EDITORIAL

Urban Talk „Social entrepreneurship in public space for a healthier urban future“
You are invited to participate in an engaging event with Dr. Luisa Bravo, Dr. Mirko Guaralda and local experts to answer the question “How can we create an environment where social entrepreneurship can achieve better public space outcomes for the ACT population?”. Unlike traditional format our discussion leaders will co-create with you together the solutions, which will be compiled in a report that can help to shape a healthier community. Let’s us explore together pathways to accelerated community actions for a better urban future through opportunities for social entrepreneurship in Canberra’s public spaces. When: Tuesday 29th May 2018 at 5:30 - 7:30 pm at Theo Notoras Centre, 180 London Circuit, Canberra. To register please access the links in the flyer or pay on the night.
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Invitation to “Shaping healthy cities for and with children”
You are invited to attend our Side networking event at the upcoming World Urban Forum in Kuala Lumpur. When: Sunday 11th Feb. 2018 9:00 - 11:00 am Where: Room 406 at the Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia Success to create safe, inclusive, accessible, green and public spaces for all, requires us to address the importance of children's health and well-being in cities. Child healthy cities need to embrace the ‘Right to the City’ concept and ensure that no one is left behind where all children have the ‘Right to Play’. This side networking event is a platform for knowledge exchange and networking amongst stakeholders that enable tangible actions on a grassroots level and a city level worldwide committed to improving the health and well-being of the next generation. Voices for change on the panel include: • Dr. Luisa Bravo - President of City Space Architecture • Ms Sudeshna Chatterjee - Board member of the International Play Association • Ms Bryony Cooper - Sustainable Transport Policy Expert as Moderator • Ms Joyati Das - Human Rights Activities and Associate Future Cities Research Cluster Melbourne University • Dr. Manfredo Manfredini - University of Auckland • Mr Gregor H. Mews - Founder & Director, Urban Synergies Group and University of Canberra • Dr. Hendrik Tieben - Chinese University of Hong Kong In order to harness the collective wisdom in the room the focus will be on the engagement with the audience. Together we will workshop tangible actions that can help to drive change, empower children and adolescents. We look forward seeing you in Kuala Lumpur soon.
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Time for a paradigm shift towards health and well-being
  The unintended consequences of rapid urbanisation in combination with the lack of integrated system design thinking in urban development during the 20th century created complex challenges around the world. Now, collectively we are starting to pay the price. In accordance to the latest cities and building report (UNEP, 2015) urban systems consume 80 percent of the global energy. Together they produce 75 percent of the global greenhouse gas emissions and consume 75 percent of the natural resources. The evidence on hand is clear, compelling and creates an argument for crisis or in other words a call for collective realisation that business as usual is over. This realisation will be supported by a paradigm shift of seismic proportion, which can lead us to a sustained level of health and well-being. In order to follow this path, we all must embrace the genuine spirit of interdisciplinary collaboration, system thinking approach and focus on action. A positive case study is the Urban Thinkers Campus “Shaping Spaces for Generation Z”. The genuine collaborative spirit between UN-Habitats World Urban Campaign, University of Canberra- Health Research Institute, Urban Synergies Group and the vital support of the Australian Capital Territory Government led us to the discovery of practical ways to improve children’s’ health and well-being. The fact, that children in high and middle income countries walk less than ever before in human history creates a strong argument for change. Tangible actions that every city can put into action were agreed. Participants from 39 local and international organisations concluded that we must empower the most vulnerable members in our communities and co-design local mobility solutions with children and young people. Urban mobility plays a key role in determining the development direction of communities and can deliver practical solutions for a world that is in dire need for progressive, bold and transformative change for better health and well-being. If we can get it right for children, we can get it right for all. While new opportunities for international leadership are on the horizon the EcoMobility World Festival and Congress 2017 in Kaohsiung represent an outstanding opportunity and bold leadership to experience a development of a positive future in the here and now.   By Gregor Mews   References Mews G., Cochrane T., Davey R. (2017). Shaping Spaces for Gen Z – International Forum Report: Urban Thinkers Campus. UN Habitat - World Urban Campaign. Canberra. Australia. Accessible under www.worldurbancampaing.org UNEP. (2015). Cities and buildings report. Retrieved from http://www.unep.org/SBCI/pdfs/Cities_and_Buildings-UNEP_DTIE_Initiatives_and_projects_hd.pdf Urban Synergies Group. (2016). Perspective statement: Right to the City. Canberra. Australia. Retrieved from http://www.urbansynergiesgroup.org/publications
