Principles

The Circles of Social Life approach begins with the proposition that principles for better cities should be grounded in a general framework that concerns the human condition, rather than just a set of proposals that are added together from different current or fashionable concerns. We begin with the idea that there should be fundamental principles that relate to the basic domains of social life: ecology, economics, politics and culture.

Principles for Better Cities

Within this proposed framework of four domains it is possible to suggest a very simple set of Principles for Better Cities that are systematically connected but can be readily understood. The following list was drafted through extensive global consultation during the PrepCity process led by the City of Berlin. Forums were held in Buenos Aires (2015), Mexico City (2016) and Berlin (2016).

Click here for a downloadable PDF elaborating the Principles for Better Cities.
Click here for a downloadable PDF explaining how the affirmation of such Principles fits into the Process Pathway.

First-Level Principles

Positive ecological sustainability
Ecology: Urban settlements should have a deeper and more integrated relationship with nature.

Positive economic prosperity
Economics: Urban settlements should be based on an economy organized around the social needs rather of all its citizens.

Positive political governance
Politics: Urban settlements should have an enhanced emphasis on engaged and negotiated civic involvement.

Positive cultural engagement
Culture: Urban settlements should actively develop ongoing processes for dealing with the uncomfortable intersections of identity and difference.

Then, using the same framework of four domains, each with seven subdomains, it is possible to elaborate the detail with each of the four domains. Again the list below is only a draft list and will inevitably by changed in consultation. The principles maintain their consistency by being related to overall framework. Claims are being made in relation to a systematic set of domains and subdomains as set out in the Circles of Social Life framework.

These principles can be elaborated in a simple way or in a more detailed way:

Second-Level Principles (in brief)

Ecology: Urban settlements should have a deeper and more integrated relationship with nature.

  1. With energy generated renewably
  2. With waterways returned, as much as possible, to their pre-settlement condition
  3. With natural spaces conserved and connected
  4. With urban growth managed and contained
  5. With transport oriented to walking, bikes and public systems
  6. With food production localized
  7. With waste reutilized

Economics: Urban settlements should be based on an economy organized around the social needs of all its citizens.

  1. With production organized around local needs
  2. With strong financial governance, including participatory budgeting
  3. With regulation negotiated publicly
  4. With consumption substantially reduced
  5. With workplaces brought closer to residential areas
  6. With technology used primarily as a tool for good living
  7. With the institution of positive re-distributive processes

Politics: Urban settlements should have an enhanced emphasis on engaged and negotiated civic involvement.

  1. With deep deliberative democratic processes
  2. With legislation enacted for socially just land-tenure
  3. With public support for public non-profit communication services and media
  4. With political participation going deeper than electoral engagement
  5. With basic security afforded to all people
  6. With reconciliation between settlers and Indigenous peoples
  7. With ongoing ethical debates concerning how we are to live

Culture: Urban settlements should actively develop ongoing processes for dealing with the uncomfortable intersections of identity and difference.

  1. With careful public recognition of the complex layers of community-based identity
  2. With the development of consolidated cultural activity zones
  3. With cultural institutions and public spaces dedicated to projecting cross-cutting cultural histories
  4. With locally relevant fundamental beliefs woven into the urban fabric
  5. With conditions for gender equality pursued in all aspects of social life
  6. With the possibilities for facilitated enquiry and learning available to all from birth to old age
  7. With public spaces and buildings designed to enhance emotional wellbeing

Second-Level Principles (in more detail)

Ecological Principles
Urban settlements should have a deeper and more integrated relationship with nature:

  1. With urban settlements organized around locally distributed renewable energy, planned on a precinct-wide basis, and with existing buildings retrofitted for resource-use efficiency;
  2. With waterways returned, as much as possible, to their pre-settlement condition, flanked, where possible, by indigenous natural green-spaces re-established along their edges;
  3. With green parklands—including areas which provide habitat for indigenous animals and birds—increased or consolidated within the urban area, connected by further linear green ribbons;
  4. With urban settlements organized into regional clusters around natural limits and fixed urban-growth boundaries to contain sprawl and renew an urban-rural divide; and with growth zones of increased urban density within those urban settlements focussed on public transport nodes;
  5. With paths for walking, lanes for non-motorized vehicles, and corridors for sustainable public transport, given spatial priority over roads for cars; and with those dedicated paths networked throughout the city;
  6. With food production invigorated in the urban precinct, including through dedicated spaces being set aside for commercial and community food gardens; and
  7. With waste management directed fundamentally towards green composting, hard-waste recycling and hard-waste mining.

Economic Principles
Urban settlements should be based on an economy organized around the social needs of all its citizens:

  1. With production and exchange shifted from an emphasis on production-for-global-consumption to an economics-for-local-living, including ontologically different forms of exchange;
  2. With strong urban financial governance moved towards participatory budgeting on a significant proportion of the city’s annual infrastructure and services spending;
  3. With regulation negotiated publicly through extensive consultation and deliberative programs, including an emphasis on regulation for resource-use reduction;
  4. With consumption substantially reduced and shifted away from those goods that are not produced regionally or for the reproduction of basic living—food, housing, clothing, music and so on;
  5. With workplaces brought back into closer spatial relation to residential areas, while taking into account dangers and noise hazards through sustainable and appropriate building;
  6. With technology used primarily as a tool for good living, rather than a means of transcending the limits of nature and embodiment; and
  7. With the institution of re-distributive processes that break radically with current cycles of inter-class and inter-generational inequality.

Political Principles
Urban settlements should have an enhanced emphasis on engaged and negotiated civic involvement:

  1. With governance conducted through deep deliberative democratic processes that bring together comprehensive community engagement, expert knowledge, and extended public debate about all aspects of development;
  2. With legislation enacted for socially just land-tenure, including, where necessary, through municipal and state acquisition of ecologically, economically and culturally sensitive areas;
  3. With public non-profit communication services and media outlets materially supported and subsidized where necessary;
  4. With political participation and representation going deeper than electoral engagement;
  5. With basic security afforded to all people through a shift to human security considerations;
  6. With reconciliation with Indigenous peoples becoming an active and ongoing focus of all urban politics; and
  7. With ethical debates concerning how we are to live becoming a mainstream requirement at all levels of education and in all disciplines from the humanities to medicine and engineering.

Cultural Principles
Urban settlements should actively develop ongoing processes for dealing with the uncomfortable intersections of identity and difference:

  1. With careful public recognition of the complex layers of community-based identity that have made the urban region what it is, including cross-cutting customary, traditional, modern and postmodern identities.
  2. With the development of consolidated cultural activity zones, emphasizing active street-frontage and public spaces for face-to-face engagement, festivals and events—for example, all new commercial and residential apartment buildings should have an active ground floor, with part of that space zoned for rent-subsidized cultural use such as studios, theatres, and workshops;
  3. With museums, cultural centres and other public spaces dedicated to projecting the urban region’s own cross-cutting cultural histories—public spaces which at the same time actively seek to represent visually alternative trajectories of urban development from the present into the future;
  4. With locally relevant fundamental beliefs from across the globe (except those that vilify and degrade) woven into the fabric of the built environment: symbolically, artistically and practically;
  5. With conditions for gender equality pursued in all aspects of social life, while negotiating relations of cultural inclusion and exclusion that allow for gendered differences;
  6. With the possibilities for facilitated enquiry and learning available to all from birth to old age across people’s lives; and not just through formal education structures, but also through well-supported libraries and community learning centres; and
  7. With public spaces and buildings aesthetically designed and actively curated to enhance the emotional wellbeing of people, including by involving local people in that design and curation.

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