Anticipating the Rotterdam UrbanA Arena

Sustainable Just Cities
Blog on Sustainable Just Cities
2 min readNov 25, 2019

By UrbanA fellow, Shumaisa Khan

Shumaisa Khan: “My hope is that we can collectively accelerate change in our corners of the world”

I’m really looking forward to meeting the UrbanA team and participants in Rotterdam!

What drew me to UrbanA is its emphasis on just transitions to city futures that can sustain life — human and other — for generations to come. Redressing inequalities in housing, clean water, soil, and air and transitioning in ways shaped by the most disadvantaged communities is really critical for regenerative urban transformation.

The community garden movement took off in New York City, where I’m originally from, in the 1970s amidst an economic crisis that left much urban neglect and abandoned land and properties. Unfortunately, in the more recent urban agriculture boom, community gardens can end up exacerbating inequality, by pushing up property values and accelerating gentrification.

My own view is that transformation of power dynamics between the state, markets, and civil society is required to achieve deep change toward decarbonization and more racially- and gender-equal societies. Some developments in this vein seen around the world include participatory municipal budgeting, state-run banks, and cooperatives of all kinds.

I’m particularly inspired by approaches such as that of US-based Cooperative Jackson, a rare example of a city addressing economic and political marginalization via cooperative development, community land trusts, community food production, affordable housing/ecovillage development, and people’s assemblies.

I’m keen to explore how cities in Europe are tackling environmental challenges in ways that address interconnected economic and political elements that create the lived reality for vulnerable communities.

The other thing about UrbanA that I like is the spread over a longer period of time, rather than a single event. It will be great to cultivate relationships with others endeavouring in this domain across different countries and to see how our interactions help evolve work in our respective localities.

My hope is that we can collectively accelerate change in our corners of the world through sharing best practices and resources, stimulating fresh ideas, and cheering each other on.

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