The Human City Manifesto: neighbourliness, local power, and play/leisure to keep you healthy

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We're late to this, but it's still very interesting. The Human City Institute is based in Birmingham, and since 1995 has been exploring what it calls the "human" city, through research and engagement with the city's communities.

We came across their Human City Manifesto the other day, from March 2017 - and we were struck by the depth, breadth and (well) humanity of their 12 key indicators. We like their emphases on "a more localised economy", "neighbourliness and human kindness ['nurtured in a modern setting']", "devolution of power, influence and spending", and "enhanced leisure opportunities" (focussing on play).

See below from the Manifesto:

  1. Greater Equality, Social Justice and Fairness - More human cities within the context of a Good Society seek greater equality of opportunity and outcome, income and wealth, while promoting social justice for all citizens and communities, and embedding fairness in all of their activities and pursuits.
  2. Affordable Lives - Taking part in all aspects of the economic and social life in human settlements requires that all citizens can afford to do so – this means affordability of home, raising a family, work, credit, and leisure so that all can play a full role in their communities.
  3. A More Localised Economy - Greater control over local economies is essential for the creation of more human cities, towns and villages. This clearly means a local economy where small businesses, self- employment and social enterprises can flourish and grow.
  4. Education, Social Mobility, Enhanced Life Chances - Lifelong education is an essential ingredient in the creation of the human city to enable an improved quality of life as well as a better trained workforce. Yet boosting social mobility and enhancing life chances also require greater equality of asset control and wider mobility.
  5. Devolution of Power, Influence and Spending - Control of our lives is vital to underpin our shared humanity, as well coherent communities. This requires devolution of as much power, influence and spending that can be achieved within the confines of a fair and functioning democratic state plus progressive taxation.
  6. Happiness and Wellbeing Central - Pursuit of happiness and fostering wellbeing are essential elements of more human cities, towns and villages. Collective and individual happiness and wellbeing are most easily enhanced in more equal and secure societies where all citizens can celebrate their diversity.
  7. Neighbourliness and Human Kindness - Neighbourliness and simple acts of kindness are indispensable in nurturing greater humanity and a sense of belonging in urban and rural settings. They do, however, need to be nurtured in a modern setting, which is very different from perceived previous ‘golden ages’
  8. A More Co-operative Society - Greater levels of co-operation are needed in local economies and communities to further the cause of the human city. Co-operation at work, in community settings, among small groups underscores a more shared society while boosting innovation
  9. Social Investment and Innovation - More human cities incorporate elements of social and community investment by the state, and the private and third sectors, alongside encouraging and sustaining social innovation by citizens and communities to improve their lives and prospects.
  10. Better Public Health - Better public health is vital to promoting more human settlements where health inequalities created by the social determinants of good health are minimised and where physical and mental health wellbeing can be maximised.
  11. Embedded Sustainability - Sustainable – both economically and environmentally – human settlements require changes in policy, practice and behaviour to embed successfully into cities, towns and villages to ensure a long-term and viable environment and to eradicate fuel poverty.
  12. Enhanced Leisure Opportunities - Play is essential to human health and underscoring both citizen and community benefits. Leisure – whether individual or collective – is a more recent development but is also important in ensuring settlements that support the best of humanity and promote good health.
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Danny Dorling's words introducing the manifesto are also worth dwelling on: 

Building better cities for the future requires seeing others as collaborators rather than competitors. Successful cities are built on rules, not on promoting the mob rule of the market. Good cities are planned and shaped by their citizens. They are cities in which schools work together rather than compete with one another.

More affordable and social housing is essential. And housing is regulated in good cities, including rents. The health of the population becomes a priority in a good city rather than being seen as primarily the responsibility of individuals. And work is rewarded fairly in those cities where people are happiest.

There is now a huge weight of evidence supporting the above understandings. 

...At a difficult time for the economy, [this manifesto] places a premium on enabling more affordable lives where all citizens can realise their potential. And it welcomes simple acts of neighbourliness and human kindness when the political landscape is often marked by harshness.

I welcome the Manifesto's publication and recommend that it is digested by policy-makers who are seeking ideas to develop cities, towns and villages that more closely relate to the needs of people that live in them.