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Photo by David Löcker
Photo by David Löcker

At the GDL Activity “Global Changemakers - Cities as Future Labs”

By Julia Jaroschewski and Sonja Peteranderl

When a shooting takes place in Rio de Janeiro’s favelas, an app helps residents understand what’s going on – eyewitnesses can warn others where it is dangerous right now. 'Fogo Cruzado' (crossfire) is a digital platform and an app that uses crowdsourcing to document shooting incidents and map violence. Cities like Rio de Janeiro that are struggling with challenges such as gun violence often develop creative solutions and technologies that can be transferred to other cities and countries.

At the recent Latin America-Caribbean Conference at the Foreign Federal Office in Berlin, an interactive session titled "Global Changemakers: Cities as Future Labs" was facilitated by GDL Members Julia Jaroschewski and Sonja Peteranderl. The founders of BuzzingCities Lab explored how cities function as future labs for innovative forms of diplomacy and sustainable strategies. Discussions also centred on pain points and success factors of collaborative initiatives between emerging actors, the state and government institutions.

Three takeaways:

#1 Informal stakeholders play a major role in urban change
Involvement of local, often informal actors in Latin American cities is essential to achieve sustainable transformation and master challenges. Grassroots initiatives such as waste-picker associations, street vendors and local civil rights activists are vital actors of change. Often, local initiatives have already developed solutions, but lack the opportunity to professionalise and reach out to a larger audience. They may also have no access to urban planning and political decision-makers or lack resources. Successful concepts for urban change have to take into account groups such as criminal organisations, i.e. gangs, militias or self-defence groups.

Photo by David Löcker
Photo by David Löcker
Photo by David Löcker

#2 Technology can provide life hacks and push for accountability
Local actors in Latin American megacities invent tools that pacify conflicts or improve everyday local life – for example, by using technology such as smartphones or data analysis to reveal grievances, facilitate political participation or contribute to new strategies of crowdsourced security. International best practice cases – e.g. virtual wallets, fact-checking initiatives, air quality notification systems via SMS, sharing economy startups or decentralized power grids – show how technology-based approaches can help communities save time and money, secure access to resources, facilitate services and payments, improve the dissemination of information, and enhance security and accountability.

At the interactive session, participants also presented creative prototypes of potential future projects, including:
•    a platform for change: an 'Erasmus' exchange programme for local officials who want to learn from other cities
•    a digital neighbourhood community for Latin American cities that could foster cohesion, as well as local and sharing economy activities
•    smart and sustainable plastic monitoring systems with smart bins that detect materials and improve the quota of recycled material
•    artistic interventions for alternative uses of spaces to strengthen community cohesion and citizenship

#3 One app won’t fix everything
Challenges in cities are often deeply intertwined. They are caused by a lack of access to resources such as mobility, security, education, work, clean water/environment, health care, information and civil rights. At the core are social inequalities and power asymmetries – this cannot be fixed by one app alone.

Especially when developing tech-based solutions, possible side effects such as digital and physical security and questions such as data protection must be taken into consideration – so that already vulnerable communities do not become even more vulnerable.

Nevertheless, technology can document grievances, point out potential solutions and interconnect different actors. This, in turn, can serve as a basis for meaningful urban strategies, political decisions and real change.

If you have any questions you can contact the authors via the following chanels:

General: Buzzingcitieslab(at)gmail.com or Twitter: @BuzzingCities
Julia Jaroschewski: @_Jaroschewski
Sonja Peteranderl: @glocalreporting

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Julia Jaroschewski

Julia Jaroschewski is a reporter and founder of Buzzing Cities Lab, a think tank focusing on digital technology and security in informal settlements such as the Favelas in Rio. She works for Die WELT, Spiegel Online, fluter and WIRED, covering mainly foreign politics, organised crime, the war on drugs and security policy. She studied in Portugal, has an MA in political sciences from Berlin and has worked for the UN in New York and the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung in Mozambique.

Julia has attended the Axel Springer Akademie and Columbia School of Journalism. As a fellow of the German Academic Scholarship Foundation and the Besser-Stiftung she reported from Brazil and South Africa, and from Mozambique as a scholar working for Deutsche Stiftung Weltbevölkerung. In 2016 she was part of the international journalism programme for South America, working for the Brazilian newspaper O Globo. She has also spent three months in India as a Media Ambassador for the Robert Bosch Stiftung.

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Read more about her engagement and how cities can function as future labs for innovative forms of diplomacy.

Sonja Peteranderl

Sonja Peteranderl is an editor at Spiegel Online and co-founder of BuzzingCities Lab, a think tank focusing on digitalisation and security/crime in informal settlements. She covers global politics, tech trends, security, justice and organised crime/cyber crime for example the global war on drugs, predictive policing, the digital transformation of drug cartels in Mexico or the European arms trade.
 
She has previously worked as a senior editor at Wired Germany magazine, and as a freelance foreign correspondent for German media such as Spiegel Online, Wired, Zeit Online, Impulse magazine or Journalist magazine in several Latin American countries, the USA and China.
 
As a fellow of the American Council on Germany, she is currently investigating the influence and the challenges of algorithmic decision-making systems/predictive policing in the policing and security realm in Germany and the USA. She is also an alumna of the Robert Bosch foundation's “Media Ambassadors China – Germany” programme, Otto-Brenner-Stiftung/Netzwerk Recherche and the foreign journalism programme of the German National Academic Foundation/Besser Foundation and has received several grants for her international investigations.

......................................................................................................................................................

Read more about Sonja in this blog post.

Julia Jaroschewski

Julia Jaroschewski is a reporter and founder of Buzzing Cities Lab, a think tank focusing on digital technology and security in informal settlements such as the Favelas in Rio. She works for Die WELT, Spiegel Online, fluter and WIRED, covering mainly foreign politics, organised crime, the war on drugs and security policy. She studied in Portugal, has an MA in political sciences from Berlin and has worked for the UN in New York and the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung in Mozambique.

Julia has attended the Axel Springer Akademie and Columbia School of Journalism. As a fellow of the German Academic Scholarship Foundation and the Besser-Stiftung she reported from Brazil and South Africa, and from Mozambique as a scholar working for Deutsche Stiftung Weltbevölkerung. In 2016 she was part of the international journalism programme for South America, working for the Brazilian newspaper O Globo. She has also spent three months in India as a Media Ambassador for the Robert Bosch Stiftung.

......................................................................................................................................................

Read more about her engagement and how cities can function as future labs for innovative forms of diplomacy.

Sonja Peteranderl

Sonja Peteranderl is an editor at Spiegel Online and co-founder of BuzzingCities Lab, a think tank focusing on digitalisation and security/crime in informal settlements. She covers global politics, tech trends, security, justice and organised crime/cyber crime for example the global war on drugs, predictive policing, the digital transformation of drug cartels in Mexico or the European arms trade.
 
She has previously worked as a senior editor at Wired Germany magazine, and as a freelance foreign correspondent for German media such as Spiegel Online, Wired, Zeit Online, Impulse magazine or Journalist magazine in several Latin American countries, the USA and China.
 
As a fellow of the American Council on Germany, she is currently investigating the influence and the challenges of algorithmic decision-making systems/predictive policing in the policing and security realm in Germany and the USA. She is also an alumna of the Robert Bosch foundation's “Media Ambassadors China – Germany” programme, Otto-Brenner-Stiftung/Netzwerk Recherche and the foreign journalism programme of the German National Academic Foundation/Besser Foundation and has received several grants for her international investigations.

......................................................................................................................................................

Read more about Sonja in this blog post.

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