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How To Not Let the 2020 Crises Go to Waste

Ahmed Aboutaleb
Mayor at City of Rotterdam
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SXSW 2021
March 16, 2021, Online, Austin, USA
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How To Not Let the 2020 Crises Go to Waste
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About speakers

Ahmed Aboutaleb
Mayor at City of Rotterdam
Melissa Ablett-Jordaan
Vice President, Head of Centers EU & Asia at CIC (Cambridge Innovation Center)

Ahmed Aboutaleb is a Moroccan-Dutch politician of the Labour Party (PvdA) and journalist. He has been the Mayor of Rotterdam since 5 January 2009.

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Melissa Ablett-Jordaan is the Vice President, Head of Centers, EU & Asia for CIC International, where she is responsible for launching and overseeing CIC’s new centers outside the United States. Founded in 1999, CIC's shared office facilities now host more than 2,000 companies across nine cities in the US, EU and Asia.

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About the talk

“Never let a good crisis go to waste”. 2020 surely had no shortage of those. With dramatically increased calls from all layers of society for serious structural change, the opportunities for building a better future are abundant. But how do you translate those into practice? Rotterdam, the second largest city in the Netherlands, with a challenging diversity, dependance on heavy industry and deep economic divide, started seizing on their opportunities even before 2020.

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We say, never let a good crisis, go to waste 2020, Shirley had no shortage of those with dramatically increased calls from all layers of society for serious structural change. The opportunities for building a better, future are abundant but how do we translate those into practice Rotterdam? Second largest city in the Netherlands with a challenging diversity. Dependence on heavy industry and deep economic divide started. Sneezing on their opportunities even before 2020. I moved to Rotterdam from Boston. Over 5 years ago to launch the first International location of the company. I work

for the Cambridge Innovation Center from day one. I experienced Rotterdam as a place of serious Innovation and honest action unafraid to face. Its own challenges. Rotterdam has changed immensely over the years growing at the home of a strong start of community and a playground for businesses. Tackling everything from our future. Climate challenges to society's Equity issues, is a man. I respect him immensely and one of the city's strongest proponents of innovation mayor of you tell him over 12 years and has been a force in transforming. Rotterdam is with City poised to face. The

Future Has challenges head-on today. I have the pleasure of speaking with one of Europe's, Most forward-thinking mares, Robert Olive. It's so nice to be here with you today, and thank you for taking the time to talk to us. And I'd love to start by just hearing a little bit about Rotterdam, the city and you personally, as a mayor Can you tell us about Rotterdam as a City, Blue Collar jobs report, the largest port in the western hemisphere which is not on the cargo poorest woman in

this report. The major laws you find a racing in the world out here. That's it provides a lot of working opportunities for more than 150,000 jobs, data jobs and more than 100,000 connected jobs. To the to the Ford National City. Lot of people from all over the world are here when it, when are you go outside with baby? Stay the whole. I meant to say I'm a kind of a Secretary General of the United Nations of Rotterdam. Attitude, that's fascinating. So they all the flavors of the world that did the kitchens of the world that the languages of the world, religions of

the world. So that makes it easy to manage. Yeah, but very excited. Tell us a bit about yourself, please. Alex. I'm bored and Morocco from both my grandparents. Both living in the Netherlands. A big portion of my go to the Netherlands, when I was fifteen. So I have to add up to the mountains to do, the Dutch language to English language with history, for me, a video of a big game. My education is done. I'm in the NATO Communications and I spent three years

also, Liberty Inn on the Unix, everything that is connected to the year radio communications of airplanes for three years. So, I'm I'm, I'm not the one with the technical background and that sometimes a handicap is sometimes it's really useful over the years. You really put a flag in the ground, really say we want to make Rotterdam a home for Innovation. There's also a really strong Life Sciences Hospital industry here. Can you speak a bit about that part of the weather

