Well, I thought this could be the first of a set of coaching cards for public and political leaders to diagnose what is going on in society – the death of George Floyd emerges as a pars pro toto for a large scale form of racism, and which can be considered as a form of social corrosion – this to be fully aware, share perspectives and return to stewardship. It links him to the individual policeman, to his team and boss, to the police as corporate institution, to their managers, to their governors, to the president, to the system and to ourselves. Pars pro toto can not be better explained.
It is a personal association with how life in cities is dominated by demonstrations of people who ask for love, equality and justice. The city is alive and speaks loud and clear. Leaders are brought in reflection and confrontations what they actually are leading. Their leadership is at stake and when this happens a new mechanism starts working. Jimmy Carter touches the essence on this: “We need a government as good as its people.”
This palette of colour and construction finds its base in the combination of city regulation, the use of different materials, the progressive insights in and possibilities for the creation of new infrastructure to ease interior lifestyle as well as of the personal colour touch of the owner of this house in the centre of the City of Verona. It is a form of city camouflage, at least a very nice try. The image is fully packed with information.
A niche is the match of a component in an ecosystem to a specific environmental condition within that, the habitat. Here it is an organisation (in the City Ecosystem® defined as biotic component) linked with its physical and biological environment. The niche is the role the organisation has in the city. Most of the niches in modern cities are regulated, but sometimes something unexpected can happen and shake-up the existing palette. As we know, every ecosystem is in constant change. So do cities.
There are different perspectives to consider niches. It can be related to chains and cycles – for instance that of energy, food or water -, related to specific functions – such as safety, care, sport, culture -, related to specific services within the city – information, communication, transport, media – or related to the elements of governance – like strategy, planning, finance. Here we focus on the latest, niches in governance.
In principal all niches can be taken by all organisations. Per organisation it can though highly differ and depend on time and place of value and related factors. Sometimes it can have more than one niches at the same time, depending of time and phase change roles. Laws, rules, regulations and above all the Constitution has lead to a more strict attribution of niches.
A usable set can be found in the work of The Quality Institute Dutch Municipalities (KING) and is summarised by Aardema et al. (2005). It is a set of interconnected roles from governance perspective (system world) with roles as steward, law maker & enforcer, tax collector, developer, service provider and representative and from governed perspective (living world) with roles as inhabitant, servant, tax payer, partner, client and voter. The pieces of chess are added by me, to make roles and connections more visible and understandable:
Steward (black king): symbolise, identify, connect, show compassion, taking care, welcome, strengthen cohesion, carry rituals, guard.
Regulator (black queen): decisiveness, power, threaten, demand, courage, persevere, set things right, constrain, discipline, set the rules and enforce them.
Partner (white knight): develop, contribute in knowledge, feelings and insights, co-create.
Client (white rook): receive products and services, indicate choice.
An ecosystem does not have a separate governing department, as cities have. It is self regulated. In other words, if we do want the city to consider as an ecosystem than all times politics, elected and governing councils as well as civil servant organisations are perceived as an integral part of the system. Government is the in principal within the box of the ecosystem, not outside the box. And governance is an integral part of the city as a whole. Most governments though consider themselves as the governing part. It is this dilemma, that causes the need to redesign the used governance-governed, the system world-living world approach. For now we work with it.
Aardema, H. en A. Korsten (2005) De Staat van de Gemeente: Op weg naar een handzame, landelijke gemeentemonitor. Den Haag: VGS, BMC, PON, Open Universiteit Nederland, InAxis. Link
Escher, M.C. (1939-1940) Metamorphosis II [Woodcut]. Den Haag: Paleis.
Multi-level governance is an approach in political science and public administration theory that originated from studies on European integration. According Piattoni (2001) the political scientists Liesbet Hooghe and Gary Marks actually developed the concept of multi-level governance in the early 1990’s.
It has become one of the key processes for good public governance in international context. In fact always was, but never defined or considered as such. The link between all levels of governance in every ecosystem is essential to be effective and efficient in its functioning. The layering of governance seems in general to follow the principles of the ecological pyramid in natural ecosystems, so some logic can be derived. It must be said though, that from the perspective of city management, there is a wide range of opinions, feelings, views and thoughts around it. It exists, but is not generally accepted as the best way forward. What is multi-level governance?
Multi-level (or multilevel) governance is a term used to describe the way power is spread vertically between many levels of government and horizontally across multiple quasi-government and non-governmental organizations and actors.
Cairney et al. (2019)
This situation develops because many countries have multiple levels of government including local, regional, state, national or federal, and many other organisations with interests in policy decisions and outcomes. International governance also operates based on multi-level governance principles.
