The short list: 15 finalists for the 2014 Guangzhou Award

The Guangzhou Award Technical Committee votes on a submission. More than 200 cities entered innovative programs for consideration. (Guangzhou Award photo)

This week, Citiscope took an inside look at the Guangzhou International Award for Urban Innovation. A technical committee assessed more than 200 entries highlighting innovative programs in cities around the world. Below is the list of 15 finalists, from which five winners will be chosen at a conference in Guangzhou, China on November 27. A list of technical committee members is here.

Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates

In one of the world’s most explosive city development sites — located in a desert environment with one of the planet’s largest carbon footprints — a new government-mandated “Estidama Program” (Arabic for “sustainable”) has imposed stiff environmental rules for all new construction. The program offers training for members of the construction industry and includes a mandatory audit procedure for each project. It aims to decrease energy use by 31 percent, water use by 37 percent, and construction waste sent to landfill by 65 percent.

Antioquia, Colombia
Educational Parks: A Space for 21st Century Citizens

Building on a widely-hailed experiment in Medellín, the surrounding area of Antioquia has set up a network of 80 “educational parks” designed to supplement traditional education with programs to honor young peoples’ inherent skills and citizenship potential. In Medellín, “library parks” were set up, even in some of the poorest city neighborhoods, reflecting serious government interest in the people and skills of residents. Not replacing formal school systems, the regional parks are designed to attract local talent, capacities and skills among youth, promoting — in a culture with a sometimes violent history — a place for peace and civic values.

Boston, USA
Youth Lead the Change: Participatory Budgeting

Boston’s mayor sought a way to engage and empower youth (from age 12 to 25) to become active participants in their city government. His solution: a process of participatory budgeting, inviting young people to collect ideas for capital projects, then to distill the ideas into concrete proposals, and then to hold a city-wide youth vote to determine which would be funded by $1 million in city funds set aside for the project. The goal: to teach young people about city building and budgeting process, to develop youth leadership and professional skills and to build involvement in government. More than 450 ideas were generated; more than 1,500 young people cast a vote; 14 projects made it to the ballot and seven were selected by the youth as winners.

Bristol, United Kingdom
Smart City Bristol

Bristol is an historic city beset by problems of congestion, an aging population and climate change. One of Britain’s few cities to select a strong mayor form of government, the city’s pushing such new initiatives as lively public events, smart development of public-private partnerships, inventive information technologies, and achieving Europe-wide “Green Capital” status for 2015. Major goals also include reducing the city’s C02 emissions 40 percent (by 2020 from a 2005 baseline) and making sustainability an integral way of improving peoples’ lives. Projects to date include smart electricity metering, open data, a smart grid and use of electric vehicles. Citizen participation is prioritized through an experimental “living laboratory” and extensive media and digital communications.

Buenos Aires, Argentina
Collaborative Roundtables for Innovation and Creativity

Running up against a set of governing barriers — excessive bureaucracy, too many meetings of doubtful usefulness, confusing lines of initiative and accountability — Buenos Aires’ city government decided to focus on a process of public engagement to stimulate imaginative and innovative action by senior officials through “Collaborative Roundtables for Innovation and Creativity.” Among the varied initiatives which emerged: “Schools of the Future” focused on robotics and 3D printers, an “Enterprise Academy” to deepen entrepreneurial potential, a “WiFi for Inclusion” initiative to close the technology gap for less affluent citizens, and a project to help entrepreneurs understand how to do business in foreign markets.

Technical committee members included urban practioners and scholars from ten countries on four continents.  (Guangzhou Award photo)

Christchurch, New Zealand
Our Ever Evolving City

A series of powerful 2010 earthquakes and aftershocks destroyed major portions of Christchurch’s historic center. But the city did not despair. Extensive engagement with citizens was launched through a “share an idea” campaign. Drawing on the 106,000 ideas that were collected, Christchurch formed a vision of a livable, vibrant, great and prosperous city. To date, hundreds of community activities have been organized and vacant spaces activated with creative projects. The private sector has contributed significant financial and in-kind support, while 10,000 hours of volunteer work has been given by the community.

