Written by Max Kortlander
Neighbourhoods Co-Create Mobility Solutions
19th September 2018
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What is the value of a neighbourhood? This is the question at the heart of four projects within CIVITAS, a network of cities dedicated to cleaner, better transport in Europe and beyond. Over the next two years, Sunrise, MUV, Cities-4-People, and Metamorphosis – all of which are funded or co-funded by the European Union – are working to develop sustainable mobility solutions at the neighbourhood level.
These projects are co-creating solutions in neighbourhoods across Europe, from Oxfordshire to Istanbul, to tackle a range of issues, including reducing automobile traffic, championing cycling, improving access to public transportation and making pedestrian routes safer and more appealing. This is being done in all sorts of ways: by leveraging games and smartphone apps, installing pedestrian-friendly infrastructure, hosting events to raise awareness of an issue, proposing changes to local laws, and more. Each of these projects is an experiment – an iteration on the question of how to put citizens in the driver’s seat of their own community’s development. MUV, for example, is based on integrating technology such as environmental sensors and gamified apps to encourage people to make more sustainable transportation choices. Metamorphosis focuses on mobility from the perspective of children and their needs, while Cities-4-People and Sunrise take a more open approach to the co-creative process. Each of the projects are officially named ‘sister projects’ as they form a group of CIVITAS activities taking place at the neighbourhood level.
It can be easy to overlook the fundamental role of neighbourhoods in the forward-looking realm of digital social innovation (DSI), where so many new options for global connections present themselves. But the most important parts of our lives still take place in our neighborhoods – getting food, healthcare, learning, working, travelling, sleeping, and relaxing. This alone provides justification for innovating at the neighbourhood level. But there are even more attributes particular to neighbourhoods that make them an ideal testing ground for DSI.
Picture: Hamburg pilot of Cities-4-People
Social innovation requires participation. And participation requires commitment. When people can see the potential to make change in their own neighborhood, this is both accessible and rewarding. A neighbourhood is small enough for an individual to have impact, and big enough that that impact can be substantial. It is a motivating factor for people to know that they will be directly affected by the contributions that make.
Neighbourhoods are full of experts and of character. This is especially true with regard to mobility. Local people have deep insight on the day-to-day issues facing mobility where they live. That is to say, people are experts on their own home area. Neighbourhoods tend to have their own character, and in many cases, this character is a conglomeration of the diverse set of people – ranging in age, interests, background, and more, all of which contribute to a more heterogeneous set of skills and ideas.
A neighbourhood is a great scale for experimentation - small enough to be manageable, but large enough to test innovative concepts on a workable scale. By selecting multiple neighbourhoods to work with, activities and results can be compared or tested for replicability.
Each of the four CIVITAS projects is a product of the neighbourhoods where they are being implemented. But the projects should also have a reinforcing effect in strengthening the neighbourhoods, providing meaningful and collaborative interaction between community members. That is to say, the goal is that these neighborhoods won’t just make sustainable mobility solutions – the process should also help to build stronger neighbourhoods.
Cities-4-People, Metamorphosis, MUV, and Sunrise will be meeting with others in the field of sustainable mobility at this year’s CIVITAS Forum in Umeå, from September 19-21. You can learn more about them by following this year’s conference, or by visiting them live in one of Europe’s pilot cities.