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Interactive Laboratory on “Leverages for Transformation”

In an interactive dialogue, the activity will engage guests related to the urban planning field or the decision-making process inside a local government with the objective to trigger an interesting discussion on transformative levers in urban (re)development, with a more personal approach than the usual technical perspective on the identified levers to implement the SDGs: evidence-based planning, connecting high-level policy with regional planning and neighbourhood design, and spatially targeted investment planning. The event format will have the main host/moderator (UN-Habitat) leading the discussion with appealing and interesting questions provoking the discussion and directed to the guest speakers and open to the general audience that can include some invited partners. The interactive format will create a compelling platform of discussion to allow self-expression, knowledge exchange through active participation, and, most importantly, sharing common challenges and experiences regarding the different urban planning processes from a more personal perspective. The speakers will represent diverse cultures and will share their experiences according to the thematic area bringing a personal story. (short TED-talk alike speeches)

Tuesday, June 28, 2022


UN-Habitat Arena
Polish, English, Spanish, CART (English)
Arena 4


  1. Evidence-based Planning and Decision-making

How to ensure evidence-based decision-making is grounded on quality data that reflects real needs?

Data gathering and spatial analysis is an essential element in understanding how the different urban systems are functioning in the cities and regions. Creating this dynamic understanding of how cities and regions are functioning is the essential ingredient to inform good planning and decision making. Combining critical data layers provides insights into aspects such as natural and climate risks, infrastructure capacity and shortcomings, post-conflict damage assessments, spatialized demographics and segmented groupings, accessibility, and movement, to supplement traditional spatial datasets. Compiling and maintaining spatial data remains a challenge, especially in low data and limited capacity environments. Overlaying and packaging data to produce clear diagnostics that inform planning options requires specialised skills that must be developed at the local level. Investment in skills and data could therefore act as major leverage to ensure appropriate planning solutions and decisions. Governments' decisions have large and long-term impacts on cities and regions, and it is essential that these decisions are made based on qualitative evidence.

2.    Creating Regional Planning to Sustainable Neighborhood Design

Translating national-level development plans and policies to have an impact at the local urban level remains a challenge. The broad nature of high-level policy doesn’t always lend itself to obvious next steps in a given local context, resulting in ad-hock interventions and varied interpretations of the intended outcomes. Territorial spatial plans provide the opportunity to reflect development policies spatially and provide a framework that guides the broader system of cities and city regions. Cities are sometimes wrongly seen as autonomous entities within the national spatial boundary. They are, however, part of a complex network of spatial, social, economic, logistic, and functional relations with other cities, often beyond national boundaries. Understanding these spatial relations that define the correlation between the city, its region, and relations with smaller and bigger network elements, it is essential to understand and discuss that cities can be expressed spatially in regional hubs, metropolitan clusters, and corridors, depending on the nature of their relations, their spatial organization, and the typology. In addition, the neighbourhood is a scale where the transformations are visible. Seeing the neighbourhood as a continuum that grows to the broader city-region scale is critical to bringing a multi-scalar lens on urban issues to ensure a holistic approach to transformations.

3.     Spatially Targeted Investment Planning (mobility, infrastructure, social facilities)
The transformation process for cities and regions to become sustainable and resilient requires consistent and targeted capital investments in a broad range of infrastructure categories over a medium and long-term period. Sustainable and resilient outcomes reflected in plans and development strategies require an area-based approach to investment that harnesses the cumulative effect of several interventions in an area with strategic importance. The need for broad-based transformative interventions often exceeds available resources and requires careful prioritization to ensure that envisioned outcomes are achieved over time. Spatial plans are often neglected or are simply inadequate to influence capital investment prioritization in budgetary processes. Without a strong link between spatial development plans, strategies and actions, and capital investment planning and finance, the prospect of any meaningful transformation is unlikely.


With the UN-Habitat’s facilitation of the dialogue, a prepared list of questions will touch on the three main topics. The speakers will be asked to elaborate and share a particular or interesting experience for each topic in 3-5 minutes explanation. After the conceptualization of the specific leverage, the audience will be asked to share their relevant experience, either identifying an issue or sharing a good practice.

Additional content such as publications and projects will be displayed and shared in the “Urban Playground” to complement the discussion with specific study cases, design tools, or plans.

Session speakers

Victoria Delbridge
International Growth Centre
Maria Buhigas
Herman Pienaar