Six ways to learn about creating just and sustainable cities

If you live in a city, you are likely surrounded by (in)just (un)sustainabilities: from racist housing policies and uneven pollution levels, to sudden explosions of ‘good-for-the-planet’ shops and green areas that are mostly for tourists and higher-income residents. But to make your city fairer and more sustainable – that large organism bursting with residents, buildings, vehicles and areas – where do you start? As part of the UrbanA project, DRIFTers Flor Avelino and Vaishali Joshi recommend six ways to learn about creating just and sustainable cities.
1. Subscribe to the UrbanA podcast series

The UrbanA Podcast Series with Ian McCook and Kate McGinn offers critical conversations with city-makers and city-thinkers from different European cities on themes of sustainable and just cities. The speakers vary from activists, entrepreneurs, intellectuals and policy-makers who are working in complementary and conflicting ways. So far, there are eight episodes to be enjoyed.

2. Join an online Community Conversation

The UrbanA Community Conversations offer a series of regular online events that bring together people to connect, learn and discuss on several themes related to urban sustainability and justice. So far, UrbanA organized over six of such online conversations, e.g. on creating a local climate adaptation plan, transformative cities, addressing poverty via food solidarity and a feminist perspective on sustainable and just cities.

3. Make your move night a #SustainableJustCities movie night
film poster of Push the Film
Recently, UrbanA collaborated with the Vital Cities & Citizens initiative and DRIFT to co-organize an online movie night with a screening of the documentary PUSH to explore the global housing crisis. This was accompanied with a World Cafe discussion on the right to housing and the strategies towards transforming our urban environments into more sustainable and just cities. You can find more about this event here.


4. Learn from and contribute to this Wiki

The Wiki on Sustainable Just Cities is part of UrbanA’s knowledge commons, serving as a resource for everyone that wants to contribute to more sustainable and just cities. It is not only for everyone to use the knowledge on Wiki but also to share their own knowledge and experience. It is a decentralized approach to knowledge co-creation and information sharing that puts ‘wisdom of the crowd’ and ‘self-organization’ in the lead.
For example, community gardens is a popular urban agricultural approach that mainly aims to boost local food production, reduce energy use in food transport and build community resilience. Another example is that of participatory budgeting, an innovative, democratic, decision-making process that establishes a dialogue and collaboration between citizens and authorities to spend public budget on local development.

5. Catch a glimpse of past Urban Arena Events and keep an eye out for future editions

The four (or five, depending on how you count) Urban Arena Events are spaces for action, reflection and connection for sustainable and just cities with a diversity of actors across disciplines and domains. Two UrbanA arenas (in Rotterdam and Barcelona) have already taken place, with two more (in Berlin and Brussels) to come in 2021, each building on the next in terms of content and process. In 2019, UrbanA also organized an ‘arena side event’ in Lisbon that included walking tours and participatory methods to explore the localized context of gentrification and eviction in Lisbon.
The events are impact-driven, interactive, diverse with participants, co-creative, rooted in existing transition dynamics, context-aware, translocal and blended, combining face to face participation with remote online connection. 60+ city-makers and city-thinkers from a host of European cities gathered, exploring projects and approaches addressing urban (un)sustainability and (in)justice. The second event was completely online due to the COVID-19 crisis,

  • Find out more about our translocal and transdisciplinary approach to events in this blog and report.
  • Get an impression of the Rotterdam and Lisbon Urban Arena along with summaries of the sessions, you can read the UrbanA City-Zine.
  • See these videos and a booklet of summaries.

6. Follow and get involved in #SustainableJustcities

About Urbana
The main mission of the UrbanA project is to broker and synthesise actionable knowledge on and for sustainable and just cities. In order to transform our cities into more sustainable and just environments, we need actionable knowledge that is relevant and accessible to as many people as possible. 

July 21, 2020