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Earlier this summer I was interviewed by Ioana Păunescu for Igloo magazine about what makes Amsterdam so unique as a smart city. Simply said, Amsterdam has always been a laboratory for experiments. Since the Renaissance, citizens have always street-tested new concepts of religion, economics, politics and social justice. Today we are celebrating a new ‘digital’ renaissance where our municipality and communities remain committed to experimentation to develop brand new tools and solutions to make Amsterdam more responsive, resilient and sustainable for its residents and tourists alike.
Before visiting Amsterdam, check out these Top 10 Living Labs to see these experiments first hand.
Want to test your own experiment in Amsterdam? or learn how you can transform your own street or public space into a living lab? contact us at City Exchange Lab - firstname.lastname@example.org
Sustainable startups in the Netherlands are doing well. Never before has so much been invested in startups that offer solutions to accelerate the energy transition. This is evident from StartupDelta’s bid book Startup Solutions for the Energy Transition, published today containing the profiles of 285 green startups, in partnership with the Postcode Lottery Green Challenge.
Honoured to be featured with WOODYSHOUSING as one of the solutions to drastically reduce CO2 emissions far before 2030!
CO2 reduction is just a beginning. We go further: circular, social, affordable, fair and connecting. We have a very good solution to the deficit in affordable and sustainable housing. We don't do it alone. We believe in cooperation and co-creation with all stakeholders. Thus.... be welcome to contribute in kind or cash, in network or locations to make the impact we aim for individuals and society.
You can be part of WOODYSHOUSING!
Thanks @Lotte Duursma for inviting me to share this summary of 'We Make the City', and thank you to Amsterdam for the generous welcome. Looking forward to learning more from such diverse, creative and inclusive citizens and sharing 'down-under'.
On the 21st of June we kicked off a new phase of Amsterdam Smart City. Amsterdam Smart City is an open collective of citizens, businesses, knowledge institutions and public authorities that are convinced that the changes necessary for the city and region, can only be achieved through collaboration.
More partners than ever are pooling their networks, knowledge and skills. Who are they? We will present some of them one by one. This time Pakhuis de Zwijger: ‘It is essential to make sure all Amsterdammers can decide about the future of their city.'
What is the main reason for you to join the open collective Amsterdam Smart City?
As Pakhuis de Zwijger we would like to facilitate and participate in an open dialogue on the transition of our city. We believe in the goals Amsterdam Smart City stated in the transition paths to a digital, circular and energy neutral city.
Amsterdam Smart City as a collective of cooperation is the perfect platform to achieve these goals.
What is your ambition for the city and the Amsterdam Metropolitan Area?
Pakhuis de Zwijger would always like to strengthen the dialogue between all Amsterdammers. We do this by organising events, dinners, festivals, conferences and screening films.
What do you think is the biggest challenge for the city and the region in the future?
With all the challenges of this time, like the energy transition, the unprecedented growth of the city, keeping the digital infrastructure open and accessible and the growing city moving, it is essential that we make sure that all Amsterdammers are able to participate in deciding the future of their city.
How do you see the role of the residents and citizens in your plans?
The Amsterdammers are central to achieving the goals of Amsterdam Smart City. That is why we are facilitating dialogues both in Pakhuis de Zwijger but also elsewhere in the city and through a festival like WeMakeThe.City.
What do you hope to work on in the upcoming years?
Last season we organised more than 600 events in Pakhuis de Zwijger and, together with our partners, we staged WeMakeThe.City. Next season we will certainly bring new events and a new edition of WeMakeThe.City. See our events in the calendar of Amsterdam Smart City or our website for more information.
> Let’s create better streets, neighbourhoods and cities!
Photo: Koen Smilde Photography
Next week, as part of We Make the City, we will be demonstrating some of the latest camera and object recognition technology and discuss the past, present and future of neighborhoods and how they relate to public data collected as a service solution vs a surveillance system.
Join us on Thursday June 21 at 2PM at Makerversity (part of the Marineterrien) for a thought provoking panel of guests including: Marc Schoneveld (DataLab), Bert Spaan (city data applications), Kim Smouter (Head of Public Affairs & Professional Standards, ESOMAR) and Tom van Arman (CITIXL).
Signup here: http://bit.ly/2JMLreQ
Why are we doing this?
