Cities around the world are looking for smart solutions to urban problems and are embracing technology to help them do so.
At the same time, the gap between rich and poor in urban centres is growing – driving low income residents farther away from city centres.
An upcoming conference held at the University of Toronto’s downtown campus is exploring how to address these two urban trends – bringing policy-makers, academics, and industry and community leaders together for a conversation about how to ensure the future of cities is both innovative and inclusive.
Toronto: Towards a Smart and Inclusive City-Region, which takes place on May 15, is hosted by the School of Cities, the office of the vice-president, research and innovation, and Shauna Brail, the presidential adviser on urban engagement and director of urban studies in the Faculty of Arts & Science.
“We are looking to really think about how to invest in city building and also the tremendous challenges that are faced and how we bring these together into one conversation,” says Brail.
The conference is now sold out but the event will be live-streamed on YouTube.
This will be the first event co-hosted by the newly created School of Cities, a multidisciplinary urban research initiative that seeks to address urban issues by utilizing the university’s expertise and partnering with external industry, government and community groups.
Much like the School of Cities’ mandate, the conference seeks to bring decision-makers from a number of urban sectors together to exchange ideas.
“We as a university work within the city both for the betterment of ourselves but also of the city-region,” says Brail. “Partnerships matter an enormous amount – we can’t just work within our small silos or groupings or sectors and expect that we will really make an impact.”
The conference will include a keynote from Richard Florida, University Professor and director of cities at the Martin Prosperity Institute at U of T’s Rotman School of Management, a conversation between Daniel Doctoroff, CEO of Sidewalk Labs, and Janice Stein, a professor of political science and the founding director of the Munk School of Global Affairs, and a presentation by Kim Walesh, director of economic development for the City of San Jose, Calif.
There will also be panels with experts representing different urban sectors talking about the role of collaboration and how to balance growing the tech sector with supporting community initiatives.
A lot of urban-focused conferences address either smart cities or inclusion, says Florida – but this conference is unique in its aim to address both issues.
“One of the things this conference is trying to say is it’s not one or the other,” he says. “You need a smart, technologically enabled city of startups and high-tech companies that are interested in creating wealth and you need a city that is also inclusive. We’ve got to make cities work better.”