if you focus on the so-called existed old economy? I'm not negative about that but it is, that is Thanks to a dinner invitation also in that part of the year of the industry, the number of jobs are declining. Seriously, the only thing to do that, it's being Innovative. So bye, bye, sweetie, excited! What is happening here? When I'm working together with the, the University of Leiden, Life Sciences, the technology University of Dallas, the Medical Faculty of the University of Rotterdam, three of them to create a compass, a new Compass. Why was too late the new

developments in Cancer? Treatments to use this world by working with antibodies. Make an entire bodies to treat your own. The Disease by making untie buddies coming from your own body, which is pretty fascinating. I talk about that with Pioneers in that Domaine making researching the world may be being successful in there in the future. But I see also how the technology faculty of delft University miss working together with the Erasmus University to create new technologies in the oppression rooms in too. Close

to that process. In my world is try to bring the parties together to facilitate the process. And then to two, They reschedule you. I do it. You have so many of these really incredible cities, universities institutions. And, you know, for Americans coming to the country. It's all so dense. So close together. Would I have seen? You do is the mayor of Rotterdam is really reach beyond the city and kind of pull in and build a collaboration with other cities. Can you speak more about how you do that with a challenges are

of that with a thought is behind it, 12 years ago and it's pretty fascinating city is except for a third term which is really for the bond between the city of myself. And I feel really comfortable about that. But I started working with said, the former mayor of city of the Hague to create a metropolitan Authority Not exist in and out within our geography, as as as as to compete with larger regions in Europe. If you needs another level, at least the original, three million people. So, what we did was

behaving myself, we went out to the cities and communities surrounding cities and try to create a new Coalition together with the province and that took a long time to Lobby the government, but also take out to Lobby the part. I meant to say that this is really a fucking. I didn't you step and that we organize our public transport economy and maybe in the future will run as over green spaces on a larger level than on the city yet on the city, like, which is a

smaller level CDL program. 650600 and we succeeded in doing that and I will have that collaboration with its own budget since own decision bodies. And that's really fascinating to create that makes that opens the doors for the universities in this region to work. Together is region is working together. Then the science is also willing to do the same as the way of building resilience and a way of strengthening which is I think really impressive. And I think resilience perhaps has been an overused word in 2020, but it's been something we've

kind of held onto to get through. The pandemic is Rotterdam resilient. Which resulted in $0.01 and not good in the other one, I wear a real good results when it comes to dealing with water. All the challenges connected to water flooding, for instance, but also the climate change, one of the years in the world by dachshunds of these. But this was a huge amount of investments in the port, which is not protected. So we have to be clever in managing the water, where do that and we have thousands of kilometers of flight SF Jackson

disease and the whole world is watching. What is going on in here? I have been a servant last 5-6 years at the chairperson for a committee. That is unwise did the national government investment in protecting the Netherlands. And when it comes to buy television at the, becoming a half engineer in in, in water and water and Water Management, really fascinating world. We are good. With that goes back to the to the Youth of the year and six, 15 or 1,600. When the water board, the first University in the Netherlands was established to to create Viper. What is for the agriculture that.

But resiliency is not only dealing with physics. It's also dealing with social issues being a resilient city, is how to recover from since. From covid-19, are you willing to have a plan for Investments now? And after the covid-19, to make it possible that it once, he's going to play his role in society as a as a piece and that was way. Cool. So short with you and see what really discovered, how to do that. There is not a green or red book where you can find the formula, how to do that. It's working in progress. It's a finding things, it's losing things and swiss talking things and

I think that's the the the the the the end ever in the entire world. With major city is how to recover and Stimulate peoples at the 2 to go to participate with the climate issues, but we have to address the issue of energy and we're doing good in that. But I would like to see that it isn't moving forward with left behind. So no relation is something for the wealthy in for the people with thick wallets. But everyone must profits from that process forward and even that is to work in progress and we don't have the winning the major problems at the beginning that you and Rotterdam are kind

of, you know, inexplicably intertwined. And you've been such a successful marriage. I think, two part of the Rotterdam identity is really tied with you. You came here fifteen years old for Morocco. And this is such a Melting Pot of 180 cities are nationalities, what challenges specifically does that prevent you kind of tests on it a bit and and what opportunities does that, give us a city own personal level of experience in last 15 years being in public office that we are happy to know that. I'm so proud of you say all the things we do are

based on policy. We have plans and we discuss it in the end of democracy, we are happy with it and it's it's something I didn't do it a certain degree, but let me tell you that it's pretty important who is doing that the man or the woman in charge the man or woman. Who is taking decisions in my office. I think I think twenty years to De 550 decisions a day so I can take a decision to the left, to the right up down and have a choice Y, and its sweetie, not only the policy And the public debate and the, the

