Nationwide Urban Researchers Bristol Meet Up

On Apr 29th  & 30th  researchers from all five Urban Living Partnership projects met here in Bristol to compare their projects and progress.  Apart from our own Urban ID there are sister research projects in Newcastle& Gateshead, York, Leeds and Birmingham each with their own very different methods and approaches to working out how cities can become sustainable and resilient. They are all funded from the same pot of Research Council’s money intended to support pilot projects that could diagnose how city systems get stuck in counter productive routines. What was really surprising was how much common ground emerged over the two days as people began to thrash out what the route map to better city futures might be. The projects developed agreement around five key ideas :-

  • For cities to make progress toward sustainable and resilient futures we need to have a much better set of common understandings of ‘every day complexity’. That is to say the fact that our cities are made of many different interdependent systems (transport, health, power etc) and that if we are to make progress we need a much better way of understanding how those different systems interact with one another.
  • Business as usual won’t deliver change; the ways of planning, developing and managing cities that we have now are not up to the task of delivering the futures we need.
  • We need new ways of getting things done, in both business and civic spaces. These disruptive business models (in the best sense, not the Uber sense) need to be grow from better understandings of how our decisions and solutions can make a difference in complex world.
  • None of the obdurate impediments to flourishing cities can be developed without collaboration and partnership not only with obvious stakeholders but in co production with citizens. In complex systems no one is in charge, that’s why we need as many points of view as we can to meet challenges.
  • To move forward we need useful, dependable, and trusted models that show change and can be transferred to different contexts.

This is an inspiring but challenging agenda that will need seriously long term work. It’s easy enough to understand the city as complex system in a superficial way, but knowing how to act for the best in that context is another matter. One strong idea that emerged from the conversation was for regional urban collaboratories where university and other research resources could be set up to work with local authorities, City & Metro Mayors to do the research necessary to deliver the long term vision of healthy and prosperous places.  The Bristol project certainly has all the partnerships in place to become a really interesting site for such an experiment in City -University knowledge exchange.

Urban ID Poster