Why spatial inclusion matters

By Bruno Lanvin, Founder and CEO, D&L Partners


This month, after a media outcry, social housing tenants including former Grenfell residents and disabled children who for two years had been denied access to communal gardens on the Westbourne Place development in Maida Vale in west London were finally granted permission to use its green space.

The government announced last summer that it intended to prohibit segregated play spaces in all new housing developments across England.  Such a ban can’t come soon enough, as cases of extreme inequality like that of Westbourne Place still exist in many mixed tenure developments – where private owners in the most expensive properties have access to play and leisure areas and those in affordable housing are excluded.

This matters because ‘spatial inclusion’ is a vital component to creating inclusive cities.  

Most city rankings simply measure the factors that make a city livable for its wealthier residents, but leave the experiences of most citizens out of the equation. 

It’s why we decided, for the first time, to create the Prosperity & Inclusion City Seal and Award (PICSA) Index, measuring criteria – like equality of access to green spaces and leisure areas – that impact all of a city’s occupants. 

Failures in spatial inclusion can mean increasingly segregated neighborhoods, adverse health effects for those living in poverty and a lack of access to crucial institutions and services. In places with low levels of spatial inclusion, social stratification increases, sowing division among residents. 

One of the greatest risk factors is a lack of public space—green gathering spaces like parks, as well as markets and “identity spaces” such as churches, mosques, libraries, and affinity groups. According to the United Nations, the average share of the population within 400 metres walking distance of an available public space is around 31 percent, though that number ranges from as low as 5 percent to as high as 90. This lack of resources stand in the way of integration when newcomers, including immigrants and refugees, come to start the next chapter of their lives in a new city.

Fortunately, positive examples of spatial inclusion also exist, and the understanding of spatial inclusion is developing quickly worldwide. Many local governments are already implementing spatial inclusion strategies. In Barcelona, Spain, the site of a former hospital in the diverse neighborhood of Nou Barris was converted into an award-winning park. In Athens, Greece, an empty hotel became 400 co-operative housing units. In Berlin, Germany, a project called Refugees Welcome allows the city’s residents to offer space in their homes to refugees looking to settle in. New York, U.S. trains diverse teams to manage and care for the city’s parks and other public spaces. In Marxloh, Germany, the public enthusiastically supported the construction of Germany’s largest mosque, which included spaces specifically designed for interfaith dialogue. Transportation improvements will also fill a key role in creating inclusive spaces, simply by making access quick and affordable for everyone.

When a city’s spaces are truly inclusive and accessible to all, everyone benefits—not just the wealthiest few. That’s why we knew the PICSA Index had to be the first to place spatial inclusion at the forefront. The PICSA Index shows us all what those in its top cities already know: when all of a city’s residents have access to its resources and public spaces, infinite new connections are possible. 

Why we need a new way of measuring how cities are creating inclusivity and prosperity for all, not just the few.

By Bruno Lanvin, Founder and CEO, D&L Partners


By 2030, sixty percent of the world will be urbanized. Around the globe, cities are solidifying their position as the hubs of innovation and commerce.  But all this progress has left a large portion of the population behind.  The gap between the have’s and the have-nots, in many cities, is increasing.

Cities are usually ranked largely on crude measures such as GDP, which tell an incomplete story.  Such rankings ignore how inclusive and equitable cities are for all their citizens.  

In terms of GDP, London, for example, is a powerhouse city, with an economy larger than that of entire countries such as Austria and Norway. But it’s also hampered by a lack of inclusivity, with over a quarter of its citizens in poverty. And wealth inequalities have ballooned in recent years, with the bottom 50% of households owning just over 5% of total wealth, and the top 10% over half.

Recent data from the OECD shows that overall wellbeing and equality for the residents of a city are closely linked.  That’s why the PICSA Index is different and the first of its kind: city rankings based on the goals of inclusive prosperity.

The PICSA Index is measured under three pillars. The first, “Prosperity,” uses empirical quality of life measures as well as GDP to form the statistical foundation for the index. The second pillar, “Social Inclusion,” focuses on personal safety, access to quality education, and internet access. The third and final pillar, “Spatial Inclusion,” examines environmental quality, affordability of housing, and access to healthcare.

The PICSA Index is also being extended to measure a combination of tangible and intangible measures. For example: How could we measure racial equality in a city? How could we measure the inclusiveness of social bonds within a city? 

Understanding these factors, and measuring them, are crucial as the stakes are incredibly high. As inequality rises, so does the dangerous influence of far-right populism and ethnonationalism. Often, blame is wrongly laid at the feet of immigrant communities, who come up against a tide of increasing hostility. No other index, to date, has focused on recognizing and rewarding the cities that succeed in mitigating these tensions. 

If local governments aim to build cities that work for everyone, why not begin by learning from those that are already on their way to getting it right?  The PICSA Index, to be launched on 21 November 2019, ranking more than 100 cities across the world who are leading the way, will aim to do just that.