Future of Cities

Future of Cities


Essay by Ole Schilling

Identification by Co-Creation
When participation turns into sustainability


Digitization provides opportunities for urban and rural development

While western cities are becoming increasingly dense due to migration, other regions are thinning out. This results in challenges affecting many areas of society including mobility, healthcare, education, administration, and resource management. Most municipalities see digitization as an opportunity to address this trend, for example, by optimizing administrative processes to work more efficiently or by improving traffic flows to facilitate sustainable mobility. The positive effects on the quality of air also increases the quality of life of their residents.

However, very few of these cities and regions have strategies in place for accepting the challenges by means of digitization. The reasons are varied: On the one hand, the number of relevant stakeholders is increasing. For example, 54% of people in western countries choose to participate in the development of their respective cities. On the other hand, municipalities lack skills and resources, that is, qualified personnel. In addition, we see insecurity about the options and risks resulting from the use of data in a municipal context.

Faster results with co-creation

What role can design play in this context? One approach that is relatively new and has established itself through participatory and agile convergence is co-creation. Co-creation gets citizens and other stakeholders involved in the development process so that topics with the highest relevance can be identified at an early stage. This reduces complexity and at the same time increases the level of sustainability because developments are based on stakeholders’ needs. The risk of implementation failing, as do 74% of IoT projects in a digital context, is reduced significantly.

The co-creation approach helps cities and regions develop solutions. It encompasses training and development for administrative personnel (Co-Creation Training & Toolbox) and the formation of urban communities in the co-creation program. The resulting developer communities address all the challenges in unison and synergistically.

Does participation slow down development?

The participatory approach not only yields economic success, it also increases satisfaction of residents. The recommendation rate of cities and communities is at 87% (NPS 47). While these results definitively constitute leaps in the development of a city or region, in most cases they are evolutionary or incremental, unlike in Asian countries that were not founded on federalism.

However, the challenges facing western cities and regions require disruptive innovations. One question remains: Do participation and federalist structures in public, urban and regional areas even allow for these innovations?


Ole Schilling is VP Market Development Smart Cities & Regions, T-Systems International GmbH.