How To Encourage Citizens To Speak Up & Governments To Listen In The Pursuit Of Sustainable Cities?

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The Beam

By Anna Siwecka

“Working in silos won’t work to tackle this challenge. It’s just impossible,” says Chloé Pahud, Co-founder and CEO of Civocracy – a digital citizen engagement platform.

Listen to the full interview with Chloé Pahud on The Beam Podcast, Episode 2: How to Build Sustainable Cities of The Future.

Image © Civocracy

Chloé Pahud is a passionate changemaker. As you sit down to interview her, you can feel the positive energy filling up the room. And it’s contagious! After noticing the democratic paralysis that surrounds us and the use of social media in the Arab Spring, Chloé Pahud has taken up an ambitious challenge of making the communication between politicians and citizens more effective. Together with Benjamin Snow, she created Civocracy – a set of digital tools which enables local governments to “create societies that represent the people who live in them.”

In the latest episode of The Beam Podcast – How to Build Sustainable Cities of the Future, Chloé Pahud explains how Civocracy works, what changes they have been able to support and how to get involved in creating the changes we want to see in our cities. Here are a few highlights from our conversation:

Some people tend to say that it’s the government’s role to act on climate and there are a lot of governments or a lot of people that are saying, you know, individuals need to take action – like being vegan and stop flying. And I think it’s really interesting to see a project where both collaborate, and they work together.

Chloé Pahud: Very important. 

It’s so important and we don’t talk about this enough and I think it’s really about, as you say, it’s about democracy.

Chloé Pahud: Government is us, it’s people we elected but it’s us. It’s people who are representing us but they’re not doing it for us. Also working in silos, well, won’t work to tackle this challenge. It’s just impossible. We’ve been too passive, we’ve been too submissive to too many situations. Nobody who is there has more power than the other one. We have to believe that we have the power to change it without having to be on the street with a placard every day. But it’s really important that people take responsibility and we don’t have to suffer to do so. It can be like small changes, one at a time.

What would be your advice to someone to start acting and supporting this big idea of designing the sustainable cities of the future with the perfect communication flowing between the government and the citizens?

Chloé Pahud: We need to go a little bit earlier than this. What’s the people’s motivation in life to do something? So, ‘a man on the street’, like for example for me this term of “citizen,” I don’t really feel close to this term. I’m not a “citizen.” Sometimes, I’m a mother, sometimes I’m a worker, sometimes I’m French, sometimes I’m a resident of Berlin, sometimes I’m an entrepreneur, sometimes I’m a friend. So, really it depends on the situation and I act towards things that I feel are close to me. So, I’m an activist in some topics, I’m not at all in other topics which are less interesting for me or less close to my daily routine. So, I think the first thing to motivate people is to bring topics that are very close to their daily life and the second very important thing is: if they feel they will have an impact. People won’t come if they don’t understand why we are asking us this, what’s going to be done with our contribution, if it has an impact and everything. The motivation of people comes from something very impact-oriented. “OK, if I give you this, this is what’s going to happen.” 

Is there one thing that people all over the world want to improve in their city?

Chloé Pahud: I mean green, greener city is something that comes all the time. Maybe because it’s easier to picture, like it’s very concrete. As a mayor, if I was smart and I wanted to be reelected for the next 20 years – just to make the city greener makes people happier.

In How to Build Sustainable Cities of the Future we also talk with Carola Hein, Professor and Head of the Chair History of Architecture and Urban Planning and Delft University of Technology, and with Daniel Ringelstein, Director of Urban Design and Planning at Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP (SOM).

Tune in. Listen to The Beam Podcast, Episode 2: How to Build Sustainable Cities of the Future.

The Beam Podcast is available on Spotify and Apple Podcasts and wherever you get your podcasts.

Follow the conversation on Twitter: #TheBeamPodcast

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The Beam Magazine is an independent climate solutions and climate action magazine. It tells about the most exciting solutions, makes a concrete contribution to eliminating climate injustices and preserving this planet for all of us in its diversity and beauty. Our cross-country team of editors works with a network of 150 local journalists in 50 countries talking to change makers and communities. THE BEAM is published in Berlin and distributed in nearly 1,000 publicly accessible locations, to companies, organizations and individuals in 40 countries across the world powered by FairPlanet.

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