Saskia Beer*

Why is citizen engagement so important for the future of our cities?

People around the world are moving to cities for work, adventure and happiness. Cities are hubs full of activity. However for them to thrive sustainably as healthy and safe places with prosperous, inclusive and happy citizens and communities, we need to plan and act wisely.

The future gets more difficult to predict and before our plans are finished on paper, reality may have caught up on us already. The city is always finished and never finished, continuously updating and improving itself. We need to critically ask who owns, plans and makes the city. After all, the more shoulders are carrying a city, the more resilient this city becomes.

Cities are not planned and made only by the government and project developers anymore, but by all of us. And with so many different people living and working there, why not include all their dreams, ideas and ambitions to make and keep our cities absolutely great – together? We all have dreams and ideas, sometimes for ourselves and sometimes for the whole neighbourhood or city. And some ideas are probably shared by more of us. But how do we unlock them and bring them together? And how do they find the information, support and resources needed for realization?

I have been asking myself these questions as I was building a local community of property owners, businesses, citizens, organizations and the municipality around the transformation of an out-dated monofunctional office district in Amsterdam Southeast. In the crisis the municipality had had to withdraw from their top-down redevelopment plans and instead facilitate initiatives from market and society. This was a blessing in disguise, as the local community grew increasingly proactive and vibrant and shared their ideas and ambitions with us. In order to further organise and catalyse this collaborative urban planning and  we are launching a new smart technology solution.

TransformCity® is a highly actionable and locally dedicated online urban transformation dashboard. It integrates storytelling, data sharing, co-creation, participatory democracy, crowdsourcing and crowdfunding. All stakeholders and the government can directly exchange information and ideas and collectively plan, make and own their city or neighbourhood.

Urban planning becomes resilient, inclusive and interesting for everybody. Like it should be.


**Saskia Beer is a Dutch urban entrepreneur and founder of ZO!City (formerly known as Glamourmanifest) and TransformCity®. She was trained as an architect (MSc, 2007, TU Delft) and worked for renowned offices In The Netherlands (MIR, S333) and Japan (Kengo Kuma and Associates). In the beginning of the crisis, she was one of the many architects that lost their job. She decided to redefine her role by unsolicitedly initiating local projects for making the city more attractive, inclusive and resilient.


Find more information on www.transformcity.com and www.zocity.nl or connect via Twitter (@ZO_City or @Transform_City) or Linkedin (https://www.linkedin.com/in/beersaskia



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