Chapter 1: Status Quo
David, a business consultant, passes the architectural eyesore each time he travels to lecture at the local faculty of engineering.
Now his university boss has challenged him to lead businesses in transforming the site at Springfield, Wolverhampton, into a 21st century learning campus to help drive a future 'midlands engine'.
Chapter 2: Call to Adventure
The innovation adventure aims to help participants:
- Tell stories of a cross-sector journey of discovery and innovation;
- Design and facilitate a 5-day tour of a visionary world city;
- Tailor small group and individual excursions to strategic interests of academics and business managers;
- Time to share insights with each other and prospective partners;
- Support from a professional digital production team and business coach.
The boss approves and David signs up for the introductory workshop.
Chapter 3: Assistance
From this 'co-creation' emerges a joint vision for the trip. We create a wish-list and start thinking about audiences and ways of communicating our insights to markets and teams back home. After a couple of weeks of research, using online collaborative tools, we come up with a schedule - leaving space to allow for the unexpected.
- They are opportunities to showcase work and open up investment discussions across both industry and government. By 2020, the 'smart' market is valued at $13 billion (London) and $1.3 trillion worldwide;
- With typically 70% private sector, and 30% public sector from cities around the world, they offer strong networking and learning opportunities. High profile cities include New York, Barcelona, Berlin, Tel Aviv and Tallinn.
The Barcelona event, usually in November, is generally recognised as the biggest and the best of the Smart City events, with 1400 delegates, 400 exhibitors, 400 speakers, 500 cities, 100 countries and 400 media representatives. There are similar opportunities in Istanbul, Puebla, Casablanca, Sofia, Kuala Lumpur, Kyoto, Singapore and London, to name just a few.
Co-creating the study tour
We use a permaculture process based on whole-systems thinking that combines ethics and design principles. Permaculture guides us to mimic the patterns and relationships we can find in nature and can be applied to all aspects of human habitation, from agriculture to ecological building, from appropriate technology to education and even economics. Delegates develop a series of enquiries to guide their learning journey:
Chapter 4: Commitment
Meanwhile, our media and learning crew assembles in Barcelona.
On the day of departure, someone gets stuck in traffic and nearly misses the plane.
Finally, everyone's heading for the destination.
Chapter 5: Trials
After an adventurous transition, our fellowship of intrepid urban researchers immediately sense there's something different about this 'smart' city. It's clear that this is a very holistic approach to development. At the same time, we're all beginning to learn that, despite the inspiring potentional, the concept of a smart city is still very much work in progress.
Here are some of the apps we tested. Thinking about a business-oriented city, how many of these are ready for welcoming international trade? Luckily, our hosts spoke great Spanish. A big thanks to Ryan, an erstwhile member of our production crew. He spent a day trekking across the city testing these out. He struggled to find his way to the football stadium, getting lost and having his wallet stolen in the process.
Check out this huge selection of city apps for Barcelona. http://apps4bcn.cat - does your city have such a web page? In what languages are the apps available?
Chapter 6: The Oracle
At one of the world's top business schools, we compare with ESADE's director creative approaches to encouraging new business; at Barcelona FC, the message is 'more than a club': officials want to talk about international corporate responsibility and engagement with a family of fans.
We're learning that smart cities are much more than technology.
Barcelona's trying to tell us something very important here. It's about values.
Chapter 7: The Approach
David's on with the hard-hat for a tour of the acres of smart campus construction. There are whole buildings set aside for occupation by partner insitutions abroad. The entire complex has been designed with the needs in mind of a local Romany estate, including an apprenticeship programme.
On the metro system, we see that it's very much work in progress. The plan is for a quarter of the total metro network in Barcelona to run driverless trains thanks to an automated system of controlling trains. Turn up the sound on the video below, and tell me if this is the correct train for the expo. There's some way to go yet, but it's an inspiring vision.
Chapter 8: Crisis
The message from the project demonstrators is clear. We have fallen into the trap.
While many organisations are working together successfully, to develop fascinating and innovative projects, there's a critical voice that's not being heard: the customer! It's not just about driving the economy while caring for the environment. We resolve to take back home the message that we need to focus first on sourcing ideas from the citizens.
Our facilitator, Sophia, takes our learning to a deeper level. We capture our thoughts and discuss with the crew how we will package them.
Chapter 9: Discovery
1. What has struck us is the importance of community in the city. From the sharing culture of dining, to the city-skaters, and the way children play.
2. Our focus has been on recognising the connections between our work and developing those to co-create a project that fits in with wider strategies of orgnisations and governments. But it's not just about pooling our own interests, but using them to understand and address expressed needs of the communities we serve.
So our new appreciation is that smart cities are not just about the technology. They are cities where technology supports its people in creating places that are liveable.
Recognising assumptions can help us accept change that others cannot. This is the real treasure, although there's so much more that we've found out on this short week. Our quest is now over -- and the rewards may be even greater than we set out to achieve.
Chapter 10: Return
Chapter 11: Integration
Chapter 12: Upgrade
The first stages of the development give students from Univeristy of Wolverhampton School of Architecture and the Built Environment the opportunity to gain a practical overview of what is involved in the development of grade 2 listed buildings.
David and his colleagues are working to implement some of the strategies they learned, including a construction apprenticeship programme.
They are developing an innovative stakeholder engagement programme to encourage citizens to voice their needs and create together new services to make the city a great place to live.
Now he is investigating how to use similar approaches to crowdsource ideas from citizens.