Edited by Samantha North
Posted by Eduardo Oliveira on Dec 1, 2014
A recent tweet from Malcolm Allan, director of Place Matters, said that place branding should ‘infuse town planning with new energy, insight and purpose’. This inspired me to put together some thoughts about major urban trends and the role place branding can play in boosting urban planning practices. Today’s cities have become places of abundance, underpinned by large, and often uncontrolled, amounts of private capital, speculative development and foreign investment in property.
A frenetic urban-competitiveness brings a sense of vulnerability based on job insecurity, unaffordable housing, lack of sense of belonging, place attachment and a marked increase in loneliness. The existence of these issues calls for new approaches in urban planning and city management.
In this post I will briefly outline these dominant urban trends and discuss how place branding can bring more creativity, enthusiasm and coolness to urban planning practice.
Urban competitiveness: obsession, vulnerability and uncertain futures
Places often compete with each to attract more investment, tourism and labour force, as well as sporting and cultural events, and talented and skilful people. The economist Paul Krugman has long advised that it is incorrect to assume a country’s economic success is largely influenced by its performance on world markets. However, competition has been transferred from nations to regions and now from regions to cities. The desire to become a competitive city, showcasing GDP indicators, or top positions in any city-brand index, remains an urban fetish for some policy-makers and city managers.
Joseph Stiglitz, who recently debated the Age of Vulnerability, points out that a decrease in ‘urban societal wellbeing’ may be far larger than that indicated by conventional GDP measures or competitiveness indicators. Relying exclusively on economic indicators will present a distorted picture of urban realities – e.g people worrying about job security and unemployment. These insecurities or vulnerabilities gain expression in urban spaces, not only in the US but worldwide. Here I stress the obsession of world major cities to compete – even though most of them are faced with huge inequalities and insecurity.
From the US to Europe, individuals face unfair policy in health, housing and judicial systems and a lack of social protection – while unjustified events or private investments are taking place in the urban fabric and urban planners are unable to change the tide. In addition, a lack of civic engagement, participation and cooperation between all the living-forces in the city remains in today’s urban planning practice.
Places, both cities and nations, have enough resources to focus more on cooperation, redistribution and bottom-up approaches to delivering fair and equal opportunities. But can place branding inject a new burst of energy into urban planning?- See more at: http://placesbrands.com/shifting-the-tide-city-branding-in-todays-urban-planning/#sthash.vYPAEnbD.dpuf