Don't Reinvent The Wheel, Steal It: An Urban Planning Award for Cities That Copy

The world's 567,000 mayors should be poaching each other's good ideas, not reinventing the wheel.

Cities around the world may all be struggling with the same problems, from building affordable housing to boosting internet access, but a lack of dialogue means that local governments rarely copy each other’s successful ideas. The world’s “567,000 mayors are reinventing the wheel, every single one of them with everything” they do, says Sascha Haselmayer, general director of Living Labs Global, a Copenhagen-based non-profit that encourages collaboration among the world’s cities.

Part of the problem is political pressure to contract with local businesses only, which makes it hard for city governments to look to outsiders for advice and solutions. “The logic behind that is it helps local companies grow,” says Haselmayer, but it can cost up to fifty times as much to recreate a product or service instead of importing it from elsewhere.

In an attempt to spread successful ideas and connect city goverments with each other and with a global market of solutions providers, LLG is hosting its third annual global summit, where cities put out an open call for solutions to an important problem. Twenty-one cities from Lagos to Rome to Guadalajara have signed on this year. In Lavasa, India, planners are wondering how to wean people off cars. Mexico City needs to figure out how to track all its buses. LLG invites individuals, non-profits, and businesses to take a crack at these challenges by submitting a proposal. The cities will narrow down submissions to a short list of favorites by springtime. In May, winners and city representatives will congregate in Rio de Janeiro for a networking summit to learn about the best solutions.

Haselmayer emphasizes that "this is not the ideas competition" for people to revision cities with multi-year redevelopment plans. "It’s an award for technology that can save our city tomorrow. It’s about innovation but its about being able to use it right away."

Have a great idea? Submissions stay open until February 17. Click here to apply.

Image via (cc) Flickr user CarlosVanVegas

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