3 Take-aways from the Future Cities Summit in Toronto - 2018

At last years’ Future Cities Summit (Toronto, Ontario), hosted at Evergreen Brickworks Toronto, Andrea Reimer (ex-Vancouver City Council) discussed the concept of power during her part of the Innovation Showcase from North and South [America].

She stated that we need to revolutionise the definition of power and redefine power in our communities, neighbourhoods and systems for greater equality, inclusivity and sustainability.

Is our current definition of power getting in the way of us working together?

As urban migration gives way to the rise of megacities, satellite cities and smart cities, we pave the way for new ways of living, working and moving. The ongoing, ever-changing definition of the”future city” means a complete redefinition of certain aspects of those cities.

These cities of the future - Sidewalk Labs’ Smart City being a great example - stretch the boundaries of what we currently know (and sometimes are comfortable with) in terms of new ways of developing and governing a city.

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Reimer’s call to action:

“How does power work in practice and how can we use our personal and professional power to create great future cities on the framework of shared governance, sustainability, equality and inclusivity?”

As these new urban environments come into existence, so to will we see new and innovative urban governance models that encourage a more sustainable, inclusive and connected way of operating. From localism movements to digitizing the government and the rise of “self-governance”, what does the future (of power) hold?

The Rise of Smart Governments

As the current world order takes hold, the concept of “smart” everything has permeated our everyday lives. But what does it mean when it comes to government? How do we wade through the hype to get to the truth of the matter?

From innovative policy, the integration of big data and privacy, to new structures, policies and the reduction of silos, a smart government will be one who is proactive, efficient, transparent, accountable, sustainable and secure.

It is a data-driven, citizen-driven and performance focused entity. As we experience a shift in the concept of democracy and governance, we will see a shift in the concept and role of government.

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The Power of Smart Citizens

The team behind the Knowledge@Wharton Business Journal have released their Smart Cities 3.0 Toolkit, where they highlight citizens of the future will be highly engaged, active and collaborative with their local government.

The days of “that’s just how it’s done” is no longer good enough. Citizens will require civic governance that is co-creative, highly participatory and inclusive. The relationship lines between the citizen, the private sector and government will blur and redefine themselves.

Citizens will be active participants in their current and future governments, they will demand better access to services and improved service delivery, the reduction of inefficiencies and greater transparency and accountability.

The Future of Working Together

True resilience and community strength are always most obvious in the face of extremes and in the day-to-day. Stories of neighbours helping another neighbour, a community’s ability to band together and self-govern in the face of the extremes, including extreme natural disasters and economic collapse.

From the economic crisis in Detroit that saw the rise of community governance DIY to stories of support for the communities in Haiti, Christchurch and New Orleans during their respective natural disasters, a resilient community is one of strength, adaptability and self-sufficiency.

How do we redefine the concept of power to build community resilience and true inclusivity so that the future of power can be redefined for a more inclusive, equitable and sustainable future?

As we move into the future and redefine the roles of government and citizen, we will see the importance of data. In response to natural disasters, digitizing our government and the future of civic engagement, the common thread in these areas is the interconnectedness of the future.

This co-created future relies heavily on shared knowledge and our ability to work together - day to day and in the face of crisis - for a better future for all.


As Canadian urbanist, Jane Jacobs, said:

“Cities have the capability of providing something for everybody, only because, and only when, they are created by everybody.”

Therefore, in whatever role brings you here - government, private sector or an engaged citizen - how can we understand, adapt and engage with a new concept of power as we move through the next fifty years?

And how can we move forward from a platform of sustainability, inclusivity, equitability and shared power?

You can read more about Canada’s Future Cities and share with us your thoughts!