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Future Cities

By 2050, the global urban population is “expected to increase by 2.5 to 3 billion” of which the majority of residents will live in “small to medium sized cities in the developing world”.  There are few places where this demands as much attention as India as more urban growth is taking place in small to mid-sized cities. This changing trend in urbanization desperately warrants a shift in policy discourse towards growing mid-sized cities
Indian cities require new visions of the future to confront challenges of the 21st century. The Future Cities initiative aims to generate anticipatory knowledge, shape public policy and catalyse citizen action to ensure resilient, inclusive and sustainable futures in growing mid-sized cities. Our work is focused around the following themes: 

Adaptation and Urban Resilience

Historical patterns of urban development in India have exacerbated both physical and social vulnerabilities that communities face due to threats from climate change. While resilient cities are a dominant discourse for tackling these risks, this narrative has prioritised technical responses, such as climate proofing infrastructure, over addressing social vulnerabilities. Our work reimagines resilience solutions centred around communities most impacted by climate-induced disasters. We strive to include different stakeholders, especially the urban poor and other marginalized communities, to reconstruct ideas of resilience and adequately address social vulnerabilities.

Low Carbon Cities

Urbanisation is a major driver of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in India and across the globe. Besides generating GHGs from buildings and transportation, cities are recipients of goods and services, the production of which likely involves emissions elsewhere. However India’s cities are only beginning to evaluate their contribution to climate change and assess their emissions. If Indian cities do not transition to low carbon growth trajectories, they risk contributing to an increased frequency and intensity of extreme weather events. India’s ability to transition to low carbon futures is essential to ensure the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals and targets of the Paris Accord. This Future Cities program aims to support cities in pioneering this effort and work towards mitigating their emissions.

Digital Transformations

With the rise of the Smart Cities movement in India the deployment of digital infrastructures to solve complex urban challenges has been normalized. Digital technologies can help improve service provision, monitor development and even mitigate carbon emissions. However, without frameworks of responsibility issues of equity, privacy and justice will be overlooked. How can cities champion inclusive innovation while critically examining the social dimensions of technological change?

Access and Inclusion

Processes of city making and urban planning have neglected the needs of marginalized communities. Inequities of caste, religion, and gender, and income shape access to urban spaces. These inequities are often compounded and manifest in poor service provision, inadequate and segregated housing, and even discrimination and violence against communities. How can we strengthen urban systems to make them accessible and inclusive for everyone?

Project Urban Living Lab (PULL)

 

What is an ‘urban living lab’?

Urban living labs (ULL) are early-stage ‘experimentation gardens’ for incubating urban solutions. ULL provides a platform for residents, governments, private actors and knowledge institutions to design, test and fine-tune socio-technical innovation to address urban challenges, in the real-life laboratory of cities and neighborhoods.

Who is doing it?

Project Urban Living Lab (PULL), based in Panaji, is India's first ULL. PULL is being set up by Transitions Research, Oxford Policy Management, and The Resources and Energy Institute (TERI) in partnership with Imagine Panaji Smart City Development Limited and with the support of the Royal Danish Embassy in India.

Approach

  • Co-creating urban solutions with citizens

  • Experimenting, testing and implementing socio-technical innovation in collaboration with residents, policymakers, public bodies, businesses and academia through an urban sandbox

  • Working in a multi-stakeholder setting with citizens, governments, private actors and knowledge institutions

  • Setting up geographically embedded, real-life ‘laboratories’ in neighborhoods and cities

  • Evolving multi-disciplinary approaches to knowledge creation and learning

PULL will address issues of urban biodiversity, water-body management, mobility, data-driven governance and planning and climate action.

Good Relations in Smart Cities: Interplay Between Digitalisation, Governance and Urbanisation

As part of the Society for Social Studies of Science’s annual meet, we hosted a panel on Good Relations in Smart Cities to explore how “smart cities” are reshaping relations between public institutions, the private sector and urban residents with the potential to marginalize, silence or disadvantage communities in the face of new political-economic nexuses.

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