What if we all started to dream big about the future? This is what I propose because when people, organisations and government collaborate they can drive an inclusive culture that inspires opportunities with sustainability at their core. At The Economist‘s Big Rethink conference in 2012 I introduced the 4P business model – based on the idea that once we have a positive impact on People and Planet, and a Purposeful ethos to match, we enrich our environment and drive higher performance and sustainable Profit.

Smart cities build performance
A fresh approach to city living is critical because by 2050 urbanisation will stand at 70% globally. By 2025 there will be 37 megacities of 10 million plus. Urbanisation in the Nordics was well above 80% in 2017, with Iceland at 94%, Denmark 88%, Sweden 86%, Finland 84.5% and Norway 81% (statista.com). While this clearly has a major impact on our environment, cities are where we will find solutions for optimising resources and enabling the sustainable growth needed for a strong and resilient economy. Sharing good practices is being pioneered in centres such as Stockholm and Copenhagen. The car-free environment is in the pipeline for many cities – a reality that will reweave the urban fabric as we know it.

The IoT (Internet of Things) – powered by the deployment of 5G networks – can potentially bring vast opportunities to share city data that inspires products and services built around challenges and the real needs of citizens and businesses. Life might be much easier in the future when most things are connected. In 2017 Gartner reported that eight billion devices were connected – IBM projects it will be 30 billion devices by 2020 and fast forwarding to 2030 everything might be hooked up to the Internet. Real-time solutions will see autonomous transportation, wearable technologies, robotics, AI and AR become integrated into everyday life.

There are several models emerging that suggest how 5G technology and people can come together to harness resources and build sustainable growth. Many companies across the world view 5G as the next-generation mobile network providing everything from super fast bandwidth and ultra-low latency to vastly expanded geographic coverage. In this reality, managing our environment with a human-centric focus will be critical, but new technologies have the potential to amplify the greater good for all. What we need is liveable urban spaces – biophilic, resilient and with room to play – so that quality of life and opportunities are enhanced for all.

People are our resource
Change is led by people, not top-down or government edicts; as an example, New York City had a group of civic-minded ‘geeks’ and ‘number crunchers’ who analysed city ‘big data’, using it to improve urban safety and liveability – while also saving resources and money. In London, open-source city data enabled Azmat Yusuf to create Citymapper (2012), which makes the megacity transport labyrinth accessible for everyone. The user-centric free App is available in 39 urban areas across the world and was named best App by Apple (2013-2017). E-governance, using open data to drive civic innovation and policies, underpins new transparency in tech solutions – the payback is more dynamic, joined-up and pleasant places to live. MindLab in Copenhagen is a cross-ministry think-tank facilitating active involvement of citizens and businesses in developing new public-sector solutions. The impact is human-centric planning and a connected environment, improving trust and safety while enabling families to enjoy city-centre living.

Entrepreneurship is key to autonomy, jobs and competitiveness in the smart society, which is why the EU has been promoting it as a career path and why Sweden encourages female start-ups through its Ambassadors for Women’s Entrepreneurship programme. Innovation needs to be fostered within organisations too and businesses that encourage ‘intrapreneurship’ and diversity also drive innovation. 3M’s 15% Time to Think and Google’s 20% Time programmes – which encouraged ‘outside’ time for reflection and innovation on problem-solving projects – both delivered significant returns in staff engagement and products to market.

Putting planet first
Moving from linear to circular thinking models is key to radical new approaches for optimising the resources of our planet and cities. The Circular Economy is one of the chief ideas inspiring innovation in this space. Its vision is to develop green growth models based around the 3Rs (Reduce, Reuse, Recycle), with reuse and second life embedded at design stage. China is an early adopter and now leads the global waste recycling industry – but the rest of the world is already following, and seeing a tremendous return on investment. Application of ‘smart systems’ works in an urban context, as well as in nature. In the future, the city will embrace new biosystems to create a vast ‘green thinking’ economy that can be used to, for example, regulate heat and water consumption.

Sharing is central to a more community- and planet-focused future – not only sharing ideas and best practice, but also goods and services. Access and subscription are an alternative to ownership, and particularly favoured by youth. Seoul is the world’s first official sharing economy, promoting the development of disruptive models driven by network technologies. This enables things and skills to be shared or exchanged in new ways and on a scale not possible before. Since around 90% of South Koreans own smartphones, the Sharing City, Seoul (SCS) initiative has enabled people to create disruptive online business platforms that deliver fresh experiences. Online initiatives such as “Travel with Locals and Play for Social Change” (letsplayplanet.com), hospitality platform kozaza.com and dining and meeting platform zipbob.com have boosted tourism. The emergence of online platforms for sharing live, work or retail spaces (wearepopup.com), as well as clothing and tools, drives more affordable and environment-friendly solutions through collaboration.

Making purpose central
Dynamic cityscapes depend on social capital – people and business become a powerful driver for the common good when they join forces. Gallup-Healthways’ Global Well-Being Index includes a ‘Job Climate Index’ in 135 countries. This shows a strong correlation between fostering community wellbeing and creating optimal conditions for entrepreneurism and economic energy. The city is an arena of new opportunities, and places with purpose respond to citizens and build community resilience. New ‘shared space’ models for live/work are gaining ground with the arrival of initiatives such as roam.com, and this more mindful approach encourages us to nurture and share resources. 2014 was declared the Year of Mindful Living – back then Silicon Valley organisations, Harvard and World Economic Forum were among those joining the conversation about how we engage a more meaningful approach in both living and working. The head of mindfulness at Google explained the value of purpose succinctly: “Goodness is good for business”.

A 4P model can harness our resources
In the 4P economy, purpose is the lynchpin that links the trends and core drivers of change, shaping not only tomorrow’s smart citizens and organisations, but also sustainable economies and cities. This diagram shows how critical a 4P outlook will be to success in the future and the key take-aways are:

1) The power of citizens will be unleashed by creativity and diversity – driving innovation and connecting communities in a bid to grow social capital.

2) Performance will be activated by the human interface of a city – empowering people and bringing exciting new experiences.

3) Looking to planet and community spirit shows that we care – inviting participation to co-create human-centric and engaging environments.

4) The capital P in leadership is purpose as it’s central to meaningful dialogue – people partner with initiatives that support their values.

It is important to remind ourselves that we all become active change-makers when we take ownership of the future. As a Dane, I am profoundly influenced and inspired by the approach of the Nordics. I see a role model in Copenhagen – declared the most liveable city by Monocle several times and always highly ranked in quality of life and green city indexes. To my mind, applying 4P leadership principles in urban planning keeps citizens and cities in balance. This, in turn, enables a thriving and successful environment in which entrepreneurism, human-focused solutions and community spirit create an abundance of resources and opportunities.

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