Chair’s Blog #4: Insight and Foresight

It’s just over a week to the Mid-Year Review and we’ve been collecting updates on the activities we’ve been engaged in so far this year. It’s quite a list: two visits to Marseille – our European City of the Year, a fantastic Congress in Bristol, the launch of Young Urbanists Scotland, our sixth Place Partnering Diagnostic Visit – to Cliftonville, the Young Urbanists’ Food in Cities series, a debate on both city centre development and tall buildings, the 4×4 series in Manchester, and more. These give us a lot of learning moments to capture and turn into future events and activities. We’ll also be getting reports back from our Regions and Nations Groups as well on local activities and lessons learned.

Please join us at Cowcross Street on 23 July at 3.30pm to ensure we have as many perspectives as possible at the Review and to get yourselves involved in the action.

We won’t just be looking back either. We have the programme of Awards assessment visits to populate. There are 15 in total, and the three European Tours – of Rotterdam, Aarhus and Turin – are already well subscribed. Past participants in the visits will know that these are really valuable learning opportunities as well as a means of ramping up interest in the awards among the finalist places. If you haven’t joined a group before please try and do so this year.

Our Graduate Development Programme is completing its trial period and is about to become a significantly bigger initiative with strong support from Barratt London for whom the service is provided at present, and the Academician mentors and co-ordinators. Your views on this and other initiatives are important and will help us shape and direct our programme better in the future.

If you need a third reason to attend next week, the event will culminate with a discussion, led by Sir Terry Farrell AoU, of the way in which the Academy may best support the recommendations of his Review. The Academy is well established as an active participant in the Review, not least through Academician Robert Powell who is on the Review Panel. I’d like to establish a consensus among Academicians on how the Academy’s distinctive perspective might be best defined, used and promoted in this context.

If we can interrupt the flow of discussion long enough, we will reconvene on Alan Baxter’s roof terrace, at his invitation, to continue the debate and consider the changing skyline of central London.

Our space is limited, but we can find room for many and this is a great opportunity to catch up with each other and re-charge our collective batteries. We aim to ensure that everyone is kept as up to date as possible with what’s happened and what’s coming up, while allowing plenty of time to debate the urbanism issues and opportunities arising.

The Academy has grown in scale and stature over the past three years, in the face of cruel constraints on urban investment. I think that is in large part a result of our broadening perspective on what urbanism is, and our growing understanding of how good urbanism is achieved. We have increasing evidence from our great place awards and our learning visits that good urbanism is a prerequisite for economic success rather than dependant on it. Getting this understood and recognised by communities, and their leaders, will be the precursor to capturing greater government commitment to better places.

Steven Bee

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