Jeb Brugmann

The Practice

Urban strategy is the practice of shaping development in cities and city districts, and of building inter-city networks:

  • To create lasting, place-based advantages in cities or individual districts;
  • To align the often competing strategies of different organizations, groups, governments, and/or industries in cities to achieve strategic purposes together.

‘Globalization’ (i.e., the growth of the global City), coupled with the liberalization of markets, has fundamentally changed the urban growth management challenge. Heretofore, growth management was primarily understood as a challenge of jurisdiction: getting the boundaries, powers, and capacities right, wielding them with consistency and clear policy purpose. But the extra-jurisdictional nature of the City and its heightened market orientation has increased the sources and complexity of change in cities, meanwhile reducing the centrality of jurisdiction and the efficacy of government measures.

Even predicting how a city might develop requires immense if not impossible modeling efforts. “By the time a detailed diagnosis is finished,” says Cassio Taniguchi, the former mayor of Curitiba, Brazil, “reality has moved on.” The only way to keep pace with such rapid change, Taniguchi concludes from Curitiba’s hallmark growth management efforts, is to test very concrete solutions and “manage the solution” in the market.

City-states like Singapore and Hong Kong, and other strong metropolitan governments, still have a significant advantage in managing growth, but their policy and development control powers are no longer sufficient. Even they have sought to regain leverage through more direct entrepreneurial involvement as investors, builders, and corporate managers in the urban development market. This entrepreneurial approach to ‘solutions management’—as in the case of urban transit system development in Curitiba or Hong Kong—involves the alignment of uncoordinated, often competing political and commercial interests through micro-economic innovations: through new business models, development/service ‘product design,’ and business processes that create both private advantage while achieving public objectives. Growth management, in other words, requires the organization of a political-commercial alliance, ideally with direct involvement of resident/user communities, to hone a set of urban solutions and supporting practices that offer both policy and commercial benefits. Planning and development control becomes one practice domain among others in growth management, with emphasis shifting to the strategic development or renewal of an urbanist community and its evolving “urbanism.”

An urbanism is a systematic approach—generally both implicit and explicit—for designing, building, managing, governing, collaborating, and even using and living in a city to achieve a community’s objectives and to secure economic advantages for its members in the urban world. It consists of an integrated “solution set”—policies and regulations, planning and development controls, designs and engineering, technologies and business models, social engagement and governance processes—tailored to local conditions and consistently applied together as distinct form of city building.

Urbanisms represent some of the most lasting historical forms of city building: the commercial urbanisms of the bazaar, port district, and central business district; the residential urbanisms of the mahalle, kampung, and hutong; the cultural urbanisms of the madrassah, university, and entertainment district; and the industrial urbanisms of the manufacturing neighborhood, the industrial township, and the entrepreneurial slum.

Jeb Brugmann works with coalitions of development agents and their user/client groups to co-create the practical solution-sets needed to renew their old urbanisms, or to develop a new urbanism. Using The Next Practice innovation process along with expert inputs from planning, design, engineering, and development specialists, he draws on his extensive background with cities to help clients develop and translate urban strategies into new communities of city-building practice.

To arrange a preliminary consultation and/or presentation about urban strategy with Jeb Brugmann, click here to email him.

Co-creating New Urbanisms: The User-Centered City

The development of new urbanisms and of the many “next practices” that make them functional, economical, and resilient in local development markets, involves intensive collaboration between otherwise independent and competing interests. People and organizations come to cities, and to specific city districts, with their own strategies for securing some advantage in that place. In urban locations, groups with similar strategies organize together and develop solutions—ways of altering and using public spaces, private buildings, doing commerce etc—to advance their strategies. In this way, these local “user communities” establish their own adaptive approaches to city building. If official development approaches do not support those strategies, or fail to provide more attractive alternatives with truly practicable solutions, then the strategies of local user communities work at cross-purposes to other user communities as well as official development investments.

The Next Practice innovation process makes the renewal of a traditional urbanism, or the establishment of a new urbanism, systematic. The process supports user communities to co-create the design, business, technology, policy and other solutions required to implement a joint urban strategy.

Robust urbanisms develop where different local user communities can be identified and organized together to do this co-creation work.  To manage the co-creation effort, The Next Practice process organizes a local incubator or “do-tank,” representing the identified development agents and user communities in the relevant district. Collaboration begins with clarification and alignment of the implicit, competing strategies used by different user communities. It then advances to an intensive innovation process stage, which focuses on developing solutions in land-use and building policy, building product and infrastructure design, development process, delivery and service models, user training, operations and maintenance, and governance and social organizing to create a robust model—in fact, a new system of development—geared to serve the multiple groups, private purposes, and public objectives of the user communities. This city-building system is then piloted, documented, adapted to other districts with similar community profiles and strategic objectives, and ultimately scaled.

This activity can seem daunting when compared to conventional strategic planning, but it represents the heart of successful city building and growth management. Urbanisms are robust because they encode strategy into city-building practice through new development products and models, rather than leaving strategy half-finished as a conceptual, normative overlay on existing city-building approaches (and their different, often competing strategic underpinnings). The Next Practice process takes lessons from the transformative achievements of cities like Barcelona, Chicago, Curitiba, and Stockholm that have built their strategies by exhibiting an exceptional capacity to manage collaborative innovation in updating their local urbanism traditions and developing new ones. While organizing user communities to develop the ‘next practices’ for their cities, the process also provides local corporate and business managers, civic leaders, and social sector professionals with a practical immersion in urban planning, design, and management.

The process is organized in the following stages, drawing inputs from technical experts at each stage, as required. The process also utilizes a variety of methods and exercises developed by The Next Practice to support each stage.

Stage 1. Strategic Intent. Defining, consolidating, and organizing user communities. Making the “strategies” of different user communities explicit. Establishing a framework to “contract” the innovation process as an aligned user community.

Stage 2. Analytics and Value Proposition. Making the practices and ambitions that underlie different development agent and user community strategies explicit. Documenting existing urbanisms and their challenges in serving these strategies. Defining the market, asset, and policy “opportunity space” for new solutions development.

Stage 3. New Solutions, Product and Service Conception. Defining the design criteria for new solutions and managing an iterative solutions conception process. Managing “user acceptance” testing of new concepts. Specification of accepted solutions. Identifying gaps in the “solution set.”

Stage 4. New Business/Service Model Development. Facilitating (or managing) innovation processes to adapt business models, business processes, and financial models of developers, utilities etc. so that they can support market-viable delivery of the new product/service solutions. This stage might also involve recruitment and support for new development agent-entrepreneurs to become market-based specialists in delivering the solution-set.

Stage 5. Piloting/User Acceptance. Facilitating and assisting the piloting of the solution-set. Defining user acceptance research methods and metrics. Evaluating pilot(s) and adjusting the solutions and models.

Stage 6. Establishing Social, Institutional, and Market “Ecology” for a New Urbanism. Facilitating agreement to a “roll out” of the solution-set(s) that obligates user communities, development agents, participating private sector partners, and institutions (e.g., local government) to support application the new urbanism in a coordinated way. Developing dashboards to regularly monitor progress and gaps.

To arrange a preliminary consultation and/or presentation about urban strategy with Jeb Brugmann, click here to email him.

© Jeb Brugmann, 2009. All rights reserved. May be reproduced and circulated with authorship and copyright attribution. Source: www. jebbrugmann.com