Cities and Economies

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How are cities and economies changing in response to global pressures and innovations that are reshaping 21st century living? 

More than half of the world’s population now lives in urban areas where a diverse range of economic practices support households and enterprises, neighbourhoods and regions. Today, cities are experiencing intensifying economic and environmental pressures. Existing ways of living together are being challenged, inherited infrastructures are increasingly strained, and modes of governing economic relations are rapidly being restructured. Yet cities are also the sites of the innovations that are creatively shaping collective futures. Our research identifies important processes and pressures affecting cities and economies, and engages stakeholders in collaborative projects that expand the possibilities for 21st century urban and economic development.

Change of all kinds is making it difficult to analyse contemporary ways of living within the boundaries of traditional disciplines. The Cities and Economies theme’s work draws on urban, economic, geographic, political and cultural theory, but reshapes it in innovative ways. While maintaining a critical mode of inquiry into urban processes and economic change, we develop theoretical perspectives that help us to identify emerging opportunities for meeting the changing needs of modern cities and economic organisations. Many different communities of practice, including policy makers, will benefit from the new perspectives that this research offers.

Our research on community economies is identifying innovations in land ownership, trade, enterprise design and work practice that place concerns for economic and environmental wellbeing at the centre of new modes of organising economic relations. As part of the international Community Economies Research Network, this work is assisting municipalities, communities and organisations around the world to shape resilient community food economies that integrate urban agriculture, community-supported agriculture and networks of reciprocity in the city. Sydney-based research is investigating the links between Chinatown, mainland China and the reshaping of the city’s Central Business District. In Western Sydney research on unused lands is helping councils to imagine ways of producing urban commons around which citizen action can be mobilised to create more liveable spaces.

This collaborative and engaged research at ICS is developing new vocabularies with which to grasp important changes taking place in our living environments, including ways of seeing ourselves as active citizens able to shape our urban futures through organising liveable economies and cities.

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