The Chinese social credit system (SCS) was rolled out in 2014 and is planned to be fully implemented by 2020. That means that more than 1.4 billion Chinese either are currently or will be registered and tracked within the next few years. The Chinese government claims to use the system to both regulate the economy and individual citizen behavior by monitoring “trustworthiness”. According to the policy "It will forge a public opinion environment where keeping trust is glorious. It will strengthen sincerity in government affairs, commercial sincerity, social sincerity and the construction of judicial credibility." The Chinese government gathers information about its citizens’ including facial recognition, online behavior, spending, travel, social interactions and more. It is using this big data to provide individuals a social score that if high leads to privileges, but if low restrictions or punishment such as slower internet, restricted borrowing, travel bans, lowered status in dating apps and yes even less toilet paper in public restrooms.
This isn’t a Black Mirror episode,. Research shows that more than 90% of people rely on online reviews, so why not people reviews? While the Chinese government is using SCS to encourage trustworthy behavior, private industry is also venturing into people reviews and ratings. One such company, Peeple, released an app that allows individuals to review friends, colleagues, babysitter, dates and even enemies. The idea of this app outraged many in 2015 when it was unveiled and it has struggled to gain followers, but it could be just a matter of time before social rating systems become a way of life… and is it really so different from China’s SCS?
What are the dangers of this type of social scoring? Perhaps more importantly, what are the implications of harnessing big data from our traditional public commons? We have long had CCTV cameras in many of our big cities, including Amsterdam, for security purposes, but now technology such as machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI) can use this data, combine it with other data and the use-cases are boundless. But the question is who will decide how this data should be used and when is it in the best interest of our citizens?
They say history repeats itself and I cannot help but recall what happened here in the Netherlands…back in 1936 it became mandatory for each Dutch municipality to maintain a demographic record of its inhabitants and by 1939 everyone was required to carry a persoonskaart or a personal id card that contained information deemed important by the Nederland Bureau of Statistics including gender, age, religion, pollical party, heritage or “ethnic origins.” All of the information was stored centrally using, at the time, a technologically advanced “Hollerith punch-card” system. While the Dutch government collected and held the data for the best intentions, we all know what happened when Germany invaded and gained access to all of the centrally held data and processing power.
Fast forward 82 years and we no longer need personal identity cards when most of today’s cameras can recognize our faces in public and private domains. Should we be concerned? Is there a way to embrace technological advances for the “good” and somehow mitigate the risks? The famous historian, philosopher and author Yuval Harari said in his TedTalk that he “never underestimates human stupidity.” What I think he means by this is that history repeats itself in various ways and we often think it is a completely new situation, but it is often the same problem in a new context. For example there are lots of rights we rights we 21st century consumers will wave if we have to sacrifice convenience. The disruptive technology of today is a double-edged sword with wonderful potential to solve many of our world’s most pressing problems, but that potential also can, if we do not critically assess, have horrendous consequences. We, as citizens need to take responsibility and educate ourselves about what is happening in our increasingly complicated world. Unfortunately, it is as grave as it sounds. There is no reset button. It is our responsibility to make smart choices now for our future.
Let's celebrate! You are part of an amazing community of 5000 members. We just passed this milestone, so it is time to ask some new members what they think!
She recently joined the smart city community. Eva is an economist at a multi IT (Oracle) - and recently started to work as freelance architect in parallel. She lives in Budaörs, a city near Budapest. "Important characteristic of the city is that citizens define Budaörs as an independent and innovative city. We are improving public space in our own way".
We asked her a few questions:
What brought you to join the community?
I am an IT expert dealing with emerging technology in applications eg. ML supported IOT for predictive maintenance, while I am also an enthusiastic architect, fond of contemporary Dutch architecture. I have an interest in both smart building and smart city topics. I was looking for possibilities of visiting EDGE Amsterdam, that's how I have found Amsterdam Smart City. Then I saw a lot of interesting programs (like WeMakeThe.City, which I will attend), the possibility to exchange experiences and ideas and making contacts, which lead me to join the community.
Which smart city topic do you find most important?
What should the city of the future look like?
Creative, vivid, human-centric & green (in all senses).
Anything else you want to share with the community?
I worked for 1 year in the Netherlands earlier. Based on my experiences I believe that if Amsterdam aims to be the most innovative smart capital in Europe, than it will happen. So anyone interested in smart city topic should keep an eye on what and how Amsterdam Smart City is doing in Amsterdam.
Thank you all, for being such a great community!
Does your project’s success depend on the involvement of citizens? But are you struggling to interest or motivate them?
