Pressure Cooker event on urban knowledge sharing in and between cities

Between 6-8 December, bachelor students of Communications from the Rotterdam University of Applied Sciences participated in the Pressure Cooker event to work on solutions that help improve urban knowledge exchange related to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The Closer Cities project challenged students to come up with advice on how to boost urban knowledge sharing and make knowledge that is harder to find visible, such as urban practices from vulnerable communities, creatives, local governments and (small) firms.

"Knowledge grows when you interact"

If we want to realise the SDGs by 2030, we need to accelerate and scale up wherever possible. One way of doing so is to optimise the exchange of urban knowledge. By sharing good practices. By mutual learning and co-creating solutions across borders. Cities can help other cities; no one is an expert on everything, and every city has expertise on topics others will be interested in.

On Tuesday 6 December, the Pressure Cooker event kicked off and six groups of 5 students conducted desk research to gather relevant insights and form a clear strategy for enhancing the exchange of urban knowledge. On Thursday 8 December, plenary presentations were held and students presented their final advice including a concrete product or activity. The groups focused on diverse urban topics such as urban farming, overtourism, new urban practices and Friendship Cities, and community building.

Team 1

What is the most effective way to optimise knowledge exchange on urban farming in an information-accessible environment?

Team 1 (Carolina, Naomi, Deena, Hélène, and Kadar) focused on the topic of urban farming and SDG 9 (industry, innovation, and infrastructure) and SDG 17 (partnership for the goals). Their advice highlights the importance of collaboration with urban professionals, civil servants and university students. Universities can play a role in the optimisation of knowledge sharing by connecting with hubs that share similar interests and activities, for example in the Netherlands and Curaçao (a country that shows enormous potential in the agricultural technology sector). Building Impact Networks is another effective way to bring people together to build relationships across boundaries and co-create solutions to advance urban knowledge exchange. Through collaboration with and between municipalities beyond borders, less visible but outstanding projects can be more easily recognised and spread so that others can learn from them.

Team 2

What knowledge sharing barriers are there to overcome and how can we do that?

Team 2 (Aniek, Helena, Sylvia, Vasko and Zofia) found that cities can be hesitant to adaption, thereby lacking adaption of knowledge-sharing media, not taking any risks, and relying on old practices. Ensuring understanding and creating support among those involved is important to make a change a success. The students established a strategy to make knowledge sharing easier by embracing new urban practices. Their concept suggests using visuals to target the desired audience to make a shift toward focusing on new practices. Visuals are paving the way for today’s young generations, making knowledge transfer between cities more appealing and easier.

Team 3

How can social media increase urban knowledge awareness and optimise urban knowledge sharing?

Team 3 (Eline, Nancy, Salma, Juliana, and Christopher) approached the optimisation of urban knowledge sharing from a social media perspective. Barriers to sharing knowledge often include lack of time, absence of a network to share with or learn from or having difficulty figuring out where to start. The use of social media to share information is gradually replacing traditional media outlets. Social media can help urban professionals to get new insights, spread information, and connect with like-minded people much easier and quicker. The students' approach is interaction-focused: tackling urban challenges quicker by not reinventing the wheel again, but engaging with people to share existing knowledge and possibly co-create new solutions. They provided a four steps-guide to spread urban knowledge, consisting of educating, inspiring, promoting, and motivating.

Team 4

What advice would boost urban knowledge exchange based on overtourism?

Team 4 (Rose, Mitchell, Boya, and Marina) focused on the urban topic of overtourism and SDG 11 (sustainable cities and communities) and SDG 17 (partnerships for the goals). Overtourism deals with a place or city that is visited by too many people, creating a bad impact on the environment, animals, and local communities. It can be complex for countries to copypaste knowledge from other countries on how to overcome overtourism due to context differences (communications, city structures, language), and countries therefore have difficulty transferring knowledge between cities. The students provided a step-by-step process for cities to be(come) comparable enough to share knowledge with, which revolves around a participation strategy. A participatory approach allows urban professionals in cities that struggle with overtourism to gather and cooperatively come up with ways to tackle overtourism, for example through building an online community, conferences, or (online) courses.

Team 5

How can knowledge provided by urban experts be utilised and spread in a way that is easily accessible for experts in different regions, using social media?   

Team 5 (Sofie, Anne, Tom, Lucia, and Daniela) emphasises the use of participatory culture and interaction on social media to optimise the sharing of urban knowledge among experts in different regions. Social media and online interaction can lead to urban experts from around the world showing appreciation for each other’s projects, creating a sense of recognition which in turn can be a boost for exchanging knowledge. Online interaction also boosts the shift from online activism to offline activism, allowing urban experts to continue the conversation offline.

Team 6

Knowledge grows when you interact. How can we make urban experts engage and connect more with one another to optimise ubran knowledge sharing?

Team 6 (Ellis, Alejandro, Elise, Veronika, and Andra) focused on community building among urban experts to help them connect with each other by working towards achieving the same goals and SDGs. Aside from similar goals, urban experts may struggle with similar challenges and questions about how to tackle urban problems, which can be better clarified through community building.  Social media platforms like LinkedIn, Twitter, and ResearchGate, are effective online tools to connect with diverse actors, such as urban professionals, academic researchers, and professors. 

The Pressure Cooker event was organised by the Rotterdam University of Applied Sciences for students of the Bachelor Communications.