- Experts highlighted the distinction between diversity and inclusivity
- Economic diversity is pinpointed as critical to a cities future resilience
- The three ‘Ts’ of talent, technology and tolerance are important to cities economic resilience
Embracing diversity and fostering inclusive places in our cities, towns and neighbourhoods is a core ingredient for success both socially and economically, leading to more resilient cities for the future.
According to well-known author and Professor at University of Toronto’s School of Cities, Richard Florida, you can’t have resilience—the ability to bounce back from economic and other shocks—without social and economic diversity, and you can’t have diversity without inclusivity.
Professor Florida cites global cities such as London, New York and San Francisco as great examples of diverse and inclusive cities that are also fantastically productive places.
Inclusion Solutions Manager – Community Inclusion, Zoya Yukhnevich, says that it is important to understand that diversity and inclusion, while often referred to hand in hand, are two different things.
“We can be diverse but that doesn’t necessarily mean we are inclusive,” Ms Yukhnevich said.
“A diverse city, neighbourhood or community is one where there are people from all different backgrounds, ages, abilities, sexualities, or cultural backgrounds.
“But then, a step further, is inclusion, where all those people feel a sense of belonging and have opportunities to participate in community life in ways that work best for them.”
Director of Bridge42, Damian Fasher, agrees that diversity is not necessarily inclusivity.
“Diverse and inclusive cities have communities and policies that engage with and offer opportunities equally across all levels of society,” Mr Fasher said.
“As globalisation progresses and international borders continue to blur, diversity of demographics in most OECD countries at least is increasing through osmosis, and I’m sure the current worldwide labour shortage is having a positive influence.
“With one in four of Australia’s 26 million people born overseas, we have become one of the most multicultural societies in the world, identifying with more than 270 ancestries.
“While this statistic is impressive, the overall inclusiveness of a society is measured by much more than cultural diversity, and here we lack substance.
“Statistics are being collected and compare matters such as outgroup violence, political representation, income equality, anti-discrimination laws, rates of incarceration and immigration / asylum policies.”
Built form facilitating inclusion
Mr Fasher believes that to make a realisable and measurable change to inclusivity in our city planning and building, we need to step back and understand the role the built place plays in influencing real, on-the-ground inclusive outcomes.
“While matters such as transport accessibility, density and the age-old height and parking debates are important, perhaps more time and attention needs to be spent on the integration of key city-making infrastructure that supports contemporary government policy that will influence the quality of life for all of its citizens, such as resolving housing affordability in a meaningful way,” Mr Fasher said.
Professor Florida supports this sentiment and adds that there is only so much land in cities, and the people who can afford to, bid up the prices in the best locations.
“The result is a non-virtuous circle in which the richest get the best public assets too—the amenities like restaurants and stores, the best transit connections, the great schools, the nice architecture and so on, and everybody else is forced to the margins,” Prof Florida said.
He believes that mixed use neighbourhoods, where people of all classes and races and educations, all genders and sexual orientations and national origins, are constantly jostling against each other and striking intellectual sparks is where we will establish more resilient cities.
Diversity driving the economy
Economic diversity in particular is pinpointed as critical to a cities future resilience.
“One-industry towns are much more vulnerable to changes in technology and the economic and cultural weather than more diverse places,” Prof Florida said.
“Sixty or so years ago Benjamin Chinitz wrote a classic article in the American Economic Review contrasting New York’s economic diversity with Pittsburgh’s dependence on steel.
“New York was much more entrepreneurial, and though it suffered through the shocks of de-industrialization, it weathered the old urban crisis much better than Pittsburgh did.”
Professor Florida noted the importance of the three ‘Ts’ of talent, technology and tolerance to cities economic resilience many years ago and he reiterates why these elements remain so important today.
“Technology creates high-quality growth, and the talented people that come up with the innovative ideas and turn them into businesses are people of all kinds who come from all over the world,” Prof Florida said.
“Immigrants make up just 12 percent of the US population but they generate more than 25 percent of its patents and account for nearly half of its science and engineering PhDs.”
Mr Fasher says that cities like Perth with a heavy reliance on a single industry can use recent global disruptions such as the pandemic, war in Ukraine, the geopolitical environment regarding China and unprecedented inflation to embrace strategic change and increase the diversity of the industries supporting our economy.
