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Creating a vibrant city

Vibrant cities attract people to live, work or invest in them. So what should you be focusing on if you're a city planner? How can you help your city function smartly and create sustainable growth for all?

Thought leaders at the recent Chicago Forum on Global Cities(i) agreed that good infrastructure is the number one critical ingredient for cities looking to grow and develop. Get your transport, housing provision, utilities and digital connectivity right and you will soon start to see the benefits. 

But infrastructure is not the only factor to consider in creating a more vibrant city. City planners also need to be mindful of who they are involving in discussions about their city's future and also who is providing leadership.

Effective collaboration between the public, private and not-for-profit sectors can bring a variety of ideas and perspectives to the table. And strong leaders such as Mayors can play a powerful role in driving forward change and creating a shared vision.

Identifying your city's competitive advantage is also important. You may feel your city has nothing special to offer but dig a little deeper and you will almost certainly find something on which to build your city's brand. London, for example, is renowned for its diversity, Bucaramanga in Colombia is known for its oil expertise. What story can you tell about your city that will help it stand out?

Stepping back from day-to-day budgetary pressures and making time to think about a long-term strategy for growth can also yield unexpected benefits. Do you have a good understanding of your existing assets? And are you gaining enough value from them? Think creatively about how you could partner with the private sector to improve the value of your assets.

And do consider how you will ensure that your economic growth as a city is inclusive – benefiting all areas of the city as well as neighbouring towns and rural areas. Otherwise you will be creating a whole new set of issues to address in the future.

(i)  Source: The 2018 Chicago Forum on Global Cities took place June 6 - 8, hosted by the Chicago Council on Global Affairs and the Financial Times.