In 1996 Hooghe edited a sustained study of cohesion policy in the European Union. The central question was how policy makers can develop a common European policy, and yet give attention to the variation in practice, institutions, and players in the member states.
Later in 2001 Hooghe et al. (2001) explain why multi-level governance has taken place and how it shapes conflict in national and European political arenas and go into the dual process of centralization and decentralization. At the same time that authority in many policy areas has shifted to the supranational level of the European Union, so national governments have given sub-national regions within countries more say over the lives of their citizens.
At the forefront of scholars who characterize this dual process as multi-level governance, Liesbet Hooghe and Gary Marks argue that its emergence in the second half of the twentieth century is a watershed in the political development of Europe. According the authors it gives expression to the idea that there are many interacting authority structures at work in the emergent global political economy: “… illuminates the intimate entanglement between the domestic and international levels of authority”.
Cairney, P., Heikkila, T. and Wood, Matthew (2019). Making Policy in a Complex World (1 ed.). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Hooghe, Liesbeth (ed.) (1996) Cohesion Policy and European Integration: Building Multi-level Governance. Wotton-under-Edge: Clarendon Press Oxford.
Hooghe, Liesbet and Gary Marks (2001) Multi-Level Governance and European Integration. Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers.
Piattoni, Simona (2009) Multi-level Governance: a Historical and Conceptual Analysis. European Integration. 31. 2: 163–180.
One of the main processes in public governance is focused on acting in compliance with existing rules and regulations. Even in times of Corona, where top-down crisis management is the dominating way of governance, leaders will be accountable on compliance. Whatever is needed for the safety and well-being of the city, its people, organisations, nature, values, challenges, compliance at the end is key.
Compliance (with something) is the practice of obeying rules or requests made by people in authority (• procedures that must be followed to ensure full compliance with the law, • safety measures were carried out in compliance with paragraph 6 of the building regulations).
People in authority is broadly to be interpreted. Compliance is one of the major conditions, constraints, starting points, boundaries or frames where the credibility of every public leader or civil servant finds it ground. It starts with the Constitution.
If the system world (that of public governance and government) and the living world of daily life in the city and society can be showed as a balanced 4*4 field canvas, then compliance could be expressed by the overlying magic square, symbolising the mathematic correctness in all directions.
As in compliance all strategies, policies, implementations, rules, regulations and finance need to be tuned, connected, linked and accountable, at all time. The legal obligation of compliance leads for every governmental council – it is not that easy in the endless wood of rules and regulations – to an intensive and above average effort to make the yearly reports presentable and above all explainable and defendable towards citizens and stakeholders. Compliance is the magic key to credibility.
In itself compliance is figuratively a form of art. I was inspired by the genius of Albrecht Dürer. In his engraving Melencolia I this 4*4 magic grid with the sum of 34 is visible in the background. The magic square has a place in the rich history of mathematics. This fine art print hangs in the Classic Room of the house of one of my family members near Sherwood Forest.
Today the colour palette of every city in The Netherlands is Nassau Orange and Blue. It is King’s Day. King and Queen enter the snow white fields of the living world of society. They thank all special citizens who kept us running and contributed to the fibres of communities so well. The King honours them for their service with the medal of Order of Orange-Nassau. Today is also Corona lockdown day. A double layer here, but with mixed feelings for all of us.
Improving the new city, restoring the old city, reshaping the region.
Book by Jonathan Barnett
Designing cities is not that easy, especially when it is the goal to keep it working as a cohesive whole. The city as an ecosystem with one functioning society, happy citizens and a perfect governmental stewardship, it would be great. But it is a dream scenario, and actually a not existing one. Jonathan Barnett – emeritus Professor of Practice in City and Regional Planning, and former director of the Urban Design Program, at the University of Pennsylvania – describes how political fragmentation has lead to the emerging of the image of the city as a fractured organism.
This book is an in-depth look into the fibres of the city, leading to a thorough understanding of the city as living organism. Rich, sometimes painful. The best thing about Barnett is, that he above all is honest, that he gives us a crystal clear analysis of historical paths and above all enriches our hopes with guidelines how to restore and work from here. It is must read for every public leader and city manager.
Targeted at architects, students, urban designers and planners, landscape architects, and city and regional officials, The Fractured Metropolis provides a thorough analysis of not only cities but also the entire metropolitan region, considering how both are intrinsically linked and influence one other. Jonathan Barnett, an urban designer and architect who has worked for cities throughout the United States, teaches architecture and urban design at City College.
