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Join us on our journey supporting DSI in cities

24th January 2018

Marc Pérez-Batlle from Barcelona Activa introduces DSI4EU's Cities and Urban Development cluster.

Cities are facing increasingly complex challenges caused by social and demographic changes, technological innovation and shortages of key resources. Already responsible for 75 per cent of the world’s CO2 emissions, urban populations are predicted to continue rising and make up 70 percent of the global population by 2050. Therefore, cities must learn to do more with less; in turn, the way in which government works, and its very role, must also change.

Some pioneering cities have begun addressing this challenge by developing solutions to configure their services more efficiently and to help solve real challenges faced by citizens, cities and their governments. The City of Barcelona, for example, has enacted many public policies including:

  • New approaches to urban design and mobility to give streets back to citizens, such as the superblocks project;
  • New methods of civic engagement and citizen participation, such as the decidim.barcelona initiative;
  • Fighting against specific forms poverty (like energy poverty), such as through the Housing Emergency Committee;
  • New ways of organising public transportation networks, such us Barcelona’s orthogonal bus network.

In this line of work, digital technologies are playing an ever-greater role, and Barcelona is considered to be one of the leading cities worldwide in this regard. We are particularly supportive of bottom-up, participatory and open approaches to digital transformation to improve cities.

One of the priorities of the Barcelona Digital City Plan, the first government measure launched by the Barcelona City Council in 2016, is to support these initiatives and encourage digital social innovation and collaborative economy approaches and platforms. This work is being led by Barcelona Activa, the economic development arm of the City Council and one of the partners on DSI4EU. Established in 1986, Barcelona Activa’s aim is to promote economic and local development to ensure a better quality of life for the citizens by designing and implementing policies to support entrepreneurship, employment and businesses. We focus our activities in four main areas – supporting unemployed people; supporting entrepreneurs and small businesses; training professionals, entrepreneurs and SMEs; and ensuring economic development is sustainable, balanced and right for the specific contexts of different parts of the city.

Through this work, we are in a privileged position to foster the development of DSI initiatives throughout the city and are therefore excited to be leading the Cities and Urban Development cluster of DSI4EU.

Over the course of the next eighteen months, we will be undertaking dissemination activities and creating spaces for DSI initiatives to thrive. We hope to facilitate new networking events to gather the DSI community together in the city and to foster new collaborations. We will explore new approaches to funding, regulation (including open standards) and manufacturing (including through Ateneus de fabricació, FabLabs, and makerspaces) and support initiatives in the context of the collaborative economy. We will also work to promote links between the worlds of science, technology, art and culture and to foster new connections.

Throughout this, we will be focusing on how DSI offers novel approaches to tackling the big problems facing cities across Europe today. From pollution to mobility, from access to education to reducing waste, we believe that cities have a lot to learn from each other. Proactive approaches to DSI have been promoted in Amsterdam, London, Milan, Bologna, Berlin, Paris, Ghent and many other cities, and we hope to use DSI4EU as a catalyst for promoting collaboration between cities and peer learning and for reducing duplication.

If you’re working on innovative digital and citizen-centred approaches to tackling urban challenges, we’d love to hear from you. To find out more, please sign up to the DSI4EU newsletter, create a profile on the digitalsocial.eu platform and get in touch with us at [email protected]. We look forward to hearing from you!

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