In Manchester, Dave Coleman and his team have developed a method with which they have so far managed to excite and engage over 4.000 people about climate change. Not just the usual suspects, but people from all walks of life, such as Somali refugees, unemployed social housing tenants and children.
Curious to know what their secret to success is? Read it here
A few minutes ago we were all nodding our heads in agreement but now everyone in our meeting room fell silent. None of us had an answer to the question that had just been raised: “Involving citizens is important to our project but how do we make it happen?” As the silence continued, I realized: we are all citizens ourselves but as professionals we struggle with how to get ‘them’ on board with ‘us’. How odd…
Citizens never really central and seldom part of project partnership
When I started doing a bit of research on the subject, I found out we were not the only ones having a hard time. Recent research on smart city projects from the University of Amsterdam (UvA) said: “In most smart city definitions, citizens are considered to be the key users and should be the main focal point for the smart city technologies that are being developed. In the projects we evaluated, we rarely found evidence of this. Citizens were never really central and seldom an official part of the project partnership”
I sighed with relief - thank goodness, it’s not just us! Apparently many of us working in energy transition or smart city projects struggle when it comes to engaging citizens.
But off course that wasn’t actually good news. If we want to create change, and have an actual impact, we need people to (want to) join our projects or causes. But how?
Good communication alone is not citizen engagement
For many of us it’s common practice that, after the project is carefully planned and designed, we bring in the creatives and ask them to develop a sticky campaign to arouse citizen enthusiasm and involvement. When this doesn’t get the response we hoped for, we blame the campaign. This, as it turns out, isn’t quite fair (according to the UvA research):
*“Often assumptions were made about what citizens wanted or needed, without being thoroughly verified by consultation with those citizens. Moreover, many mistakes were made in determining the way of involving users in the project.*”
So, as communications expert Alec Walker-Love, working extensively on the subject, puts it: “Citizen engagement requires good communication – but good communication alone is not citizen engagement.”
So what is? What is the secret to citizen engagement? The subject started to feel like a mysterious black box to me; what on earth gets citizens going? Or, even better, gets them to stand still and reconsider their thinking or behavior?
Involving over 4.000 ‘unusual suspects’ in climate change
Salvation came unexpectedly. Last March, when visiting Manchester, we had the pleasure of meeting Dave Coleman co-founder and Managing Director of the Carbon Literacy Project (and member of our City-zen Advisory Board). He amazed us. With the Carbon Literacy Project he had so far managed to excite and engage over 4.000 people (!) in and around Manchester about climate change. Not just the usual suspects, but people from all walks of life, such as Somali refugees, unemployed social housing tenants and children. I couldn’t wait to get the inside line from Dave to how this was done. Fortunately he was willing to share it all.
The Carbon Literacy Project emerged from Manchester’s climate change action plan ‘Manchester: A Certain Future’, written in 2009. Next to an ambitious goal for reducing the city’s CO2 emissions, the plan pledged to ‘engage all individuals, neighborhoods and organizations in Manchester in a process of cultural change that embeds ‘low-carbon thinking’ into the lifestyles and operations of the city’. You can’t however expect a process of cultural change to happen if people don’t have enough knowledge or understanding of the carbon impacts of their activities. So one of the objectives of the plan was to make people ‘carbon literate’.
In 2010 Dave and his ‘Cooler Projects’ business partner Phil Korbel, decided to take up the carbon literacy challenge. Because, as Dave put it; “if we want change, we need people to just get it”.
The Carbon Literacy Standard: anything but standard
This was no easy task. The aim, as formulated in the plan, wasn’t to develop some kind of awareness campaign but to offer every citizen within Greater Manchester ‘one days’ worth of learning’ about climate change. Dave and Phil brought together a voluntary 30-person working group, consisting of people drawn from all sectors, to work collectively in developing an approach to engage people. They called it ‘The Carbon Literacy Standard’. Their approach however is anything but ‘standard’. Instead of developing an ‘off-the-shelf’ training course to make people ‘carbon literate’, they decided to create a different kind of program. One that turned out to be very successful because it has adopted a very distinctive (learning) method. A method in which people not only gain knowledge about climate change but actually become involved in the subject and start to care about it.
