Kate Armstrong, Outreach and Programs for the Fab City Foundation, Source: Fab City Foundation

Kate Armstrong: Local governments are key to enabling communities to develop productive, connected cities

Kate Armstrong: Local governments are key to enabling communities to develop productive, connected cities

Interview with Outreach and Programs Coordinator for Fab City Foundation

Fab City is a global initiative to help cities produce their own goods and services. Facilitated by the Fab City Foundation, a global network of 38 cities that exchange knowledge and share common digital resources to accelerate local solutions for circular and productive systems. A collective of experts help mentor and advise the cities in annual programming by focusing on energy, food and materials.

Kate Armstrong leads Outreach and Programs at the Management Board of the Fab City Foundation, and in her capacity as Design and Communications Lead at Fab Lab Barcelona, is аlso a coordinator of the Creative Europe-funded Distributed Design platform. She additionally oversees the communication and dissemination in multiple European projects for systemic and city design.

Ms Armstrong, could you tell us more about the idea behind the Fab City Global Initiative and how it began?

Fab City aims to take a systems design approach to recalibrate our global production and consumption systems. It supports the local supply and production of food, energy and materials in cities and their bioregions through bottom-up, top-down methodologies.

It started in 2014, when the then mayor of Barcelona challenged cities to produce everything they consume by 2054 to shift beyond the industrial paradigm of Product-in Trash-out, and enable the return of manufacture to cities supported by a Data-in Data-out urban model.

Building on the global network of Fab Labs, this has since grown into a global initiative, which comprises a Network of 38 cities, a core Collective and is governed by a foundation. We are working to make locally productive, globally connected cities and citizens.

Fab City wants cities to be self-sufficient by 2054, how do you plan to achieve that?

Fab City is driven by the potential of bottom-up, top-down action. We visualise this through the Fab City Strata. A strategic model, it identifies seven distinct, but interconnected layers of intervention that together can implement situated, circular practices in cities and territories, whilst enabling connectivity at distance via digital networks and collaboration platforms.

The cities in our network are each focused on implementing this multiscale approach through different focuses, such as sustainable tourism and cultural heritage; education and school-to-work pipelines; or local food systems and climate mitigation practices.

Currently, 38 cities are taking part in the Global Initiative. Please tell us, how important is the role of local governments in the project?

Local governments are key to enabling communities to develop productive, connected cities. We work in a top-down, bottom-up approach that ensures that cities engage multiple, diverse stakeholders to work together and implement transformative change. This includes local government representatives, who are key to navigating the local context and providing potential solutions from a local policy-level.

Have you considered attracting more partners to your mission? How can willing cities join the project?

Fab City network invites new cities to join each year. Interested cities can start a dialogue with the Fab City team to start brainstorming potential local strategies, stakeholders and supporters at any time of the year. This leads cities to the Fab City Pledge which happens at the annual summit in summer each year.

The Pledge is taken by new cities to commit to work towards local productivity with our globally connected network. To be able to join the network, cities must form a local consortium with representation from the Mayor, the community, and a Fab Lab, makerspace and/or third space. Any city, region or settlement may start the process.

New cities join the Network at the Fab City Summit Amsterdam 2019. Image credit: Marcel Rodriguez - Fab Lab BarcelonaNew cities joining the Network at the Fab City Summit Amsterdam 2019.
Source: Marcel Rodriguez - Fab Lab Barcelona

You have proposed the so-called Fab City Prototypes to the European Commission. Could you tell us more about them?

The concept of the Fab City prototype currently informs part of the research approach of the recently established CENTRINNO project which receives funding under the H2020 program of the European Union.

In this specific example, the bottom-up, top-down full stack methodology of Fab City and the concept of Fab City Hubs - a ‘third space’ for community innovation - are being tested in historic industrial areas of nine pilot cities across Europe. These areas are to act as prototypes for action research that will explore their transformation into productive, socially inclusive centres of community innovation.

The Fab City prototype developed in Amsterdam for the Fab City Summit 2016. Image Credit © Jitske Schols - FabCity Summit 2016The Fab City prototype developed in Amsterdam for the Fab City Summit 2016.
Source: Jitske Schols - FabCity Summit 2016

What are Fab City’s short term plans (or next steps)?

Fab City Foundation will co-host the Fab City Summit with the City of Montreal in August 2021 where we will welcome new cities to the network. This year will also see the Fab City Foundation collaborate in a project led by Fab City Hamburg to develop a digital infrastructure for Fab Cities, Regions and Nations.

The project proposes to interface different existing technological solutions into a coherent software stack, to form a digital infrastructure which can share common data amongst Fab City actors at distance.



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