A shared understanding of the city

Collaboration and mutual understanding have always been key components of a thriving society. During uncertain and fast-pace changing times like today it is even more important to bring together different worldviews to learn from each other and co-create the city we want. According to the Integral City framework, there are four voices:

  • Citizen (the conformity enforcer)
  • City Manager (the resource allocator)
  • Innovator (the diversity generator)
  • Civil Society (the inner judge)

The current strategic plan in the city where I live was organized by one of the voices – our city managers – and has five main goals:

  • Strengthening our community
  • Building a sustainable city
  • Growing our economy
  • Creating a safe London for women and girls
  • Leading in public service

You can find the City of London Strategic Plan 2019-2023 on the Community Goals reference page. The PDF includes all the expected results and sub-strategies to achieve those goals. According to the City manager’s voice, 93.3% of our tasks are complete or on target.

Based on November 2020 progress report

This is wonderful news. Yet, if we bring the other three voices to the table, they might have a different perception. This is very natural. Everybody and every voice have access to different information, processes and life experiences. That is why diversity and collaboration are so important to create more resilient solutions.

If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.

African proverb

A clear and shared vision is a powerful force to achieve the structural changes we need to implement. This realization raises a couple of important questions:

  • How can we create space to hear and better understand each other (the four voices)? – Relationship building
  • How can we align our perceptions in order to achieve our full potential as a city? – A shared vision

2 thoughts on “A shared understanding of the city

  1. These are good questions…the challenge in the modern age is (at least) two-fold: city populations are large, if not enormous, making it difficult to have all voices participate; and modern modes of communication (blogs, surveys, town halls, etc.) focus on the speaker, leaving little connection with the listener, or onus on the community to listen.

    In traditional societies, practices such as talking circles ensured that the speaker was heard by all, and all speakers were heard (ideally). We need to adapt those principles to our time. For instance block chain concepts could empower smaller, community based voices. Or regular public neighbourhood ‘walk-abouts’ hosted by the city and other implicated groups could elicit ideas and feelings derived from the people who live in said neighbourhoods.

    Finally, asking the right questions is important: “What do you need?”, “What’s missing for you?” “Do you feel you are a part of the city, and if not, why?”…


    1. Very good points. Human-scale city building includes fostering such practices through the built environment. Maybe right now this needs to be planned and more formalized. Hopefully, someday soon we will have neighbourhoods where differences not only can coexist but thrive by sharing the public space spontaneously every day.

      Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.