Urban Workshop: reimagining the future of post-industrial cities

In a recent interview for NBC’s 60 minutes Elon Musk, the founder of an industrial empire including SpaceX and the electric car company Tesla Motors, was asked about the latter. Tesla is likely to be “the first successful car company start-up in America in 90 years,” to quote the show. But its founder didn’t really think that’d be the case. “I thought we’d most likely fail,” Musk said during the interview. Why investing then? “If something is important enough, you should try it even if  the probable outcome is failure.”

Embarking on a new life journey

Building Pracownia Miejska [Urban Workhsop], a social enterprise devoted to helping post-industrial cities redefine their markets and find a way out of staggering unemployment – this is what I keep hearing:

“It’s a hopeless cause.”

“I wish you all the best, but you won’t make it in this city.”

“Don’t waste your resources, this city is doomed to fail.”

Not that it’s in any way surprising. The city (Konin, my hometown) is in a poor shape, too many small businesses are on the verge of going bankrupt, people are in big part tired, mistrustful and blue. If you’ve been in an environment like this for long enough, it’s difficult to see the light at the end of the tunnel. And if you do, you take it as the headlight of an upcoming train. Murphy is the god here.

But as in any place on Earth, here too are people, who believe things can change and they’re determined to make it happen (local watchdog NGO Akcja Konin is a perfect example). These are the people we’ll be kick starting the city’s turnaround with.

What’s the plan?

We’re starting off with two things:

1. creating a physical space where people could meet, create, discuss, start up their companies and most of all – support one another. The culture of cooperation and entrepreneurship in this and many other post-industrial cities is low, so creating a space like this seems like the necessary first step.

2. asking local communities about Konin of their dreams. We’re currently designing a foresight campaign, during which we’ll try to imagine Konin in 2050. I’ll share the details with you as soon as possible, but if you already have any interesting examples of similar exercises in mind, please share them with us (i.e. in comments)! :)

No matter where this exercise takes us, one thing we’re already super excited about – throughout the campaign we’ll have a chance to talk to hundreds if not thousands of people in Konin, make allies and better understand the dynamics of the city. Based on that, we’re hoping to able to plan next steps and slowly but surely start moving Konin (and in time also other post-industrial cities) in the new direction.

It’s a journey into the unknown. We are likely to fail many times and we’re ok with that. Cause you know, if something is important enough, you should try it even if the probable outcome is failure.

Logo of Pracownia Miejska social enterprise

Website coming soon. We’re on Facebook [Polish].

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2 thoughts on “Urban Workshop: reimagining the future of post-industrial cities

  1. Congrats on the initiative and for setting the tone, Justyna! I think starting with serious and constructive reflections on any challenge is a first good step; and letting go of all the previous assumptions, no matter how true they can be if they’re only based on diagnosis they won’t take you far. If we citizens would take the time to switch perspectives and look at our environments with different eyes, anchor our experiences in a global context to then tackle the local, I can hardly imagine it could go wrong. Hope Edgeryders could help.

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