Four urban personas: developing a new metric for inclusive cities

A new study from Cushman & Wakefield sets a global benchmark for how inclusive cities really are across Europe, the Middle East, Africa and Asia Pacific

As the urgency to develop more sustainable cities across the world heightens, Cushman & Wakefield has embarked on a study to measure the social, economic, environmental and spatial inclusiveness of almost 80 global cities across the EMEA and APAC regions.

The global real estate firm has developed the ‘Inclusive Cities Barometer’ to quantify the social value of our cities by mapping, tracking and measuring how inclusive our cities really are.

Across the dimensions

The study measures the inclusivity of 44 cities in EMEA and 35 in APAC based on 9,000 data points, and 110 metrics across four dimensions and 12 sub-dimensions. These dimensions include:

Social inclusion – measuring 58 variables including health and wellbeing, tolerance, respect and personal freedom, education, and population and density growth.

Economic inclusion – a measure of 22 variables including employment, economic vitality and growth, and innovation.

Spatial inclusion – a measure of 25 variables including housing and property, security, safety and social infrastructure, accessibility and urban attractiveness.

Environmental inclusion – a measure of five variables including climate, pollution, and the United Nations SDG score.

The cities represented in the research are at varying stages of their journey towards more inclusive and vibrant urban environments. Instead of ranking them by performance, the Inclusive Cities Barometer measures progress relative to starting points, highlighting an actionable roadmap for improvement.

Cushman & Wakefield defines inclusive cities as ‘urban environments that prioritise diversity, equity, and accessibility for all residents, regardless of their background, identity or socio-economic status.’

The four city personas

The cities were categorised into personas representing different stages of their journey towards developing inclusive urban environments, reflecting varying degrees of maturity.

Mature urban centres: These are cities with a longstanding commitment to social inclusion, that prioritise the needs of all citizens. They focus on equal distribution of wealth alongside strong but balanced economic growth. In EMEA this includes four Nordic capital cities, as well as Amsterdam and Rotterdam in the Netherlands, and Edinburgh and Glasgow in Scotland. In APAC, Australian cities such as Brisbane, Perth, Sydney and Melbourne sit firmly in this category.

Social drivers: These cities are demonstrating strong rates of social inclusion across many of the dimensions, although not as mature in their journey to reduce wealth and lifestyle inequity. Cities in this category include global economic powerhouses such as London, Paris, Brussels, Berlin, Tokyo, Singapore and Seoul.

Rapid risers: Rapid risers are cities previously less active on equitable economic and social development that are now rapidly advancing social inclusion initiatives. This includes cities such as Athens, Budapest, Milan and Warsaw in Europe, and Chinese cities such as Beijing, Shenzhen and Shanghai, as well as Hong Kong.

Emergers: Emergers are at the beginning of their journey to increase rates of inclusivity throughout, but with strong ambitions. In EMEA, these cities are predominantly based in the Middle East and Africa and include Abu Dhabi, Cairo, Istanbul, Lagos, and Johannesburg. In APAC, these cities are located in South and South East Asia amongst whom are Bangkok, Bengaluru, Chennai, Ho Chi Minh City, Kuala Lumpur and Mumbai.

The path forward

As governments chart a course towards building cities that account for the needs of all citizens, the report argues that alongside governance, the real estate and construction sectors have a critical role to play in the future of the urban environment. They can influence the development, management, occupation and strategic planning of cities – thus spreading the burden of responsibility for developing sustainable, inclusive cities more evenly.

In recognising that the scale and complexity of delivering inclusive cities can be overwhelming, the report urges that the real estate industry takes a more straight-forward approach – to recognise inclusiveness as an asset, not a cost. The report sets out a checklist for developers, investors and corporate occupiers to consider when developing inclusive cities.

The checklist asks developers and investors to consider working with local resident groups to ensure than the consequences of the development on the wider community is co-managed. They should also create destination places that inspire and represent the city’s identity and respond to the needs of the community.

‘Consider employee needs outside the office, factoring in leisure activities ‘

For corporate occupiers, they should consider employee needs outside the office, factoring in leisure activities such as restaurants, entertainment and retail. The building itself should promote health and wellbeing, and offer a diverse range of settings so everyone can find a space they feel comfortable working in.

The report concludes with statement that ‘engaging in socially responsible real estate practices not only enhances community social value but also fosters long-term economic success by building more resilient and vibrant neighbourhoods’.

Access the Inclusive Cities Barometer from Cushman & Wakefield here.

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