American cities are splitting apart. Traditional downtowns still have their ring of old urban neighborhoods, but nearby suburban villages and rural counties have been transformed into a new kind of city, where residential subdivisions extend for miles and shopping malls and office parks are strung out in long corridors of commercial development…. The old city is fighting for its life: its tax base is in danger; its schools are in trouble; its streets are unsafe. Although the development boom of the 1980s has subsided, the new city is still prosperous and peaceful, except where its sprawling growth has enveloped older communities with problems of their own.
“I think this book is an outstanding original interpretation of urban political and social fragmentation. The argument is elegantly expressed and tailored to its place in existing theory with exceptional clarity and skill. The field of urban politics has frequently been characterized as lacking coherent political and social theory, except perhaps, for that contributed by economists. This book runs squarely in the other direction giving considerable form to an explicit information processing theory of mass behavior in which fundamental political institutional arrangements, such as political boundaries, play not just a role, but are decisive in explaining commonly observed patterns in racial distributions. Seldom have undeniably political factors been assigned such a central role in explaining widespread social phenomena.”
Carol W. Kohfeld, University of Missouri, St. Louis
“In his latest book Jonathan Barnett explores the new realities and opportunities for the design of the metropolitan region. Architect, teacher, and urban designer, Barnett cites specific examples from around the country demonstrating how bypassed areas in the old city can become real estate opportunities, how new types of zoning can facilitate development at metropolitan edges without destroying the landscape, and how metropolitan planning can repair our environment and communities. The book describes ways to write effective urban and suburban planning guidelines; methods for making highways and transportation systems further overall planning goals; designs that make conservation areas and public places create more value for development; techniques for promoting successful historic districts; and much more, including the basic elements of city design and a national agenda for action. There are 152 plans, diagrams, and photographs integrated with the text.”
“The accomplished urban designer Jonathan Barnett devotes his latest book to exploring ways of ameliorating the split between the ‘old city’, which used to be the center of things, and the ‘new city’ on the metropolitan periphery. Barnett discusses an impressively broad variety of recent plans and designs for controlling sprawl, improving urban centers and edge cities, and fitting new buildings in with old. One of the best available overviews of how urban and metropolitan design issues are currently being dealt with.”
“Because Jonathan Barnett is a gifted practitioner, an experienced and knowing urban designer, as well a distinguished teacher and author his books on urban design and history, theory and practice are extraordinarily useful for both lay persons and professional readers.”
Journal of the American Planning Association
Barnett, Jonathan (1995) Fractured metropolis.1st ed. New York: IconEds., HarperCollins.
Abiotic components of the Ecosystem City® are components that can be considered as the nonliving, being the chemical and physical parts of it. They form more or less the conditions for all living components, as defined in Biotic City Components. They formed and still form the décor for how the city historically has developed, its present state, its growth potential, its maintenance and its future potential. It is an essential part of the habitat.
Abiotic components are climate (seasoning, humidity, precipitation and temperature), terrain (soil quality, availability of nutrients, mineral content, elevation, substrate, tides), water (availability and composition of freshwater, presence of specific chemicals, pollution, water clarity), atmosphere (air quality and composition, aerial exposure, concentrations of chemicals, pollution), light and solar energy, radiation, acidity, pressure and sound waves. Some of the components find their basis in the natural, some in human-made conditions. It is quite a palette.
Cities are based on and surrounded by abiotic components. Presence or absence can influence not only biodiversity, competition, way and rate of survival, culture, but also the over-all resilience of the city. Components can be of advantage for one organisation or group, and create pressure for another one. They influence the landscape of and ratio beween generalists and specialists.
Some cities have nicknames related to – sometimes are famous for – abiotic components. Some examples: Aberdeen and Berlin (The Grey City), Bordeaux (City of Wine), Cadiz (The Little Silver Cup), Chicago (The Windy City), Helsinki (The White City of the North), Honolulu (Sheltered Bay), Jaipur (The Pink City), London (The Old Smoke), Naples (The City of the Sun), Paris (The City of Light), Pittsburgh (The Iron City), Seattle (Rain City), Torino (City of Four Rivers), Venice (Bride of the Sea).
The world – in thinking in terms of resilience and considering society as a social-ecological system, is at drift. At least for public leaders and their civil servants it is the new buzzword. Resilience is in discovery and the status of exploration now. Resilience in itself is a deep and fundamental concept. It exists as mechanism long before mankind populated the earth. But for the most of us now it is a completely new concept. Maybe it is a psychological reaction, a gut-feeling, that back to basics is key and the search for arguments to improve present public governance is something elementary. There is something elementary about resilience, isn’t it?
