Rebooting the TechPlace community

This has been an unusual year for cities, to say the very least. There isn’t a city across the whole EU or indeed the globe that hasn’t been touched by Covid-19 in some way, and all cities continue to do battle to keep this silent killer at bay. The impact has been huge – people have been lost; jobs have been lost; the entire way we live our lives and do business has been disrupted. However, in all of this, what has been truly inspirational is the sheer resilience of people and of the places we inhabit. Cities can, and will, survive even if normality looks somewhat different.

Survival through to revival

It’s been an honour to lead the URBACT TechRevolution transfer network through these times. Our cities and our people have shown remarkable adaptability, creativity and sheer chutzpah as we moved to online meetings, changed our plans and tried to implement plans to manifest our digital cities. With more regular catch-ups we actually got to know each other a little better perhaps, and have enjoyed sharing stories of what I can only describe as survival through to revival. The whole process has reminded me more than ever that whilst we are about cities, it is the people who are at the heart of what we do. Our cities have delivered support to their digital business communities through innovative methods, played a key role in keeping citizens safe through technology and pushed ahead with ambitious projects to support their economies.

At the same time as our existing network with established relationships was pushing through the crisis, over 20 Action Planning Networks were being established completely online. A huge challenge under normal circumstances when face-to-face meeting are possible, but an even bigger challenge managing everything via online platforms. Kudos to the team who have lifted the plans for the URBACT Summer University and reshaped them into an E-University programme. As we start to plan a completely online sharing event for TechRevolution we know first-hand that this requires a new set of skills and understanding of the online experience!

Yet the challenges have also created opportunities…

Join the TechPlace community

Two years ago we developed the URBACT platform as a way to share the stories of cities who are doing great things with and about technology and digital. Behind it sat an ambition for a community of practice bringing together anyone at city level involved in delivering digital economy support, digital city development or just with an appetite to do things differently. This has been a slow burner but now is the right time to build out this opportunity. We all now know that working and meeting and sharing online is perfectly (sometimes imperfectly!) doable. We also now have many more networks looking at different aspects of cities and digital, which is great to see, and with this, a community is already emerging.

With URBACT support we are launching a series of events between now and Christmas to start to bring people and cities together across these networks. Just a simple, short meetup where we can share stories, experiences and ideas – and connect with like-minded folks. We will augment this with a Slack community where we can hopefully continue the engagement and discussions, and develop more content for the TechPlace website to share even more interesting and inspirational tales. The first event will include contributions from two cities who have stepped up to the challenge of Covid: Pardubice who developed and delivered a ‘Business Ambulance’ to support their entrepreneur community in difficult times and Piraeus who have leveraged their Blue Lab makerspace to respond to the crisis and really prove the concept of local making.

Please be a part of this. You don’t need to be a tech guru, you just need to be keen to see your city use technology to do things better whether that’s keeping citizens safe, reducing city costs or building an innovative digital economy. I can’t promise it will be perfect – I’m not sure anyone knows what that means anymore – but it will be the start of something useful and interesting.