Who is the bridge builder? Is he a social entrepreneur, a place maker, a shaman or a group therapist? Or maybe a piggy in the middle? Does he play an essential role for the sustainable future of cities? In this Urban Books episode we are going to delve into the poorly defined role of bridge-making in managing complex urban problems. Through a few exercises, we will get an insight of the role of bridge-builders and their competencies. We try out governance tools in the form of “bridging strategies”, while introducing the transversal planning approach. And we explore how such a role is finds its place within the context of local economy. Get ready for some hands-on action.
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Bridges to local economies
Complexity is nothing new for cities. However, in the past decade there has been an acceptance that much of the challenge lies in social complexity, and more inclusive as well as open forms of planning are required. Local economies are increasingly seen as a delicate yet powerful leverage point for jobs, resource management, crime, social cohesion, quality of life and many other themes. As Rob Hopkins, founder of the Transition Movement, noted in the preface of Bridges to Local Economies, “…we need to be creating new, place-based economies and livelihoods, and that in order to do so, we need to think like entrepreneurs…”. The challenge is that entrepreneurship outside of the business sector, and economy outside of big government, is vague and abstract. How do we do this? More specifically – who is doing this? In the book the authors consider this to be the role of the the bridge-builder, a relatively new but poorly understood and rarely appreciated position in the eco-system of contemporary urbanism. The authors illustrate the need for the bridge-builder, and explore bridge-building competencies, while presenting a range of tools and resources that can be used for building bridges. While local authorities are the natural home for bridge-builders, the role is more often embraced by entrepreneurs, progressive organisations and even innovative businesses.