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«Aspirational City Futures: Three Models for City Living Phase 1c: Workshops Hunt, D.V.L. and Rogers, C.D.F The University of Birmingham This report ...»

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Aspirational City Futures:

Three Models for City Living

Phase 1c: Workshops

Hunt, D.V.L. and Rogers, C.D.F

The University of Birmingham

This report has been commissioned by the UK Government Office for Science

Foresight Future of Cities Project.

The views expressed do not represent policy of any government or organisation.




1.1 A review of aspirational scenarios approaches

1.2 Testing the hypothesis of clustering aspirations

1.3 Workshops to explore aspirational visions and future scenarios



3.1. Step 2a: Environment and Resources

3.2. Step 2b – People and Community

3.3. Step 2c – Work and Economy

3.4. Reflections on Workshop


4.1. Outcomes from Birmingham Workshop

4.1.1. Step 2a: Environment and Resources

4.1.2. Step 2b: People and Community

4.1.3. Step 2c: Work and Economy

4.2 Reflections on Workshop


5.1. Common Themes from the Birmingham and Bristol Workshops

5.2. Overall Impressions of an Aspirational Visioning Approach




1.0 INTRODUCTION Having commissioned working papers and other material to provide an evidence base, the Foresight Future of Cities (FoC) project looks at the opportunities and challenges UK cities could face over the next 50 years. The breadth of approach and its outputs distinguish the project from other initiatives exploring the challenges facing UK cities and include: the articulation of desired outcomes (visions from individuals, sectors, and cities); identification of pathways enabling desired outcomes; exploration of implications and potential impact;

and identification of risks and opportunities. Where done collaboratively, futures-based work also builds relationships and facilitates learning that supports capabilities for longterm planning.

At the University of Birmingham, we have started work on a three-phase project to help understand the future and consider how to enable different visions. The first phase is divided into three sections and forms the foundation for this work and explores how scenarios might be created and used by cities to help create policies and strategies to meet their own future city visions. This phase is divided into three sections and this report focuses on Phase 1c.

1.1 A review of aspirational scenarios approaches Phase 1a (May to June 2015) has been completed and builds on an extensive monograph (appended to Lombardi et al., 2012) produced by the Urban Futures project team (at the University of Birmingham, University of Exeter, and Lancaster University. This contains a critical review of ‘aspirational’ scenario approaches, methodologies and toolkits reported within the literature with the aim of identifying consistency in the various approaches, along with a commentary on their usefulness and the skill levels needed to apply them,

considering three broad categories of user:

(a) citizens (b) practitioners (c) practitioners and/or academics well-versed in the topic area

1.2 Testing the hypothesis of clustering aspirations Phase 1b (July to August 2015) has been completed. The ‘vision clustering exercise’ adopted therein showed that it is possible to draw three distinctly different visions, with associated narratives, for an aspirational city from datasets collected by UB Policy Commission on Future Urban Living (Rogers et al., 2014). These datasets were compiled when taking evidence from a wide range of leading thinkers on cities, drawn from the UK and elsewhere, on thoughts and lessons for city living.

3|Page The three clustered visions place either the environment and resources first (Vision 1 – Figure 1), or people and community first (Vision 2 – Figure 2), or work and economy first (Vision 3 – Figure 3), and, crucially for the analysis, they thereby reduce the importance placed on the other two aspects.

–  –  –

For convenience, the clustering was done around the three pillars of sustainability, and it was assumed that technology and policy (the remaining drivers in a Social, Technology, Economic, Environment and Political (STEEP) analysis) aligned with and supported the chosen priority. For each of the three visions a narrative of clustered evidence was provided according to seven key sub-themes previously adopted within UB Policy Commission on Future Urban Living (Rogers et al., 2014) – Figure 1.

(1) Natural Environment;

(2) Natural Resources;

(3) Accessibility and Movement;

(4) Resilience Adaptation and Smart Technologies;

(5) Financing and Alternative Business Models;

(6) Governance; and (7) Cities and City Regions, and the Role of Planning.

Figure 1. Sub-themes taken from UB Policy Commission on Future Urban Living (Rogers et al.

, 2014)

–  –  –

• A city needs to create an agreed vision for the future that embraces all aspects that are important to it, and use of a STEEP analysis as prompts to this visioning process will ensure an appropriate breadth of coverage in the vision. The vision will have many elements to it. [One recommendation of the Policy Commission is that citizens should be empowered to contribute to the creation of this vision.]

• Clustering the elements of the city’s vision using three distinct categories, such as the three ‘pillars of sustainability’, brings into sharp focus the synergies between the elements of the vision, and therefore how they might combine to change the nature of the city if they were prioritised at the expense of the other elements of the vision.

• Creating the narrative associated with a prioritised cluster necessarily introduces the consequences of down-playing the other elements of this vision, and contributes to the creation of an extreme scenario.

• Repeating the exercise for each cluster in turn results in three extreme future scenarios for the city in its particular context. The desirable and undesirable features and consequences of each of the scenarios are thus made explicit.

• Policies, strategies and plans can then be created with the aim of bringing about the desirable changes while avoiding the undesirable changes, informed by the consequences.

• Engaging with the process is just as important, if not more important, than the outcomes as a result of the insights that it brings.


