Perspectives of sustainable and crisis-proof cities in the aftermath of the Corona pandemic

Dr. Carolin Baedeker
Anja Bierwirth
Dr. Anne Caplan
Hans Haake
Prof. Dr. Uwe Schneidewind

More local, public and agile, the cornerstones of a resilient post-Corona city’

The shutdown of public and economic life; the rediscovery of what is really ‘systemically relevant’; new forms of community spirit and of generations; an undreamt-of creative power of the state at all levels: All these are phenomena of the Corona crisis, which will shape our thinking about society, economy and politics in its aftermath. It is also necessary to rethink the future of cities and their relationship to the surrounding area. Locally and on site, the consequences of the crisis become workable and specific.

The task now is to outline the contours of a crisis-resistant political, economic and social system capable of dealing with future pandemics and the other major social challenges of the 21st century.

The ‘post-corona city’ will be ‘more local’, ‘more public’ and ‘more agile’ and able to provide impulses for a ‘post-corona world’ - more social, greener, more diverse.

More local - the immediate surroundings count

  • Strengthening neighbourhoods and communal cohesion The complexity of individual concerns and the opportunity to participate in solidarity is currently awakening social awareness of the importance of orientation towards the common good. Consequently, the experience and expertise of local activists in the neighbourhoods must be more strongly integrated into formal political processes in the future.

  • Expanding local economic cycles The design of value-added chains needs to play a greater role in the future in order to secure general public services in times of crisis. Political framework conditions must be created for this purpose where market participants are not disadvantaged with offers of high resilience in times of crisis.

  • Multifunctional city centres and local recreation The city centre of the future needs to be a combination of working, living, meeting, learning, play, care, logistics, gastronomy and shopping facilities. One possibility is the multiple use of space and premises.

More public - local authorities that provide health care.

  • Services of public interest under control of local authorities: As the tasks of municipalities in the provision of services of public interest grow, financial room for manoeuvre is needed. This has direct consequences for the configuration of the municipal fiscal equalization system - especially for the large number of over-indebted local authorities.

  • Bringing sustainable and healthy cities together: The design of recreational areas, the creation of ‘walkable cities’ serve the health of people living in cities as well as climate protection. This applies especially to the widely diverse socio-ecological situations of people. The aim is to create compensatory functions in the cities to combat housing, energy, education, mobility and digital poverty.

More agile - creative approach to administration, digitisation and mobility

  • Agile city government: The experience of (system) relevance and high self-efficacy has the potential to positively change the external appreciation and self-perception of administrations in the long term. However, it is also essential that the ongoing development of an agile administration is reflected in structures, instrumentation and further training.

  • Develop digital potential in education/work/administration: The crisis clearly reveals the weaknesses of digitisation: Schools and universities that are only just beginning to prepare for digital learning, little experience of local commerce and gastronomy with e-commerce services, social distortions in the possibility of accessing digital offers, bandwidth and capacity bottlenecks. This compass for the ‘Smart City’ of the future should guide further digitisation strategies in local authorities.

  • Strengthen sustainable mobility: Currently, the car is proving to be the safest means of transport relative to public transport. How can confidence in public transport and its (health) safety be increased? How can mobility be digitally supported and the interfaces between individual mobility offers be closed? Pedestrian and bicycle traffic in particular need to be given even greater attention.

  • Strengthen creative potential: The freelance cultural sector is massively affected by the economic consequences of Corona management. After the crisis, structures and forms of support that enable a lively and diverse cultural scene in the cities need to be developed. Creativity is one of the most important resources in the crisis, alongside widespread sense of solidarity.

  • Establish democratic processes: Under a rigid policy to combat the pandemic, the revival of the urban landscape offers the rare opportunity to discuss shaping power, multi-level governance and the question of where participation is desired, useful and expandable in the future.

  • Strengthen the courage to experiment and the role of science in the municipal context: Countries where politics listened to science early on and where scientific findings were openly discussed were particularly successful in dealing with the Corona crisis. Cities and universities should learn from this: It makes sense to involve science more intensively in processes of change and also to further cultivate the courage to experiment in real laboratories in order to render cities more resistant to crises and more capable of transformation in the future.

In summary: Prosperity and urban development

The post-Corona city must be about new forms of urban prosperity. This manifests itself not only in classic economic growth rates, but also in a resistance to crisis - an ‘urban resilience’. This must be developed not only for acute crisis such as the Covid 19 pandemic, but also with a view to long-term transformation requirements. There is a need for cross-departmental and cross-party policy-making that ensures economic stability within the framework of ecological stress limits and, at the same time, has social concerns in mind in the sense of an orientation towards the common good.

Grafik Resiliente Stadt englisch


Dr. Carolin Baedeker

Wuppertal Institute for Climate, Environment and Energy
Carolin Baedeker is Vice-Director and Co-Head of Research Unit Innovation Labs Sustainable Production and Consumption. Her current research focuses on...

Anja Bierwirth

Wuppertal Institute for Climate, Environment and Energy
Anja Bierwirth is Head of Research Unit Urban Transitions Energy, Transport and Climate Policy at the Wuppertal Institute for Climate, Environment and...

Dr. Anne Caplan

Wuppertal Institute for Climate, Environment and Energy
Dr Anne Caplan is a research Fellow Sustainable Production and Consumption Research Unit Innovation Labs. Her current research focuses on housing and...

Hans Haake

Center for Transformation Research and Sustainability (TransZent)
Hans Haake is a research fellow at the Wuppertal Institute and coordinator of the Centre for Transformation Research and Sustainability (TransZent) at...

Prof. Dr. Uwe Schneidewind

University of Wuppertal
Uwe Schneidewind is Professor for Innovation Management and Sustainability at the Bergische Universität Wuppertal. He was President of the Wuppertal...

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