14.000 visitors, over 400 expositions and more than 440 speakers from all over the world gathered in Barcelona for this years Smart City Expo edition. The STIR foundation (City of Tomorrow) was invited to speak about Sustainocracy and the innovative co-creation platform AiREAS. It remains challenging to talk about core natural and human values in an environment which is primarily technology driven. With my opening slide I wanted to inspire the audience with “my world”.

"My world"

“My world”

My world is the diversity of life of which we are all part. As human beings we share the same molecules as other living species, gathered together in specific living formats. All life forms together form a eco-system based on core values. Such eco-system is always healthy as the unhealthy dies to make room for yet another healthy life cycle. This represents an adaptive evolutionary pattern based on interaction and continuous quest for harmony. How do Smart human made Cities fit into this?

What makes a city Smart?

What makes a city Smart?

When we compare the first picture with the second we find a natural ecosystem in the first, based on health and sustainable progress, and than a human made system based on pollution and the total separation of the core values of life. We economized both fragmented destruction and repair. From a natural perspective this can never be Smart. I used the global positioning of my home town Eindhoven in the Netherlands as reference.

How Smart is Smart?

How Smart is Smart?

From a perspective of city marketing and amount of patents per inhabitant Eindhoven was declared the “smartest city of the world” in 2011. But how smart is a city that is located in one of the most polluted areas of Europe from air quality point of view? How smart is a city that contributes to its own vulnerability by adding to the global warming and rising sea levels? It is not smart, it is rather stupid.

This “stupidity” has many excuses and so does the definition of “smart” within the context of our perception of reality. Our technological development has defined progress for thousands of years with peaking evolution in our current era of global industrialized distribution, tremendous population growth and expansion of our cities. Who has ever learned about core values when the human world turns around technology, economy of growth and politics?  No one can be declared “stupid” if one is unaware of its own ignorance. Eindhoven became in my view really smart when it accepted to work together in our first Sustainocratic venture called AiREAS (air quality, health and city dynamics) in 2011.

Gradually the city’s executive adopted the core value of “health” as leading principle accepting the “health deal” for regional development in 2015. The local province followed rapidly in this process. This has a major impact on the way the city and region deals with its new born perception of reality and the challenges that belong to such awareness.

Smart versus not Smart based on core values

Smart versus not Smart based on core values

Our natural reality is much bigger than our human one. We see the effects of climate change and global warming on the world. The leadership is not in the hands of human economical or political hierarchies that are often blinded from core values out of narrow, fragmented self interest. The real leadership is in the hands of core values that we need to adapt to in an ever changing evolutionary process if we want to live and evolve in a sustainable way. When we pollute our environment we pollute ourselves with only one natural consequence, our own self-elimination. That can never be considered “smart”. So smart regional development has to incorporate the natural core values as leading parameters. This introduces a new level of city development, the sustainocratic eco-city level, also referred to as level 4.

A new way of addressing our core values together

A new way of addressing our core values together (Jean-Paul Close shows how during the Expo)

The eco-city level of Sustainocracy

The eco-city level of Sustainocracy

This is not a level anymore of political or economic leadership but one in which the entire local community (government, science, citizens and innovative entrepreneurship) takes responsibility together, guided by one or more core values. In AiREAS we adopted air quality and regional health as leading parameters. That format of working together is not easy because it introduces changes for everyone traditionally involved in the functioning of a city. Just imagine the city executive stepping aside to transform from final responsible to co-creative partner? The open space for innovation that appears needs to be populated with projects that involve citizens and entrepreneurs that were used to leave the local responsibilities to the government through taxes and regulation. How do you reward “involvement” if our reward system is concentrated on industrialized processes, logistics for consumption and care systems to repair damages, rather than city productivity based on core values? How does the city’s economy transform if regional self-sufficiency is organized. Is “involvement” the next “city tax”, a new circular economy of cohesion and innovative livelihood?

The experience we have in Eindhoven is that such core value driven productivity is very rewarding because of the unique innovations that are generated. These produce a new transformative economy of growth from within, the transformation economy. Winning a European innovation price already shows the potential of taking such measures. It is even exciting to realize that working on our own core values generates a global economic effect. In other words, the healthier we get the healthier our economy will become. All this re-enforces the local executive, the local citizens, our scientific knowledge and innovative forces. We also have early evidence that it will eventually harmonize and re-enforce also our local economic stability.

Smart can be globalized

The new “Smart” globalizes itself

Every region of the world is different and hence likely to produce its own unique innovations when working on the core values for itself. Each region will therefor bring unique innovations to the world from which we can all benefit. The only thing one needs to do is to establish the Sustainocratic commitment on level 4 regional development and chose the regional priorities within the scope of core values. One can start with AiREAS to initiate the local learning curve and grow level 4 as experience evolves with trust and positive results.

The STIR Foundation is there to help, not just to help initiate the complex local level 4 sustainocratic processes but also to share the local innovations rapidly across the network through our STIR HUBs for triple “i” (inspiration, innovation, implementation) expansion.

The world has a choice now to evolve from techno-city Smart to eco-city sustainable Smart. It will transform also the usage of technology on the underlying levels and gradually transform the city’s appearance and citizen’s interaction. It will also transform local costs and bureaucracy into investment with dynamics and multiple returns.

“You were the only speaker in the whole Expo that talked about core human values” someone reflected. This is probably the case this year. Surely the Smart City Expo of next year will gradually show many more sustainocratic initiatives as the need to do so will break through into the awareness of local city executives around the world. To further help we will offer a free, open access book already in December 2015, that describes our first 5 years of sustainocratic co-creation in Eindhoven with AiREAS. Just leave your name and email address behind below if you want to be notified when it is available.

The 5 core values defined in Sustainocracy are:

  1. Health (physical, environmental and mentality wise)
  2. Safety (not just physically but especially also from the point of view of mutual respect, equal opportunity and social cohesion)
  3. Regional self-sufficiency (through empathy, co-creation and sharing of values)
  4. Awareness (a new educational format based on core values)
  5. Food and drinking water (highlighted as prime tangible)

STIR Foundation already developed the following formal clusters to develop and capture innovations for local wellness and global expansion:

  • AiREAS – air quality, local health and regional dynamics
  • FRE2SH – food, recreation, energy, education, self-sufficiency and health
  • SAFE – safety, respect for each other and our natural resources
  • STIR Academy – learning cooperation, triple “i”, sharing best practice, etc