How stakeholders imagine the future of their Metropolitan Cities

The creation of the Metropolitan Cities could allow to emerge in the country poles of “critical mass” capable of being recognized on an international level (an essential aspect for attractiveness) and to compete, in terms of size and resources, with their international counterparts

One of the key aspects of the Start City project was the in-depth process of meeting with and listening to Metropolitan City stakeholders. The structured interchange with metropolitan administrations — starting with the mayors — and other key players from industry, universities and research, and associations, has made it possible to outline an overall scenario of the challenges and opportunities for the local areas involved (the implementation status of Metropolitan Cities, unresolved strategic, operational-administrative and legal-legislative issues, and the “social consensus” regarding the new entity as perceived by public opinion).

A specific area of inquiry was the development potential of the local area as portended by the players involved which made it possible to open a “strategic window” on the future of Italian Metropolitan Cities by highlighting the driving sectors of the economy, and the areas for investment and new growth. During this listening phase the projects that have been launched or are in the process of being launched also emerged, as well as a number of best practices in terms of organizational and function-related solutions prepared by the Metropolitan Cities.

The meetings held with the Metropolitan Cities and their leadership during the course of the Start City project (over 140 stakeholders were interviewed) brought to light the outlines of the strategic thinking and visions for the future of the local areas involved:

  • The Metropolitan City Mission in terms of the development model and positioning within a national and/or international context.
  • The strategic visions for development and the unique competencies these require.

Provided below is an overview of the aspects of the Missions and Visions the stakeholders expect for the future of their Metropolitan Cities.

Figure 1 — Mission and Vision of the Metropolitan Cities as expected by local stakeholders. N.B.: for the Metropolitan Cities of Rome and Venice, only the Mission is provided, given the set of information available.
 Source: The European House — Ambrosetti data elaboration, 2015

Today, to guarantee on-going evolution, local areas and their governance systems must adopt strategic and planning capabilities that are highly incisive and can rapidly adapt the decision-making and operational processes to contexts undergoing continuous change, also optimizing governance and decision-making structure on all levels (including relationships between systems hierarchically above and below them).

Figure 2 — Multi-level breakdown of the competitiveness of local systems.
 Source: The European House — Ambrosetti data elaboration, 2015

The creation of the Metropolitan Cities could allow to emerge in the country poles of “critical mass” capable of being recognized on an international level (an essential aspect for attractiveness) and to compete, in terms of size and resources, with their international counterparts. In addition, it would allow for enhanced management of the unique competencies found in the local area (through better and more rational large-scale planning) and the promotion of institutional-administrative, social and cultural innovation processes that start from the needs of the individuals and businesses located in the area.

In designing Metropolitan Cities in Italy, it is important to differentiate the functions among the different local situations and create the conditions and tools to facilitate exchange among them. Within this context, the launching of collaborative frameworks and identification of areas of common interest around which to activate plans for joint development between Metropolitan Cities and with non-metropolitan areas are key.

Strategic planning — on a national level and in individual metropolitan (and non-metropolitan) areas — must necessarily include active involvement of those groups whose activity is fundamental for the strategic management of a local area (political, economic-business community, society at-large), each according to its own role and level of contribution.

These are the aspects which Metropolitan Cities must increasingly take into consideration, both now and in the future, to augment their attractiveness and competitiveness in the contest on a national and international scale between local systems.

While bearing in mind the differences and specific aspects of each area, the overall “snapshot” of how stakeholders imagine the future development models of their own Metropolitan Cities highlights a number of shared aspects:

  • major attention to innovation of existing economic-productive structures, with emphasis on looking to the new economic sectors and new ways of working that are emerging throughout the world and the hybridization of traditional production sectors with cutting-edge technologies and competencies;
  • specific emphasis on the creation of systems of infrastructuralization and service on a metropolitan scale that are capable of connecting local areas (both internally and externally) and their functions, creating the conditions to guarantee that individuals feel part of a new, large-scale area;
  • promotion of tourism as the economic and service sector with a high potential for development and capable of being integrated in a coherent way with other special features of the area to promote local excellences (avoiding overlap with neighboring areas) and to create a further impetus for jobs and growth;
  • precise orientation towards management of the major social and environmental challenges of our era (aging, social integration, multiculturalism, sustainability, etc.) which, in the metropolitan context, finds the perfect channel for producing concrete tools and solutions to be applied as best practices, including in other situations throughout the country;
  • specific attention to approaches to social innovation and to stimulate business to take on the employment emergency, selective emigration and cultural re-orientation required for life in the 21st century.

These elements are consistent with other strategic challenges Italy must face in order to grow and recover competitiveness. Taking them on and solving them on a Metropolitan City-level implies triggering an “avalanche effect” capable of driving the entire country and spreading these benefits throughout it, thus guaranteeing a substantial qualitative-quantitative leap in modernization and, at the same time, the creation of new generators of development and factors influencing economic attractiveness and competitiveness (new industries, new productive models, new infrastructures, new governance models, etc.).

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Originally published at www.ambrosetti.eu on September 21, 2016.

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