Smart City Berlin Advisory Board
The Strategy Advisory Boardplays a key role in the process to develop a Smart City Strategy for Berlin. As members of the committee, experts from the realms of science, business and administration are accompanying the process. Leona Lynen is one of these “smart people”: she is a member of the executive board at ZUsammenKUNFT Berlin, the civic partner in the development of the House of Statistics (“Haus der Statistik”) model project on Alexanderplatz. Since 2019, she has been a partner on the stadtstattstrand (“cities not beaches”) team, which aims to help people be creative in urban spaces. In 2021, Leona Lynen joined the advisory board of the Berlin Cycle Path (“Radbahn Berlin”) model project and the Smart City Strategy, for which the Berlin Senate Chancellery is responsible . Thanks to her profound background, she is used to discussing a range of topics at different levels and taking new paths on uncharted territory.
Ms Lynen, what expertise do you bring to the table as a member of Berlin’s Smart City Strategy Advisory Board?
As a member of the executive board at ZUsammenKUNFT Berlin, I am a driving force behind the cooperative development of the House of Statistics model project. At its core, the project focuses on finding a new balance between state governance and civic action. On the board, I can contribute the experiences I gained developing joint design processes and promote the necessity of urban society’s broad – and earnest – participation.
What are your concrete responsibilities on the advisory board?
As an expert for co-production and user participation in urban development, I advocate ways of thinking and acting that go beyond defined responsibilities in the board’s discussions. This runs the gamut from naming experts who should be heard and honing suitable participation formats to taking a close and critical look at the process behind the development of the Smart City Strategy: are all relevant actors being heard? Who do we need to reach out to and address? How can we communicate (interim) results to make sure they are easy to understand? Etc.
Climate change and dwindling resources are central issues for cities and megalopolises worldwide. Can smart cities really solve these problems?
At best, smart cities can help improve governance so that we can tackle complex challenges such as climate justice, access to space and solidarity, which will go hand in hand with a redistribution of power and resources. Different subsystems are at work in every city, with very different logics and constraints. Ideally, smart cities help strategic planning by putting an emphasis on cooperation as opposed to competition, using their excellent interfaces.
What will it take for Berlin to become a smart city?
It will take “smart” not being seen as the solution to all problems; at the same time, it requires us to advance technology policies that are oriented towards the common good. Berlin would do well to remain independent of large digital corporations and instead democratise existing digitisation processes, maintain data ownership and gradually build a system that allows the socialisation of data.
Smart cities affect almost every sphere of our work and lives: what role do citizens and the realms of business, science and civil society play in Berlin’s transformation to a smart city?
Smaller pilot projects and experiments at local level – in the individual neighbourhoods, or Kieze, for example – are a process-driven way to test Berlin’s smart city model. This allows us to assess and iterate smart projects and services based on data commons with very little risk: these include an unconditional basic income, decentralised energy and supply structures and local points of contact for digital participation, such as KiezLabs.
Which smart cities could act as role models for Berlin?
Barcelona, Reykjavik, Helsinki.
Are there any smart examples of best practice that you find particularly innovative and interesting, in Berlin or any other model project city or municipality?
I find the Your Priorities – Democracy – Open Source platform really fascinating. Founded by a civic trust in Reykjavik, it keeps the threshold for participating in decision-making processes low and thus counters political disenchantment.
What do you think the city of the future will look like?
Even if many utopias, or ideals of how we could live together in harmony, have not (yet) come true, it still makes sense to think about the future. After all, the aim of deeloping alternative futures is to motivate us to take action and set the right course in the present. So let’s give it a go: in the city of the future, everyone has an unconditional basic income and public civic partnerships have made sure that housing is affordable; they have also secured electricity supplies, climate-neutral mobility and access to healthcare. Every person who lives in this city can use data commons-oriented tools to have a say in how public funds and resources are used. So what should we tackle first?
Please complete the following sentence: “Berlin is a smart city, because...”
... we have the capacities, ideas and actors it takes to shape and drive sovereign and sustainable digitisation for Berlin that is oriented towards the common good.