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Urban Innovation Accelerator – we cracked it!


An innovative step for cultural planning and creative place-making strategy.

At City People we understand the importance of developing inspiring vision, strategy and policy.  Indeed we’ve been doing it for years.

However sometimes cultural planning or place-making strategies can become the end point, rather than the beginning of a process of change in our cities and towns.  And what happens is that the big picture documents can languish on a shelf – and real action stalls.

The reasons for organisations not delivering strategy recommendations can be many and various:  redirection of corporate goals, budget problems, staff changes.

However, we have often observed that vision documents rest on the shelf simply because there are not enough breadcrumbs between the big vision and the project implementation phases.  So organisations and their teams can’t actually follow through on their best intentions.  Or because the suggested direction is not specific enough for the place where it is planned.  Or because the staff capacity to interpret and deliver the outcomes just isn’t there.

City People has just delivered an Urban Innovation Accelerator for the City of Wollongong and the process really demonstrated its power to transform vision documents into real projects.  In 2016 the City of Wollongong commissioned world-renowned Danish firm Gehl Architects to produce a document about how to make Wollongong more liveable.  It’s a great report (you can read it here) and it sets some aspirational goals for Wollongong to become a city that is connected, vibrant and lively.

What Wollongong needed next were some specific city activation projects that would keep the vision of the Gehl report alive and drive these goals of ‘connected and vibrant’ city ahead – projects that were specific to the needs of the people of Wollongong.

I’m delighted to say that our Urban Innovation Accelerator managed to crack it.  We facilitated this great 12-day process with a team of artists, urban geographers, architects, designers, musicians and community activists – all working with the City of Wollongong’s urban planners, historians, green city team, as well as with local Aboriginal people, businesses, skaters, parents and more.

Over 15 specific cultural activation projects were scoped, tested and planned.  And now they are at the stage where the City Activation Team can choose which of the projects they want to implement.

It was terrific to work with the City of Wollongong.  The team took an innovative approach to solving their urban problems by hosting the Accelerator and we’re really excited to see how the projects roll out.

Check out the video here.

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