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Visionaries Unbound: The Future of Transforming Cities

Leading figures from governments, civil society, and corporations from around the globe gathered in August 2013 at the Rockefeller Foundation’s Bellagio Center to imagine a different kind of future for the world’s cities. In a series called “Visionaries Unbound,” we have partnered with The Economist Intelligence Unit and subject matter experts in each of the Foundation’s four issue areas to design a series that will:

  • Engage global experts in future-visioning exercises
  • Build new high-level contacts among thought leaders on each issue, across sectors and geographies
  • Generate understandings of future trends that will drive the Foundation’s work
  • Generate insights that will shape the long-term strategies of all participants

Co-organized with the University of Pennsylvania, the first event addressed the future of transforming cities. Now available, this report offers a vision of a different kind of urbanization, one that can accommodate the estimated two billion people who will move to cities in coming decades, and do so in ways that build resilience and expand opportunities for their most vulnerable residents. Participants were asked to look to the future and at the intersection of markets, governance, and civil society to envision new trends and solutions for the challenges and opportunities arising from the planet’s dizzying pace of urbanization.

They drew from their experiences in real estate markets in Asia, planning new eco-cities in China, catalyzing new livelihoods for urban migrants in Bangalore, participatory mapping of informal settlements in Mumbai, financing sustainable infrastructure in South Africa, revitalizing the economy of Barcelona, and many other types of innovative work. Participants used these experiences to envision ways to, for example, tap into the underutilized space on rooftops in slums, incentivize sharing of proprietary data to strengthen entrepreneurship in Bangalore, and envision a flexible and inclusive long-term land utilization plan for Lusaka. Collaborations were cemented during the event. Participants from Bangalore and Lusaka upon returning have already presented the insights from the Bellagio discussions to governing authorities in their home cities, and are optimistic that real action may emerge in coming months. The conversations at Bellagio also centered around a new form of urban innovation that is shaped by long-term inspirational visions, but draws on decentralized, short-term, adaptable action driven by public, business and civil society actors.

View Full Report


Working with the Economist Intelligence Unit, we have just launched the Visionaries Unbound digital hubwhere over the course of coming months you will find a series of articles, videos and events that offer compelling insights and activities across sectors on building a more resilient and equitable world. We welcome you to browse materials just posted on The Future of Transforming Cities, and to check again in 2014 for news on planetary health, ecosystems, and livelihoods.

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