Don Goulds Summary of Dr. Antwi Akom’s recent talk on building equitable cities

Nov 18, 2019 | Healthy Richmond, RR&BA

Don Goulds summary of Dr. Antwi Akom’s talk on Building equitable cities.

The home his grandfather purchased 60 years ago is worth $650,000 today, but the home his grandfathers best friend, who was his brother in the war, and is white, is now worth more than $32 million.

When we give money to white people it’s called ‘good economic policy’ but when we give money to black people it’s ‘welfare’.

Dr. Antwi Akom talked fast and had lots to say. Every word he said was worth listening to and you should make time to watch the video on YouTube when it is uploaded or click here to check out one of his most recent Ted Talks.

The event hosted by Te Pūtahi – Christchurch centre for architecture and city-making and Christchurch City Council billed the event as follows… “In this Christchurch Conversation, Professor Antwi Akom explains how cities are commonly planned and designed in ways that can reproduce and exaccerbate social inequities based on race, gender, wealth, ability and culture. He will address some key questions:

-What does designing for equity look like in the 21st century?

-How can planning and design break down social inequalities and increase participation?

-What role can technology play in data and decision-making to improve the built environment for the most vulnerable members of our communities?

Everyone has a role to play in city-making. Dr Antwi’s discussion will inspire us to work together to create opportunities that reimagine and design better neighbourhoods for everyone.” Perhaps that’s what the event was about, but I left feeling like I’d just had a history and culture lesson about New Zealand from an American who clearly knew a lot more about my local communities than I do. Akom talked a little about the digital platform he’s built, Streetwyze, why real time, local data data is important and how they have used it so far, but this really wasn’t a tech talk and nothing you can’t actually do on anyone of a dozen platforms including ones that the Christchurch City Council already has in place.

The magic was listening to Akom’s view of the world and the personal realisation that the United States isn’t that different from the world we live in here in Christchurch. We have common problems of social, racial and economic equality.

We have written laws to bias whites and we have urban design that keeps the poor in ill health. We have poor information systems that paint poor pictures that we build to many decisions around.

Akom filled me with hope though. Was it his words, his fast paced power point display that I couldn’t have photographed even if he hadn’t asked us not to, because it moved so quickly with so much information, or was it that the room was full?

So many people in Christchurch showed up on a Monday night with the same desire for hope, learning and enlightenment can only be a good thing for our city. Dawn Baxendale, CCC Chief Executive lead the question time. It was interesting to see our cities new CEO taking the stage, rather than an elected member. It will be interesting to see if we see a much more public facing and engaging city leader in time to come than we have in the past.


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