Blog Post

Three ideas to transform London for the better

London is a hotbed of startups and tech for good. But innovators need spaces in which to test out their ideas. Here’s three of our favourite projects which were recently featured in London ideas, Centre for London’s event series and magazine for urban innovations which have the potential to transform London for the better…

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LOOP: Connecting people to green spaces

The problem: London has been a global leader in the provision of public green spaces since the industrial era. Using the City of London as a testbed for ideas, Simon Hicks at Foster and Partners led a survey of green spaces, evaluating their characteristics and levels of activity. The survey found that you are never more than five minutes away from a green space in the City. Yet, despite their abundance, many of these spaces remain hidden and waiting to be discovered.

The idea: LOOP is an app that generates curated walks through nearby green spaces, based on how much time you have and the kind of experience you seek.

The potential: By aggregating local, real-time environmental data (sun, shade, wind, rain, pollution and pollen) with social data (how many people are at a place, how many benches are available), LOOP will create a dynamic database of green spaces in London. It will enable users to track their time spent exploring the outdoors, along with its associated benefits, promoting an awareness of how nature can nurture our health and wellbeing. Over time, every green space will have a unique data identity comprising its key amenities, which will help to provide an evidence-based framework for protecting, financing and improving these spaces.

The Advocacy Academy

The problem: Today, 88 per cent of young people feel their voices are unheard and 60 per cent don’t understand how decisions are made about local or national issues, particularly those from less affluent families and Black Asian Minority Ethnic (BAME) backgrounds. Valuable voices are missing from the debates shaping our society, leading to policies and provisions that fail to reflect the diverse experiences and interests of all our communities.

The idea: The Advocacy Academy aims to empower young people with experience of injustice and inequality to tackle some of the most pressing challenges of our time., through an immersive six month crash-course in democratic engagement. It targets students who face multiple disadvantages, and those with no history of civic participation. Young people engage in more than 300 hours of activities, experiencing what it takes to lead system-level change by lobbying in council chambers and in parliament, running grassroots campaigns, and building broad-based alliances.

The potential: The Academy is ready to open the doors to the first campus for youth activists in the UK in Brixton. It will create a space for nightly meals and community meetings, screenings, and round-the-clock youth programmes, enabling new generation of changemakers to connect, and to find safety, support, and solidarity, regardless of race, class, immigration status or gender identity.

The Bureau Local

The problem: Local investigative reporting, in London and beyond, is under threat. The traditional commercial model for local news is collapsing and scrutiny of local power is in a critical state.

The idea: The Bureau Local is a collaborative, investigative network that aims to uncover stories that matter to communities across the UK. Members include regional and national news outlets, local reporters, hyperlocal bloggers, technologists, community-minded citizens, and specialist contributors. By joining forces and investigating collaboratively, members can hold power to account at both a local and national level.

The potential: As the way people access information changes, so does the trust people have in the news. New models are needed to safeguard the future of quality news reporting. By building this community, the Bureau Local believes everyone will benefit from new “acts of journalism”. Their work has led to calls from MPs for changes to immigration spot checks, to a government consultation on domestic violence, and new work on deaths among homeless people by the Office for National Statistics.

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Amy Leppänen is Communications Officer at Centre for London. Follow her on Twitter.