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What is the most important step in making a city more inclusive?

What is the most important step in making a city more inclusive?

Miguel Gamiño Jr.

Executive Vice President and Head of Global Cities at Mastercard

I think the right question is what do people need to succeed, across all corners of the city – and next, how do we implement innovations equitably for the advancement of more inclusive communities? We need to reimagine what growth means for everyone in today's digital economy. That means understanding the needs of the most vulnerable and customizing solutions that work for them. I believe more technology companies should be building with inclusion and access in mind from the start – and the tech industry must find ways to incentivize this. By making inclusion and accessibility a competitive differentiator, we can change the future of urban innovation.

As we begin to digitize government services, it is in the business interest of the private sector and our social responsibility to ensure that people and organizations have access to the networks, tools and solutions that can help them reach their potential and achieve financial security. The key will be rolling out these new innovations in a way that's inclusive of those who aren't typically part of the digital ecosystem.

Cities will transform, adapt, and innovate toward a healthier and more resilient future but we need to collaborate to make sure all advancements are serving everyone, everywhere. That's why partnership networks like City Possible have gained so much momentum. We are able to bring together leaders from different walks of life, all over the world, who share the common goal of building more livable cities that serve everyone. Progress will require the entire community to be a part of the solution building process.

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Sanna-Mari Jäntti

Director of Strategic Initiatives at the City of Helsinki Mayor's Office

The first step in building a more inclusive city is recognizing that it takes a village to move mountains. Collaboration is a fundamental ingredient to innovation success. We can't innovate in silos and we need a way to bring different groups from across the city's ecosystem together to make progress. We must also make sure that everyone – not just the most active members of the society – have a way to join in. In Helsinki, we are fortunate to have an active community that wants to take part in the development of their city and that's partly why we introduced a new participation and interaction model a few years ago to encourage community engagement across city development activities.

Helsinki is focused on building innovative solutions with a people-centric design. A big part of getting to this goal is building strategic partnerships, like our partnership with City Possible. Through City Possible, we are able to connect with city, academic, and private sector leaders from around the world to learn from their successes and challenges. We all want to build a secure foundation for a better future. As we look to make cities more functional, creative and resilient, we also want to develop approaches to keep inclusion at the heart of our urban policy and planning, to ensure that we provide systemic changes that enable more inclusive cities. A fundamental building block in trust. If we build on this extended trust to build new models of collaboration then there's a real chance the result could be a more inclusive economy over the long term, where everyone has an opportunity to thrive.

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John Paul Farmer

Chief Technology Officer of the City of New York

People are at the heart of every city. The first step towards building a more inclusive city is involving communities in the process of developing new tools that ultimately make the city more livable for more people. We need to infuse inclusion into how we develop technology and which challenges we focus on solving, ensuring that everyone has equal opportunity, that technological solutions are accessible, and that people's digital rights are protected. In a society that increasingly relies on technology, we need to keep an eye on the broader social and economic impacts – and make sure we're building it in ways that shrink gaps, rather than expand them.

The pandemic has cast a spotlight on New York City's longstanding digital divide, which is a significant barrier to opportunity, creates risks related to public health, and poses a threat to long-term economic growth. We are taking unprecedented steps to bring together critical partners to invest in and partner to deliver low-cost broadband for communities in need. Universal broadband is not only the right thing, it is the smart thing – connecting people to education, opportunity, healthcare, and public services, and setting New York City on a path to come back stronger than ever. We can make this goal a reality by forging unique partnerships with the private sector, academia, and local community organizations. This is an all-hands-on-deck moment. Together, we can ensure that everyone has the opportunity to thrive.

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Wole Coaxum

Co-Founder & CEO at Mobility Capital Finance

This is a fascinating moment in time. James Baldwin said, "it's expensive to be poor," and we've seen how the pandemic has highlighted how lack of access to tools and technology can create barriers for individuals. The first step in building a more inclusive community is developing services that can allow people to access the digital economy.

We are working with city leaders in the City Possible network to expand the functionalities of Mastercard City Key, a tool that combines identification and payment functionalities. It's an innovative way of turning financial services into infrastructure for cities. City Key makes financial services a part of the "plumbing" that drives efficiency, drives safety, drives security, and drives inclusion. We have an exciting opportunity here to reimagine a world that has significant participation. These types of tools can drive engagement with its residents as well as small businesses.

If you can bring people into the financial fold, you can open doors for them to build their credit to evaluate who they are and not where they live. It also brings down the cost to borrow and increases the opportunity to own a home or start a business. These innovations also contribute to closing the wealth gap. Public-private partnership frameworks, like City Possible, enable people to join the formal economy, and it allows people to think about the future and not just the moment. Together, we are working to create an engine that will pave the way to the middle class for those who have been sitting on the outside looking in.

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Petrhyce Donovan

Manager of Innovation & Smart Cities at City of Canterbury Bankstown, Australia

Empathy and understanding are simple, effective, and in my experience – the most impactful ways we can drive more inclusive cities. As City Officials, we understand community challenges on paper. How often though, do we ever really climb down from our pedestals of privilege and try to experience, firsthand the experiences and emotions of our vulnerable communities so that we can deeply understand and best design our systems and solutions to drive inclusivity?

Before I start any major project, I always commence with an empathy discovery session. When recently trying to design a solution to breakdown language barriers, we ran an empathy workshop where people had to receive simple instructions from someone using a language they couldn't understand. The frustration in the room was palpable as hand gestures became more animated and voices got louder. The outcome of such a simple exercise was that our people working to design a solution have never forgotten that feeling of frustration, and they're now able to empathise and deeply understand the people we're working to design a solution for. We're not designing our City systems to simply translate and tick a box, rather to close the gap and make our constituents feel like they truly have a place and are understood in their community. Oversimplified? Perhaps! Inclusivity is complex enough, we need to do everything we can to demystify it. As humans, we're inherently bad at understanding abstract concepts. We are however, fundamentally strong in empathising with those we interact with. Interaction being the core component, drives empathy and understanding in our city designs. Empathy and understanding propels public servants forward, keeping the heart of our people at the core of the solutions we design and deliver.

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