How do we inspire better cities? Cities that are not in crisis. Cities that are leading the way toward a more sustainable and equitable future.

Next City has some ideas for us.¬†They started with telling stories about urban communities around the world. Reaching 2.5 million readers with coverage of the leaders, policies, and innovations forging progress, we are not limited to be inspired by other American cities (although we definitely are). Maybe Melbourne’s plan for their rail tunnels will help New York and New Jersey create theirs. Perhaps other cities considering building a new sports arena to entice bringing a team in will be lead by Seattle’s discussion.

But their Vanguard Conference is helping to bring 40-55 young urban leaders together to talk about the changes and the problems they are facing. The conference is free for the applicants they bring together who are “working to improve cities across sectors, including urban planning, community development, entrepreneurship, government, transportation, sustainability, design, art and media.” Check out the 2016 program for Houston and maybe you’ll want to apply to attend the next one.

Among other projects, participants participate in the Vanguard Big Idea Challenge to use the principle of tactical urbanism – small-scale, low-imapct, low-cost interventions – to create a project with a cost under $10,000 to inspire incremental long-term changes. With a day and a half to get to know Reno in three locations where there were tremendous opportunities, teams “were judged according to four criteria: creativity, feasibility, financial viability and overall presentation.”

And they’ve already completed the winning program: a series of public art projects along Fourth Street, an area about to receive substantial government investment to give it better bus service, bus lanes, and improved walkability. The winning team realized that they had to give the community a feeling of ownership and buy-in with these government innovations. They had local businesses and organizations “adopt” the utility poles, which will be removed during the transit work, and decorate them. And, just before the street is renovated, they’ll have a public bonfire of the poles and street festival to celebrate the changes and engage the community in feeling ownership of new street.

Inspired to ImagineGov in our cities yet? Join the Next City Vanguard and let’s create better cities together.


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