Could a collaborative approach to urban living put Norwich on the global map?

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Norwich’s 900-year-old castle overlooks the city. Photo: Visit Norwich

You’ve probably never heard of Norwich. Located on the United Kingdom’s picturesque east coast, this small urban center held the title of England’s second city until the Industrial Revolution. Today, however, it’s home to just 200,000 people, and almost nobody outside Britain can point to it on a map. But that may not be the case for long.

According to the 2017 State of the Nation report, Norwich ranks among the country’s worst areas for social mobility. Meanwhile, reeling from Brexit uncertainty, the UK’s economy recently posted its worst quarterly GDP figures in five years. In the face of economic stagnation and poor local conditions, a group in Norwich has decided to take action in pursuit of a future based on hope, solutions, and global connections. …


Kigali’s knowledge-based sharing economy is an example for other cities looking towards the future

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Kigali is fast becoming a go-to tech destination for Africa. Photo: Dylan Walters via Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

In 1994, the African nation of Rwanda suffered one of the worst genocides in human history. Over the course of 100 days, its government slaughtered one-tenth of the country’s population and displaced more than 2 million people, turning them into refugees with little hope for the future. But even before the genocide, Rwanda was a country in crisis; the ongoing civil war had destroyed its already fragile economy, severely impoverished its citizens, and made it impossible to attract external investment.

Fast-forward to 2017, and this nation of 12 million people is undergoing a complete transformation. The key to this radical and fast-paced turnaround has been a form of sharing that many overlook when they examine the collaborative economy: knowledge sharing. Through an emphasis on developing long-term plans and investing in IT infrastructure and forward-looking skills, Kigali is thriving like never before — quickly becoming a leader in the knowledge-based sharing economy. …


Pioneering transport solutions and innovative urban architecture are improving air quality and creating a buzz in Beijing

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Daan Roosegaarde, standing next to his smog-free tower, holds smog particles taken from Beijing’s air. Photo: Studio Roosegaarde

Daan Roosegaarde was standing on the 32nd floor of a Beijing skyscraper when he decided that his next mission would be to solve China’s smog problem. As the Dutch artist looked out across the dark sky, he realized he could barely see anything. He couldn’t even see the other side of the street.

“The issue became really physical for me that day. Our desire for progress has created a terrible side effect,” Roosegaarde says. “I thought about the eight-year-old children who would get lung cancer, how my own life span could be three years shorter living in this city.”

Roosegaarde had been living and working in China for a decade. But as it turns out, that afternoon would change the trajectory of his work forever. Over the next three years, Roosegaarde would design a mini-skyscraper of his own: one that works to improve the quality of Beijing’s air by sucking in smog and pushing out clean air. …


From dads with DIY projects to fashionistas seeking the latest trends, Amsterdam’s tenacious citizens are ripping up the rulebooks and bringing trade into the 21st century. How did a city enable its citizens to think differently and connect in new ways?

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The Amsterdam skyline. Photo: Stijn te Strake

In the hip Amsterdam district of Jordaan, a woman walks into an award-winning fashion boutique. She pulls her fingertips through racks of emerging designers and vintage classics. When she’s picked out the perfect dress, she takes it to the counter and greets the clerk with a smile. No cash exchanges hands. Next week, the shop will take the outfit back, no questions asked, so she can exchange it for something else.

Over the next few weeks, that same customer can exchange her latest selections as many times as she wants for the set monthly price she pays. This is Lena — one of the world’s first “fashion libraries,” where clothes are borrowed in real life via subscription. …


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Image courtesy of Positive News

The traditional methods for funding journalism are failing — at least in terms of sustaining a robust, transparent, accountable and reliable media.

Earlier this month, The Independent declared its intention to go digital-only in response to the lagging sales of its flagship daily and weekend print titles. Just two weeks before, The Guardian announced its plans to cut running costs by 20%, to the tune of £50 million, over the next three years.

It might seem like there’s not much life left in 21st-century journalism, at least to the casual observer. But a look at what’s happening on the grassroots level tells a different story. Innovative and disruptive funding models are emerging, and they show that meaningful reporting can still attract a loyal and supportive audience. …

About

Lauren Razavi

I write and talk about the future of work, the sharing economy, global dev, cities, sustainability and tech. Editor @Contently. Formerly @Google and @Guardian.

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