Urban Network Design Philosophy

Singapore's Gardens by the Bay.

Back to the main Urban Knowledge-Action Network page

Our Design Philosophy

The Urban Knowledge-Action Network is built around the following principles:

  • Flexibility
  • Inclusivity
  • Diversity
  • Responsiveness
  • Proactiveness
  • Reflexiveness

Our Vision

We envision a future in which the world’s cities are sustainable and equitable. Such a vision demands integrated and robust knowledge that can support urban areas and the people who live there as they navigate complicated challenges. We envision that such knowledge will be produced by diverse actors across cities working together to catalyse urban transformations.

How can we get there?

Positive Visioning

Most discussions around the future of cities tend to be dystopian, drawing on visions of environmental and societal collapse. Yet we must also encourage positive visioning to explore alternative and desirable futures for the world’s urban areas. It is through such visioning that we can imagine and work toward cities that are places of prosperity and that exist within environmental limits and foster equity and civic engagement.

The Urban Knowledge-Action Network provides a global platform that goes beyond “business-as-usual” forecasts and challenges innovators from diverse communities to envision the urban transformations needed to achieve such desired futures.

Graphic: Urban Planet: Knowledge towards Sustainable Cities

Systems Approach

Cities are complex – made up of intertwined and increasingly global flows of people, capital, goods and information. New knowledge for urban sustainability must not just understand this complexity, but also embrace it.

The Urban Knowledge-Action Network takes a complex systems approach to investigating cities, integrating diverse sources of data and knowledge from a wide range of innovators across cities. This approach:

  • Perceives the city as a complex adaptive system
  • Integrates human health concerns into urban system function
  • Addresses collective knowledge creation in science and society

For more information on the systems approach to urban areas, read our paper in Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability.

Co-Design Methodology

In the coming decades, cities will undergo transformations that have never been undertaken before. For that reason, there is no one size fits all model for achieving these changes or for generating the new knowledge that will underpin them.

That is why the Urban Knowledge-Action Network advances the co-design and co-production of knowledge with researchers, national and local decision-makers and urban practitioners, following a project-focused methodology. Such an approach will help ensure that the knowledge we produce responds to the unique contexts and evolving needs of urban areas around the world – and that cities can actually use to make profound transformations in cultures, institutions and infrastructure.

For more information about co-design methodology, read this paper in Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability.