The introduction week with Europe by People consisted of many interesting lectures, debates and discussions about our future world. Entrepreneurs, professors, researchers and CEO’s were invited to present their visions and provided a very stimulating learning environment. Among them were ecologists and other experts from around the world, who gave presentations and workshops at Pakhuis de Zwijger and FabCity. Education, data-analyses, green and self-sustainable energy were among the hottest subjects. And on top of that, Lucas de Man gave a fantastic performance about entrepreneurship throughout history, community-building and the importance of a bottom-up mentality. Because how are we going to tackle issues that the increasing population and massive urbanisation bring? The introduction week functioned as a mental preparation for the task that was to come the weeks after.
The topic for the whole week was “future cities”, with emphasis on Amsterdam. We learned how Amsterdam has evolved during the last 700 years, we learned how the current living situation is for people and we’ve been part of the reflection around which problems we might face in the years to come. Most people agreed on the fact that the cities themselves were to function at the frontier in this matter, and that we need to make the cities, as well as its citizens, “smart”.
But how do we make a city and its people smart? We were presented a lot of different ideas, concepts and even initiated – successful – projects. Innovation, smart solutions and the way we gather and use data seem to make the pillars of the reflection around future cities.
But what kind of innovation are to take place in the future? How are ideas going to be developed? The many reflections and arguments raised gave the impression that entrepreneurs and the citizens themselves will play a vital part in this. We cannot operate with a top-down mentality. The mentality of bottom-up initiatives is getting more important as time passes. The diversity in population indicates that a solution made by a small selection, not even representative of the area, simply will not match everyone’s needs. The ideas and initiatives need to start from the bottom up, and the public sector needs to both acknowledge and support that. The city needs to be a product of the people, and not the opposite.