Urban Digest

A non-exhaustive list of fascinating reads about the way cities are governed, the challenges they face, and solutions being developed to make the urban more inclusive.

LSE Impact Blog – An emerging iron cage? Understanding the risks of increased use of big data applications in social policy “Big data technologies are increasingly being utilised in the field of social policy. Although big data methods and strategies are often preferred as a form of evidence-based policy development, big data techniques do not necessarily guarantee scientific objectivity. Hamish Robertson and Joanne Travaglia discuss concerns about the rapid growth in big data methods being used to inform and shape social policy strategies and practices, and particularly the underlying assumptions such data are used to support and “verify”.”

Co.Design – The key to solving big cities biggest problems? Think small “The researchers suggest that municipalities that are just beginning to launch climate adaptation plans start by addressing specific risks and working closely with planning departments on policy recommendations. There’s also an added benefit to this approach: It cuts out politics.””

Doggerel Arup – Inequality and informality in New York “The issue of housing in New York gets a lot of attention — everybody talks about it as a crisis — but there’s a large part of the population that’s actually left out of that conversation. There are about 200,000 people or more, depending on how you’re counting, living in illegally converted apartments in New York. They don’t show up on the census; this condition of density is more or less hidden. It occurs within existing housing stock, so it’s not a visible and very present part of our life as New Yorkers.”

World Bank The Future of Water in African Cities : Why Waste Water? “African cities are growing quickly, and their current water management systems cannot keep up with growing demand. It will take a concerted effort on the part of decision makers across sectors and institutions to find a way to provide sustainable water services to African city dwellers. This book argues that these complex challenges require innovative solutions and a management system that can work across institutional, sectoral, and geographic boundaries. A survey conducted for this analysis shows that African city leaders and utility operators are looking for ways to include a broader range of issues, such as water resources management, flood and drought preparation, rainwater harvesting, and solid waste management, than previously addressed in their water management plans.”

Jose Lobo –  The science and practice of urban planning in slums “The challenge of urban planning and the needs of poor communities’ are linked by the need to exchange information and agency across levels of urban organization, from the household, to the neighborhood and the city. While this point seems rather commonsensical, it has been argued in economic theory to be the fundamental development problem of human societies (Hayek, 1935; Arrow, 1974; Acemoğlu, 2008). This places the problem of creating and implementing good urban plans squarely in the light of the coordination mechanisms that can make individuals and institutions with different perspectives and capabilities likely to collaborate for long periods of time. How is this daunting coordination problem to be solved effectively? Must city planners spend their time in community town-hall meetings? How will slum-dwellers communicate their knowledge and needs to the city?  A crucial component to this process of socializing problem solving is the creation of trusted, verifiable and evidence-based means of communication between individuals and organizations. A community process which elicits data about the physical, social and economic characteristics of neighborhoods and their needs is the simplest and most effective means to achieve this goal. The process has the added benefit of creating a path of dialogue and inclusion to the urban poor and of responsive and knowledgeable government around practical issues for official organizations and private firms.”

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