Planning and development of urban areas has been pretty much top down and still is in many areas in the world. It is from the drawing boards and their computerized equivalents new suburbs, downtowns and structures are dreamt up. Or, on th eother end of the spectrum, it is conducted through largely unstructured growth.

Significant drivers have included rapid population growth and spending power, shortage of housing and office space. The attraction of car ownership. However, in many regions urbanization along the two aforementioned pathways is running into serious issues including unmanageable sprawl, loss of critical water storage areas and farmland, air and water pollution, logistical congestion, social and racial alienation, lack of safety, to name a few 

We urgently need more innovative and sustainable regional urban development. Many city and business leaders are now becoming aware that new approaches are needed. This is reflected in the emergence of powerful initiatives such as C40, ICLEI, 100 RC, and other worldwide cooperations to address problems in cities. After all, most people in the world now live in urban settings and most economic activities takes place there. 

Today, cities all over the world want to be smart. They are in need of smart city knowledge, expertise, consulting and support. To become a smart city is a multidisciplinary challenge. Smart Cities connects all elements of a city, cultures and inhabitants into effective and efficient integrated networks to enhance and sustain the quality of life and work. To become a smart city, it requires advanced systems-thinking wisdom to integrate the many themes and disciplines of knowledge and sciences into a holistic framework and associated process.

Smart cities are about combining people and hardware (transportation and technology) based on a sense of place and a healthy environment. Often this works best with a compelling story and a theme that key stakeholders can get behind regardless of political and cultural creed. The theme, e.g. sustainable energy, transportation, etc. is not the main goal. It’s actually the way to get people to evolve toward enhanced mutual trust, cooperation and value creation.

Such challenges require an integral and whole-systems approach as opposed to a piecemeal one. However this approach has to be carefully tailored to the needs of all users of the physical, organizational, economical and ecological space. Often, this requires the development of overarching principles that all stakeholders can get behind. As such, it is possible to develop an inviting vision for the future to the betterment of all stakeholders and the city in context of the region it is in.