The global urban population is booming, with estimates that by 2030, 60% of us will live in cities. With this growth has been a surge in interest in making cities smarter and better places to live. Companies such as IBM have for instance been investing heavily in their smarter cities work.
So the latest McKinsey report should be of interest to anyone in this field, or indeed with an interest in cities. The research team spent around a year talking to 30 mayors across four continents. The cities were chosen due to their high performance in areas such as quality of life, environment and economic growth.
The paper covered a variety of ways leaders are effecting change in their cities. A sizable chunk examined how entrepreneurial sectors drive growth and how governments can use new technology to implement change and communicate with residents.
The report, called How to make a city great, looked at the three things in particular that cities do well:
- They achieve smart growth. Smart growth identifies and nurtures the very best opportunities for growth, plans ways to cope with its demands, integrates environmental thinking, and ensures that all citizens enjoy a city’s prosperity. Good city leaders also think about regional growth because as a metropolis expands, they will need the cooperation of surrounding municipalities and regional service providers. Integrating the environment into economic decision making is vital to smart growth: cities must invest in infrastructure that reduces emissions, waste production, and water use, as well as in building high-density communities.
- They do more with less. Great cities secure all revenues due, explore investment partnerships, embrace technology, make organizational changes that eliminate overlapping roles, and manage expenses. Successful city leaders have also learned that, if designed and executed well, private–public partnerships can be an essential element of smart growth, delivering lower-cost, higher-quality infrastructure and services.
- They win support for change. Change is not easy, and its momentum can even attract opposition. Successful city leaders build a high-performing team of civil servants, create a working environment where all employees are accountable for their actions, and take every opportunity to forge a stakeholder consensus with the local population and business community. They take steps to recruit and retain top talent, emphasize collaboration, and train civil servants in the use of technology.
The report provides a nice overview of the social and technical things that the best cities are doing to make things better for citizens. If you work in this field, or have a passing interest in it, it’s well worth a read.