Gary Hack: How Crowdsourcing Can Revolutionize City Development

Gary Hack: How Crowdsourcing Can Revolutionize City Development

Professor Emeritus of City & Regional Planning at UPenn believes that the people who live in a city are the only ones who really know how to improve it.

Gary Hack
  • 7 april 2013

The best intelligence about what a city lacks and what it needs, exists among people who use it every day. They are frustrated by what they can’t find, how difficult it is to navigate from place to place, how congested particular streets are, and by the lack of places there are to get away from the crowds. They know streets that are safe, and others to avoid. They also know the special places in their city where they shop, eat and find entertainment, and the unique buildings and squares where they proudly take visitors. Many local residents have seen things in other parts of the city, or other cities that they would like to have in their neighborhood or where they work or study. The shortest route to knowing what needs to be improved is by asking residents to share their needs and desires.

But there are some things that people in the crowd don’t know: the world of innovative possibilities that might address the problems they identify, the feasibility of building and maintaining things, the density needed in a city to support the services and shops residents desire, among other things. There are things that designers and planners can see that residents overlook, and professionals know how to make all the parts of the city add up to an energetic whole.

The best plans are made through a creative dialogue between people and professionals. And the first step is by broadcasting the call for ideas. The My Ideal City project is an excellent example of this process – and something that I am proud to be part of.

In parallel with this exercise, a design team that I am a member of will be looking for creative solutions and developments that respond to the views citizens are voicing. The ultimate result will be a plan and strategy for central Bogota, which helps residents see their aspirations realized. All of this work will be published through the site in Spanish at and English at

Gary Hack is Professor Emeritus of City & Regional Planning at University of Pennsylvania.

Over the next 6 months, we want to start a conversation around what you envision as ‘My Ideal City’. Stay tuned each week to and for new ideas around the future of the city. 


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