Urban policy is dominated by thinking about the physical city: landmark architecture, transport, housing, urban development, and increasingly technological infrastructure. The social life of cities, the ordinary, small-scale and mundane aspects of urban life, are often overlooked as a source of insight and inspiration for city planners and decision-makers.
This collection of essays is part of the Social Life of Cities, a global program of practical, local innovation exploring the relationship between digital technology and urban development in creating socially sustainable, thriving, and resilient communities. The program is a collaboration between Social Life, Cisco in the UK, US and Australia, the Young Foundation, the University of Chicago's Office of Civic Engagement, McCaffery Interests in Chicago, and the City of Malmö in Sweden.
These articles offer dramatically different perspectives on urban life and urban development from mainstream urban debates. They demonstrate how any attempt to think about cities as anything other than fluid, ever-changing, and shaped by their own specific social and historical forces will surely fail. The essays cover a wide range of problems but also opportunities: from educating street children in India to supporting Kenyan social entrepreneurs. The authors come from a wide range of backgrounds: some are at the frontline running projects, some work in NGOs and public agencies, others are researchers investigating urban change. What brings these essays together is a shared focus on creative responses to tackling social needs that are about understanding the challenges of real places and real lives.
The essay collection was first published online with Urban Times.