3 ESSENTIAL LESSONS FROM MANCHESTER
So what is their method all about? How do they manage to turn those heads around and influence behavior? The answer is both short and simple: by putting those they want to reach at the heart of everything they do. They don’t focus on what they want or think is important but on what is meaningful to others and works for them. Is it that simple? Yes it is. The hard part off course is in actually doing it. And how. Here are three key elements the CLP works by that are universally applicable to every project whose success depends on engaging others:
1. Always speak in terms of the other man’s needs
At the Carbon Literacy Project they focus on what they call ‘local learning’: trying to make whatever you are trying to teach (or tell) as relevant as possible to the person at the other side of the table. “Nobody will show up just to talk about climate change” Dave explains “it all starts with finding common ground. Talk about something they are interested in and show them how climate change is tied up with that.”
Dave illustrates this with an example: How do you reduce the number of FC United fans driving to soccer games? Not by telling them it is better for the environment to take public transport but by talking about things they care about: “take the Metro and everyone can have a beer, you travel together with your mates, you will save a few pounds and you don’t have to worry about finding a parking spot…. “ Or by enhancing their pride of FC United: “our club is doing something about climate change and we are going to do it much better than others.”
Dave emphasizes that is important to “always speak in terms of the other man’s needs” referring to one of the principles from Dale Carnegie’s famous book ‘How to win friends and influence people’. “Ask yourself; what are they interested in right now? And then try to find the overlap. It is all about shaping it into somebody else’s needs or interests.”
Dave’s words remind me of a quote by another bestselling author: “First seek to understand and then to be understood.” If you want to engage people into whatever your cause is, first make an effort to immerse yourself in what is important to them. Only then you will know how to spark their interest. Now of course that isn’t always easy but it will pay off; it will earn you people’s attention and willingness to be involved in your project.
2. Invite those that are essential to your project in from the start
At the Carbon Literacy Project they believe they can’t know what kind of training works best for you, your group, community or organization. What works well in one group or community might fail in another. That’s why they have embraced a concept that Dave calls ‘crowdsourcing the training’. Which means you – the person working to achieve Carbon Literacy in your group - get all the help and input you need, but you customize the training for your group and, whenever possible, deliver it yourself too (more about that in #3). As Dave says: ““We don’t focus on form but on outcome”. They trust that, with the right guidance, these ‘trainers’ will be able to put together a better working training program, fitting the needs and interests of their own group, than CLP would have. And thus creating a better outcome.
In addition, they emphasize the importance of a concept called ‘group enquiry’. This means that during a training you do not tell people what to do differently to reduce their carbon impact but you let the learners, with input of expert knowledge and peer support, jointly find their own answers and devise their own solution. Or as Dave puts it: “We just create the space, provide the necessary knowledge and people find their own way to the answers” This maximizes the participants’ sense of independence, expertise and purpose in responding to climate change and thus will increase ownership and their motivation to act further.
So how does that translate to us working in smart city or energy transition projects? If you want to influence people’s thinking or behavior, do not only immerse yourself in what is important to others but also invite them in from the very start. Don’t try to put it all together by yourself first and then reach out, but work together with those that are essential to your project from the very beginning. You can be the driving force but put your ego aside: be open to unexpected ideas and approaches of others. This will not only create a better outcome but it will also boost enthusiasm and ownership with those that are essential to the success of your project.
3. Focus on a peer-to-peer approach
At the Carbon Literacy Project they believe that “training is most trusted and best delivered by peers”; people who, to the learner, “feel like themselves”. Dave explains: “Information becomes more credible when it is told by peers, by ‘people-like-you’, not some expert talking down. I, for example, wouldn’t be credible to most soccer fans. I simply don’t look and sound the part. It’s better to take somebody they already respect. Someone they share a common background with. Research shows that peers are the most trusted source of information” That’s why Carbon Literacy training is mostly delivered by someone from the group it focuses on.
So, if you want people to be open to your project, work together with a few (respected) members of that specific community. Find likeminded people and involve them as your local ‘ambassadors’ and work together from the start in formulating your message and determining the way of approaching people.
Stating the obvious?
Now to many these three lessons from Manchester might feel like stating the obvious. Nothing new. And you are right. Deep down most of us already know these things. And that’s great. But we don't always do them. Now what it takes is courage. Courage to start putting what we know into practice. And making an effort to really connect. Because, let’s face it, engagement is a two-way activity. And it starts with us.
 Alec Walker-Love is co-writer of ‘Report on innovative citizen engagement strategies’.
 Stephan Covey - ‘7 habits of highly effective people’