Eight ideas on how cities can develop, by Dutch Startup Ambassador Constantijn van Oranje, Prince of the Netherlands

January 31, 2018

Constantijn van Oranje, Prince of the Netherlands shares his ideas that he presented recently at the International Mayors Summit, organised by Western NIS Enterprise Fund in Kiev, Ukraine. The event is dedicated to innovations and their impact on cities.
1. An innovative city would always do its best to listen to its communities. Not only should everyone have the right to express their own opinions, but also to be heard. Where possible a government has to support and enable bottom-up initiatives instead of developing its own, as they often lack ownership and are not sustainable.
2. In leadership asking for help used to be considered a weakness. However, today a weakness is to pretend to know everything. Modern leaders’ success depends on their ability to communicate a vision, ensure focus on the operations, assemble the best team and empower people to develop and deploy their talents.
3. From the point of view of the economy, foreigners enrich cities. The talent pool is global. International businesses go where they can find the best talent. Thus the ability to attract and retain that talent is increasingly crucial to a city’s competitiveness.
4. Big countries have the advantage of scale. However small countries are more flexible and can act faster. Just have a look at such countries as Estonia, Singapore, and Israel. In Luxembourg and The Netherlands, you may even have a chance to meet a minister having a business meeting with an interpreter in a pizzeria.
5. It is very important to retain social integrity. Startups, new enterprises are very good. But there will always be the people with fewer professional skills. The society has to be able to offer certain staircases for them to grow and self-develop. In fact, large cities should be like socio-economic ladders that always offer groups at the bottom of the socio-economic pyramid a way up. Upward mobility is essential to avoid segregation and stagnation.
6. Civil engagement can be more effective than government policies. For instance, in Amsterdam one can easily join the PlasticWhale initiative: they offer voyages down the city canals during which the participants may pick up plastic bottles out of the canal water. Once recycled the plastic is used for the construction of new boats. So far a total of ten boats have been manufactured from 90,000 bottles collected that way.
7. Entrepreneurship is a good skill. This is what children have to be taught in order to become better citizens in the future. Provide each of them with €10 and challenge them to start a business to find a way to multiply these funds. The game would show them that they need to plan, develop a strategy, work with other people to achieve the goal.
8. We can all learn from one another. The startup city experience of Amsterdam demonstrates that with a dedicated strategy and joint effort it is possible to make a profound impact in a relatively short time.
During her speech at the conference, founder of the International Mayors Summit Iryna Ozymok said: “It is important that despite the war in eastern Ukraine and difficult economic situation in the country, our cities strive to develop and take experience of the world’s leading startup cities such as Amsterdam. For example, recently Kiev became the fifth city in the world where one can pay the subway fare with a credit card through the turnstile. We want to declare to the whole world that Ukrainians are still open-minded and are ready to implement changes to their cities and lives, even though it takes long, but such events create additional motivation for mayors and their teams.”
In 2016, Constantijn van Oranje, Prince of the Netherlands was appointed Special Envoy for Dutch startup ecosystem StartupDelta, Europe’s third fastest growing ecosystem. Here startups, investors, launching customers, governments and knowledge institutions work together to boost the global startup ecosystem.
Prince Constantijn is an independent adviser on corporate innovation and jointly initiated Startup Fest Europe, a five-day festival of events throughout the Netherlands. He is also Director of Digital Technology and Macro Strategy at Macro Advisory Partners in London.
In January 2017 the Prince joined the 15-strong High Level Group of Innovators that advises the European Commission on improving Europe’s performance in breakthrough, market-creating innovation.
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