News & Events

Conference: Smart City-Regional Governance for Sustainability ‒ Spatial Smartness

21 September 2017 , and 22 September. University of Gdansk/Poland.

The conference focuses in particular on 'spatial smartness' with the aim of exploring practical examples of how 'smartness' is approached by both policy makers and academia. This choice of focus addresses one of the primary aims of the RSA Network – to investigate meaning and practice of 'smartness' in city-regional governance. For this purpose, the notion of 'smartness' is understood here as revolving around finding a preferred balance between the competing quests for urban international competitiveness, national economic development, societal and territorial cohesion as well as environmental protection and addressing climate change.

The observed contest between often seemingly conflicting goals in governance arrangements become particularly evident when it comes to questions of 'sustainability' as the overarching political and policy-defining agenda. This contest is not made easier by the complexity of diverse emphases subsumed under the term 'sustainability': political-economic, societal or environmental concerns, with associated claims for economic growth, social equality, and ecological considerations. In city-regions, these contestations and thus necessities for reconciling policy goals are particularly complex – and, with their dense and intense interdependencies, pose formidable political and practical challenges. Yet, at the same time, this makes city-regions and their governance a fascinating and rewarding arena for investigating the many meanings of 'smartness' – and, indeed, sustainability.

The Gdańsk conference sets out to explore 'spatial smartness' as the central topic. ‘Spatial smartness’ refers to the innovative use of, or engagement with, territory in city-regional governance. This includes the projection of 'soft' or 'virtual' spaces as part of collaborative forms of governance, as in 'new regionalism', for instance. Such may be achieved through city networks based on personality or institution-based connections, trans-border engagement or international representation and lobbying. In such instances, functional and strategic (agenda) relationships and networks generate a projected spatial backcloth of a 'region'. The (conventional) alternative, of course, is redrawing administrative boundaries around areas of political-governmental control, with all the political and administrative upheaval and resistance that may entail. 'Smartness' may rest in the justification of such constructions, their operationalisation, and their strategic conceptualisation, seeking to reconcile multiple interests such as to minimize conflict and thus ineffective governance.