learning cities

Is tribalism a reaction to our concerns about the emerging network era, which is putting into question our existing institutions and markets developed in previous eras?  Jalaja Bonheim wrote about this phenomenon in Why We Love Trump and describes a potential counteracting force: “A new consciousness is awakening that recognizes our oneness as a global community.” But David Ronfeldt thinks there are smaller scale efforts that do not require such global engagement.

“In any case, I am struck so far that many readings about tribalism end up recommending ways to improve interpersonal relations, and/or ways to foster global consciousness. Yet there are intermediate levels that, so far, have been neglected by those who discuss malignant tribalisms.

Consider, for example, ideas about our needing a new social compact, or social contract, or national covenant. As I’ve often argued from a TIMN [Tribes + Institutions + Markets + Networks] perspective, getting the tribal form right is essential for a healthy society. The obvious elements are families and communities. Yet the bright side of the tribal form is also found in social compacts, contracts, and covenants that political philosophers and historians like to discuss.” —David Ronfeldt

This is an obvious opportunity for cities. They can provide a safe place where Tribes (families & communities) feel at home and are not threatened. But they can also make connections and provide safe intersections between different Tribes. In addition, they can experiment with new Institutions (e.g. cooperatives) and Market forms (e.g. sharing economy, micro-finance). All of these can be done at a manageable scale. A new social contract can be developed at a more human level. This is a learning city

“Learning Cities harness their knowledge, social networks, environmental assets and financial capital to facilitate the development of skills, knowledge and values by local people and organizations.” — Janet Candy, Planning Learning Cities, 39th ISoCaRP Congress 2003

The UNESCO definition (2015) of a learning city expands on this definition.

A Learning City is a city which effectively mobilizes its resources in every sector to
• promote inclusive learning from basic to higher education;
• revitalize learning in families and communities;
• facilitate learning for and in the workplace;
• extend the use of modern learning technologies;
• enhance quality and excellence in learning; and
• foster a culture of learning throughout life.
In so doing it will create and reinforce individual empowerment and social cohesion, economic and cultural prosperity, and sustainable development.

Learning cities can foster connections and create intersections for active experimentation to develop new social compacts for a healthy network era society. Learning cities can ‘get the Tribal form right’.

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