“Smart technology and tackling carbon are low-hanging fruit,” Mr Fasher says. “To make these changes and attract much-needed investment in industries beyond mining, we need skilled and motivated people to come to Australia.
“It’s obvious to most that we need to improve the immigration policies of the nation to maximise the efficiency of attracting and allowing people into Australia; visa timeframes are out of control.
“Once our new workforce is here, however, we need to be true to the inclusive Australian lifestyle we symbolise so that our new community members choose to stay and become long-term valued members of our society.”
According to Professor Florida, Governments can support industry to deliver more inclusive and diverse places by changing their zoning and land use regulations to allow for denser development patterns, and at the same time, improving transit options and providing tax and other incentives for businesses to locate in the left-behind places.
“They can use carrots and sticks to encourage developers to provide affordable housing in their projects,” Prof Florida said. “Industries and anchor institutions can invest in affordable workforce housing.”
Starting at the grassroots
Drilling down to the neighbourhood and local community level, Ms Yukhnevich provides solid advice to developers and those involved in the design and delivery of places and spaces.
“As a training, mentoring and consultancy organization, we work together with others to strengthen communities of all shapes and sizes, creating spaces where all people feel welcomed and included every day,” Ms Yukhnevich said.
“To be an inclusive environment, we have to get the physical access right first, because if someone can’t physically get into a space, obviously, it’s not going to be inclusive.
“But then once they’re in that space, they must be able to participate in a way that works.
“For example, a child using a wheelchair might be able to physically access a park, but then what opportunities exist for them once they are there? Can they still utilize the play equipment or be part of the games that go on there?
“Our work at Inclusion Solutions is really about working with an organisation, be they a local club, community group, organisation or developer to understand how to open the doors a little wider and ensure that no matter what it is they do, they do it in the most inclusive way possible.
“It’s all a journey, but that’s what we love to do, to walk alongside others and support them along the way.”
Ms Yukhnevich says that inclusion needs to be considered at the very early stages of designing a neighbourhood, building or public space such as parks. In conjunction with early consideration is the willingness to co-design places and enter into meaningful engagement with a diverse range of people.
“If we genuinely want to create spaces that are inclusive and welcoming, we need to make sure that we are having those conversations earlier on, with the right people, and that the engagement is meaningful rather than just on the surface where we go in a with a pre conceived plan or program,” Ms Yukhnevich said.
While the inclusive nature of local community spaces, neighbourhoods and indeed our cities is important for social wellbeing, again the economic benefits are also clear.
“There are people from a diverse range of communities who are so often under-represented in our communities in so many ways.” Ms Yukhnevich said. “It’s simple to think about, the wider we open our doors to people of diverse backgrounds, the more participants we’ll have in our programs, the more volunteers we’ll get, the more opportunities available to us. The more people feel welcome in our spaces, the more likely they’ll want to stick around.”
Of course, inclusion at an organisational level is also important and has flow on effects to the broader community.
“I think we all know that our teams and workplaces are stronger when we have different opinions and different worldviews that we can then challenge one another and learn from,” Ms Yukhnevich said.
“The reality is we are a very global and connected world. And we’re constantly learning too. We are learning new ways to understand our different identities and intersectionality and with this, comes new opportunities for us to embrace one another. Both at a workplace and at a community level.
“People aren’t going anywhere. We may have new ways to express our identities and experiences, but at the end of the day, for the most part, we all still have the same needs. We need to have places to live and work, communities around us and places where we belong. And given how many of us spend so much time at work, it is important that our organisations and workplaces understand the importance of inclusion and make proactive steps in making change.”
Mr Fasher agrees that at an individual organisation level, we play a key role in advancing inclusion and ensuring more resilient futures for our people, our communities and our cities more broadly.
“As a leader in the property industry, it is my opinion that we need to step up and challenge strategic planning and government policy when we can,” Mr Fasher said.
“But it is more important that we distil equality into the direct worlds we can control; our workforce, our broader project teams, and our clients.”
This story was originally published in The Urbanist magazine, an official publication of the Urban Development Institute of Australia (WA). It has been edited for republication by The Property Tribune.
The Property Tribune thanks the UDIA WA for the opportunity to republish the work, and share thought leadership in relation to urban development and community creation with our readers.
Read the original copy of The Urbanist by heading to UDIA WA’s website under the News tab.