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David Wilcox

Now @thersaorg defines Networked City as Smart City plus Sharing City - with a launch event this month #RSACities

4 min read

It's encouraging for those of us developing the idea of London as a Networked City that the RSA think-tank has the same idea.

Later this month RSA is running a public event on Cities 3.0 with the line 'We've had 'Sharing Cities' and 'Smart Cities' - what's next for the evolution of the city?' Their answer: Networked Cities.

Modern cities are having to face up to a whole host of wicked problems like demographic change, inequality, housing shortages, homelessness, environmental degradation and access to public services.

So-called Sharing Cities emphasised the importance of peer-to-peer platforms and collaborative resource stewardship, whilst Smart Cities focussed on the power of ICT to make assets and services more accessible to all. But is there an ideal hybrid of the two that recognises the strengths of each?

The RSA envisions Smart Cities evolving into ‘Networked Cities’, re-imagining the use of technology to emphasise a human-centred approach to problem-solving. In recognition that the use of technology can be disempowering for some citizens of Smart Cities, Networked Cities seeks to enable citizens to reclaim power over technology, encouraging the use of P2P technology to address collective challenges. Whereas citizens were once passive bystanders to technology, in Networked Cities they are now actively participating in its use to achieve a shared goal of inclusive growth.

I'm particularly interested because I'm one of 28,000 people around the world who are RSA Fellows. That's not as grand as it used to be when William Shipley and some distinguished Londoners founded the Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce 260 years ago in the coffee shops of Covent Garden. These days all applications are welcome, and I would encourage you to consider joining, not least because a group of us are developing an online Fellows Forum. Our London Networked City is already on there as a project.

I checked in with the RSA Networked City lead, Brhmie Balaram, who proved keen to share ideas at and after the event. I'm hopeful we can find some ways to cooperate. RSA has access to top-level thinkers and research, excellent events and publications, and some 8000 Fellows in London.

Here's some of the ideas we can bring:

How London can be a more Networked City
A background paper for our launch event on January 10 2017, including a summary of The Way Ahead initiative, models for cooperation and collaboration in the networked age, the development process for our exploration.

Supporting co-production
A note for The Way Ahead group on co-production, covering models for engagement, cooperation and collaboration, and the idea of local ecosystems. January 2017

Connecting Citizens
A paper summarising an approach to using digital technology, network thinking and self-organising to address three linked challenges: how people can find opportunities and services, and develop new relationships in their local communities; how to develop civic infrastructure when existing systems are reducing and new approaches are needed; supporting community connectors in their role of making connections and building relationship in local communities, and online

Slipham Living Lab
We can use a fictitious but realistic place - the London Borough of Slipham - as a Living Lab to explore how to improve the ways in which people connect with local services, organisations, and opportunities in their community. We can also work together in the Lab to find out what support organisations need, and what is involved in putting ideas into practice. To do that we’ll have a background map of existing connections, some characters and organisations, and some challenges to meet. The Lab could then be developed - subject to funding - as a “for real” co-design toolkit for local people and organisations.