Release of Guangzhou Award Reports on Urban Innovation

2021-08-24 17:15:00

Since 2020, cities and regions around the world have been undergoing profound changes under the impact of the covid-19 pandemic. The pandemic has obliged the world to rethink how we govern and manage our cities. 

Innovation has characterized many of these changes helping to shape effective responses to the social and economic impact of the pandemic. This has led the Guangzhou Institute for Urban Innovation (GIUI) to actively research lessons learned from urban innovation to help cities and regions learn from each other and to develop assessment tools.  Working in close collaboration with its network of experts, the GIUI has prepared and released three reports, namely the Urban Innovation Trends: A Global Report, the 5th Guangzhou Award Report on Local Implementation of SDGs, and the Urban Innovation Assessment Methodology Interim Report. 

 The release conference

Feedback from guests on the reports 

On August 24, the Guangzhou Award Reports on Global Urban Innovation and Local Implementation of SDGs Seminar wrapped up successfully in Guangzhou Yuexiu International Congress Center. 

Experts from around the world and media representatives attended the meeting. Gao Yuyue, Deputy Secretary-General of Guangzhou Municipal Government, kicked off the session with an opening remark. Emilia Saiz, Secretary-General of UCLG, and Octavi de la Varga, Secretary-General of Metropolis, attended the release event virtually and made speeches. 

Gao Yuyue, Deputy Secretary-General of Guangzhou Municipal Government, said, “By presenting these reports, we hope to show that cities and local governments have the courage as well as the ability to push sustainable development forward even in times of crisis. Guangzhou will keep on promoting the Guangzhou Award, deepening global communication and cooperation between cities, collecting the world’s knowledge on sustainable development, and making its contribution to having sufficient acceleration of progress in order to achieve SDGs and to creating a better world.”

Emilia Saiz, Secretary-General of UCLG, and Octavi de la Varga, Secretary-General of Metropolis, expressed their gratitude to the solid work of Guangzhou Awards and the whole ecosystem around it. Emilia Saiz said that the Guangzhou Award provides innovative incentive mechanisms for global cities and local governments as well as building a platform for them to share experience and knowledge. Such an approach is worth promoting.

Octavi de la Varga noted that everyone should think about: “How do we shape the future, especially after the pandemic?” He stated that the Guangzhou Award provides a holistic approach to innovation and an opportunity for people to understand the experience of global urban innovation and development. It is of great significance in discussing global urban governance and innovation trends.

 Octavi de la Varga, Secretary-General of Metropolis, making an online speech

At the release conference, Nicholas You, Advisor to the Guangzhou Award and Executive Director of Guangzhou Institute for Urban Innovation introduced the philosophy and system of Guangzhou Award. "The Guangzhou Award is not just an award. It is a knowledge sharing system." He also highlighted the support from individuals and organizations who have made significant contribution to the Guangzhou Award. “We realized that we could not do this alone. So that’s why since the very beginning, we have mobilized partners from all around the world. These include international organizations,professional associations, academia, research, grassroots organizations and many others.”

Subsequently, co-authors of the report and experts on urban innovation interpreted and commented on the series of reports. Among them, Asa Jonsson, Chief a.i. Strategic Monitoring and Reporting Unit of External Relations, Strategy, Knowledge, and Innovation Division at UN-Habitat, believes that what Guangzhou Award has done is closely related to the work of UN-Habitat.

Asa Johnson said that the Guangzhou Award’s progress is aligned with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which can stimulate local governments to take urban innovation measures at a practical level to achieve sustainable development. She spoke highly of the Guangzhou Award and looked forward to more extensive and in-depth cooperation between the two sides. “We hope to find best opportunities to channel many of the learning and thinking that is coming out of this work and to present the rich findings that we heard about today.”

Guidance on tackling sustainable development challenges

These reports embody the fruit of the Guangzhou Award’s efforts to share valuable experience in urban innovation and governance on a global scale.  Resources such as knowledge, practices, and initiatives have been turned into guiding principles  to tackle sustainable development challenges.

Urban Innovation Trends: A Global Report is a systematic review of more than 1000 initiatives from the past five award cycles. The report points out that Participatory local governance mechanism and citizen involvement play an essential role in urban innovation. Also, data management and AI innovation are expected to be a dominant part of urban innovation. However, digital gap may also become a growing problem. Besides, the report indicates that as the pandemic brought about rising inequality and unemployment, cities and communities must implement policies to enhance social justice and inclusiveness for vulnerable groups with tenacity. 

The Urban Innovation Assessment Methodology Interim Report gives a new definition of urban innovation. Based on the results of an extensive literature review, a new assessment system and evaluation tool of urban innovation has been developed to help stakeholders to identify and manage innovative activities in the city.

The original version of the 5th Guangzhou Award Report on Local Implementation of SDGs was released in July in the United Nations High-Level Political Forum. And the Chinese version was officially released at  the conference. It points out that the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic could last for decades, which requires profound changes in society, in thinking and behavior, as well as managing expectations for the future. As Jose Siri said: “… [the] siloed approach cannot lead us to a sustainable world. Governance for the 21st century needs to embrace horizontal and vertical integration and collaboration. Cities must address multiple goals simultaneously, cultivating equitable relationships with diverse partners. Institutions need to be strengthened and cross-linked, while creating new space for experimentation and evolution. Communication and learning must grow exponentially, with city networks like UCLG, Metropolis, and others playing a critical role. Cities must also collaborate more effectively with national governments.”

Important effort spanning the past ten years

The reports are part of a long-term strategy to  produce user-friendly and applicable  research outcomes since the founding of the Guangzhou Award ten years ago. This strategy includes  policy briefs and case studies, study tours and peer-reviews,  conferences and seminars, thought leadership workshops and other forms of training and capacity-building.  More recently, the Guangzhou Award is fully aligned with the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals and the New Urban Agenda. . Moreover, the Guangzhou Award’s cases have been included in the UN-Habitat’s Urban Agenda platform, the USE platform of Metropolis, and collaborates with forms part of the Learning wit UCLG and Local4Action Hubs.  These, and other efforts, are designed to accelerate the implementation of the Global Agendas through user-centered exchange of knowledge, expertise and experience. 

Zhan Decun, the Director General of Guangzhou Foreign Affairs Office, believes that the completion of reports is all the more significant in  the current pandemic context. “Whether it is by experience exchange or governance cooperation, whether it is about local people’s livelihood or the global agendas, we need everyone to work together to mitigate the impact of the pandemic. This is the very significance of the Guangzhou Award, promoting the exchange of urban experience and knowledge, and sharing the concept of the Community of Human Destiny".