As the world conversely becomes better connected in an increasingly uncertain future, we are seeing the roles of cities and governments fluctuate to meet the needs of their people and our environment.
Once the command and control ethos of many governments demanded authority and proclaimed national policies, with scarce authentic understanding of the impact at the level of individuals away from the capital cities. The rise in corporate globalisation also gave rise to a similar approach in the private sector as the world suddenly opened as huge market for all those with the resource to trade on such a scale.
One example is Liverpool. Once the second city of the British Empire, a huge financial powerhouse trading from its world leading dock system during the peak of the industrial revolution was one such casualty both of globalisation as trade moved away to European ports, and successive locally dislocated governments particularly through the 1970s and 1980s considering the city a lost cause. Officially in some memos. Although this city, like many others in similar isolation did fight back and eventually began to flourish once more.
Ironically, because of globalisation, we now live in a world where local engagement cannot be avoided, opinions have no reason not to be heard and many individuals and grassroots organisations can punch about their resource weight when expressing their needs to those who decide policy (or vote to decide those who does). The internet can be a wonderfully level playing field, even taking the rise in ‘fake news’ into consideration.
Brexit and Donald Trump are examples of this uncertainty and access to connectivity. If Donald doesn’t Tweet it then it didn’t happen. Often it doesn’t happen when he does Tweet it, but that is another article all together.
Amongst the chaos there is hope.
First, we began to see cities come together emerging as champions of climate change and environment where governments feared to tread. With 90% of cities being coastal, rising sea-levels became a major driver of local attention and policy requirement. The movement of cities in the US actively against the environmental stance of the US President in favour of the Paris Agreement directly is a glaring example of local leadership dictated by necessity not political manuevering.
The next step we are witnessing is cities more effectively connecting the needs of the people to the climate change flagship policies. We saw this improved alignment in the development of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as they evolved from the success and learning of the Millennium Development Goals. The SDGs were created to blend sustainability (often incorrectly defined in mostly environmental terms) with the regularly overlooked yet interconnected wider needs of inequality in society, and in developed nations as much as developing nations.
In particular, the emerging Local2030 initiative from the UN is a perfect example of actors in city-based areas collaborating more effectively across policy areas beyond climate change. Liverpool, as one pioneering example is home to the 2030hub, designed specifically to support Local2030 by creating a locally driven focal point for such national and international collaboration and impact through an ecosystem of physical workspace, community, policy influence and entrepreneurial impact.
Cities are rapidly stepping up across the globe and mayors are becoming the new changemakers of influence.