Many initiatives, both nationally and globally, focus upon the well-being of urban citizens and urban environments. Health Communities and Compassionate Communities are two such examples. While each of these ‘movements’ offers significant insight into the varied aspects that affect the well-being of society in general and cities in particular, there is a parallel concept that captures the collective notions of those initiatives and brings a broader range of factors into the discussion of cities: that emerging global conversation is called Successful Cities.
The topic of Successful Cities provides a useful lens to envision the future of cities. The planning and creation of a Successful City requires unwavering leadership, vision, persistence, determination and flexibility. A vibrant, Successful City embraces and implements innovative concepts to ensure its future prosperity by introducing forward-thinking policies and action that include integrated cultural, economic, environmental (built & natural) and social initiatives.
Historically, the concept of Successful Cities has been examined as principally an economic consideration. In the words of Jane Jacobs, Cities and the Wealth of Nations, (1984) cities are “the economic engines of nations”. Will Hutton, Chief Executive of The Work Foundation found that “Globalization and the knowledge economy are the defining and inter-twining narratives of the last two decades of transformation in the world economy. The analysis suggests that both the knowledge economy and globalization happen in places, albeit unevenly, and that cities and regions often provide the nodal points where these processes interact. This means that globalization and the knowledge economy offer huge opportunities for cities. Successful Cities will be those that recognize these opportunities and rise to the challenges of the shifting economy, building on their strengths and adapting to the changes”. The Conference Board of Canada (2007) noted, “Canada’s prosperity depends on the success of our cities”. But, more recent evidence points to an increased emphasis upon a range of factors that affect the success of a city. That range of factors has been influenced by trans disciplinary considerations. As a result, notions of a Successful City are more likely to examine the cultural, environmental, governance and social states of a city as much as its economic health. It is that breadth of factors that have led to a broader concept of Successful Cities.
Peter Hall (1998) noted, “The death of distance allows any place to compete with any other place for work”. Charles Landry and Richard Florida linked the idea of cities that were creative (i.e., knowledge-based economies) displayed a high quality of life. Florida in Who’s Your City explored the importance of aesthetics, values and leadership as essential differentiators between cities. In short, those cities that displayed concerns for aesthetics (i.e., community design), promoted progressive values (support for their fellow citizens) and supportive leadership (able and willing to make important community-based decisions) were inevitably seen to be more attractive for the new economy that is based upon knowledge and the creative class. The concept of Successful Cities builds on those and other authors and commentators.