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CPI in the news Article September 8th, 2020
Cities • Innovation

CityLab: Let's not go back to "normal"

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Elysa Neumann, Centre for Public Impact

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 Jennifer Bradley and Josh Sorin: Let's Not Go Back To "Normal" 

Originally published in CityLab.

“Normal” in too many cities looks like this: Pedestrians and cyclists die on streets made for cars, not people. Chronic underfunding of local government and social services entrusts the health, well-being and education of our most vulnerable neighbors to the variability of tax revenue. Black and Brown communities lack the space or amenities to social distance and are penalized when they seek creative means to do so. And in times of crisis, while some big businesses are quick to equate showing up to your job as an act of heroism, they remain unwilling to pay a living wage to heroes.


The changes we've seen in our cities in an extremely short period of time suggests that many of the barriers to better cities are not technical or financial, but rather political in nature. That's why it's critical that we don't allow a desire for normalcy to lead to a rushed return to normal, and the failure of the status quo. Instead, before our memories of what better cities look and feel like begin to slip away, we should be thinking about how the entire city ecosystem — government, businesses, residents, nonprofits and philanthropy — can support a major culture change in cities: from hiding from failure to embracing and constructively learning from it.


For all its agonizing, and fatal, impacts, Covid-19 is not unprecedented: It's neither the first pandemic nor the worst. Cities have always come out the other side better, but not by accident. Positive urban transformation came out of an intense reflection on what caused such catastrophic failures and a deep commitment to find a better way forward. We face a similar moment now. Cities all over the country have seen clearly where they are failing. It's counterintuitive, but remedying those failures will require more failure, born out of a commitment to build a better future through bold innovation and cross-sector collaboration.

Read the complete piece in CityLab and the Fail Forward research here.


About the Centre for Public Impact

The Centre for Public Impact is a not-for-profit founded by Boston Consulting Group. Believing that governments can and want to do better for people, we work side-by-side with governments—and all those who help them—to reimagine government, and turn ideas into action, to bring about better outcomes for everyone. We champion public servants and other changemakers who are leading this charge and develop the tools and resources they need, like our Public Impact Fundamentals, so we can build the future of government together.

About the Aspen Institute Center for Urban Innovation

The Aspen Institute Center for Urban Innovation (CUI) is a network hub that catalyzes and supports a broader movement to define values-led approaches to developing, piloting, regulating, and evaluating urban technologies.  We connect city leaders, non-profit organizations, and emerging businesses who share the belief that people deserve more than “smart cities.”  We deserve cities that promote human flourishing and digital infrastructure that enhances the experiences and opportunities that city life affords for all residents, particularly those in underserved neighborhoods.

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