Concluding Remarks for Measuring Up Cities

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Alderman Professor Michael Mainelli closes the Long Finance Symposium 'Measuring Up Cities'. As well as thanking the audience, the Lord Mayor of the City of London and the speakers, Alderman Mainelli reflects upon the conference and presents some final thoughts on the topic. 

To see pictures from the day, you can visit the Gresham College Flickr page.

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30 January 2014   Concluding Remarks for Measuring Up Cities   Alderman Professor Michael Mainelli       So, cities are tough to define and we have numerous choices for a key determinant.  My favourite city measurement trivia is to point to the “planet-moon configuration” of Bremen and Bremerhaven in the solar system of Germany’s smallest ‘Land’, Bremen, the tiniest of Germany’s 16 Länder.  54 kilometres apart, Bremen and Bremerhaven have their own constitutions and their Land has a number of unique opt-outs in the German federal system to do with schools and police.  Just to ensure confusion, Bremen even owns bit of the port of Bremerhaven.  [http://www.economist.com/node/18713878]   The Lord Mayor mentioned that Crosby advocates an interesting thesis on why a bunch of tiny squabbling nations on the fringe of a continent with few outstanding resources, having squandered centuries of their own sweet time emerging from the collapse of their last empire in the fifth century, could take on and dominate massive empires east and west from 1500 till the end of the 20th century.  Europe’s fragmented and competing city-states were a source of strength, not weakness.  Having to handle a diversity of approaches to metrology, differences in the length of the standard ‘ell’, different weights and measures, different coinages, led to a better facility and understanding of measurement.  For Crosby, the West’s focus on measurement was fundamental to its success. It’s clear that we need to master measurement of our cities.   Yet equally we mustn’t over-measure.  We must leave room for serendipity.  I opened today’s symposium with a Jane Jacobs quote - “Cities have the capability of providing something for everybody, only because, and only when, they are created by everybody.”  Implicit in her quote is the tension between planning and innovation.  Too much planning could lead to a Tragedy of the Commonwealth of data.  The best cities capture the vitality of their historic roots, combine the old with the new, and harness the vitality within their population.  Great metropolises are about everyone’s contribution, and thus as much about accident as design.  London was right after the 1666 fire to reject Sir Christopher Wren’s grandiose scheme for a boulevarded London.  With too much planning innovation wanders elsewhere.  The haphazard and serendipity in cities creates the opportunities.     Commonwealth is a 15th century term meaning “public welfare; general good or advantage”.  “The common-wealth” or “the common weal” comes from an old meaning of wealth as “well-being” thus “common well-being.”  So if we want to live well in cities, on what does our commonwealth depend?  The Lord Mayor made a strong suggestion that our common weal might be moving to our data.  For me, that was one of the great points she made – we should combine her clock metaphor and her data hydrant metaphor.  We start with community, which leads to commerce, and after we’ve generated some wealth we turn to charity, building a just society.  But our wealth is founded on what we share, which starts with data, then information, then knowledge, and then, perhaps, even wisdom.  

 

 

© Alderman Professor Michael Mainelli, 2014

This event was on Thu, 30 Jan 2014

alderman professor michael mainelli

Alderman Professor Michael Mainelli

Mercers’ School Memorial Professor of Business

Alderman Professor Michael Mainelli MStJ PhD MPhil BA FCCA FCSI(Hon) FBCS CITP FIC CMC MEI is Honorary Life Fellow of Gresham College and Emeritus Mercers'...

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