Dakar, Senegal
Accessing Capital Markets

With rapid growth in its urban population and a large informal sector, Dakar determined its need to build a central marketplace for its street vendors to improve their economic situation. Then came the big innovation: a decision to finance the project through capital market financing — a move unprecedented for any city of Sub-Saharan Africa (except South Africa). Dakar enlisted financial and technical support from a range of organizations including the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the World Bank, the United States Agency for International Development and Cities Alliance. A total of $4 million was raised for the project; equally important, the city now has access to a new financing mechanism to achieve major project goals. With this breakthrough, there’s a precedent for other cities across Africa to access lower transaction costs and less skepticism from investors as they pursue funding for capital-intensive projects.

Eskişehir, Turkey
Cherish the Memory of the City Museum

Endowed with a rich history of many past civilizations, Eskişehir has created a Memory Museum that builds a cultural bridge from the past to the present. Combining the best of museology with modern technology, the project enables citizens to establish and nourish ties with their culture through digital recordings of their stories. It holds competitions and activities to support it as a living and self-renewing museum.

Gwangju, South Korea
GHGs Emission Program in Household Carbon Bank in Gwangju

Can a government-initiated program to spark voluntary carbon-saving steps by citizens actually generate significant returns? Gwangju’s Carbon Bank system indicates a strong “yes.” Initiated five years ago, it has expanded to participation by some 330,000 households, representing 1.5 million Gwangju citizens — 62 percent of the city population. Citizens agree to make voluntary energy-saving efforts by reducing their electricity, gas and fresh water use, with a city-provided point system to help them keep track of their usage. While the city paid for educational and operating costs, a Green Star Network was responsible for implementing the education and promotion activities. Greenhouse-gas emissions have decreased each year, most recently by 135,000 tons.

Hamburg, Germany
Socially Inclusive Zero Carbon Neighborhood Transformation

In 2005, Hamburg undertook an historic “Leap Across the Elbe” — the river that forms the city’s principal waterway, trade artery, and social barrier. Across from the city center lay Wilhelmsburg, Europe’s largest river island, a mix of docks, farmlands and floodplains. Wilhelmsburg is also home to some 50,000 people, largely immigrants of diverse nationalities. A broad framework for making the area more energy efficient was established, maximizing the use of local energy resources with the aim of 100 percent local renewal supply by 2025 and 100 percent renewable heat by 2050. In 2013, for example, Hamburg officially launched its “Energy Bunker” in Wilhelmsburg — transforming a massive, derelict air raid bunker into a regenerative power plant supplying green energy (solar energy and biogas) as well as using wood chips and waste heat from a from a nearby industrial plant. Hamburg’s Senate underscored its intent to connect Wilhelmsburg to the city center by staging an International Building Exhibition and International Garden Show on the island, expending €90 million of its own funds and attracting an additional €700 million from private investors.

Hangzhou, China
Public Bike Sharing

With 80 percent of residents and commuters identifying a serious traffic problem in the city, Hangzhou — a city of 8 million — launched China’s first public bicycle sharing project in 2008. Serving some 280,000 passengers daily, the system (free for the first hour) complements the city’s extensive bus system. Run by the newly formed Hangzhou Public Bicycle Development Company, it represents a model of government-led enterprise, claimed to be the world’s largest bike-sharing program that doesn’t require government funding beyond initial capital investment. Beyond fees on bike use, the company raises significant private funds through selling advertising space on the bike docking station kiosks. A key feature is partnerships providing technical support and to ensure that bikes are ready to use at all critically important locations (a shortcoming in many world bike-sharing programs).

Jakarta, Indonesia
The Pluit Reservoir Revitalization Project

Jakarta, home to 10 million people lying in a delta of 13 rivers with 40 percent of land below sea level, faces a huge crisis of flooding, algae and water-pollution problems. Its Pluit Reservoir Revitalization Project represents the city’s pilot project to improve water storage capacity, reduce urban flooding and improve the quality of its prime water source. The project required relocating 3,000 squatters around the reservoir’s banks — a major barrier in the past — into subsidized housing near their jobs and schools. It also included transforming the areas into parks and quality public open space, and installing green and blue infrastructure to enhance water quality and storage capacity. With government leadership, resident engagement and a public-private partnership, the plan was able to move forward and provide a model for further projects in the city as well as the rest of the region.

