Developing civic identities for our neighbourhoods

2 min readMay 29, 2022

What if instead of marketing our cities as the best places to do businesses or top destinations for city breaks, we developed identities for our cities as places where people care for each other and which build wellbeing?

This may seem like motherhood and applied pie, but remember the speeches of Ken Livingstone after the 2005 terrorist attacks in London, the Sharing City vision of the Mayor of Seoul or that of the Mayor of Curitiba.

Imagine that when tourists come back after the pandemic to visit cities, they spend money on experiences and products which are supporting inclusive business practices, like paying people a living wage. They travel in environmentally friendly transport and their expenditure is reinvested into the local community, through social housing or public transport.

About a decade ago, I took part in the inaugural Social Innovation Camp, which gave birth to Good Gym, My Police or Enabled by Design. The “innovation” I helped develop with others “Useful Vistors” was based on the premise of imagining you were visiting another city on a business or leisure trip and had some spare time. Instead of spending that extra hour on the beach, you could help our local community.

How could you design inclusive tourism, like Barcelona is doing?

How could you connect tourism in the local communities beyond the main tourist destinations, as the Community Lovers Guide has done?

How can communities benefit from their areas becoming more touristic, rather than a binary choice between helping every house owner become an Airbnb host to top up their income and banning short term lets? Rather than getting EU subsidies to build airports to bring in sub-burnt tourists or protesting that “we don’t like tourists”?

How about greater neighbourhood “placemaking”?

  • Spaces where people can use their “making” skills to turn them into neighbourhood spaces
  • Media, where people are investing in to use, develop their storytelling skills to report on local issues
  • Advertising where people can support local products
  • Production where you can combine artisanal products and digital practices to the circular economy

How can we attract people to come and invest and work in our boroughs, not just because of good transport connections but as hubs for more inclusive business, as Cleveland, Bologna or Ghent have done?




Head of Policy Design, Scrutiny & Partnerships @newhamlondon #localgov Co-founder of #systemschange & #servicedesign progs. inspired by @cescaalbanese