Democracy that is shaping, the policy is also your personal consciousness. Why am I'm fighting against homelessness? All I can say. You have it, I forgot the Attic by the city, but nevertheless it to me, I have said and then I will come. So I don't accept that. People say about side sleeping under a bridge. That's not a human thing that has nothing to do with policy. The policy is correct. Is it to do with your personal touch, your personal freedom? How do you feel when you drive through

in your car under the brakes? And people are sleeping over there. What is your feet in The Dalles? Very moment. Do you say well to drive home. I'll call the police and ask him to pick these people and bring them to shelter. It matters, who is taking the type of decisions and maybe you may say that being a migrant have been living under difficult circumstances, I always the fight to get a step forward. Maybe that is a contributing to the way I try to talk to him. That you just admit, I'm kind of the heart of Rotterdam, the humanity of Rotterdam and I think it's interesting to think about, we have

to keep that Humanity in those policy decisions. And also, when I think about Humanity in Rotterdam, I think of cultural sector. I think of architecture, I think of arts and the, the creative sector. Where did that sit for you? As you look at the city of Rotterdam as mayor, the creative sector. The sky is the limit, That's really the answer. We love the creators of the way we are dealing with Architects. It would give him space to create it to Architects to developers and I think it's pretty important to

to be a kind of a city that is learning from what the creators can bring. Oh, we are Bearcats. We know how to deal with create with making decisions how to do with budgets and how to stimulate. Not to create the most creative people reporting to bring that into. Give it space. The only thing that would like to have when it comes to to architecture and to developers and is that we would like to have a balanced City in which there is space for everyone. Even for people, with low income. Policies

from two people, with sixteen Seventeen hundred euros a month, may also have a spa Just leaving. So we don't like a city that is not a rattlesnake. It's in terms of solidarity we would like to have told his people to a chair together. They say has a lot of people that are leaving from social benefits. That's true. But you may also say the city is proud of being a shelter for men under the bridge. So it's important that we work together with creators in, in the, in the music industry in the design

industry, in the, in the year, in the year, in the architecture of Music would like to have a solid City and that is really providing space to or is that Rotterdam will face in the future in the next five years. Let's say the three will be, I think the Year Edition. Stage of energy came from the Stone Age and from the Stone Age via gate. We went to steam and from Steve went to electricity and steel and now we discover there, I would still be in the Mother Earth in our environment so we have to do something about that. So energy friendly, eco-friendly energy

production is Reedy and the the new staff it's only for the energy security but also for the help. If we do that in return, we will introduce a major deal of the future missions in the air. So that's really fascinating how the industry can contribute to back to health. So that's one that one Endeavor. The second one is so I think the housing issues we lay behind another lens I think would like 1 million houses. That has to do with a lot of factors that would not love right about that way. It would need to accelerate when needs

accelerating building appropriate, affordable housing for all types of incomes in the, in the Netherlands, in my region. Hear what talkin about the 18000 to 100000 houses Nationwide. Will I get 1 million houses to have to read it accelerate than that. I called the news social issue in the Netherlands. And a lot of young people are fools to live with her parents because I know they're not affordable housing for it for 4 years and that's not a good thing. And the last thing you said associate resiliency how to make an old system dishes happen

and simultaneously catching, the all these uncertain circumstances for people that cannot deal with uncertainties. I think that's pretty important. So I kind of income security Security and a type of equal access to education and health care and other types of overcast, productivity and Innovation play in facing these challenges. I think specifically about the digitization and how much more inclusive and accessible perhaps education has become their, the pandemic by going online and and certain things like that, you see for Tech in Innovation and kind of these

