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Launch event | Playbooks and tools for people-centered smart cities

Livia Schaeffer Nonose



Tuesday, June 28, 2022


Urban Expo: Urban Library room
Block by Block, United States of America and United Nations Human Settlement Programme (UN-Habitat)
Transforming Cities through Innovative Solutions and Technologies
UL 10


In this event, the Programme Development Branch, the Innovation Unit, the Global Public Space Programme  and the Policy, Legislation and Governance Section aims to present and launch key normative resources that support the people-centered approach to smart cities and digital transformation. 

UN-Habitat acknowledges the transformative potential that digital technologies can have for sustainable urban development. Three new series of playbooks are key normative components of UN-Habitat’s People Centered Smart Cities flagship programme that aims to empower local governments to take a multi-stakeholder approach to digital transformation that realises sustainability, inclusivity, prosperity and human rights for the benefit of all. Each playbook, organized around five key pillars of People-Centered Smart Cities, provides local, regional and national governments with pragmatic guidance for how to develop smart city strategies that are more inclusive, sustainable, and aligned to the actual needs of residents. The compendium on people-centered smart cities initiatives and solutions is a database of smart city innovations that  provides a description of the solutions as well as the actors involved, the impact, and the scale of action, particularly to the most vulnerable groups.

The Global Public Space Programme uses the Block by Block methodology applying the computer game - Minecraft to engage community members into public space planning and design. Central to Block by Block is the notion that in order to make urban planning and design processes more participatory, people without design or architectural skills need tools to effectively express their ideas to professionals and decision makers. Minecraft video game has a simple and user-friendly interface; it provides an opportunity to urban actors to engage with youths, as well as women and girls, persons with disabilities and elderly persons. The Playbook, launched in 2021, provides guidelines on how to co-design public spaces, using Minecraft as a participatory tool. Since 2012, the Block by Block Foundation in collaboration with UN-Habitat has upgraded 137 public spaces, in 90 cities, engaging over twenty thousands citizens and impacting 2.3 million beneficiaries.

Through these knowledge resources, UN-Habitat provides technical and advisory support to local and regional governments, civil society, and non-governmental organisations to develop inclusive, participatory and sustainable smart city strategies.


The launch event at the 11th session of the World Urban Forum will facilitate knowledge-sharing between UN-Habitat and partners involved in smart cities work. Through the event, partners can be introduced to the people-centered approach and identify synergies for developing future partnerships and strengthening existing ones.

The presentation of the playbooks and the compendium of solutions on people-centered approaches will promote more information on innovation and best practices, supporting the scaling, replication and discussions on adaptability of the work in other contexts. It is an opportunity to hear insights from partners and representatives from the public administration about their experiences at the local, regional and national level. This even wil help to promote innovation and good practices in terms of people centered smart city approaches for scaling up, replication and adaptability and set up an innovation network for experience sharing and to develop new approaches in terms of smart city.

These interactions enhance the development of people-centered approach that meet the needs of different contexts and populations. By fostering a knowledge-sharing environment and contributions from different actors, the event sets the foundation for developing and strengthening a network of innovation and solutions, continuously evolving based on the established discussions and cooperation.

This event aims to showcase the methodology and experiences learnt from using Minecraft and the strong effect on communities’ participation


Session speakers

Ms. Emily Royall
Smart City Administrator
City of San Antonio/UN-Habitat
Ms. Joy Mutai
Global Public Space Programme
Mr. Yigang Li
Policy, Legislation and Governance