BOLD Cities introduces new research strategy

Liesbet van Zoonen

The BOLD Cities 2019 kick-off event in Leiden, during which Peter Swire shared his insights on cybersecurity, also gave the Centre's executive board the opportunity to share its vision for the coming years. Academic director Liesbet van Zoonen presented the Centre's 'From BOLD to SHARED cities' mission and the research strategy that comes with this philosophy. In the 2019-2024 period, The Centre for BOLD Cities will continue to align researchers from various disciplines in the LDE universities in projects that regard urban (big) data. The Centre’s mission is to go from BOLD to SHARED cities’ reflecting the overall aim to work towards an inclusive smart city for citizens and civil servants. In doing so, the Centre’s executive board has decided to focus on three main themes.

For citizens and civil servants: the use of data and digital technologies to aid vulnerable urban groups

Governments and municipalities increasingly use ‘big data’ and digital technology for (social) policy. Using our SHARED values, the Centre for BOLD Cities critically looks into the use of these technologies, especially when this concerns vulnerable groups. This includes our research projects on personalised re-integration, data-driven help for NEETs (young citizens that are not in education, employment or training) and the digital support for developing an inclusive urban environment for vulnerable children.

By citizens and civil servants: the enhancements of new forms of urban participation and governance

Urban digitalisation and datafication processes is developed in multi-stakeholder processes in which municipalities, companies, knowledge institutions and citizens cooperate. These processes lead to the development of new forms of participations and governance, such as living labs, hackathons and open data. The Centre for BOLD Cities is committed to advancing knowledge and awareness of the use and possibly consequences of these forms, specifically inclusion and exclusion of specific urban groups and the competences of municipal policymakers and civil servants. This theme includes the critical questioning and analysis of the underlying discourse.

With citizens and civil servants: the development of urban data literacy and democratic legitimisation

The average urban citizen does not know what ‘big data’ or a ‘smart city’ is; policymakers have diverging or even contradicting expectations. The SHARED values underline the importance of citizens’ ability to make informed choices on datafication and digitalisation in their urban environment; and the significance of including these choices in the democratic process. BOLD Cities’ research on ‘data literacy’ and ‘data empowerment’ for both city users and city makers is prevalent in, for instance, our physical and digital data walks and data dialogues.


The audience at the BOLD Cities kick-off meeting
The audience at the BOLD Cities kick-off meeting.