Linköping, Sweden
Carbon Neutral 2025

Linköping has a bold goal: to become an absolutely carbon-neutral city by 2025. The city council’s journey to that goal was launched through broad-based collaboration and partnerships. The municipality has sought to lead by example: It uses renewable fuels (over half its vehicles use biogas); it specifies climate criteria in its procurement processes; it regularly communicates climate and environmental issues to its employees and residents; and it works closely with Linköping University to develop methods and technologies to reduce CO2 emissions and establish a Biogas Research Centre. Two new combined heat and power plants have been built, with 95 percent of homes already connected. City buses are fueled by biogas produced from livestock manure and food waste. The results are already emerging: CO2 emissions are down by 25 percent since 1990, energy consumption in schools and hospitals has been reduced by 5 percent, and the trends point to further reductions.

Melbourne, Australia
4°C Cooler: Using Green Infrastructure to Build a Climate Resilient and Prosperous City

Between 1995 and 2009 the city of Melbourne suffered extreme hot weather resulting in severe drought, water shortage and heat waves that killed several hundred people. The immediate response of the city was to plan a 90-percent reduction in potable water use. This included cutting irrigation support to the city’s urban forests and a plan to remove 40 percent of the city’s trees. Ironically, the solution underestimated the value of green spaces and ecosystem support — both critical to climate-change mitigation. Realizing the need for a more strategic long-term plan, in 2010 the city appointed a new urban landscape team which produced strategies on open space and on urban forests. Since then, Melbourne has invested heavily in urban forests and shrubbery, green space and rainwater harvesting, permeable paving and protection of waterways and wetlands. The goal is to cool the city by 4 degrees Celsius (roughly 7 degrees Fahrenheit). Some 5,000 trees have been planted, 40 streets retrofitted to improve permeability, and an in-road storm water harvesting system started. A four-year citizen engagement program educates and mobilizes the public. The city of Melbourne provides the bulk of the new project funding while the regional and federal governments have also made contributions. Other partners include the universities of Melbourne and Victoria for related research.

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
A World Leading Emergency Control Center

Rio has been hard hit by repeated heavy rain and wind storms that threaten low-income settlements with landslides. After a 2010 storm, the city created a 24-hour operations center — a global model of collaboration among a major city’s operating departments. Since the facility went on-line, employing communications technology created by IBM and other high-tech firms, there have been no deaths caused by landslides. City management around major events has increased dramatically. Emergency-response time has been reduced significantly with citizens alerted about traffic snarls and accidents and redirected to the best routes. Data gathered for the center promotes multiple city benefits — for example enabling identification of neighborhoods with higher dengue fever infection rates.

Guangzhou Award Technical Committee members

Sue Brownill - Reader in Urban Policy and Management Department of Planning, Oxford Brookes University, Oxford

Zengke He - Deputy Director of National Research Center of Innovation, Peking University

Eric Huybrechts - Programme Director of Institute of Management and Urbanism of Isle-de-France, Paris

Fernanda Magalhaes - Senior Urban Specialist of Inter-American Development Bank, Washington 

Neal Peirce - Founder and executive editor of Citiscope, Washington 

Vidhyandika Perkasa - Senior Researcher of Centre for Strategic and International Studies, Jakarta

Mr. Qiu Baoxing (Chair) - Former Deputy Minister of Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development of the People’s Republic of China, Guangzhou 

Stefan Schurig - Director of Climate Energy at the World Future Council, Hamburg

Wandia Seaforth - Former Chief of Best Practices Programme of the UN-Habitat, Nairobi

Geci Karuri-Sebina - Executive Manager of South African Cities Network, Johannesburg

Azza Sirry - Professor of Urban Planning and Director of the Urban Training Institute, Housing and Building National Research Center, Cairo

Also participating:

Hailong Li - Doctorate, Chinese Society for Urban Studies (CSUS), Guangzhou 

Nicholas You , Moderator of the Technical Committee Meeting, Advisor of the Guangzhou Award, Nairobi

Farley Peters, Deputy Editor, Citiscope, Washington 



Inside the Guangzhou Award for urban innovation

Guangzhou: From pell-mell growth to champion of urban innovation

The short list: 15 finalists for the 2014 Guangzhou Award 

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Neal Peirce is the founder and editor-in-chief of Citiscope. Full bio
Farley Peters is Citiscope’s deputy editor. Full bio

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