At ESI, we pride ourselves in being the go-to consulting firm for a wide range of industries, clients, and situations where the key question is, “what is happening now?” We add value by providing a data-informed, street-smart, and nuanced response to that question, to help people make sense of the world and move things forward.
We are at a momentous time, brought about by an unprecedented pandemic that has turned everything upside down, but also driven by longer-term trends that are coming to a head, such as economic structural shifts, technological disruption, climate uncertainty, and pushback against systemic injustices. In response, the key questions of the moment are not just “what is happening now?”, but also “ what is happening next?”, “what should happen next?”, and “how do we get there?”
ESI Center for the Future of Cities was launched to tackle just those questions. We are eager to study what works and what’s next in cities around the US and the world, and also to create and drive what works and what’s next. We look forward to saying more in this space about work models, research projects, and priority areas, but for now here’s a teaser for three cross-cutting topics we’ll be exploring in blog posts this month that presage engagements we’ll be launching in 2022.
Rethinking quality of place
During the pandemic, we have learned that we need to think about the interactions between where we live, where we work, and where we relax and recharge. We are seeing shifts in the value propositions for communities and community assets, and we need to better understand how we will assess future investment and strategic decisions to create vibrant, thriving communities.
A new approach to inclusive entrepreneurial ecosystems
Between the disruption of the pandemic and the focus on racial justice spurred by the George Floyd murder and resulting civil unrest, we have seen smaller minority businesses disproportionately impacted. We are seeing a renewed focus on what it takes to support an economy that rewards, supports, and celebrates diverse entrepreneurs, and we look forward to working with those seeking to create new economic opportunities that lead to a more inclusive economy.
Redefining smart and connected communities
The pandemic has demonstrated that technology can be both a lifeline and a barrier for local governments and residents, and that we still have a long way to go to connect our technological advances to real change in how cities and communities operate and function. What we know is that being a smart city is not just fancy gizmos, gadgets, and algorithms, but it is about how you integrate tech with policy, strategy and finance to create new systems, solve big problems and support more competitive communities of all sizes.
Most of all, we have learned over the past two years the interconnectedness of cities and communities, and how creative approaches in response to crises can lead to major advances in how we live, work and play. At ESI, this is the fun part – working with great partners to understand the changes and impacts we are seeing in our communities and taking that knowledge to look ahead and develop new strategies and approaches to our most pressing challenges. Connect with us to learn more about our thinking, and to share your thoughts and ideas about what you are seeing and how we could partner. Despite all the challenges we have faced and that still remain, we are excited about the future of cities, and we look forward to sharing more with you in the coming weeks and months.
Steve Wray is a senior vice president and principal at Econsult Solutions. He leads the work of the firm’s principals and senior staff in developing new partnerships, expanding and building on existing practice areas, and integrating the firm’s strengths in economic analysis and thought leadership.