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​Taking the lead in building caring cities

Zayd Ebrahim, Deputy Director of Strategy and Research, is excited about the leading role the City of Johannesburg is taking in global innovation.
As the coordinator of the Metropolis Caring Cities Initiative, Ebrahim recently hosted a group of young, enthusiastic and energetic experts from across the world at a two-day contact session in Rosebank, Johannesburg.
The Metropolis Caring Cities Initiative fits into the vision of Executive Mayor Councillor Parks Tau, who is also Co-President of global organisation Metropolis Network.  The initiative was launched in 2012 to spearhead projects aimed at turning world cities into caring urban centres.  
In an effort to make Johannesburg a caring city, several projects are being undertaken.  Like other caring cities, Johannesburg is making conscious choices and taking conscious actions to be more inclusive, hospitable and supportive.  Delivering sustainable development is another focus area for the City.
In October last year, Johannesburg won the right to host the Caring Cities Initiative, which brought together delegates from Berlin in Germany, Mashhad in Iran, Mexico City in Mexico, Guangzhou in China, Ramallah in Palestine and Buenos Aires in Argentina. Metropolis Youth were also represented.
The first contact session’s mandate is threefold:
 To develop a Care Barometer to include elements that reflect a caring city; 
 To formulate policies that emphasise the role of the youth in building caring cities; and
 To develop a mobile application to monitor and track progress.
“The two-day contact session in Rosebank – the first of its kind – deliberated on what it meant to be a caring city. The session was a success because it deliberated what caring cities were all about. The outcomes of the session were widely endorsed by all the participants,” says Ebrahim. 
Nine dimensions of caring cities were developed by the group. These were: 
 Access to basic or essential services;
 Act of citizenry;
 Mobility and accessibility;
 Sustainable human settlements;
 Identity, culture and context;
 Natural environment;
 Protection of the vulnerable;
 Inclusion; and
 Civil protection.
“Over and above that, quantitative aspects were agreed upon on what makes caring cities. For example, the role of technology as an enabler of citizen engagement and how stimulating behavioural change can create a more caring approach from both citizens and the cities. It is anticipated that over the next two years these dimensions and qualitative aspects will be realised. The barometer, with recommendations for global policy as well as the mobile app, will be used to achieve this,” says Ebrahim.
Four similar contact sessions will be held over the next two years, with the next one scheduled for Buenos Aires in May.
These sessions will check progress of the Caring Cities Initiative, monitor and approve milestones and get endorsements or buy-ins from stakeholders such as the Metropolis Network, FMDV and the cities themselves,” says Ebrahim.
He says all seven representatives had specific responsibilities to ensure that the initiative succeeds.  “As the project leader and coordinator, I will oversee all aspects of the project – from content development, logistical arrangements, financial management, reporting to overall coordination and organisation. We are group of young, motivated and energetic people. My hope is that the initiative will develop outcomes that will keep Johannesburg in the lead of innovation, remain proactive and contribute significantly to the global development discourse,” he says.
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