Posted on Monday, 25 July 2016 at 11am
by Lifelong Learning Centre Staff.
The following is part two of a guest post by Roland Maposa, a mature student who has just completed his first year studying full-time on our BA Professional Studies programme.
What makes a city Smart?
Leeds has a history as an innovative and outward-looking city. For example, it has produced the likes of John Marshall (the first elevator), Louis Le Prince (who shot the world’s first motion film in 1888, showing Leeds bridge) Joseph Priestley and the Michael Marks and Thomas Spencer team, to mention a few. Today, Leeds is the largest city in Europe without a mass transit system and has a growing inequality gap amongst its citizens. The city leaders are aware of these challenges and, we were informed, are working to address them!
Informed by our challenge question, ‘What a makes a city Smart?’ we were split into three working groups. The programme was conducted under the Chatham House Rules, as this helped our alumni and contributors to the programme to speak and share candidly. In New York, guided by our key learning aspect of Cultural Intelligence, our brief was simple: to immerse ourselves in the city fully and keep an open mind until we needed to focus. This was an informing experience, as I noticed things and exchanges in a way that I may have not otherwise. New York is half the size of London, yet it shares the same population of 20 million residents. The city faces its own challenges with regard to the Smart city concept; these include its transport system and infrastructure, inequality and a lack of affordable housing, especially in Manhattan. In the final two days in New York, my group pitched an idea for a summer school programme targeting children from disadvantaged backgrounds. I was struck by the city’s diversity and – better still – encouraged by a strong sense of an awareness across all sectors that, if harnessed, can serve New York for the better in the future. On the final day in Leeds, after revisiting the topic of power and influence in Leeds: we did it! We pitched our idea: to start a not-for-profit organization, that works to bring students together with employers in the Leeds city region; the region has the highest concentration of Higher Education institutions in Europe and would really benefit from retaining more of its graduates.
The challenge question, ‘What makes a city Smart?’ has introduced me to the sustainability agenda; this is a vast and undeniable concept. Smart cites are the future and Leeds is a city that is at the cusp of exponential growth. Importantly, it can shape this destiny by learning from cities like New York. I also learnt a lot about leadership; it is important to harness a pragmatic approach and to have an awareness of all cultures if one is to be a successful leader! This is especially true now, when the world is in a state of great change. This calls for a variety of skills and ways of thinking, which include but are not limited to pragmatism, open-mindedness and I would say most importantly interpersonal skills, as strong communication skills form the basis for any leader. Another big takeaway was that one must not be afraid to fail; it is how fast you recover that matters.
The BA Professional Studies programme, with its interdisciplinary, work-ready focus, truly complements these skills and I have chosen discovery modules that have been influenced by my experience on this programme. I must bring your attention to the Opportunities Fund here at the LLC and applaud this fund for its great support. I say whatever you put your heart and mind to, you will achieve it. The Leeds to New York Student Leadership Programme is one such opportunity that allows you to exhaust that capacity, and the Lifelong Learning Centre in its names offers the best advice I can give anyone: never stop learning!