Creating More Sustainable Cities – The Urban Innovation BootCamp

Business Schools looking for opportunities to engage with a range of stakeholders and organisations should look no further than their backyard. The community that the school is part of provides the perfect laboratory to not only test out new ideas but in the process contribute to creating more sustainable cities in line with Sustainable Development Goal 11.

Teams of interdisciplinary students at Universita Ca’Foscari Venezia in Italy are working together to develop new, innovative business ideas to make the region of Treviso more sustainable. I spoke with Alessandra Scroccaro, Program Manager of the Action Learning Lab at the University about this programme.

What is the Urban Innovation BootCamp and how did it come about?

The Urban Innovation BootCamp is a 6-week action-learning programme where 5 local companies and 40 university students and graduates under 30 accelerate 5 innovative ideas. The Social Issues that the students worked on included Urban Mobility, Smart Services, Urban Regeneration, Social Inclusion and Sustainable Tourism within Treviso in Venice. The objectives of the programme were three-fold:

  • Innovate the way of teaching/learning in academia
  • Build the 21st century skills for innovation of students and young graduates across the region;
  • Support the creation of a new ecosystem for urban innovation linking civil society (NGOs), academia, companies and local institutions towards making Treviso a smarter city
  • Integrate asylum seekers and refugees.

The first edition which ran in 2015 resulted in a final demo day at the Palazzo dei Trecento, the seat of Treviso Provincial Council.

What impact has this had on the city?

Treviso City Council approved the initiative right from the beginning and promoted and communicated it in two editions. The Mayor was involved in searching for partners, as a sponsor and in promoting a stakeholder network. They have also been supporting some of the final projects.

What were some of the ideas accelerated through the BootCamp?

There have been 10 ideas accelerated so far through the different editions of the BootCamp. A new bamboo park is being implemented to regenerate an empty green space near the city and give families a place to meet up. The sale of the bamboo canes and sprouts will also represent a new source of income for the Treviso Municipality. Another idea is StarTempo, a new social network that matches organisations that implement projects for positive impact in the city with students and professionals who are looking for meaningful volunteer opportunities within the Municipality of Treviso. Smart Home Treviso reinvents the concept of social housing to address the challenges of modern urban living in Treviso combining technology, smart design solutions and the principles of the sharing economy to offer affordable accommodations and a sense of community to its dwellers.

What have been some of the challenges?

One of the goals of the programme was to integrate asylum seekers and refugees. We collaborated with Treviso Prefecture and different refugee associations who selected five university students and graduates asylum seeker and refugees to be part of the programme. Out of the 5, 3 have decided to continue to study at the university. One of the asylum seeker won a scholarship in Ca’ Foscari University.

Successes?

As a result of the BootCamp, all 10 innovators have moved forward with the development of their ideas. Five of them have reached pilot stage. Eighty-six students have completed the programme and among them more than 2000 interviews have been conducted in the community. We also surveyed the students after each BootCamp and 95% said that the experience helped them build their creative confidence and that they learned new skills and how to work better in teams.

What advice do you have for other schools thinking of organising something similar?

We encourage other schools and universities to organise similar initiatives, putting students at the centre of the learning process, creating and reinforcing network of local and international stakeholders and acting as an impact actor in Global change.

What’s next?

We will be organising the next 6 week learning programme on urban innovation in the summer of 2017 (19th June – 28th July), focused on welfare and social inclusion. The programme will also include asylum seekers and refugees among the 40 young students and graduates from a range of different disciplines. In the next editions we also hope to engage other national and international universities.

 

For the month of May Primetime will be featuring examples around the Special Focus area Sustainable Cities and Communities (SDG 11). Click here to see the rest of the articles in that feature.

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