City 2.0 crowdsources our future

Terming it “a global call for collaborative action on the biggest issues of our day,” and “a platform designed to empower citizens to connect with each other to help reshape their own cities,” the judges in charge of the annual TED Prize have awarded the prize not to an individual, but to a website.

That website is City 2.0, an online platform designed to allow individuals and organizations to come together in imagining the city of the future.

What kind of place is the City 2.0? The website’s designers see it as a place with a smaller carbon footprint than the cities of today, a place that bridges the gap between the rich and the poor, and a place where everyone has access to nature – among other things. 

The vision, clearly, is big, which led TED Prize Director Amy Novogratz to remark, in a statement, “Our best cities reflect our best selves, and when done right they are the heart of culture, innovation, and entrepreneurship.”

She goes on to note that she and her colleagues have thrown the weight of the annual TED Prize behind the City 2.0. because they see the opportunity here to inspire everyone in re-imagining “how we work, learn, and live.”

At the heart of the City 2.0 is a “wish” – the city’s wish, if you will -which TED directors feel has been reflected in TED talks on the future of the city by Rio de Janeiro Mayor Eduardo Paes, Harvard professor and economist Edward Glaeser and Vice Mayor of Long Beach, Calif., Suja Lowenthal. T

hat wish, according to the City 2.0 website, is for us to “Imagine a platform that brings you together, locally and globally. Combine the reach of the cloud with the power of the crowd. Connect leaders, experts, companies, organizations and citizens. Share your tools, data, designs, successes, and ideas. Turn them into action.”

Towards that end, the platform offers individuals the tools to design such a city, making the kind of choices around transportation, energy, public space, housing, and law that are usually made only by city planners and government officials.  

The City 2.0 aims to put these choices in the hands of everyone – combining “the reach of the cloud with the power of the crowd” – giving people a chance to build their own vision of the evolution of the city in collaboration with others from their area.

Visitors can “engage in an upgrade of their own cities” through a range of projects that they either propose, or propose and lead. The website’s creators see it as a way to create cross-disciplinary action groups at the local level dedicated to tackling the issues they deem crucial to their city’s success. 

And it’s not just for the average Joe and Jane, either, as mayors, architects, engineers, urban planners, non-profits, multinational companies, and others are invited to share ideas, tools, and resources on the website. Call it an eco-version of SimCity.

So what innovations would you include in the 2.0 version of your city? Solar streetlights? Electric vehicle charging stations powered by renewable energy? Affordable green housing? These are just a few of the projects we’ve reported on at EarthTechling that seem very much in the spirit of the City 2.0.

Novogratz went on to say, “Like our cities, the TED Prize is based on radical collaboration, and for the billions of us living in – and moving to – cities, this is a wish for all of us to take on.”

But lest you take this all for so much happy talk, the TED Prize is indeed getting behind the City 2.0, and plans to award ten grants of $10,000, coming out of the $100,000 TED Prize, that will be awarded at TED Global in June 2012 to 10 projects the organization deems most likely to spur the real-world creation of the City 2.0.

Susan DeFreitas, EarthTechling