The Sharing City of 2030
A dynamic approach to envisioning the city of the future
The 21st century has experienced the growing of cities and metropolitan regions all over the world. Along with opportunities, several considerable challenges have emerged from this uncontrolled growth. In particular, issues such as health, transportation, housing, education and climate change are posing serious threats to the urban population. Considering these challenges, there is the need to ask ourselves: In what city would we want to live in, in 10-15 years? How can we contribute to shape our cities? As an attempt to answer these questions shareNL, organized an event in Amsterdam as part of the WeMakeThe.City festival, a five-day festival involving stakeholders from different backgrounds with the common goal of tackling everyday challenges in the urban environment. Scroll down to find out several perspectives on what the Sharing City of 2030 might look like!
“Our future is exciting, but also frightening.”
Carola ter Braak - Centraal Beheer
The City of Amsterdam stood out once more as a hub of innovation in Europe hosting five days of events and activities in around 100 locations in the city, connecting local actors and international experts. The primary headline of the WeMakeThe.City event is the inclusiveness of cities, which are said to be "made by everyone", by promoting lectures, expositions, performances, workshops and expert meetings, with the overall goal of creating, inspiring and designing the city of the future. For five days, the city was transformed into a huge festival, with more than 600 speakers and 30.000 participants.
Located in the centre of Amsterdam, the meetup "Sharing City 2030" was hosted by shareNL, an Amsterdam based social enterprise that has grown into a global agency for the sharing and platform economy. Founded in 2013 by Harmen van Sprang and Pieter van de Glind, shareNL connects all actors involved in the sharing economy including start-ups, corporations, (city) governments, and NGO's with the goal to enhance practices in the sharing economy and, to reshape the way people live, work and play. In 2015, they initiated Amsterdam Sharing City followed by founding the Sharing Cities Alliance in 2017.
The Perspectives: Platform, Public, Private, and Professor
The event embraced a variety of actors from different fields, aiming to offer an all-around perspective on the future sharing city. Apart from Pieter and Harmen, a platform perspective was brought by Karina Tiekstra, director of MyWheels, a car-sharing company active for 25 years in the Netherlands, and continually growing its services. Urban innovation officer Femke Haccou of the Amsterdam Municipality was present as well. The dialogue was further enriched with the academic perspective of Nicole Stofberg, PhD candidate at the Universiteit van Amsterdam (UvA) and Carola ter Braak, senior manager at Centraal Beheer - Achmea.
Connecting Cities in Order to Grow
Pieter van de Glind opened the dialogue by explaining that the goal of the Sharing Cities Alliance is to bring together knowledge and experiences and find solutions to common problems. He shared the insights from his last city visits - such as community initiatives in Dallas. Additionally, van de Glind addressed best practices from the Alliances and the founders' recently published white paper, in which sustainability and sharing economy practices in cities are discussed, together with the relative actors, opportunities and barriers.
Becoming a competitive city in 2030 may rely predominantly on attracting talent into the city. Van de Glind suggests that the talent cities seek is already there, easily accessed by smart partnerships that offer a solution to make sure citizens have equitable access to knowledge and resources, shared libraries being a prime example.
2030: We Don't Own Cars Anymore
Karina Tiekstra discussed the advantages of reduced vehicle ownership, which she describes as a "selfish means", and MyWheels' aims at reducing privately owned cars in the Netherlands to 1 million by 2030. The generational shift has been an influential factor in the acceptance of the sharing economy, as young users are finding it less and less important to own their own car, the user base of car-sharing platforms are growing at a steady 40% annually. In fact, as private cars occupy large portions of public space and are left idle for more than 95% of the time, just one shared vehicle could reduce the impact of 13 private vehicles. For this reason, it should be a priority to transition to sharing cars, albeit carefully and sustainably. Tiekstra recommends that governments actively increase barriers to vehicle ownership within cities, while decreasing barriers to sharing, and set clear goals for reducing the number of cars owned - such as Amsterdam's goal to be transport emission-free by 2025.
