As a black male from South East London, I think better representation and plurality of power is fundamental for the citizens of any city to thrive.
Thursday 14th March was our launch event, with a debate titled: AltUrban presents: 21st Century Housing and Planning Solutions. The event seeked to explore if technology can be the solution for diversity and social equity issues in cities. Due to declining public sector budgets and rapidly changing urban needs, local authorities, established companies & ambitious start-ups all need to find new ways to reduce costs and foster urban innovation. Technology can help to achieve this, but often the benefits and power go to a small minority of community. AltUrban aim to redistribute some of this power through education, connecting and empowerment.
The debate had a diverse line up of panellist such as Priya Shah, public affairs consultant at Comm Comm UK. Founder of BAME in Property a forum aims to improve ethnic representation in the planning and property industries; Cllr Anthony Okereke Planning Communications Executive for Curtin&Co and the Labour Councillor at Greenwich; Gráinne Gilmore, the Head of UK Residential Research at Knight Frank which is a global leading real estate consultancy; Sam Greaves, the Director of Qualitative Research at Walulel which is a Brixton based urban data analysis start-up & Chloe Salisbury, a Planning, Policy & Economics Associate at ARUP which is a planning company who work closely with public sector. It was chaired by Nancy Holman, Associate Professor of Urban Planning at LSE, Director of MSc Regional Urban Planning & Studies and myself, current Master’s student of Regional and Urban Planning Studies and Founder of AltUrban.
Our amazing panellists from the start up, political, property, urban planning and diversity world discussed three main questions with lots of room for audience interaction. The debate questions were:
Q1) How can urban technologies increase housing supply, and improve social equity and diversity?
Q2) Is the UK planning system equipped to deal with digital solutions for housing? & how do we improve the current situation?
Q3) As the population ages, can urban tech tackle the specific challenges facing older residents?
Although we were not able to get to the bottom of each answer due to time, we did discuss some very pertinent points. I will try to articulate the general essence of the conversations and my own reflections on what was said with my top 3 highlights from the debate:
Highlight 1) Transparent and accessible data is key to provide an evidence base for more equitable developments - however a greater effort needs to be made when representing notoriously ‘hard to reach’ groups and innovative methods such as CitySwipe can be used to do this or more traditional methods of on the ground research to engage with the nuanced experiences of a given population
Highlight 2) Due to often larger resources, the private sector are instrumental in spearheading urban technology for example through engaging people with future noise levels of transport infrastructure as seen by ARUP’s SoundLab or Knight Frank using 3D mapping to highlight the value (over 40,000 homes) that building on central London’s rooftops could bring - however such innovation comes with responsibility to engage and in my opinion share knowledge with the public sector
Highlight 3) To ensure the benefits of urban technology can reach those most in need local authorities need to be at the helm of digital transformation, constantly testing and applying feedback to their digital products and services as seen by Digital Greenwich
Alt Urban is a community of individuals who collectively care about shaping alternative urban futures. We are driven by educating citizens all over the world, connecting community leaders and innovating disruptive solutions to urban related problems. Alt Urban will produce global news related to Urban technologies, innovate alternative solutions, as well as create events the first of which was our LSE evening seminar.
We hope you can stick around for our journey of shaping alternative urban futures.
By Chijioke Anosike
Founder of AltUrban