Last week on Thursday April 18 I was invited to give a talk at the yearly Watertorenberaad working conference. The Watertorenberaad is an informal Dutch network of real estate developers, housing corporations, municipalities and other city makers. I gave a talk about the potential of new media and digital culture to engage citizens in co-designing their own city, and strengthen a sense of ownership. Other speakers were Sadik Harchoui, who talked about a social bank he is developing, and Frits Langenberg, founder of consumer research office Motivaction.
I was quite surprised to find that in the company of high profile real estate figures the overarching theme of the day was social innovation and bottom-up urban development. Many if not most of the projects presented were about some form of self-organization, temporariness, engaging new urban stakeholders, and alternative business models. The thorny question that remains – and which one of the participants dared to ask publicly towards the end – is whether all this will actually inspire a profound shift away from the ‘business as usual’ attitude. Of course we’ll have to see about that in the future, but I heard some interesting stories from among other Ballast Nedam, a leading construction and infrastructure company, that is developing Tok!, a crowdsourcing platform to contribute and develop innovative ideas. Up to now they have been using this internally but now consider expanding to involve external stakeholders too.
Below the short presentation that I gave (pdf 580 kb):