three challenges to get fool would believe that. In in terms of technical technological solutions that we have, if this is a mountain, the amount of technological solutions that will you Is funky soul may be provided when available Solutions. It's just a wide range of solutions that we have nothing to be thinking of a nest. Humidity is going forwards will discover more solutions for a lot of things and it's really important and that will put a lot of pressure on education to educate, our youngsters to another level of felt Sciences in dealing, with this technology, is that creates new

opportunities for another building to self technology is serving Humanity. But don't forget that even able to deal with a lot of motor Technologies, so that if we ask, the city are organizing our systems in a way that people can enter all databases that, I can organize this DVD. These, I need to come and see what they need. They can request a passport and driver's license, whatever all systems can be done, but we still will have fifty-five 30% of its throat in the very traditional manner. So that

is how to do both to invest in new technology and two cities in our services. At the same time be aware that the will be always being so important about the Netherlands is that is a small country. I feel like people are very open to outside ideas. Very open to making connections with other cities in other places around the world, bringing in Technologies, which is relevant. We had a digital conference and we both were opening the year that the meeting and the plan was that I will

travel to Houston leaving on a business. Litigation in the my timer set to an unfortunate, it was not possible to do that due to covid-19 the issues that we had the opportunity, to speak to wear to each other, and just a minute. And then, oldie, major cities in the US. If it says, he'll talk with New York and other cities well-connected in all have the the issue that we work with very trusted old Industries simultaneous day. But looking forward to the Transitions and that democracy is, are really

not easy to manage conditions. Democracy is a good team, debating technologist at the debate in geology and debating issues. But Indy Indy public offices will have no always engineers and people with the metamatic fairgrounds or what would you need that background to have actual pictures of what is going on in the world and what the possibilities are? I have been watching with with a lot of pain. The way President Trump was defending the car industry in the

US knowing that combustion engines will disappear will disappear will disturb you. But for political and ideological reasons. Things are have been protective friends and colleagues in the US and elsewhere in the world to understand that indeed the existing technology is all Technologies are still important that they had to fill it out and we had to create For new things because something's In-N-Out in our existence as human beings are really going to happen. What do you like it or not?

As an American myself? I've spent, you know, the past years there's a lot of people really frustrated that they filled the politicians who are leading them are not focused on the right topic. I'm thinking about the future thinking about climate change, thinking about resiliency here, we're very lucky to have those things on the agenda on the table but I'm curious. What would you say to a citizen somewhere? Who is really feeling like their leaders are not focused on the right topics. What can I do?

They know what the Citizens watch and the citizens are focused on the issues of immediate the day, the week, the month of the year, And things that happened within one and a half hour, drive of the old house, that's the living environment of a lot of stitches. So if you want that, your leader is going to focus on the long-term transition, feed them with that idea. Otherwise they will not do it because they think they are serving You by focusing on The

Daily issues of today and tomorrow. So there is a linkage between being a leader and the kind of food that is coming from the society to feed the latest as long as the leaders, think they can win the elections by playing with the themes of the day and you vote for them, they will do it. In fact, the leader is not the leader. The leader is the society in the Horizon. Push them too with that idea. I really enjoyed the conversation with the mayor and I hope you did too. What I really took away was that humans are at the center of this there at

the center of our resilience. Our ability to think about challenges, like climate change, what technology we adopt and how we build an inclusive Society. I hope that people watch and get a takeaway from this that we can have an impact. And I really appreciated when Mara butala the stress that we need to be engaging with our leaders, in our society, to help them focus on our future challenges, like climate change. Lastly, I would like to say I send an open invitation to everyone who's watching to come visit us in this incredible City. Whether it's to work to play to enjoy when air travel

and pandemic. Let's have our doors are open and we hope you come to this International amazing City.

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Ahmed Aboutaleb
Melissa Ablett-Jordaan