Around this time three years ago we were publishing the final report of our very first urban foresight. It was done in its entirety through bottom-up activities, with a support from a couple of local entrepreneurs from Konin – a post-industrial city in central Poland. Today I’ve landed in Tbilisi, just in time for our very first foresight workshop for the city of Rustavi – a post-industrial city 20 kilometres from the capital of Georgia.
Cities like Rustavi and Konin are special in many ways. Their slow, organic growth was at some point interrupted by a top-down decision to locate there a branch of a state-owned industry – sometimes because the city was sitting on valuable resources, sometimes for other, more political reasons. All of a sudden, these rather small urban areas started growing exponentially, infused with this beautiful abundance of people hungry for a better life, coming from all corners of their respective countries, bringing with them their closest family and leaving many others behind.
Huge, identical blocks of flats began to populate the area, shaking up the traditional character of the city. Newcomers started mingling with the local community. Kids were born by stay-at-home mums. All was well. Not perfect, far from it, but economically you were fine. You could make a decent living and go for state-sponsored vacation once or twice a year. And then in the last decade of the XX century the system collapsed. Shock to the local economy was in many ways devastating. Rising unemployment, change in ownership structure, social unrest. Konin managed to maintain some stability, Rustavi was hit much harder. Both inherited a bunch of challenges that have been stifling their recovery ever since and made strategic thinking about the future this much more important.
Konin is struggling. The four scenarios that emerged from a year-long foresight project that brought over four thousand people into the conversation were never really internalised by the municipality. They are though constantly being used by local NGOs, activists, and even companies exploring both ecological and socio-economic aspects of Konin’s potential futures in 2050.
Rustavi is taking a different approach – it’s the municipality that wants to use foresight to create both development strategy and critical partnerships that will allow the city to secure a sustainable future. Tomorrow we have an opening workshop. In the following week a team from Rustavi will meet with municipal staff from Lublin – another city in Poland that is currently wrapping up its future scenarios. Both the Ministry of Justice in Georgia and UNDP country office are supporting the project. The stakes are high and we’re super excited to be part of the process.
What can be the futures of post-industrial cities? How to get past the hurdles and start reinventing their models of development together with the local community? We’ll be sharing new finding with you as they come
You’re from a city with a similar history? Reach out to us and share your experiences from a post-industrial reality.