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Free online webcast on road safety, active mobility and health
Interested in learning more about the links between road safety, active mobility and health? Access here our free webcast as part of our knowledge transfer in collaboration with GIZ Sustainable Urban Transport Program (SUTP) and World Health Organisation (WHO).
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Urban Thinkers Voices Part II
Zoom in and listen what our Founding Director Gregor Mews has to say in relation to children and the city we need. This video has been recorded as part of the World Urban Campaign's Urban Thinkers voices initiative at the 26th Governing Council Meeting of UN-Habitat in Nairobi, May 2017.      
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urban thinkers campus report – shaping spaces for gen z
Urban living in the early part of the 21st century has not been good for children. The present generation are the least fit and the fattest that they have ever been. Social marginalisation, mental health problems and serious cardio-metabolic disorders have been on the rise in adolescence and early adulthood. On a more positive note, there is good international research evidence that many of these unwelcome facets of modern lifestyles for children could be eradicated through relatively small adjustments of the opportunities available to children, such as those that might be gained through active play and active travel to or from school. These issues were the focus of discussion at the “Shaping Spaces for Gen-Z” Urban Thinkers Campus that was organised by the Urban Synergies Group and the Health Research Institute, University of Canberra on 8th March 2017. Hosted at the University of Canberra, Australia, the Campus focused on environments that foster healthy childhood development in the broadest sense of this term i.e. including mental and physical capacities, social and psychological development and connectedness to community. Child health, physical inactivity, environmental design, child empowerment and the right to play and interact were central themes. The premises going in to the Forum were:  (1) Current societal norms for the general physical condition of children are too low, (2) Current societal norms for body weight status are too high, (3) Many children today have fewer opportunities to develop social skills and psychological resilience than they would have had in the past and (4) To reverse these trends will require a societal shift, with specific objectives to be agreed as the core drivers for change and the available societal resources aligned to achieve those objectives. The societal challenges posed for discussion were:
  1. All children have the right to the best opportunities we can provide for their social, psychological and physical development – how can we do this better?
  2. We need to provide more opportunities for children to achieve and maintain good general levels of physical activities as a lifestyle norm – how can we achieve this?
One hundred and twenty delegates attended. There was good representation from the key stakeholder groups: Parents, General Public, Government, Non-Government Organisations, Health, Academia and Community Services. Education other than tertiary, Commercial organisations and Sports organisations were not well represented. The “Shaping Spaces for Gen-Z” Urban Thinkers Campus, Canberra, Australia on 8th March 2017 contributed to the following 9 of 17 Sustainable Development Goals:
  • Good health and well-being
  • Quality education
  • Gender equality
  • Industry innovation and infrastructure
  • Reduced inequalities
  • Sustainable cities and communities
  • Life on land
  • Peace, justice and strong institutions
  • Partnership on goal
The outcomes of the Urban Thinkers campus will be presented at a side event at the 26th UN-Habitat Governing Council Meeting in Nairobi on the 8th May 2017 between 1 and 1.45 pm in Conference room 11. Should you not be able to make it, don't worry as the final report is now available. To access the core findings and co-designed solutions that can enable actions  for better health outcomes for children and young people in urban systems access can be download here.

