Where you live matters – a lot. You also get to choose.

I have spent a surprising amount of time in the past three weeks talking with people who have been either whinging about the place that they live in or are thinking and talking about how they can improve it.

I was interested to get this great slide set last night written by Richard Florida which got me thinking about this more.

It suggests:

  • The world is not flat, it is spiky
  • The spikiest places (spiky is good in this context), tend to be places that have three things in particular relative abundance: TALENT, TECHNOLOGY & TOLERANCE
  • Smart, creative people (by reading this you qualify) can choose where they live. You will be more fulfilled if you take time to choose a place that suits you as early as possible in your life

It also has a great model for thinking about the things that really matter to people in a city. Using this model I can claim to live in one of the best places in Europe – just as well the model doesn’t include mountains in the list of requirements.

Is anyone aware of any work that has been done to evaluate European cities sit in these or any other models? Would love to hear about it.

3 responses to “Where you live matters – a lot. You also get to choose.”

  1. City comparisons of this type are run by a lot of the professional services firms, and obviously it is a bit like Top Trumps which characteristics they emphasise in order to make sure that their own city comes out top (http://www.mercer.com/pressrelease/details.htm?idContent=1307990).

    In the UK, a very good non-partisan survey is run by Centre for Cities. They reckon Cambridge ranks in the top 5 on most characteristics for social harmony and quality of life (http://www.centreforcities.org/cambridge) but needs to fix its transport infrastructure.

    Across Europe there is a group called ASC that has a library all about comparing and contrasting European urban environments (http://preview.eukn.org/unitedkingdom/themes/index.html). This provides a policy and local government perspective on how to make the environment generally good. Another good source is the Committee for the Regions (http://www.cor.europa.eu/pages/HomeTemplate.aspx). Neither are very keen on ranking cities and getting people to abandon areas of Europe. By contrast, McKinsey War for Talent focuses on corporate activities to make things better (http://www.fastcompany.com/magazine/42/pp_war.html). This is less about street lighting and school governance, more about how you should run your company.

    Matt Schofield


    Cambridge Network

  2. Matt,

    V interesting. I must say I am generally incredibly unimpressed by the approach professional service firms take to this that always seems to ‘prove’ that they are located in great places…

    Have you come across any crowd sourced systems?

  3. Crowd-sourced stuff is being done by a lot of McKinsey folks (https://alumni.mckinsey.com/alumni/default/public/content/jsp/alumni_news/20080702_BarryLibertThoughtPiece.jsp). Typical success stories include the advent of coffee-based ice in moccaccinos in US coffee shops which emerged out of queries to users at point of service.

    E-government would be the place to look for this sort of crowd-sourcing approach to city governance (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/E-government). It is a requirement for all levels of government to make services available electronically. I imagine they also publish satisfaction surveys.

    I do know of some confidential work being done in some major European cities to take eGovernment mobile using SMS. Applications include shopping fly-tippers and graffitti writers. Lucky they haven’t included unsafe cyclists on the hit list so far. Call me if you want to talk to the folks from Israel enabling this.