Cities around the world face a crush of converging pressures. They are being asked to improve mobility, affordable housing, equity, and access to opportunity – all while accommodating more residents, reducing greenhouse gas emissions and making their streets safer and healthier.
More infrastructure and funds alone are not enough to take on these challenges; cities need help making better decisions too. Getting the right knowledge, tools and expertise to the right person at the right time is critical. Most cities find they lack the necessary individual, organizational and institutional capacity to respond effectively. Many have little choice but to farm out planning, leading to a vision of the city that reflects that of external experts rather than citizens or leaders.
Recognizing this complex reality, WRI Ross Center is devoting more resources to capacity building for urban professionals. If we recognize that cities need more solutions and they need to be tailored to local contexts to be successful, then we need more capable city professionals and leaders. Our newest effort to fulfil this need is TheCityFix Learn, a web-based global knowledge and capacity building platform for city officials, practitioners and stakeholders.
A Tool for Every Job
Building capacity in cities is an enormous undertaking and no one can do it alone. TheCityFix Learn provides an approachable, organized, multilingual, mobile-friendly catalogue of learning products from WRI Ross Center and partners around the world.
The platform draws from our experience supporting the implementation of projects on the ground and creating customized training products for different audiences and needs. A learning guide on cycling infrastructure, for example, teaches six key design principles using a set of digital cards to break the concepts down into bite-size pieces. A webinar on the building blocks of transport-oriented development (TOD) is one in an eight-part series designed to introduce the concepts and strategies behind TOD corridor planning. An in-person training event helps city officials better understand and manage climate risks as part of existing planning processes. And our congestion charging and low-emission zone hub connects users to more information from WRI China and related research publications.
The variety of content types and organization of the site are designed to meet the contextual needs of various audiences (political leaders vs. technical staff), levels of government (national vs. local), city types (primary vs. secondary) and geographies. The platform is launching with English, Spanish and Turkish language content, but more multi-lingual content will be continually added over the next few months.
A Blended Approach
Online tools have immense potential to reach people. They’re affordable and widely accessible. Africa has among the highest growth rates in e-learning, for example, and the number of internet users in India is expected to hit 500 million this year, with nearly two thirds on mobile.
With TheCityFix Learn we hope to better serve these users through self-paced, online content that explains technical content. At the same time, online training can’t be the only solution. The platform also connects new audiences to in-person trainings and peer-to-peer gatherings, which are better suited to build some skills, like leadership and management. This “blended” approach is a comprehensive offer designed to meet users where they are.
National governments are understanding the growing need for capacity building too. In Brazil, the Meeting of Municipalities for Sustainable Development brings together thousands of public officials every two years to learn from their peers and attend complementary training sessions. Attendees comprise a network of 658 municipalities, covering 68 percent of the country’s population and 80 percent of its GDP. China’s Transit Metropolis Program has the potential to affect 490 million citizens through improved transit, increased traffic safety, and reduced congestion, commuting time and air pollution. Eventually, the plan is for it to reach all 600 of China’s cities. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation program aims to build the capacity of 45,000 urban officials from 500+ cities in five years. And the federal program for mass transport in Mexico has stablished a training program to support planning, design and implementation of mobility projects in cities throughout the country.
As we barrel towards two-thirds of the global population residing in cities by mid-century, the need to help cities not only through more resources but more human capacity to manage and direct those resources is clear. TheCityFix Learn is a small part of a greater effort to give cities the tools and skills they need to provide services for all and build environments that work for people and the planet. Ultimately, it is a community platform. It will only succeed if you interact, and will only become better if you provide feedback. We invite you to explore the new site and tell us what you think.
Ani Dasgupta is the Global Director of WRI Ross Center for Sustainable Cities, WRI’s program that galvanizes action to help cities grow more sustainably and improve quality of life in developing countries around the world.