Not Big Data but Deep Data
From the government side, the City of Amsterdam is already well-aware of the sharing economy within its limits and is addressing arising challenges. Nevertheless, as Femke Haccou states, interaction with both private parties and international cities can help the city to grow. Her vision of the 2030 city is a place that is not dominated by digital platforms, but where people can have meaningful personal contact, facilitated by the digital platforms, and share not just goods or means, but empathy as well. Haccou highlights the relevance of social innovation and democracy to the city of the future, as data and statistics at the moment cannot provide the wholesome representation that stories and personal contact can. This is the starting point to change the data perception, which involves a broader cultural change.
Bringing people together through platforms
On the same line of thought Nicole Stofberg, PhD researcher at UvA is interested in motivations, expectations and behaviours of participants using sharing economy platforms. One of the questions that drives her is: how can we make the sharing economy grow? She raised three interesting points:
- The importance of personal interaction: the indirect effect of the social component, and to what extent knowing people leads to better behavior (e.g. MyWheels offers credits to users which introduce the company to new participants).
- Symbolic marketing: sharing not just for self-interest. When people are sharing with strangers they are guided by self-interest and they assume others will act on self-interest too, which reduces the element of trust.
- Decentralised hubs for sharing: physical distance creates social distance, it is easier to interact with people around us and to want to help them.
The utopic vision of 2030 is bringing people together through platforms, not just with the aid of apps. She reflected that it is important to focus on positive emotions which make people willing to help and share, which have to be considered among the factors driving participants towards participating in the sharing economy. Not just convenience, but also empathy is part of the decision process, and people seem to be driven to take care of each other's property in a better way.
What is the role of insurance companies going to be in 2030?
The last speaker was Carola ter Braak from Centraal Beheer - one of the largest insurance companies in the Netherlands. Expectations from her side regarding their role in cities are high, as Centraal Beheer believes being an insurance company in the future will be more than just selling products. Being a company means that there is a need to play a social role, apart from the financial one, and insurance companies are not exempt from this fact.
So, in what direction should insurance companies move? Ter Braak emphasized that in the past it was important not to sell security, but to sell insecurity. This is a fair deal, as insurances can help to solve problems but they cannot commit to sell safety. Before, companies tried to convince people that they had risks, but people need much more than this. Insurance companies can actually help individuals feel safer, for example by providing warnings when dangerous weather conditions that could damage your property are nearby. Targeting prevention rather than the traditional problem solving after-the-fact is most financially viable for both the companies and their customers. However, they cannot claim to be keep their customers completely safe, especially not in a data-driven reality where digital risk is of increasing concern.
Happiness, technology and trust: where do we go from here?
The event provided several points of discussion and raised questions as well on the future of our cities. From all perspectives it became clear that our future will not be and cannot be just data-driven, as the challenges we are facing require a refocusing on human relationships and much more.
What stands out from everyone's discussion was the constant focus on people's perspectives, and how cities need to focus on this. A valid contribution came from Ali al-Azzawi, City Experience Advisor at Smart Dubai and a participant at the meetup, illustrated the Dubai Happiness Agenda, a framework developed to increase and sustain happiness among residents. Technology and data must be tools to help reach essential means of happiness, instead of providing only more efficient and reliable digital information. Accessibility and efficiency of basic needs and services are considered to be more crucial to contribute to the overall evaluation of happiness, linking to the role of the sharing economy in the city of 2030.
Continuation of WeMakeThe.City
While the five day festival is over, the process of improving cities towards the future continues. The meetup provided interesting insights and enhanced the discussion on key issues in our society. Moreover, the event has shown how important it is to bring together stakeholders from different fields, in order to understand how the public, private sector, civil society and academia can help stimulate and better each other for the future. Once again we sparked the discussion on important issues, and we want to keep gaining insights on the sharing city of today and tomorrow.