The smart city must be built on collaboration


Smart cities are a slogan promising a more sustainable future and new ways to cooperate. We hear about it every day, but how exactly is the smart city revolution taking place? And more importantly, what should it be in order to deliver on its promises.

To find out, Last September 29th the Helsinki offices of FCG and KPMG teamed up, headed by sociologists Jani Päivänen and Maarit Vuorela on each side respectively, and organized Sustainable and Smart Cities 2019, a conference showcasing presentations from 15 keynote speakers working at the forefront of urban innovation, governance, and digital and sustainability solutions.

FCG’s global outlook on sustainability and governance: from Lasipalatsi to Manila

The event started with a sunny day in Helsinki’s Lasipalatsi, at the recently renovated BioRex Cinema (above the brand new AmosRex museum by JKMM architects) and besides the serious thinking, we took the chance to meet with many of our clients, partners and friends to power start this autumn consulting season, which comes full of meaningful work for all of us (it will take me, for example, from working on smart lighting across a number of cities around the Baltic Sea, to develop tactical urbanism in South East Asia). FCG CEO Mari Puoskari opened the stage with a hint on what seems to remain one of the largest trends on improving urban governance (“engage and enable citizens to act”), having just returned from a trip to Singapore and Manila, two very interesting and different urban locations where FCG is present. 

Thanks to our global engagement, at FCG we are completely aware that climate change, its effects and the needed adaptation are a much more pressing reality in other parts of the world than in Finland. One such case of extreme climate change consequences is the Kiribati atoll, where our colleague Auli Keinänen from FCG Singapore office happened to be working at the time of our event in Helsinki (check of example this New York Times piece…)

Intelligent solutions to difficult questions

Our international guest speakers raised the bar of the discussion with unapologetic straight presentations on the massive challenges ahead and the shortcomings of the standard smart city narrative. Marcos García, Creative Director from the City of Madrid’s Citizen Lab Medialab-prado, advocated for a smart city governance based on non-commercial, community-building citizen labs. Besides running hundreds of citizen workshops yearly, he has been involved in Madrid’s massive participatory budgeting platform Madrid Decide. He pointed out the fact that urban innovation is not achieved through gadgets or social networks: face-to-face collaboration is quite crucial. Focusing on sustainability, Henrik D. H. Müller, Chief Climate Officer of the Aarhus kommune, related how the city council is implementing an ambitious strategy to accelerate the required transition towards cero carbon emissions, with cases from material flows (circular economy, e.g. a total disassembly building) and energy transition (renewables and electrification of transport). Representing the best of Finnish sustainable and smart solutions, CityCap Project Manager Anna Huttunen from Lahti (recently awarded the European Green Capital 2021) shared experiences of their work on this globally path-breaking digital platform, allowing personal carbon trading on mobility emissions.

Working together for well-being today and a long-term sustainable future

Among the many bright presentations during the rest of the day, Veera Vihula from the City of Espoo summed up especially well the kind of work we are involved with at FCG Human Smart City team. She presented the upcoming City as a Service (Caas) report that we have prepared for Espoo in cooperation with Demos Helsinki. It is a project that builds upon FCG traditional strengths: core knowledge on governance for sustainability, a cooperative approach as a key public-private connector in the Finnish society, and a global awareness of the latest trends.

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Carlos toimii FCG:llä Social Smart Cities -konsulttina ollen aktiivisesti mukana erilaisissa strategisissa ja taktisissa kaupunkisuunntteluhankkeissa. Hän on myös Helsingin yliopiston kestävän kaupunkikehittämisen (urban sustainability) tohtorikoulutettava.