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Bringing participation into governance

Explore how progressive cities are promoting a diverse range of ethically informed approaches to urbanism.
I think community wealth building is a very, very important tool for cities to adopt across the world. For instance, in the case of Preston by redirecting procurement flows of anchor institutions, they were able to inject another 74 million pounds into the local economy. That was money that was just– leaking out of the economy. And I think this applies to cities in general. Cities also easily allow money just to evaporate, and I think really focusing on how those funds can be redirected to help support the city is going to be really important from here on. Because resources are limited, so how do you maximise them?
But it’s interesting to see councillors talking about community wealth building as being part of building ethical, healthy, and resilient local economies going forward. And next, if you go to the next slide, I think this is really interesting as well, which also ties into this sort of digital economy and the cashless society. But taking advantage of digital local currencies is really important. So for instance, from Bristol in the UK, they recognise that 60 million pounds is spent each year on e-transactions. So if you’re using your Google Pay card, your Visa, your Apple Pay, there’s a charge.
And what Bristol is trying to do through Bristol pay, is redirect those funds back to supporting local action, so they want to redirect it towards their sustainable development goals plan. They want to promote behaviours and have a token system that also reinforces that. And they also want to see Bourdeaux pay, Manchester pay, Barcelona pay. I know that actually during the universal basic income experiment in Barcelona, there was a digital citizen currency. And I think that’s another example of Barcelona leading the way. But again, I think go back and try again, and implement more of these experiments. Next slide, please. And these are just some other examples I think that tie-in to Barbara’s presentation on the Green Deal priorities.
I think there’s lots and lots of tools that we can use, and it’s interesting to note that Barcelona also has a participatory budget project running right now. And I found out that there’s about 70 plus citizen proposals that have come forward, and it amounts to something like 30 million euros that could be invested in neighbourhood improvement projects. Again, this is a fantastic innovation. And what I see happening here is resources going to communities and people taking control. And I think that’s important as we go forward from here. But there’s some interesting ideas that also come from Barcelona around technological sovereignty and putting people in charge of platforms, digital platforms, which I think is quite unique and highly influential.
And finally, my next slide, I think we really need to look at the shift towards the net zero carbon future as a positive development. And it’s a pathway to recovery. And this is actually from my hometown, Leeds in England. But what I’m absolutely impressed by the approach that that city is taking. So firstly, they are much more ambitious than what the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is telling us to do, in that they are seeking to become net zero carbon by 2030. And then they have a whole scheme of very detailed measures explaining how they’ll get there. And then the next slide, please, which is my final slide.
What I think is really interesting in how they’re going forward on this is that they are showing how these investments bring about major benefits for the city. So for instance, that the energy bill– going net zero carbon quickly reduces the energy bill by something like 651 million pounds. And in addition to that, they create 15,000 years of extra employment. So rather than seeing the climate emergency as a drain on our economy, they have transformed this into a very, very positive forward looking way of, well, let’s create jobs. Let’s put climate action at the heart of our recovery. So I think if more cities follow this example, then it could be truly transformative. And I think it is fundamentally ethical.

Progressive cities are promoting a diverse range of ethically informed approaches to urbanism, such as community wealth building, basic income initiatives, participatory budgeting and citizen assemblies.

In this video, Brendan explores the economic redirection of funds for ethical cities and the ways to do this, using Bristol and Leeds as examples.

Collective ethical thinking

The ethical city is an evolving narrative that shapes our collective urban experience. It is not an end point but a fluid process and a way of acting. There is no recipe for how, and in what order, realignments and experiments might occur.

Offering final answers to every ethical dilemma is not a useful goal. Rather, the ethical city advances collective thinking on complex problems. It is a city where local government co-creates and co-designs the city with residents, who have both rights and responsibilities, and where governance is a collaborative process. It is a city where leaders, businesses, civic groups and communities work together to resolve challenges.

Ethically informed approaches to urbanism

Examples of participatory approaches to decision-making include citizens’ juries and deliberative surveys.

The following video describes how a citizens’ jury is an innovative way of involving people in the process of government and the ways in which citizens can best influence the decisions their governments make.

This is an additional video, hosted on YouTube.

It is critical for citizens to set the direction for the city.

Leeds Climate Change Commission

If we think about how it may be possible to promote new modes of governance that engage local people in extended conservations on ‘what is the right thing to do?’ then a very good example is the Leeds Climate Commission.

This first ever climate commission in the UK, engaged the local community in a unique dialogue through the Leeds Big Climate Conversation. This was a three month conversation on climate change. This was followed by the Leeds Climate Citizens Jury which ran for 30 hours over nine sessions.

The local government was required to take forward the jury’s recommendations. Interestingly, some of their recommendations proved difficult for local political representatives. This contradicts the notion we often hear – ‘that politicians cannot act because the public has no appetite for change.’ In this case the opposite was true.

Your Task

Reflecting on Brendan’s comments in the video regarding redirecting funds for ethical cities, and drawing upon the experiences of Bristol and Leeds, consider how such experiments might work in your city or a city you know.

Who do you think would benefit and support such experiments, and who would oppose them? and why?

Share your ideas in the comment section below.

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Creating Ethical and Sustainable Cities at the Local Level

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