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As our cities increasingly encounter complex urban problems, smart and sustainable solutions will need to be employed to enhance their liveability, efficiency and productivity. At the same time, the emergence of a global and affordable digital infrastructure will inspire the creation of the urban services industry to develop innovative, cross-industry solutions to solve these complex urban problems.

This transformation has the potential to fundamentally transform the way citizens consume urban services, the ways these services will be delivered, and, ultimately, how cities themselves will be managed. These very solutions will also present cities with problems in terms of integration, governance and finance.

The Global Agenda Council on the Future of Cities has a mandate to collate, disseminate and implement scalable, replicable and adaptable innovative solutions to urban problems by assessing and collecting the best urban solutions, raising awareness and spearheading their implementation.

Based on this mandate the council agreed on a three stage strategic plan. The three stages could be summarized as: Collate, disseminate, implement.

1. Collate: In the first stage the council will bring together their collective knowledge, that of the other councils and other experts in the field to create a long list of urban innovations. This process was started at the summit and there exists a list of 25 innovations from the individual council sessions and the cross council interactions. The list will be circulated and other members will be encouraged to add to the list with an ambition of gaining a long list of 30 + innovations.

There will then be an evaluation phase, the long list will be categorised into a number of areas: health, mobility, use of resources, others. Then there will be an evaluation based upon three key questions:

• Is it replicable?
• Is it scalable?
• Is it adaptable?

It will also be scored on the impact it will create. From this evaluation a list of the top 10 urban innovations will be created.

2. Disseminate: In the next stage the list of urban innovations will be collated into a written document in the style of the Forum report 'The Top Ten Emerging Technologies'. This will aim to present the top innovations in a form with the potential to go viral via social media.

This will be launched around the time of the Summit on the Global Agenda 2015.

In the wake of the launch of the report the council will aim to further disseminate the ideas with the launch of a MOOC with small videos from each council member outlining some of the ideas in the report. Ideally this would be supported by the world bank or another entity and would be aimed at city leaders and the general public.

3. Implement: In this final stage the Council will focus on one of the innovations with the aim of having it implemented in a city.

The Global Agenda Council Future of Cities Progress 2014 – 2015:
The Council has chronicled the 10 best examples from around the world of how cities can create innovative solutions to a variety of problems. The Council had a number of brainstorming sessions and prepared a long list of urban innovations before voting and agreeing the Top 10 Urban Innovations. The result is that at the Summit on the Global Agenda 2015 the Global Agenda Council on the Future of Cities published a new report: ‘Top 10 Urban Innovations’. Here is a link to the full report: http://www3.weforum.org/docs/Top_10_Emerging_Urban_Innovations_report_2010_20.10.pdf

Many of these solutions are scalable, replicable and can be adapted to a variety of specific urban environments. Some are possible only due to new technologies while others apply technology to ideas that are as old as the city itself.

Within these innovations, three principles surface again and again. They can be seen as a core framework to find innovative solutions to complex urban problems:

Unleashing spare capacity: Many innovations cleverly make use of existing yet underutilized resources. Airbnb, for example, enables the renting out of unused private homes; co-locating schools and recreational facilities enables public-private sharing of space; and the circular economy provides opportunities to reuse, recycle and upcycle.

Cutting out the peaks: From electricity and water to roads and public transport, upwards of 20% of capacity sits idle for much of the time to cope with demand peaks; cutting out these peaks with technology-enabled demand management or innovative pricing structures can significantly limit the burden on financial and natural resources.

Small-scale infrastructure thinking: Cities will always need large-infrastructure projects, but sometimes small-scale infrastructure – from cycle lanes and bike sharing to the planting of trees for climate change adaptation – can also have a big impact on an urban area.

People-centred innovation: The best way to improve a city is by mobilizing its citizens. From smart traffic lights to garbage taxes, innovations in technology, services and governance are not ends in themselves but means to shape the behaviour and improve the lives of the city’s inhabitants. All innovations should be centred on the citizen, adhering to the principles of universal design and usable by people of all ages and abilities.

Contact Us:

Council Manager: Alice Charles, Community Lead, Infrastructure and Urban Development Industry, Basic and Infrastructure Industries, Global Leadership Fellow, alice.charles@weforum.org
Forum Leads: Pedro Almeida, Head of Basic Industries, Basic and Infrastructure Industries, Pedro.Almeida@weforum.org