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by Frank Boermeester

How can we make cities inclusive and vibrant?

Challenge description


The world’s cities occupy just 3% of the planet’s surface but are home to more than 50% of the world’s population and account for 85% of global GDP. Rapid urbanisation is increasing pressure on transport, housing, schools, water supplies, sewage and public health. If these challenges are managed well, cities prosper; if not, they can fall in a vicious circle of decline.

Cities also offer the fastest route to greenhouse gas reduction, a responsibility they must embrace, since many cities are extremely vulnerable to climate change and extreme weather events.

Cities are also home to increasingly diverse communities, which can be a tremendous strength and boon for creativity and cultural, artistic expression. But conversely, diversity can also lead to a vicious spiral of social conflict, distrust and segregation.  It is imperative that we create more inclusive cities that bring people from different backgrounds closer together.

While cities grow so the needs of their populations change and become ever more diverse. Pouring more concrete is not the answer. Existing spaces and infrastructure need to be repurposed to meet changing demands.  Citizens are also becoming more demanding with many seeking a more active role in determining the future of their city and engaging with the democratic process. So join the Cities Challenge and let’s co-create the cities of the future.



Workshop topic 1: Quality living


Housing & infrastructure for growing, changing urban populations


There is tremendous pressure on cities to grow. Cities attract people, very special people. Not just traditional households, but ever more singles, people with complex family setups (“bonus families”), old people, young people, poor people, rich people, people with a migrant background. There is ever more diversity and change in the demography of urban populations. And all these people want to live in cities and have access to affordable quality housing, transport, schools and public health.

So how can our cities grow and meet the changing needs of urban populations, without compromising on space? We can’t just erect more buildings and pour more concrete, because that will stifle our cities and make them unliveable. So join us in this workshop where we’ll come up with ideas for re-purposing existing infrastructure in smarter ways, to meet the changing needs of our growing urban populations.


Workshop topic 2: Inclusivity


Embracing real diversity for more creative lives and cities


Our cities are diverse, and while we all love the idea of diversity, most of us in Belgian cities live in a segregated reality. We live in an archipelago of segregated monocultures. Both physically and mentally we live in different worlds. That is a great shame, because the essence of a city is freedom and creativity. It is in cities that we have the freedom to meet people with different ideas, with different cultural backgrounds, with different origins, because that makes our lives richer and stimulates our creativity.  Diversity only has real value when you engage with people who are different from you in your immediate circle; otherwise it just leads to distrust and suspicion. Join us in this workshop to create new initiatives and spaces, both physical and virtual, that break through the persistent segregation in our cities.


Workshop topic 3: Vibrancy


Creating vibrant cities in the age of e-commerce


In this workshop where we’ll come up with ideas for keeping our cities vibrant centers of creativity and economic growth. To put it bluntly, e-commerce could kill our city centers. If competition from the ever-larger e-commerce titans kill the city center shopping districts, then city centers could enter a vicious downward spiral of fewer shops, fewer restaurants and hospitality, fewer companies and jobs, fewer people and ever more delipidated buildings. In contrast, a city that clusters and connects the worlds of work, culture, art, hospitality and commerce in interesting, creative ways are engines of growth and creativity. So join us in this workshop where we’ll come up with exciting new urban concepts that re-use our existing urban spaces in interesting ways and combine different functions in entirely new ways!

Want to us to tell you when the full Hack Belgium program is ready?


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