects and other challenges that affect our physical environment. Smaller spaces with flip-down tables let visitors watch videos that expose the harsh realities of urbanism as well as the designs and processes that can mitigate or obviate them.
Visitors to the World Stage look at the work of the seven artists appearing with Next City at Habitat III.
So, for those fortunate to participate in Habitat III, we welcome you to the World Stage and its 60-plus hours of memorable programming. If you can’t be in Quito, we encourage you to follow our Habitat III reporting, which will include daily posts, op-eds and video clips that engage urbanists on mobility + resilience, opportunity + equality, and public life + design. And, we’ll be producing a mini-documentary of the New Urban Agenda, which is scheduled for release later this year.
Habitat III ends on Thursday, October 20, but we believe this is just the beginning.
As you may recall, Next City built a pavilion at the World Urban Forum 7 in Medellin, Colombia, to provide a space for public officials and civil society to come together to dialogue on urban issues. Habitat III sets the mark that will be measured in future World Urban Forums as well as other international events. We are already contemplating our presence at World Urban Forum 9 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, in February 2018, and how we can engage officials and civil society organizations to measure progress as well as solidify commitments for change. We welcome your thoughts on how to inspire leaders to make the change we all seek, and encourage you to suggest ways we can celebrate their successes and hold them accountable for missed opportunities or half-hearted gestures.
The stakes are too critical. With the world becoming more urbanized every day, the challenges of making cities sustainable, inclusive and equitable can’t be postponed. Habitat III is that golden opportunity to do right by doing good. In organizing the World Stage, Next City sets a marker on our common future. It’s a bet we can’t afford to lose.
Tom was president, CEO and publisher of Next City from May 2015 until April 2018. Before joining Next City, he directed the Center for Resilient Design at the College of Architecture and Design at the New Jersey Institute of Technology. Prior to that, he ran the Regional Plan Association’s New Jersey office, and served as a senior adviser on land use for two New Jersey governors. Tom is a licensed professional planner, and a member of the American Institute of Certified Planners, as well as an adjunct professor at the New Jersey Institute of Technology, where he teaches land use planning and infrastructure planning.