On October 26, IHS held its 65th anniversary event - "Collaboration and Co-creation for Liveable Cities". The celebration took place in the Erasmus Pavillion and it brought together students, staff, former staff, numerous alumni from different generations, PhD candidates, key partners and urban professionals. In two panel discussions, guest speakers shared their perspectives on the future of urban education and practice, and reflected on how knowledge institutions like IHS can work on improving cities.
Below, you can find a recap of the panel discussions and key points raised by speakers at the event, as well as a short video and a series of photos that capture the festive, warm atmosphere.
Hanna Schultz, Head of Professional Services at IHS, and Master of Ceremony for the day opened the programme by welcoming the participants and giving a small introduction to the institute as a hub of knowledge co-creation, with a strong international orientation.
David Dodman, IHS Director took the stage next to talk about the role of IHS in addressing some of the big global challenges associated with urbanization, emphasizing the need for changes in knowledge and practice around urban development.
"Our work at IHS is underpinned by the belief that cities present a wealth of opportunities both for addressing global challenges, but also for enabling urban residents to live meaningful lives. Cities drive the global economy, and cities need to drive the global transition to low-carbon jobs, housing, and transportation. We see cities as hubs of opportunity, where efficiencies of scale, access to diverse livelihoods, cultural and environmental amenities, and vibrant and livable neighbourhoods can all come together."
The first panel, "Collaboration and Co-creation: Exploring knowledge processes", was moderated by Ore Fika, Senior Specialist in Urban Land and Housing Development at IHS. After asking the key question of the session - "How are knowledge processes changing?", she invited the panellists to reflect on the shifts in knowledge processes and the impact they have on academia, the obstacles and hurdles in capacity building, and how capacity building efforts can be tailored to enhance multi-stakeholder collaboration, participation and co-creation.
Collaboration and Co-creation: Exploring knowledge processes
Michael Walls, Director of the Development Planning Unit (DPU) at University College London, began by discussing the ever-changing nature of knowledge processes and our agency in shaping them. When it comes to knowledge sharing in education, Michael addressed the complexity of institutional relationships, which are more often competitive than collaborative, and lead to silo thinking. Further, he spoke about retaining the idealizing vision statements we are driven by while engaging with our very real work contexts and their limitations. Those in academia must act like more than simple information providers and lean into the value of co-production.
Aline Roldan, Programme Management Officer at UN-Habitat’s Capacity Development and Training Unit brought up the urgency of addressing global challenges while acknowledging that capacity-building and policy-making imply long-term processes and slow institutional changes. Looking at the work of decision-makers in a city, Aline recognized the essential skill sets and extensive knowledge they need to have in order to ask the right questions and formulate visions for the future - and the challenge of providing the types of learning experiences for urban professionals.
Laura Quadros Aniche, IHS Specialist in Urban Sustainability and Climate Change spoke about co-creation, the processes it entails, and the actors involved, especially those outside academia. Looking at how capacity-building initiatives can foster the co-creation of knowledge, Laura shared some insights on what enables co-creation. One such thing is stepping away from theories and frameworks, in favour of real-life examples and knowledge exchange at a city level. Another element is integrating local and tacit knowledge and making space for diverse stakeholders at the table.
Lars Gronvald, Head of Cities Section, Directorate General for International Partnerships, EU Commission, brought a different institutional perspective, of funding and supporting organisations that implement projects in cities. One key question he asked is how to prioritize what is really needed in cities worldwide, given their very different needs and challenges, and where urban development fits along the way. He also talked about engaging different parties in the decision-making process, about implementation and about making a real change.
Robbert Nesselaar, Co-Founder Closer Cities & Director of Citymarketing Arnhem, took the opportunity to discuss the issue of optimal use of the impressive amount of existing urban knowledge in the world. He argued that the pace of change can be sped up by optimising urban knowledge-sharing, something he tries to achieve through the Closer Cities project (co-founded by IHS, the Vital Cities and Citizens Erasmus Initiative, Nesselaar Urban Consultancy, and the LDE Centre for BOLD Cities). Knowledge should serve as a bridge between different sectors and lower barriers like lack of trust and technological complexity, leading to better learning experiences at the city level and more public-private partnerships for urban development.
The second panel discussion "Past, present and future: adapting to urban changes", was moderated by Saskia Ruijsink, Theme Coordinator Cities & Regions LDE CfS and former IHS staff. She started by discussing the context of urban development work, which is constantly changing. The session was meant to look at how to keep up with and adapt to those changes, stay relevant and make an impact. Speakers shared insights on how changes in urban priorities and key areas have shaped the education, research and advisory areas at IHS, and after graduation from IHS - when it comes to its alumni.
Past, present and future: Adapting to urban changes
Dr Dr Lasse Gerrits, IHS Academic Director, spoke about emerging research topics at IHS, such as inequality, social justice, housing, environmental sustainability, digitizations, and the use of digital tools in research, among others. One issue he mentioned was transdisciplinarity. While knowledge has become extremely specialized and, therefore, very fragmented, there are more than downsides - such as silo thinking - to this. Fragmentation can be functional, in the sense that it creates islands of lesser complexity to work and get an in-depth understanding of. The remaining challenge is to draw bridges across those silos and become more transdisciplinary.
Dr Beatriz Calzada Olvera, IHS Researcher in Economics and Innovation, addressed education at IHS. Beatriz is also the co-coordinator of the specialisation on Urban Digital Transformation and Innovation: Governance and Economics of Cities, a new track which reflects how IHS processes the changing environment and challenges at the urban level. To break the silos, she mentioned that the specialisation integrates a number of fields, like economic governance, multilevel technological transition and urban planning, as well as methodologies and trends.
Elena Marie Enseñado, IHS Specialist in Nature-based Climate Change Adaptation Planning, represented the capacity building and advisory pillar at IHS. She shared four main shifts in urban priorities and key areas: diversification and localization, being more than a service provider and becoming a partner instead, looking at capacity development not just as a project, but also as a process, and lastly, ensuring that organizational contexts enable individual capacities to thrive. She listed the SCORE project as an example of co-creation and partnership between multiple stakeholders, which made contextualized pathways possible for each of the ten cities involved.
The panel discussion continued with IHS alumni. Oleksandra Tkachenko, Urban Planner at KuiperCompagnons and Coordinator of the Ukrainian Netherlands Urban Network, talked about her own learning curve after graduating from IHS. After the war in Ukraine broke out, she initiated a Ukraine-Netherlands initiative for knowledge exchange to help rebuild cities after being destroyed. She emphasized the need for two-way communication in capacity building and collaboration, in order to ensure mutual learning and coming up with contextualised solutions.
Dr Nohemi Ramirez Aranda, Postdoctoral Researcher at TU Delft discussed the importance of research-related knowledge in implementing larger projects and making an impact on society. The academic ecosystem functions like a big laboratory, which gives students and researchers the unique opportunity to experiment and generate knowledge. To navigate this environment, she stressed the key role of mentors, lecturers, and the university itself in showcasing and linking the existing potential of students to the government and practitioners.
Max Meldgaard van Gils, Strategic Advisor Spatial Development for the Municipality of Capelle aan den IJssel bridged over to the theme of the session - adapting to urban changes - and emphasised how difficult that is in places built as a complete system. Speaking about the holistic urban planning approach of the Dutch, which often leaves little room for changes, he stated that an important thing to learn is how to come up with a framework, and, rather than making a perfect neighbourhood, create an environment in which we can adapt to changes in the future.
The event concluded with a collective thank you to the organising team and networking drinks.
Did you miss the live event and wish to look back at key moments?
Check out the live stream recording on the IHS YouTube channel.