Maybe it is wise to consider – to not start all over again and come in the sandbox of what resilience is and what it is not – to bring it close to the existing frame of the 2015 Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’s). This is actually about resilience. The first principles for these were defined in the 1987 Brundtland Report Our Common Future, developed from there via the Millennium Development Goals (Battersby et al., 2017) and agreed as a set of goals (17) and targets (169) for 2030.
Agreed though is very relative, because every city today is allowed to take his own route, with its own defined scenario pace and policy planning, with own personal perspectives of its public and business leaders. Every city is in principal free to act, without legislation, without obligation, without formal contract or agreement, without consequences, without accountability, without defined responsibilities related to final leadership.
The resilience as the total sum of feed-back mechanisms may potentially be embedded in the present social-ecological system of society, but the fact that all the SDG goals and targets in their actual status are structurally way out of balance (personal formulation, based on United Nations, 2019), showing significant deviations from the desired equilibrium, i.e. the optimum public value, suggests that it is not functioning as assumed.
Today’s society seem to be in a lower ecosystem status than we have declared ourselves as the ‘Belle Epoque’. It seems for many of us a far away over the mystic horizon picture, a dream scenario, a fata morgana. Nice but unreachable. We know (and see on the daily news) that we are not resilient – let us be honest – to tackle daily declines to lesser states of the ecosystem city and not be able to prevent, in some societies, to fall back to even the zero-state. Of course we may dream about, put hope in and give all our optimism (‘a moral duty’, Kant (1795)) in resilience. But the facts speak otherwise. The ‘ability to bounce back’ is relative or even absent.
Resilience is a nice word, suitable for politicians, policy makers and dreamers of far horizons. For those who have no food, no water, no freedom, for those who live in fear, in poverty or are completely lost in a war, it is an empty word. Less than that. It is a hole, in their heart. A missing link.
Jack P. Kruf
The SDG’s are best defined in my view as a call for implementing collective ‘clear conscience’ for our children and grandchildren It is intentional, a frame for good governance, a manifest for respect and a caring-for-the-earth-attitude and for true stewardship. Noble and pure. It is styled, but also highly segmented. How can 1 city manage 17 goals and 169 targets with governmental councils that have an average of 27 political responsibilities and with a constantly shifting accountability city landscape?
The network of cities do cooperate in all kind of ways. Necessary to come to results. No city can do this on its own. This have lead to a rich palette of excellent and above all inspiring initiatives and projects. But, there is one big but, the political landscape of cooperation in the city network of total 195 countries – with on average of 4 years between elections – changes every week. With the election frequency per country, state or province taken into account, this means that the overall landscape of cooperations changes every day!
Well, who will receive the Nobel Prize for Public Governance in 2030 to link 1 to 17 to 169 into one coherent approach? Since March 2020 there is the dashboard launched by United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) for following the SDG’s with 232 indicators. That is a lot. It will be necessary to more and more play the holistic card. How? Interesting!
Battersby, J. (2017) MDGs to SDGs – new goals, same gaps: the continued absence of urban food security in the post-2015 global development agenda. African Geographical Review, 13(1), 115-129.
Kant, Immanuel (1795, republished 2003) Perpetual Peace: A Philosophical Sketch. Cambridge: Hackett Publishing.
The Brundtland Report: World Commission on Environment and Development (WCED) (1987) Our common future. New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press.
United Nations General Assembly (2015) Transforming Our World: The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. A/RES/70/1.
United Nations (2019) The Sustainable Development Goals Report. New York: United Nations, Department of Economic and Social Affairs.
Can someone get lost in the city? I do not mean the romantic kind of lost, on a late evening wandering through the city of Paris with your love in search for your hotel. Not the philosophical, in search for existentialism, the Jan-Paul Sartre or Albert Camus-like kind of lost. I do mean the type of Corona lost. Yes it can, to get lost in the city, to get disconnected from the fibres of the city, to be erased from the chess board of life. She feels lost. I feel lost.
That strange and apocalyptic feeling to leave here behind. Presidential powers speak out and give straight orders, like in harsh military regimes. No discussion permitted. Regulation rule. It is this form of dictatorship that modern governments and experts have developed and designed, tested. They called it crisis management, stripped from democracy and love. It is for the greater good, we all know, for the sake of the nation and for society. But it leads to letting here getting lost, disconnected, alone, behind closed doors, no access allowed. It is quite a price we pay, with deep dimensions.
I know she took care, that I know, believed in me, always. Now she feels lost. I feel lost. I framed this to not get lost. To express this impression on soul level. To never forget, to remember, to honour. And already in search for the lost fields, a feverish search, to restore here chess board of life.