The development of a local area—from a primarily economic-productive point-of-view—involves two macro-categories of goals:
- fostering the growth of activities already present in the area;
- attracting investment and resources from the outside, thus acting as a driver for new initiatives.
Every local system is called upon to be “smart”, flexible and fast, both in its strategic choices and its operational “infrastructure”. Therefore, what are needed are competitive strategies and solutions that guarantee continuity of action above and beyond the political-institutional mandates for governing the area.
Sustainable development of any area is based, on one hand, on a “tactical” level by which is meant those elements that can be imitated easily by the competition and, on the other on a “strategic” level.
From this standpoint, the model developed by the Start City project for the local development of the Metropolitan Cities is based on a number of fundamental principles.
- The Mission involves the formalization of the “raison d’être” of the area and its organization according to a given framework. This involves a clarification of the characteristics and basic specific aspects of the area (its unique characteristics and historical-cultural traditions) and the development model it wants to promote outside the local area. The Mission—clear, formalized and representative of the value available to the public and businesses—becomes an accreditation tool for the new metropolitan entity, including for channeling an image different from that of the former province.
- The medium-to-long-term view indicates the direction to be taken and the future orientation of the local area regarding strategic guidelines for development, economic sectors and where to focus. Therefore, the vision represents the synthesis of what the local area intends becoming over a given time period and includes an element of “aspiration” to inspire and generate consensus and commitment among all area stakeholders. It must be differentiated and inclusive, and provide an economic-operational indication of the direction to be followed.
- The vision must also include strategic goals. These goals must be: Limited in number, clear and easily measurable; progressive and coherent among themselves; oriented towards the shared strategic effort; monitored over time (to evaluate implementation status, measure progress and/or take any correction actions); be accountable (definition of responsibilities and roles).
- The vision must take advantage of local competencies, i.e., specific local expertise in activities such as manufacturing, services, education, research, etc.; competencies are different from local patrimony (or assets) and become “distinctive” when their overall level (in terms of quality and intensity) is higher than that of competing areas. From this perspective, a local area has a limited number of distinctive competencies (normally no more than four or five).
For Italian Metropolitan Cities to safeguard development, they must take on, in an efficient way, four key areas:
- Local planning, which must be managed from a unified point-of-view and must aim to be coherent with the development vision and growth objectives, in managing urban sprawl and connecting the city center and its “outskirts”.
- Urban renewal, based on the reuse/refunctionalization of existing assets, experimentation with social housing solutions, creation of economic-oriented landmarks, and increase in connectivity from a physical and non-material standpoint (thus attributing “centrality” to the site quality).
- Support for innovation: to promote the development of know-how, attract talent and establish specialized production sites in the metropolitan area; the city must develop an integrated innovation “ecosystem”, create international-level poles of excellence and promote the creation of integrated supply chains in the area.
- Mobility and public transport: also in light of national experiences and international best practices, management of mobility services in metropolitan areas should draw inspiration from “smartness” guidelines (”smart” mobility), integration on a metropolitan scale (including intermodal solutions) and in terms of sustainability (”slow mobility”, with low environmental impact, etc.).
The cornerstones of the local area development model described above require process elements to implement a successful strategy.
The aggregation of stakeholders must be centered around an action plan that fulfills a number of mandatory strategic programming criteria (definition of priorities and strategic goals; division of actions into three aspects: economic, social and urban planning-local area, with project approaches and initiatives categorized on the basis of these three macro-areas; definition of measurable and highly practical goals).
Like other local administration reform processes, the creation of Metropolitan Cities raises a number of issues regarding local governance. As second-level entities, Metropolitan Cities today must interact with various institutions, both public and private, as well as a range of local stakeholders. Their success will depend, therefore, on the ability to guarantee a constructive dialogue with the various forms of government, and on the ways of maintaining relations with three different groups:
- Private individuals, businesses and society as a whole (including universities, research centers, associations, non-profit organizations and other groups not directly involved in local governance). In the foreign experiences analyzed, involvement of the productive system and associations is often approached through work-related multi-stakeholder platforms or non-profit associates with the goal of highlighting needs and requests, and gathering strategies and guidelines of businesses and individuals.
- Public institutions for local administration, and in particular the entities immediately above (regions) and below (municipalities). On this level, the cooperative models adopted throughout the world range from informal agreements among local municipalities that coordinate their actions around locally-oriented goals and strategies, to the creation of governance bodies, including specially-created forms of collaboration for specific projects, or tied to issues/events that are strategically-important for the area or the nation and its economy.
- The other neighboring Metropolitan Cities and non-metropolitan areas. Around the world, relations with the latter involve the creation of collaborative schemes (often supported by flexible governance approaches), the sharing of local assets, infrastructure, competencies and know-how, or projects with major economic, social or cultural impact.
And finally, to ensure that the national Metropolitan Cities project does not remain purely theoretical, or is only partially implemented (thus compromising the final result in terms of economic benefits, positive spin-offs and solidity of governance and strategic planning), a number of “accelerating factors” should be planned and activated in support of the implementation phase, including: the building of a strong metropolitan identity, the creation of metropolitan landmarks and iconic elements with which all individuals in the metropolitan area can identify, and the launching of flagship projects.
These projects (major events or function-related actions, including highly-operational ones) can produce tangible benefits for individuals and businesses and contribute to enhancing metropolitan awareness and image.
However, to be successful, this process must be motivated by speedy realization (i.e., ability to implement development strategies within a given time frame, respecting deadlines and in the shortest amount of time possible) and by continuity of action over the long-term, extending beyond the terms of office of individual administrations, thus meeting the mission and needs of the metropolitan area and its stakeholders (which extend over a medium-to-long-term period).
Find out more here:
- Metropolitan Cities, the Recovery Starts Here: the major findings and the proposals of Start City introduced and discussed at the Forum Start City (January 28 and 29, 2016, Florence).
- Forum Start City: program, biographical notes and speakers’ presentations.
- The Metropolitan Cities Trigger of the Country’s Economic Relaunch: video reportage of the meeting with the country’s economic representatives in the framework of the “Start City”. Among others, the meeting saw the participation of the Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Paolo Gentiloni, and the Mayor of Turin, Piero Fassino.
- Metropolitan Cities, a (jammed) engine for development
by Ferruccio De Bortoli – Corriere della Sera, May 17, 2016.