Towards the Human City: A journey to more humane, sustainable and inclusive cities.

What does a bicycle network that optimises Stockholm’s merchandise distribution has to do with a pop-up library project in Guangzhou or with Peatonito, the “superhero” that promotes pedestrian safety in Mexico City?

These are all civil society led initiatives that are improving the quality of life in urban environments around the world and for this reason have been documented by the «Towards the Human City» project.

Determined to find “the ideal city,” the project’s idealisers, Paula García and Fernando Casado, decided to travel the world documenting inspiring stories about how civil society is leading the shift towards more inclusive and sustainable cities. The couple has structured the project in 10 thematic axes – including education, security, culture and nutrition – with the aim of creating a database that can inspire and inform citizens from all over the world to take local action and contribute to building more human cities.

Structure defined and camera in hands, the couple has traveled for two years through more than 60 cities on 6 continents capturing dozens of social projects that are making cities more liveable. The initiative’s main output is an online platform that compiles a series of short videos with examples of how urban transformation is taking place, and demonstrates that humanising the city where we live is not only possible, but also very feasible.

Back to Barcelona and before hitting the road again – the couple will document the last part of the project in southern Europe – Paula and Fernando have assembled the exhibition «Towards the human city: how would you improve your city?» in Ca L’Alier, Barcelona’s Urban Innovation Hub in collaboration with the iLab, an initiative from the Barcelona City Council to accelerate sustainable and social urban innovation.

The exhibition was officially launched on November 12 at Barcelona’s Smart City Week and served as an interactive platform to get new voices for the project. There, attendees were invited to share their opinion on the city’s urban challenges and propose innovative ideas to make it more human and sustainable.

The exhibition was open to the public until December 3. The closing event promoted a round table discussion on how technology and social innovation can help create more inclusive and sustainable cities. The conversation featured speakers such as Laia Bonet, Deputy Mayor of the 2030 Agenda, digital transition, sports, territorial and metropolitan coordination at the Barcelona City Council; Emilia Saiz, General Secretary, at United Cities and Local Governments (UCLG); Jordi Hereu, President of Idencity and former Mayor of Barcelona; and Rosa Surinach, Partnerships, Advocacy and Outreach Coordinator at UN Habitat.

Citizen participation, mobility, housing and urban planning were some of the issues that emerged in a debate that has contrasted the visions of the public, private and multilateral entities.

Of the points discussed, there was consensus on the need to promote the empowerment of local entities so that they can be true agents of transformation towards the 2030 agenda; and on the urgency of increasing the participation of the most vulnerable citizens in the construction of public policies.

“We already know how to make cities more sustainable. What we have to do now is to implement this knowledge, to take make a political commitment and take action.» defended Jordi Hereu.

«We have to raise sustainability from a social and economic point of view. We want to live in more inclusive cities with a guarantee of sustainable progress that improves the quality of life of people in all territories,» says Laia Bonet.

“We have to put local actors on the global decision table. We need to think very locally and act very globally.” summarizes Emilia Saiz.

Watch the video that summarizes the Towards the Human City initiative and exhibition:

The Towards the Human City exhibition has been a collaboration between the Ensurecer Foundation, GlobalCAD, the Center for Partnerships for Development and i.lab, the laboratory of the Barcelona city council to accelerate sustainable urban and social innovation.