1.3 Workshops to explore aspirational visions and future scenarios for Birmingham and Bristol This report contributes to the third part (Phase 1c – September to November 2015) of the first phase of a proposed three-phase element of work. In culmination all three phases will help to investigate how future scenarios might be used by cities to help them create policies and strategies to meet their own future city visions. Once completed Phases 1a to 1c will facilitate an initial, outline version of a toolkit for cities to adopt aspirational scenario development and testing. This phase uses two workshops held in Bristol (16th November 2015, see Section 2.0) and Birmingham (20th November 2015, see Section 3.0) with city delegates from across the country to test the efficacy of the aspirational vision clustering approach. The workshops used the same structure as used in Phase 1b whereby aspirational visions (and narratives) are developed using three cluster visions (see below) and seven key

sub-themes (Section 1.2):

• Vision 1: Environment and Resources

• Vision 2: People and Community

• Vision 3: Work and Economy The clustered narratives developed from Phase 1b are complementary to the clustered evidence for both Birmingham and Bristol and can be read in conjunction. This allows for valuable comparison and contrast. Phase 1b concluded that clustering the elements of the city’s vision using three distinct categories, such as the three ‘pillars of sustainability’, brings into sharp focus the synergies between the elements of the vision, and therefore how they might combine to change the nature of the city if they were prioritised at the expense of the other elements of the vision. This phase of work tests this hypothesis further using workshops. Following this phase of work there will be subsequent refinement of the methodology and trialling of the Designing Resilient Cities (DRC) Methodology (Lombardi et al., 2012) on some of the outcomes.



A full day workshop was held in the Main Conference Room at Arup’s Bristol Office (63 St Thomas Street, Bristol BS1 6Z) with a range of delegates and stakeholders from cities across the country. Prior to the workshop, delegates were informed that academics from the University of Birmingham leading the Liveable Cities research programme (www.liveablecities.org.uk) were looking to construct aspirational visions for Bristol looking towards the far future, exploring their relation to today’s context and therefrom determine how best to bring them about. The outputs and findings of this workshop were presented to the national Foresight project on the Future of Cities. The workshop was split according to

the following structure – the outcomes of the day are reported in this section:

Introduction to Liveable Cities (LC) and Foresight Future of Cities (Professor Chris Rogers) Step 1: Future Visions of Bristol – Personal and Professional Reflections (in groups, facilitated by the LC and FoC representatives, and inspired by the Arup Cards*) Plenary Reflection and Clustering of Visions (facilitated by the LC and FoC representatives) Introduction to the Aspirational Futures Methodology (Professor Chris Rogers) Step 2a: Future Bristol Prioritising Environment and Resources (in groups)** and Reflections on an Alternative Bristol (plenary) – Section 2.1.1 Step 2b: Future Bristol Prioritising People and Communities (in groups)** and Reflections on an Alternative Bristol (plenary) – Section 2.1.2 Step 2c: Future Bristol Prioritising Work and the Economy (in groups)** and Reflections on an Alternative Bristol (plenary) – Section 2.1.3 Synthesis of the Visions (plenary) Reflections on the Value of the Foresighting Process (plenary) Final remarks (Professor Chris Rogers) *Prior to the workshop delegates were sent a copy of ARUP’s Cities Alive: 100 issues shaping future cities (http://www.driversofchange.com/projects/cities-alive/, e.g. Figure 3) and asked to consider aspirations they have for Bristol – they were instructed that these would be disseminated and added to on the day of the workshop (Step 1 above) on large ‘post it’ notes visible from 3m away. Delegates were told that these aspirations should consider the far-future (40 years hence) and not be constrained by any current context.

**In Steps 2a to 2c delegates were provided with Google maps of Bristol and asked to reconsider their aspirations given the current context of Bristol.

–  –  –

3.1. Step 2a: Environment and Resources In this step the ‘post it’ notes (Figure 4 and Table 1) for Environment and Resources (Step 1) were read out to the delegates. Subsequently they were provided with a Google map of Bristol showing its salient features and asked to re-consider their aspirations given the current context of Bristol. The 7 sub-themes were not presented but (where possible) have been used post-workshop to organise responses.

–  –  –

Aspirations around ‘Natural Environment’ (Sub-theme 1): A delegate proposed that it is not just about bringing people into Bristol, but about encouraging ‘Bristolians’ to spend time outside the city [presumably, in the countryside]. There was a desire to connect green spaces – where streets become green biodiversity corridors. Rivers would form part of these and any plot of land is considered fair game for this. In addition water fountains would be provided throughout the city. Greening of roads was considered desirable, but putting trees down the middle of busy dual carriageways, where they are inaccessible, was not considered desirable [even though they perform a function: removing pollutants].

Removing hard, sealed surfaces (i.e. driveways) and making the surface permeable allowed for better storm water infiltration. This was considered desirable for mitigating flood concerns whilst allowing for green growth and freedom to grow in unused spaces. A new barrage was considered positive by preventing flooding whilst generating power without environmental damage.

Aspirations around ‘Natural Resources’ (Sub-theme 2): The group agreed the overarching purpose in this theme was to look after the environment and not waste resources. In terms of Food some delegates envisioned a tension between importing foodstuff from Wales and provision of local food, while others imagined a city where ‘Bristolians’ ate less (than today) and did not consume meat. This was facilitated by an urban landscape integrated with 11 | P a g e vertical gardening and green corridors (mentioned previously). Local agriculture production was a key aspect within this sub-theme and it was emphasised that food crops would need to be protected from climate extremes due to environmental change and to enhance resilience of a more self-sufficient Bristol. In this vision as much food as possible is grown locally... implying that less choice is acceptable. Every roof top (and driveway) was conceived as being used to grow food. One delegate proposed lab-grown food to release the pressure on land for agriculture and to enable the city to be more self-sufficient in this regard. Whilst some liked the concept, others thought the term ‘lab-grown’ provoked negative imagery In terms of Water it was envisioned that ‘Bristolians’ would use water more conservatively.

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