No change without change leadership

Cheonggyecheon parkland, Seoul. Photo Peter Rowlands. Flickr.com (CC BY-NC 2.0)

Sisyphus pushes the bolder uphill, only to find it had rolled down to the bottom again by morning. We learn from Sisyphus that the rock will only stay in place if you remove the hill.

Why active and visible sponsorship matters: Change without strong top down leadership does not work. The system and ingrained culture work against you. The rock will roll back to where it has always been – on its comfort zone! To succeed with the cycling agenda, we need to change the system – to remove the hill. That can only be done from top down. This is the heart of systems thinking.

Source: Facebook

In Greek mythology Sisyphus or Sisyphos was the founder and king of Ephyra (Corinth). He was punished for cheating death twice by being forced to roll an immense boulder up a hill only for it to roll down every time it neared the top, repeating this action for eternity. Through the classical influence on modern culture, tasks that are both laborious and futile are therefore described as Sisyphean.

Sisyphus, Wikipedia, accessed 18 July 2021
The system will push back. Photo Sergei Gussev. Flickr.com (CC BY 2.0)

Case study: making cities green

City building is about changing the city. The city is there, and we want to make it better. What you see is the product of a system. If we do not like that and would like to build the city differently, we need to have a good look at the system first. Otherwise, we will be fighting a battle one street at a time – a sisyphean task.

Here is a case study for more urban greening. Green is good. Green cities are climate change friendly and improve our wellbeing. However, canberra.bike is not about green cities per se, but rather, the mechanism to achieve a green city is the same as a cycling city. We need to change the way we look at the urban planning system. Good urban planners are not “change drivers” if they are chained like Sisyphus.

It takes more than words and ambition: here’s why your city isn’t a lush, green oasis yet. The Conversation, 7 July 2021.

Fixing these problems largely depends on getting executive and political leaders with clout involved to assign resources, streamline processes and modernise attitudes to risk. It’ll be a hard sell — these fiddly organisational reforms aren’t as fun as giving bold speeches or cutting ribbons.”

It takes more than words and ambition: here’s why your city isn’t a lush, green oasis yet. The Conversation, 7 July 2021, accessed 18 July 2021.

“One of the classic problems is that one or more key collaborators isn’t on board, and as a result is either unhelpful or actively obstructive.”

It takes more than words and ambition: here’s why your city isn’t a lush, green oasis yet. The Conversation, 7 July 2021, accessed 18 July 2021.

“One way to think about these barriers simply and constructively is to instead see them as a set of “success factors” cities need in place to avoid typical stumbling blocks. Here are a few that cities should keep in mind:

First, urban greening projects need strong leadership and support at the political and executive level, alongside a well-resourced project team

It takes more than words and ambition: here’s why your city isn’t a lush, green oasis yet. The Conversation, 7 July 2021, accessed 18 July 2021.

“Finally, effective community engagement is needed. Many urban greening projects need public support or consent from property owners to be successful.”

It takes more than words and ambition: here’s why your city isn’t a lush, green oasis yet. The Conversation, 7 July 2021, accessed 18 July 2021.

“In our research paper, we built a simple self-assessment tool (you can download here) based on the above success factors. This tool can help cities identify whether they’re capable to “walk the talk”, and where to improve.”

It takes more than words and ambition: here’s why your city isn’t a lush, green oasis yet. The Conversation, 7 July 2021, accessed 18 July 2021.

Delivering major urban greening projects often means reclaiming road space, procuring private property, or replacing trees and plants that struggle to establish. These are normal teething difficulties, but they can lead to projects being labelled “failures” when organisations don’t have a healthy attitude to risk.”

It takes more than words and ambition: here’s why your city isn’t a lush, green oasis yet. The Conversation, 7 July 2021, accessed 18 July 2021.

” The transformation of a Seoul freeway to Cheonggyecheon parkland, exposing the historical river that once flowed there, is one celebrated example.”

It takes more than words and ambition: here’s why your city isn’t a lush, green oasis yet. The Conversation, 7 July 2021, accessed 18 July 2021.
Cheonggyecheon parkland, Seoul. Photo Joe Coyle. Flickr.com (CC BY-NC 2.0)

Leave a Comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s