Cities are at the centre of the global economy; they are key nodes in global trade, and main drivers of innovation. Cities have always had a key role in the development of our civilization and have been forced to solve problems created by their very size. In other words, cities are the very condition and provocation to innovative thinking.
Moreover, cities are places where democracy is both performed and challenged. Cities, being inherently heterogeneous, demand constant negotiation. Notwithstanding current debates surrounding the role of the city in the global economy, these efforts have not been too productive, but rather repetitive and growth-centric.
Urban governance is increasingly entrepreneurial and less managerial. Furthermore, today’s citizenship practices have to deal with the challenge of integrating those without power and political representatives that claim their right to the city. The city is a space for strategic economic and political exchanges and, as more people move to urban areas in search of new horizons, or to escape poverty, the city becomes the main arena where fundamental rights and the notion of citizenship are being re-negotiated.
Cities are our common ground, our space of action. We chose to “react” to rapid urban transformation. We agreed to go beyond theories and try practical actions to address concrete urban issues.
Engagement is key to a participatory democracy. Youth are first in line when it comes to producing alternative forms of politics and governance, but often have the lowest voting turnout. Institutional frameworks, and the inequalities that they produce, have a significant impact on the shaping of youth in our society. And yet, the position of young generations in relation to the labour market and the provision of social benefits has been significantly reduced, weakening, in turn, their sense of responsibility towards the government. This does not necessarily signal a retreat from politics, it signals a retreat from conventional politics. In other words, while the young have the most tendency to criticise and disengage from conventional participation, they are the most likely to have ambitious and novel ideas about what democratic participation ought to be. Our world is home to 1.8 billion young people between the ages of 10 and 24, and how we meet the needs and aspirations of this section of the population will define our common future. There is tremendous potential in youth engagement, an opportunity that must not be wasted.
We consider youth engagement central to any good urban intervention. We value the positive contribution that youth bring to programs. Planning for youth cannot and must not be done without the youth. For this reason we involve young professionals, residents and students in imagining, testing and refining solutions to wicked urban problems.
Our projects generate new insights on inclusive engagement, and inform ongoing efforts. We also seek to inspire and empower young people to become more engaged in urban governance. We see Urbego as a place where young people can articulate their participation in policymaking, planning and implementation.
Why a Network?
Notwithstanding developments in public and private sector collaboration through network formation, the full extent to which these networks can be of value to urban governance is yet to be revealed. There is far more literature on corporate networks and business management than on the benefits and potentials of networks in urban governance. In planning policy, networks and public participation are viewed separately. There is a need to fill this knowledge gap by facilitating networks over questions concerning participation in urban governance.
Moreover we notice a fundamental change underway in how we govern our cities and business. Emerging networks of civil society organizations, private companies, public administrations and individuals are coming together in powerful new ways, enabled by digital technology, to achieve new forms of social innovation – advocating for and responding to local and global questions.
Therefore we decided to develop a self-governed network, created around open and digital collaboration between Urbego young professionals and our community. Through this open model Urbego shares its tools with people and communities in different urban contexts, exposes young professionals to specific local urban issues, generates knowledge in a social process that occurs through connectivity and collaboration with others.
This type of engagement encompasses systematic collaboration for building and disseminating knowledge about the urban situation, gathering information and informing the public on current urban conflicts, promoting urban development, and setting up modules for active participation in articulating urban development strategies for a specific location.