11th April 2019


Maurizio Travaglini

The Ideas_Lab leveraged the experiences and insights of invited participants to establish the highest priorities for the future of Arab cities, and the outcomes will be presented at next year’s World Urban Forum in Abu Dhabi. The full report on the themes and outcomes will be available in a couple of weeks and will form the basis for the urban priorities from the region for 2020. The initiative will allow Arab cities to tackle high-impact problems worth solving as they pursue sustainable growth.

The Ideas_Lab allowed people to think collectively about issues regarding sustainable development, and it highlighted the importance of the design process. “A lot of conversations were about how we do it; not just what we do it,” Mr. Travaglini said. “How do we engage stakeholders and how do we manage engagement constructively rather than opportunistically. And maybe that we should engage in the process sooner rather than later so it can be more organic and less rigid.”


Participants tried to focus on human-centered design and how people feel about an issue rather than the issue itself. We are able to capture and interpret data better than ever before, but data itself is not an answer. It can only help us to understand the problem. “There is a difference between artificial intelligence, which is overrated and might be an oxymoron, and intelligence augmentation, where the design process is augmented by data.”, added Travaglini.


Another valuable lesson that came out of the Ideas_Lab was that there is power in the integration of different topics. In a corporation, for example, marketing and sales work together. Similarly, urban planners should try to create solutions that consider the environment, the economy, society and culture together rather than separately. “They are all different,” Mr. Travaglini said. “They are not just chunks. Fragmentation is the enemy of integration.”


Similarly, there should be balance between the short term and the long term. “It is very hard for humans to take care of problems that do not cause immediate pain, but might in the future.”