Making cities sustainable is one of the most important missions of current generations. The planet requires that we move with haste towards sustainability and because of the population concentrated in cities and the opportunities to gain efficiencies, cities are the most important arena for intervention.
Despite the opportunities, cities face great odds in achieving sustainability: their political leadership changes often; their various vital systems (water, waste, energy, etc.) develop in isolation from one another, and on vastly different timelines; their political power and financial resources have not kept pace with their needs.
The good news is that these complex organisms can, and do, learn. They can choose to tread more gently on the planet's surface, to use resources more responsibly, and share their learning and innovation to accelerate change. This is where our work comes in.
Moving from problem solving to effective collaborative action
We believe in the power of diverse stakeholders working together to ensure the economic, environmental, social and cultural wellbeing of current and future generations. Cities are complex systems in which the four pillars of sustainability are interrelated and interdependent. By focusing on the very long term, cities are able to concentrate on the actions that will make them more environmentally sustainable, economically viable, socially just and culturally adaptive. Sustainable cities are resilient and better able to anticipate and cope with shocks and stresses.
SCI helps municipalities develop better planning tools, frameworks and processes. In particular, we help cities increase the public/stakeholder understanding of the critical linkages between political and economic stability and the environment; create the public support politicians need to make the right decisions; and move away from silo-based problem solving to more effective collaborative actions. And, we share this learning through our International Network.
The Four-Directional Model of Development
The model is simple, yet it reflects a great deal of work on difficult and complex problems. The process is iterative - activities in each "direction" change relationships and outcomes. The four directions are top down, bottom up, outside in, and insideout.
Top -> Down:
We work with municipal councils and local authorities to ensure that our projects will be sustained over time and that we respond to important needs identified by the city.
Bottom -> Up
we believe that bringing different people to the table changes the decisions that are made. We bring the poor, women, youth and community groups into a participatory process.
Outside -> In
Cities copy other cities. Our peer learning model encourages city-to-city learning and exchanges of experience, technologies and best practices.
Inside -> Out
Cities in our network document, reflect and talk about their lessons. This reinforces their experience and provides a forum for reflection. We accelerate the transfer of learning and technologies to larger audiences through presentations at high-profile events and affiliations with other organizations.