More than half of the world's population lives in cities with the number projected to increase in the future. Globalization has led to the development of diverse cities as people of different cultures, religion, race, and geographical location meet. This gives rise to the issue of inclusivity to ensure that everyone in the city counts.
Inclusive cities offer opportunities and better living conditions for all citizens. They meet the spatial, social and economic dimensions of inclusion. Spatial inclusion ascertains that all residents have affordable necessities such as water, housing, and sanitation. Social inclusion guarantees that all city dwellers have equal rights and participation—even the most marginalized. Economic inclusion involves creating jobs and offering urban residents the chance to enjoy the benefits of economic development.
Reasons to make a city inclusive
· Sustainable growth
Greater inclusion fosters sustainable growth because all communities in a city are involved. Cities contribute substantially to national development because focal point activities such as trade and commerce occur here. However, inequality and exclusion in cities can derail progress. With inclusion, city dwellers feel they have a responsibility to develop their spaces hence sustainable growth.
· Unite to improve the city
Inclusivity creates space for beneficial alliances and cooperation. It creates cities that are stronger and more stable. It also motivates residents to improve the quality of their lives since they believe in the system of governance. City residents can unite against common challenges and improve their city.
The contemporary challenges cities face demand the input of diverse groups to find lasting solutions. Inclusivity recognizes that people of different backgrounds, cultures, religions, and races bring fresh ideas and perspectives on the table that drive the city forward.
· Avert costly conflict
Inclusivity helps to avert conflict and social friction that are costly. Social exclusion is a common cause of social upheavals in cities that can lead to people being denied their rights and isolated, breeding conflict among communities.
Ways to make a city inclusive
The big question is, how can we build inclusive cities? How can we create cities where everyone regardless of their background can live and thrive? Regrettably, there are no cookie-cutter solutions to this question. However, various cities around the globe are employing imitable strategies to promote inclusivity in cities. Below are five ways of building inclusive cities.
· Acknowledge the problem
The first step in making inclusive cities is to determine how inclusive –or exclusive- a city is. Cities are central hubs of global innovation and power, positioned well to lead the way for an equal society.
A Brookings metro monitor report assessed the development of cities concerning economic inclusion. The report affirms that although many cities have recorded an improvement in jobs and economic output since the recession, many are still lagging in economic inclusion.
Only eight cities namely Tulsa, Salt Lake City, San Jose, Provo, Denver, Chicago, Dayton, and Charleston have registered an increase in median wages and employment rates and a decrease in poverty rates. This means that in regard to inclusivity, many cities across the US have a long way to go. They have to work on poverty, income inequality, and affordable housing.
· Invest in minorities
You cannot divorce a city from its residents. A city has to invest in its residents including the minorities to promote inclusivity. Immigrants are traditionally one of the most marginalized populations. They suffer from intentional and unintentional invisibility that hinders them from participating in the city's life and enjoying economic development.
Special measures need to be taken to involve minorities in the labor force. Immigrants can often require extra services in order to feel included and be able to participate in community life. In order to be inclusive, cities need to accept immigrants and provide the appropriate accommodations.
· Allow cultural expression and inclusivity
Cities are made of people from different cultures. City decision-makers should ensure city residents have access to information and feel free to practice their culture. They should allow cultural expression and diversity as a source of innovation and economic vitality.
The city of Lleida in Spain is a prime example of a city that has excelled in cultural inclusivity. It has established a Municipal Assembly of Religions that promote the right to cultural and religious freedom. The body seeks to encourage residents to engage in interreligious exchange and interracial dialogue. The interfaith assemblies help to reduce the probability of religious extremism in religious communities significantly.
· Offer language services
Language inclusion is a fundamental part of city inclusivity. It aims to acknowledge diversity and show respect to all people without bias. Language is a powerful tool for creating inclusion in a city. Therefore, residents who speak languages other than English should be offered language services. A city can develop language access plan whereby city residents' access translation and interpretation services. City residents and constituents can find critical and useful information about the city regardless of the language they speak.
· Adopt policies that support inclusion
Cities worldwide should implement policies and programs that encourage inclusion especially in key sectors such as education, housing, and fiscal policy. Such an approach can result in long-term success. New York is leading by example by embracing sector-specific programs that ensure disability inclusion. Through Accessible NYC, the city aims to improve the quality of life for people with disabilities in areas like transportation, education, and health.
· Ensure everyone is at the table
A great way to promote inclusivity in cities is to include all residents in decision-making. All city decisions should not lay with the local government. Everyone should be included in the conversation. Importantly, traditionally underrepresented communities such as immigrants and people of color should be represented in planning and political processes.
Inclusivity is considered as nonessential in cities and often left to committees and one-off programs. However, the importance of inclusion in cities is too big to ignore. Cities should strive to ensure that all residents in a city are able to thrive. City government officials should strive to implement some of these suggestions to ensure their cities are inclusive. Feel free to contact us in order to discuss ways we can help your city implement some of these steps toward inclusivity.