Last Friday I spoke at the Metropolis World Congress in Porto Alegre, Brazil, where leaders from the private sector, public sector and NGOs are gathered together to discuss new models and strategies for architecting and running cities around the world. The delegates to this event include mayors from cities like Porto Alegre, Barcelona, Bogota, Rosario, and others that are taking their cities through major transformations and helping to define successful models for urban innovation and revitalization. Through all of these stories, one theme emerges: the concept of participatory democracy, or how citizens around the world are co-creating solutions with government, that will help solve the challenges facing us this century.
The economic and political events of the last few years and the continued challenging circumstances still facing us today have in many ways contributed to this new paradigm; necessity is the mother of invention. But the initial steps started a few years ago by a handful of cities have borne a larger movement, and one that promises to change the very way in which citizens interact with their communities and live their lives. Just as people started to produce their own content through social media channels, eschewing the passive consumption of information distributed from centralized powers, citizens pursuing active engagement in the public realm will foment a new public system, one in which citizens are the innovators and enablers of public sector services – and the public sector becomes the orchestrator of innovation. And we’re not far off from that concept becoming a reality.