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Why and How Cities Need to Learn Better

Christine Fallert Kessides's picture

During the recent 7th World Urban Forum (WUF) in Medellin, the talk was not just about the hundreds of millions of people coming to cities—but also the tens of thousands of city managers and local governments who will need to manage cities more effectively to unleash the promise of urbanization.  The WBI urban team, together with the Institute of Housing and Urban Studies and UN-Habitat’s Capacity Development unit, convened over 40 partners for a day of reflection on this challenge. 

Such a gathering had happened twice before— in preparation of Habitat II in Istanbul (1996), again in the run-up to the third WUF in Vancouver (2006)—and now on the cusp of the next milestone (Habitat III  in 2016).   It is helpful to consider where we have been and where are we now on this critical (and somewhat slippery) subject, given the 20 years’ worth of perspective in this area.

Policy Makers and Network Science: Time to Bridge the Divide

Milica Begovic's picture

Last week I attended Masters of Networks, an event that analyzed how a greater understanding of networks can be used to make better policies, especially in the digital era. Many questions built in policy making both from the procedural and substantive perspective involve networks dynamics:

  • How does information spread?
  • Who participates in decision making?
  • How do we collect evidence?
  • Who influences behavior change?

Alberto Cottica, the mastermind behind the event, had a vision of putting two groups of people who traditionally don’t mingle much in the same room – policy makers and network scientists – to see what emerges as a result. Policy makers presented a variety of policy problems, and network scientists helped better frame the problems and address them through applying principles from network theory.

I had the privilege of presenting my perspective of what policy making in the digital era looks like (slides will be put on Slideshare soon). I will summarize below the main points from my intervention, but, more interestingly, reflect on feedback from the group.

My presentation consisted of three elements:

A Murmuration of Starlings

Maya Brahmam's picture

Reporting from TEDGlobal on Radical Openness. I was struck by Don Tapscott’s presentation on Tuesday, which compared the opening up of our knowledge and data as the next step in the evolution of human societies and called it an "Age of Networked Intelligence."  Tapscott then went on to say that the societies of this age can be likened to a “murmuration of starlings,” a term that is used here for a flock. The murmuration moves in a complex interconnected way without a single leader and the flock works together and protects itself from predators (see picture).

What surprised me is that this flock of starlings was startlingly similar to the infographic displayed by the Vibrant Data Project during a presentation by Eric Berlow, a TED Fellow, which describes the network of connections in an “open” environment. Check it out here:

Quote of the Week

Antonio Lambino's picture

"We live in a networked world. War is networked: the power of terrorists and the militaries that would defeat them depend on small, mobile groups of warriors connected to one another and to intelligence, communications, and support networks. Diplomacy is networked: managing international crises -- from SARS to climate change -- requires mobilizing international networks of public and private actors. Business is networked: every CEO advice manual published in the past decade has focused on the shift from the vertical world of hierarchy to the horizontal world of networks. Media are networked: online blogs and other forms of participatory media depend on contributions from readers to create a vast, networked conversation. Society is networked: the world of MySpace is creating a global world of "OurSpace," linking hundreds of millions of individuals across continents. Even religion is networked: as the pastor Rick Warren has argued, 'The only thing big enough to solve the problems of spiritual emptiness, selfish leadership, poverty, disease, and ignorance is the network of millions of churches all around the world'...  In this world, the measure of power is connectedness."

Anne-Marie Slaughter
Director of Policy Planning, United States Department of State
Dean, Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, 2002-2009
Bert G. Kerstetter '66 University Professor of Politics and International Affairs, Princeton University