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Cities are the key to humanising societies of the future

At a time when societies are tending towards an increasingly steady dehumanisation, cities have become the key to putting people at the centre of urban initiatives.

Paula García and Fernando Casado's ‘Towards the Human City’ project concluded its exhibition run by the i.lab this 3 December at the Ca l’Alier urban innovation centre. The project gave voice to over 80 transformational projects in cities from around the world launched by residents themselves and which had a positive impact on their areas.


Urban acupuncture

‘Towards the Human City’ showed the scant use of ‘urban acupuncture’ (an intervention methodology in cities through one-off operations, based on their own framework conception) as a tool for transformation, the development of citizen participation for greater inclusiveness and a dichotomy bridge between cities and rural environments in the dichotomy between cities and States.

The exhibition was officially opened at the Ca l’Alier under the framework of the Smart City Week, with views from Barcelona’s residents on the city’s challenges and possible solutions collected over a period of three weeks. 

The concluding event saw the presentation of a video featuring proposals from citizens, which you can watch here: 


A round-table was also held on the potential of technology and social innovation for building more inclusive and sustainable cities, with the following people taking part: Laia Bonet, the Deputy Mayor for the 2030 Agenda, Digital Transition, Sports, Territorial and Metropolitan Coordination at Barcelona City Council; Emilia Saiz, the Secretary-General of United Cities and Local Governments (UCLG); Jordi Hereu, the Chair of Idencity and former mayor of Barcelona, and Rosa Surinach, a specialist in partnerships and communications from the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat),


The 2030 Agenda, starting point for Barcelona’s urban transformation

Acting through the i.lab urban innovation laboratory, Barcelona City Council has been seeking to achieve the sustainable development goals set out by the United Nations’ 2030 Agenda .

‘If cities cannot make progress under the 2030 Agenda, then no one else will be able to either,’ warned Deputy Mayor Laia Bonet, who also reminded her audience that such commitments involved all the players, from public and private sectors to the citizens themselves. She then highlighted the City Council’s pledge to put the overall goals in the local context with measures for transforming Barcelona's reality.

By the same token, former mayor of Barcelona, Jordi Hereu, emphasised the need for creating a collective project adapted to the features of each urban society, as shown in ‘Towards the Human City’, where the aspiration was for a better shared future.

He underlined the importance of governmental support on both local and state levels: ‘An agenda for changes needs to be accompanied by a good policy that multiplies everyone's collective efforts.’


Creating a community among urban societies

On the other hand, the Secretary-General of the UCLG, Emilia Saiz, bemoaned the current structure of big cities, built with little regard for the most vulnerable sectors, but expressed her gratitude for the existence of the 2030 Agenda as a useful tool for their transformation: ‘We've also got to change the mistaken paradigm that we've had in recent years and move on to think locally in order to act globally,’ she added.

UN-Habitat's Rosa Surinach highlighted the work of ‘Towards the Human City’ when it came to creating a community between big urban cities: ‘The project is not just an identification of each city’s best practices but has also gone further; it is creating a connection network among its residents,’ she asserted.

For Fernando Casado, the ideas that are shown in ‘Towards the Human City’ need to be accompanied by urban laboratory promotions, as in the case of Barcelona and the i.lab, spaces that are ‘as innovative as necessary’ so citizens can have a reference point for providing support to urban-transformation initiatives.

We at the i.lab will continue working to use innovation as a tool for achieving the 2030 Agenda, by counting on the city and the international community’s entire innovation ecosystem.

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