A resounding success for the “Cities of Tomorrow” course
The first session of the brand-new “Cities of Tomorrow” course has just ended. Around 60 students in the 3rd year of their Bachelor’s program at HEC Lausanne (UNIL) have been imagining their ideal city throughout the spring semester of 2018, with a particular focus on the retail sector. A variety of prestigious speakers from a range of backgrounds were invited to take part. A look back at the first session with Fabrice Leclerc, a part-time lecturer at HEC Lausanne, who came up with the idea for the course.
A few months ago, prompted by the City of Lausanne and its shopkeepers, the City Management Lausanne Foundation contacted Fabrice Leclerc to answer the question, “How can the city’s shops benefit from the major human and technological changes taking place in the world?” This gave him the idea of putting the question directly to students, who worked on imagining the city of the future over 14 mornings (see the news item about the course). The experience proved very popular among the participants.
An interview with Fabrice Leclerc on the format of this inspiring course, the main elements to emerge from it and some advice for business owners.
- HEC Lausanne has launched an innovative course called “Cities of Tomorrow”, for which you are responsible. Could you tell us more about it?
We are living at a time of profound change; the United Nations estimates that within 10 years, 60% of the world’s nine billion people will live in cities. Never in our history has it therefore been so important to get urban design right. All over the world, cities are committing huge sums to trying to turn these changes into an advantage for their shopkeepers, residents and local actors; Lausanne is no exception.
Thanks to the spirit of innovation and support from Jean-Philippe Bonardi, Dean of HEC Lausanne, we have managed, together with colleagues from EPFL, to create a platform whose ambition is to become one of the leading knowledge centers on the city of the future, and share it with key actors in the city of Lausanne and the cities of tomorrow. It’s a fascinating feat: contributing to local prosperity in Lausanne and developing a knowledge center to create the best cities of tomorrow in the world. Interest in the course was immediate: 10 shopkeepers came to share the main challenges they face day-to-day, 60 students from HEC Lausanne helped them to find tangible solutions and at the same time, share their vision of the “city of tomorrow”, and 15 international experts came to share their experience in some very varied but complementary disciplines. The course, which is designed around “challenge-based learning”, relies on cooperation between the participants and sharing experiences, leading to the emergence of immediate and future solutions.
- What solutions and themes emerged at the end of the course?
The students and experts are looking for meaningful solutions and their observations focus on three main themes:
- The city of tomorrow is one that will make people happy; economic prosperity is only one part of the reality. Looking for happiness is a strong theme and research shows that to a large extent, it is the quality of our relationships that determines our longevity, health and happiness.
- People rely on their networks of friends, both in real space and online, to create their world. They have rediscovered the power of sharing, which is more interesting than ownership, and for them, cooperation is a stronger driver than competition. The city of tomorrow will do a lot more with a lot less, by recycling and reusing its own resources, and drastically reducing its needs for consuming products and energy.
- Finally, the cross-cutting and overarching theme is reconnecting with life, the most obvious expression of which is reconnecting with nature: walls and roofs can produce locally grown, natural food and trees are returning to their role as urban defenses and shields against climate change, while air and water filters help protect health. As for technology, it’s a material that can be shaped like any other material.
- What advice would you give to business owners reading this?
Be a mentor, not a boss. Ask the younger generations to “hack” their businesses and use economic power to resolve significant problems with values and courage – Millennials are the biggest economic force ever known in the history of humanity and are, therefore, their customers too. Above all, I’d advise business owners to protect their dreams, because “hippies” are back: with their dreams, they changed the world and some of them ultimately became the most influential people on the planet.
par Myriam Bango-Lepage (Faculté des HEC)