Federation for
Housing and

At the Forefront of Urban Governance

Governance is seen as the solution of many of the great challenges in the cities – but what does it imply and how do we manage cities better? #WatchKnowLearn from our blog and video.
The IFHP conference on Urban Governance in Integrated Planning, May 2014, gave notable perspectives on the meaning of governance and how it can be approached in different contexts around the world. The conference took place in the city that constitutes one of the best cases of the effect of good leadership - Singapore. During the last 50 years, Singapore has evolved from being one of the poorest countries in the world to become one of the wealthiest. The rapid development can be explained by a liberal and foreign business-friendly policy. But it is also the result of a very forward looking leadership dealing analytically with its major challenges, such as economic development, water management and social issues.

The Case of Singapore

Despite few natural resources and a dense population in a limited area, the sovereign city state of Singapore has managed to succeed by embracing globalisation, free market capitalism, education – and at the same time having an extremely regulated housing and planning system.  According to Dr Cheong Koon Hean, CEO of Housing and Development Board in Singapore, urban governance is, in short, the effective process of city making and implementation of urban policies. Dr Cheong believes good urban governance has 4 attributes: 
  1. Good visionary leadership and institutions with the right capacity and good administrative processes
  2. Integrated sustainability agendas in policies
  3. The right legislation and good economic incentives to achieve planning objectives among institutions
  4. Multi stakeholder partnership engagement
Also, in the case of Singapore, urban governance is about understanding the drivers of growth. Singapore recognizes how important talent and competences are in economic development, and are therefore very open to foreign workers. An example of a result of this policy is one of the world’s biggest refineries located in Singapore - although the country has no oil. The operators of the refinery realized they could reach the world’s best competences at the global hub of Singapore, and thus chose the location. 

Urban Governance and Transition in Melbourne, Malmo and Bilbao

Other cities which have gone through a radical transition during the last decades are Melbourne, Malmo and Bilbao. At the conference, leaders from the three cities shared their ideas of good governance. The universal message from the three cities was unambiguously that urban governance is all about strong visionary leadership and the ability to create public support – or sometimes daring going against the public opinion to achieve your ambition. 

Ingredients in Urban transformation

More specifically Rob Adams, Director of City Design in Melbourne, described the ingredients for successful transitions as follows: A long term vision, a clear strategy, public participation, political commitment, culture change, design leadership, good master and actions plans, development control, streetscape plans, technical notes, partnerships, measurement and a co-ordinated effort. These were the elements in the successful process of transforming Melbourne from an industrial city to one of the world’s most liveable cities.

Going across Sectors

A recurring theme in urban governance is how to break down silos and work across sectors. Especially as planning has become more complex and involve more stakeholders than earlier. According to the participants at the conference, silo thinking can be minimized by securing an early participation of all relevant stakeholders in the process. In addition, it was stated that it is important not to make rigid master plans – they may become too fixed. It should rather be directions than plans. Finally, holistic planning and governance is also about changing the planning culture towards more interdisciplinary workshops instead of single expert decisions. Planning schools around the world should be aware of this fact.
>> If you were not able to attend the conference, you can now download the available powerpoints from the different sessions.
>> Also do check out the photo album of the conference. 

For the visual thinkers - Here's a nice video treat for you

Experience the atmosphere at the IFHP Conference in Singapore, May 2014 on "Good Urban Governance in Integrated Planning: the key to success?". Ole Stilling, CEO of IFHP explains the purpose of the conference and what participants can gain. Furthermore Alfonso Martinez Cearra, Director General at Bilbao Metropoli-30, and Bernardus Djonoputro, Secretary General -- Indonesian Association of Urban & Regional Planners, talks about their key points from their presentation, and how they benefitted from the event.