By Morten Kabell, Mayor of Technical and Environmental Affairs of Copenhagen

Cooperation. Including our citizens. Getting the companies on board. These are all ways that we – that I – have talked about partnerships and cooperation in the past. Yet there has always been a tiny bit of doubt hovering in the back of my mind.

This approach suggests that we, as the city government, always know best and are simply convincing the rest to run with us. In fact what we are looking for is cooperation in its truest form. Where we reap the benefits of shared knowledge, shared experiences, shared ownership and shared responsibility. Where we all play the best part we can in the process.

That is what we had at the front of our minds when we launched our new vision for the future development of Copenhagen called ”Co-creating Copenhagen”. Although the word ‘co-create’ may sound like a meaningless buzzword from the desk of an overpriced consultant, it has some genuine truth to it. 

We don’t simply need to include our citizens in a process, we need to engage them and they need to engage us. We shouldn’t simply involve companies in hearings and bilateral talks where we figure out how to minimize the impact, we need them to be a part of the process with all the benefits and hard work that involves.

Across the board we have seen some of the most effective and innovative solutions when they are created in congress with experts, companies and Copenhageners alike. If solutions are to be long lasting and truly sustainable they need to be based on the best knowledge available, backed by willpower, investments and popular support. This is the way to  implement innovative solutions to old problems.

Similarly, for too long we have competed instead of shared. Cities across the globe hold the key to solving the great challenge of climate change – and that key is sharing, cooperating and co-creating. We are trying to do better and through our year as European Green Capital Copenhagen saw the value of sharing and establishing partnership across public-private sectors, across citizen-administration borders and across oceans and continents.

That is why our newly opened Smart City test lab “the Copenhagen Street Lab” has been constructed as a partnership between the City of Copenhagen and companies like Cisco, TDC and Citelum. Here we can test the impact that policies and projects will have on our city and our citizens. Copenhageners will be helping us assess the effect. But moreover we wish to share the results with other street labs that are being set up in cities all over the world. Therefore we have taken the concept one step further with the Smart City World Labs.

The goal is not just a Copenhagen solution
This partnership includes Gate21 made up of the Danish Technical University, Quercus Group, the City of Copenhagen and the Danish Embassy to Singapore.

In all of our endeavours we try to share – if nothing else it is fantastic exposure for the cleantech businesses of Copenhagen. We try to create goal oriented partnerships that can help spread the solutions that we, in all humility, think that we’ve gotten right. The best example is our co-creation with New York, which is designing their own climate quarter based on the experiences of the Danish company Rambøll in co-creating the climate solutions of Saint Kjelds Quarter – our climate quarter.

But the goal is not just to say that a Danish company is creating new solutions in New York. Or that the metropolis of Manhattan has learned from our little city – though that is very nice to be able to say.

The point is that Copenhagen successfully created solutions where climate adaptation, green infrastructure and a social effort go hand in hand to improve the situation in our disadvantaged urban areas. We have created solutions that make for a better quality of life for Copenhageners and at the same time make financial and sustainable sense. They are solutions that quite simply make for a better city.

We are proud of what has been achieved in Copenhagen and it would be idiotic to keep it to ourselves. That is why I am here today at the World Cities Summit in Singapore with fellow C40 mayors and city leaders – to share our success stories and learn from others. That is why community and co-creating is key to solving the sustainability challenge. By working together within cities and across cities we can develop solutions that not only work but that will last. Ultimately we create cities that deliver a better quality of life for the people that matter the most: our citizens. Ourselves.

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