Change for which ‘better’?

The municipal government of The Hague has designated two neighbourhoods as testing ground in the development of ‘next generation urban districts’. Three main themes are explored. One is energy transition. Dependency on natural gas is an issue as natural gas is running out introducing the need for very different, sustainable ways to meet needs. The second is how next generation neighbourhoods will accommodate new ways to earn a living. The development of circular neighbourhood economies is high on the agenda. Finally there is the next generation neighbourhood as a learning environment. Going to school becoming less of a preferred option neighbourhoods will need to accommodate learning. More importantly, as urban challenges require active citizens, their demand to learn to contribute will increase.

With these developments come profound changes in public services. If a circular economy means ‘no waste’, waste disposal will become redundant in favour of services in collecting waste as valuable material in the neighbourhood based production of goods. The dynamics of next generation neighbourhoods will alter the risk profiles of these neighbourhoods in many ways, requiring new modes of risk management including law enforcement.

Municipal government change management is to take next generation neighbourhood testing grounds as the domain to actively explore the consequences of development, both planned and unplanned. This can only prove effective on the condition that the strong urge is resisted to think of ‘better’ as current irritation not being part of future cities. There is a risky utopian attitude driven by the perceived severity of current problems. This stands in the way of sensibly thinking of what we need to do now in order to meet urgencies such as energy transition.

It is not planning for a city without crime and disorder, without poverty, without segregation that is at stake. It is planning for a city that makes sense of these inevitabilities in order to act upon them in a just way. Cities, as economic, cultural, academic powerhouses can only be that powerhouse at the cost of the inevitable consequences of putting people into too tight a space. As we cannot do without them we will need to develop urban space for justice and solidarity as part of the package.

Or am I wrong?

Een gedachte over “Change for which ‘better’?

  1. Your blog reminds me of the work of Marhall Berman on modern cities. In ‘All that is solid will melt into air’ he states there are two ways to talk about modernization. The Russian authors Tsjernysjevski and Dostojevski already argued about it around 1860. The former searching for solutions in technological progress: cities as clones of The Chrystal Palace with well equipped living communities. The latter thought these cities would be bloodcurdling boring. Dostojevski searched for cities with a sparkling street life, filled with encounters and surprises. And yes, surprises can be harsh as well…

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