At the recent Latin America-Caribbean Conference at the Foreign Federal Office in Berlin, we facilitated an interactive session titled “Global Changemakers: Cities as Future Labs” for the Global Diplomacy Lab. As founders of BuzzingCities Lab we explored how cities function as future labs for innovative forms of diplomacy and sustainable strategies. Discussions also centred on pain points and success factors of collaborative initiatives between emerging actors, the state and government institutions.
When a shooting takes place in Rio de Janeiro’s favelas, an app helps residents understand what’s going on – eyewitnesses can warn others where it is dangerous right now. ‘Fogo Cruzado‘ (crossfire) is a digital platform and an app that uses crowdsourcing to document shooting incidents and map violence. Cities like Rio de Janeiro that are struggling with challenges such as gun violence often develop creative solutions and technologies that can be transferred to other cities and countries.
#1 Informal stakeholders play a major role in urban change
Involvement of local, often informal actors in Latin American cities is essential to achieve sustainable transformation and master challenges. Grassroots initiatives such as waste-picker associations, street vendors and local civil rights activists are vital actors of change. Often, local initiatives have already developed solutions, but lack the opportunity to professionalise and reach out to a larger audience. They may also have no access to urban planning and political decision-makers or lack resources. Successful concepts for urban change have to take into account groups such as criminal organisations, i.e. gangs, militias or self-defence groups.
#2 Technology can provide life hacks and push for accountability