Competence Center for Sustainability Transformation and Responsibility (STaR)

The conference is over, but the Urban Jungle is only about to get started

15/04/2021

More than 200 applicants from 80 different cities worldwide joined our two-days online event “Urban Jungle // Sustainable Cities in the Making - Inspiration & Entrepreneurial Action”. . .

During 13 hours of the online event, 30 speakers from all over Europe and with diverse backgrounds and expertise offered more than 20 different sessions on how to design sustainable and livable cities of tomorrow: including keynotes from leading urban change makers, inspiring best practices, hands on panel discussions, transdisciplinary expert debates and vivid actions workshops. The conference aimed at a broad audience, no matter the pre-existing know-how on the topic, as the organizers of the event believe that (urban) change is for and from everyone.

// What was the Urban Jungle about? //

The core theme of sustainable cities in the making was addressed from four different spotlights: urban design, nature-based solutions, entrepreneurial impact and local action.

Day 1 focused on INSPIRATION, including sessions on inspiring cases that are already out there or are currently in the making, as well as sneak peaks behind the scenes and practical learnings from those being actively in the field and contributing to urban change.

Day 2, in contrast and as a follow-up, was dedicated to ACTION offering the participants several action workshops from urban gender planning, envisioning the future, exploring water mitigation systems, as well as debating new solutions and the underestimated potential of bridging science and entrepreneurship.

In addition, the second day also included a European Startup Competition where 10 shortlisted startups were given the stage to present their sustainable business ideas to an international jury and the audience. With their business ideas, they are tackling one of two pressing urban challenges:

1. “Spin your cities around”

Linear approaches are more and more doomed to fail, and we need to go circular and find non-linear solutions for our cities. How do you put the circular economy into practice?

2. “Pimp your Grätzl*”

COVID-19 has proven that the places we live in and that surround us can have a huge impact on our personal well-being. What does it need to make urban neighborhoods more socially attractive, greener and more sustainable? (*in Vienna we lovingly call our close by neighborhoods ‘Grätzl’)

// Key takeaways from the Urban Jungle //

Despite the diverse background of the speakers, panelists and action workshop leaders involved in the Urban Jungle, there were several overarching and strong key messages, which we’d like to share with you:

  • To make the needed change for our cities happen, we need stronger bridges between different stakeholders and various disciplines, as only like this we will be able to create stronger impact and address the uprising challenges efficiently. This requires us to leave our comfort zones, to engage with the unknown and take the courage to try ‘crazy’ ideas out, rather than wasting too much time on designing perfect solutions.

  • At the same time, we should not forget that change itself cannot happen within a day, but is a profound process that requires time, dedication, commitment and above all acceptance, because at the end of the day it is about the people, no matter how great or smart the implemented solutions are. It calls for a process of ongoing interaction and constant learning from each other, which is not easy nor is there one single solution or way of doing.

  • Education and new ways and means of training future change makers are more crucial than ever before. We must also keep in mind that some great solutions are already out there. It is on us now to join forces and understand that if there is a challenge, there are tons of opportunities aligned to it.

Are you ready?

Let’s make the Urban Jungle become real by designing cities that are not only sustainable and livable, but also inclusive, participatory and inspiring!

Video recordings from the conference are available here: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCmcbd8RKaS4TsXG97MDW78Q/videos 

More about the BUILD Solutions project: https://www.build-solutions.org/

Stay tuned for more events to come and follow us on FB, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn and Youtube

Interested in similar events? Check out Vienna UP’21, 4Gamechangers Festival and Innodays Hackathon.

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[This text was contributed by STaR colleagues at RCE Vienna, Hannah Frost, Laura Hohoff, and Danijela Grubnic]

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