Summary for download

Full Urban Thinkers Campus Report for download

World Urban Campaign Online Report

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The City of the Future starts with you!
On the 2nd of March 2017 our Founder Greg Mews was invited by Lighthouse Business to introduce Urban Synergies Group vision to a wide audience in only five minutes.  The topic was "The 100 year life" as part of their Festival of Ambitious ideas. Check out the video clip and be part of the conversation.
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Raising Awareness “Shaping Spaces for Gen Z” – Urban Thinker Campus
[embed]https://videopress.com/v/sw2N66JM[/embed] First #UrbanThinkers campus for Asia Pacific was held in Canberra, Australia, on the 8th March 2017. More than 100 stakeholders engaged in discussing actions and solutions to transform our cities into healthy and playful environments for all. Check out our short video from the event "Shaping Spaces for Gen Z" and watch this space for more information in the near future including the outcome report. The organiser team from University of Canberra, Health Research Institute, and Urban Synergies Group would like to thank all those people that expressed interest and participated in the forum. We would like to highlight the meaningful contribution of the ACT Government, being the key sponsor of the International Forum, as well as the Minister Fitzharris and Dr. Paul Kelly, Chief Health Officer. Our keynote presenter from Yale University Dr. Tong Liu shared insights into the social and emotional development of children. Prof. Tom Cochrane highlighted the pressing evidence relating to the state of health and physical inactivity of children in the ACT. The issues presentation included contributions on children and the built environment by Gregor H. Mews, Designs around the state of Children's health by A/Prof. Lisa Scharoun, as well as on the importance of play presented by Dr. Tong Liu and A/Prof. Paul Tranter. Our gratitude goes to our Master of Ceremony, Dr. Anthony Burton and all table coordinators that helped to capture the essence of the event and the In-kind support partners, including the ACT Government, ACT Council of Parents & Citizens Association, Australian Primary Principle Association, ACT Children and Young People Commissioner Jodie- Griffith- Cook, the ACT Office of the Commissioner for Sustainability and the Environment with Dr. Kate Auty and Edwina Robinson, the Cross Culture Design Lab, Heart Foundation ACT with Annie Kentwell, Living Streets, Planning Institute of Australia ACT, SEE- Change and University of Canberra, Prof. Rachel Davey. Watch this space for the outcome report and speakers presentations ! [embed]https://videopress.com/v/gpKqTFqn[/embed] Upcoming events [gallery ids="2533,2532" type="rectangular"]
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Reflections on the New Urban Agenda and what it means for Australia
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Urban Synergies Group (USG) hosted the Urban Thinkers workshop ‘Urban Talks: Emerging issues from Grassroots to International’ in order to contextualise the outcomes of the Habitat III agenda and the New Urban Agenda from an Australian perspective. The event took place on the 29th of November 2016, in Canberra, Australia, with academicians, researchers and practitioners in attendance. This article summarises the collective findings of the event.
During the opening contribution Gregor H Mews, founder of Urban Synergies Group, provided valuable insights and reflected on key messages from the Habitat III Conference in Quito, Ecuador. In particular, the paragraphs relating to the ‘Right to the City’ concept, Health and Well-being, Public Spaces and Sustainable Mobility were centre of the attention.
Mews stressed that cities today cover around two per cent of the total landmass, but are responsible for 70 percent of the Gross Domestic Products (GDP’s). At the same time, they are responsible for 80 percent of the global energy consumption, producing 75 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions and generating 75 percent of total global waste (UNEP, 2015, Cities and buildings report). Fast urbanisation is also having an effect on lifestyle that directly affects health. As a result, health challenges such as physical inactivity, unhealthy diets, overweight and obesity are increasing in emerging middle-income societies.
We are living in a world of uncertainty and accelerated change. If we want to win the race against climate change and promote a sustainable urban development we all need to work together. The New Urban Agenda emphasis that a successful implementation of its vision and commitments depends on the involvement of formerly atypical agents: community organisations, marginalised groups and independent actors, such as private sector and academia. In accordance with Dr. Joan Clos, executive director of UN Habitat, the message delivered was clear: ‘We shall leave no one behind’.
The average Australian lifestyle overshoots earth’s carrying capacity. There is a growing need to rethink and readdress the way we plan, finance, develop, govern and manage cities in Australia. This is a call for action where leadership at all levels is required pushing for the adoption and implementation of a truly sustainable, people centred, aged and gender responsive and integrated approach.
In order to reflect on the visions and implementation of The New Urban Agenda participants were invited to engage in a debate around the following three questions:
  • How can we implement the New Urban Agenda?
  • What are your top three action items?
  • How can we at USG work with you to enable better health and wellbeing outcomes?

Findings

The participants discussed in groups and presented their ideas for adopting The New Urban Agenda principles and for achieving effective implementation of actions. The findings of the final discussions were:
  • Regulatory government bodies should push large developments to be thinking about public realm upgrades and corresponding long-term cultural programs, to provide ways to enable social connection and so stimulate a sense of community. Bring back the ritual of having parties in the community, places where people can celebrate and meet. The participants stressed that an improved public realm is very important for sustainable communities.
  • Reinvestigate different sustainable urban forms in order to provide a greater housing choice and to allow affordability with the interface dynamics of the region in mind.
  • Improve strategic planning and investment in productivity in peri-urban areas under the assumption that some people do want to live in those areas.
  • Another area for collective action was identified in relation to productive use of space in the city: the role of autonomous vehicles and future transport corridors function.
  • Cities need to be committed to deliver better overall sustainability outcomes. There must be an open debate and actions around optimal instead of maximum productivity.
  • Questions such as ‘How many resources are different population groups willing to consume and give up?’ ‘How do we want to live in this new urban world?’ and ‘What are the choices we need to make in order to ensure health and wellbeing for all?’ must be resolved.
  • Research and existing findings on people’s lifestyle choices in relation to sustainability must be effectively translated and communicated ensuring that people can make better informed choices. Grassroots groups, civil societies, social entrepreneurships and governments need to collaborate more effectively.

Urban Synergies Group was acknowledged as a key partner that provides a platform for these discussions and exploration of collaboration. This article was also published by our partner the World Urban Campaign late 2016 and can be accessed by clicking here.

Article by Urban Synergies Group
Photo Credits (CC): Aline Santos (CC)

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