Future Cities Dialogue

Citizens want technology to make life in our future cities easier, but also prioritise equality of access and social interaction. Through an extended public dialogue Ipsos MORI and experts explored citizen preferences and priorities for Innovate UK.

The author(s)

  • Tim Silman Ipsos Public Affairs, UK
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The Future Cities Dialogue engaged urban citizens in possible future urban scenarios. Citizen feedback on their preferences and priorities for future urban living is feeding into Innovate UK’s broader work on future urban systems integration and understanding and identifying the market opportunities this generates.

Ipsos MORI carried out three face to face day-long public dialogue workshops which focused on possible future outcomes of six urban systems (energy, food, health, transport, waste and water) to understand citizen preferences.  All participants were then invited to a central reconvened summit where we brought together all six systems into integrated future scenarios.  Experts in futures, urban integration or the specific systems actively participated in these events.  Before and after the summit, we ran an online community including all workshop participants, and 350 members of the public.  The community activities covered system outcomes, integrated scenarios, technologies, and their future hopes for the UK’s cities.

The dialogue elicited 10 key principles which underpinned participants’ preferences for the future cities they wanted to see and the integration they believed the UK should aim for.  These principles will help Innovate UK understand public priorities and the kinds of technologies and futures that would be publicly acceptable.  The first two principles were the most prevalent.

  • Equality – services should cater for all, with no citizens or communities left behind due to lack of access to technology or resources
  • Although technology can make our lives easier, it should not lead to us losing skills or make us ‘dumb’ by removing choice
  • Participants were keen on greater local involvement in running systems and services, encouraging buy in and resource efficiency, but government oversight is still preferred for some systems e.g. health
  • Innovation is popular when it sparks grass roots innovation, bringing communities together and encouraging sharing of resources
  • Technology moves things online, improving efficiency, but this should not be entirely at the expense of face to face interaction which was deemed deeper and more sociable, as well as sometimes more effective e.g. healthcare for the vulnerable
  • Technology should not be obtrusive but allow freedom to ignore ‘nudges’ from smart devices.  People fear domination of invasive technology such as drones
  • Systems integration will inevitably result in increased sharing of data with benefits e.g. more targeted services.  This data must be stored and transferred securely and using reliable technology
  • Integration should protect the environment and use resources efficiently, making greater use of renewable energy sources and reusing waste e.g. for energy generation
  • Innovation should support socialising, art and culture, not just productivity and efficient service delivery
  • The naturalness of food should be retained, along with its social and cultural aspects.



Technical note

  • The face to face dialogue workshops were held in London on 16 January 2016 (23 participants), Glasgow on 23 January (26 participants) and York on 23 January (24 participants). All 73 participants were invited to the reconvened summit in London on 23 February 2016.  61 attended - 22 from Glasgow, 20 from London and 19 from York.  All these lasted 6 hours.
  • The workshops were also attended by experts in either futures, urban integration or the specific systems discussed, who engaged in dialogue with the participants
  • The online community ran from 19 February – 20 March 2016.  All face to face dialogue participants were invited to take part, joining 350 members of the general public recruited from Ipsos MORI’s Online Access Panel and providing a mix of age and gender, as well as urban and suburban residents.

The author(s)

  • Tim Silman Ipsos Public Affairs, UK

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