McKinsey & Co began a programme of research in 2011 entitled the Cities Special Initiative. One result of which is a report How To Make a City Great. The short video below offers the company heads a chance to explain their thinking on the project and developing cities around the globe in general.
McKinsey, despite their reputation for defense of naked capitalism and overwhelming shareholder benefit, have a strong record in fostering participatory public sector projects. This report nicely captures some of the philosophy around community and public sector engagement, as well as clearly recognising that pure economic growth in the city or city region does not always automatically deliver social justice or environmentally friendly development. It is refreshing to hear it.
We have recently published an article arguing that the social business sector, or the general economy, may be entering a new social business modality…a revolution in approach, if you will. Read more about community economics here.
It is doubly refreshing to see scions of corporate advance taking a collaborative, community engagement and environmentally concerned tack in this report. The report offers a number of key concepts that cities around the globe embrace, in order to become more economically and socially successful than their peers.
- Achieve smart growth
- Do more with less
- Win support for change
Achieving smart growth is based on four key principles, adopting a strategic approach to development, planning for change with the environment a key part of that change, and delivering work that insists on opportunity for all.
Cities do more with less when they manage project expenses with real vigour and rigour. When partnerships are fully explored with realistic outcomes and humanity in their engagements. They make accountability for the project investment paramount and finally, embrace new technology in data, communication, marketing and collaboration.
Cities, the report argues, do best in winning support for change when they build projects and sub-projects around a personal vision, affording charismatic ambassadors for the work to lead from the front. Building teams that are committed and skilled in their areas of expertise, whilst still making all accountable are key drivers to success. And finally, although we have heard this many times in the past in a variety of settings – strive to forge stakeholder consensus, listening, reflecting and empathetically working together to achieve city wide advance.
The report offers some great examples of how fresh thinking can triumph. The city of Toledo, whilst only ranking 182nd in a Forbes list of Best Places for Business in the US, still managed to attract $6 million of Chinese industrial manufacturing investment recently, by sending their committed and persistent city mayor to China three times.
Conversely, the Chinese city of Chengdu, regardless of the rigidity and conservatism of regional government in the country, has a dynamic mayor who has changed the department of Migrant Control, a large issue for Chinese cities, into a department of Migrant Integration – with a clear mandate to increase uptake of education, health resources and community resources – adding to the expanding city’s human capital and enterprise creation.
These issues of quality of life for residents and for economic growth really matter. Urbanisation is not diminishing, it is increasing. By 2030, 5 billion people, 60% of the world’s population will live in cities. 1 billion live in slums, so that not only is affordable housing a key priority, but economic growth – ethical, environmentally careful and socially inclusive – are also compound elements of a great city.
We think the ‘talking heads’ at McKinsey are, in the short film above, describing a city based on the principles of social business. They are just not saying so. The global examples offered in the report text are wholly contingent with the idea of enterprise creation, albeit with social equity and quality of life as an admixture of success.
Also interestingly, if we take the key thematic lines of the report about doing more with less, accountability and good, practical team work across development agendas, we think there is a template for rural communities emerging, who could use these key philosophies to enhance non-urban employment, communications and technological access too.
Which community would not want that, urban or ex-urban?
The SEEM Team – thinking about good ideas