From the CEO, May 2019

Published:

Early in April I set off for this year’s international study tour, arriving in Seattle via Hong Kong to find a city that has transformed in the six years since my last visit.

The Amazon-ification of Seattle has shifted its economic base to a tech city and redefined it as a company town. Amazon occupies 12m square feet of office space, some 40 buildings downtown, its occupation is of gargantuan proportions. Its workforce and other tech workers mostly earn six figure salaries and this is driving up the cost of living and housing. Seattle is a real live boomtown!

Seattle’s transformation has shaped a hip, young and new city. Fortunately nods to the past such as Pike Place Market and the more down-at-heel Pioneer Square remain. The final piece in the puzzle is underway thanks to the demolition of the viaduct that is at the waterfront. Once complete, this promises large-scale renewal that will reconnect the water and the city once more.

My week-long visit, hosted by Lyle Bicknell at the City of Seattle, included a visit to the University of Washington and its school of Planning and Urban Design; a meeting with staff at the city involved in economic development and international relations for our Hashtag Perth project; and another with the team at the Northwest Seaport Alliance, which incorporates the ports of Seattle and Tacoma to gain insights for the Westport Taskforce. I also visited a node of urban renewal catalysed by a light rail station to share with the Metronet team.

From Seattle I flew to Vancouver, a city that I have been to many times. Vancouver has undergone an enormous amount of development over the past 20 years and its next transformative move, the relocation of the hospital, will create the next major renewal opportunity in the city.

I was in Vancouver to attend the 2019 TED ‘Bigger than Us’ conference. TED is an experience like no other. From the moment of arrival at the Vancouver Convention Centre on the Sunday evening, where I became a fully-fledged TEDster, through four and a half days and a monumental 91 TED talks, I was challenged, educated, uplifted and dismayed and I both laughed and cried.

The concept of TED is to ‘spread ideas worth sharing’. In essence, it exposes the wonders of the modern world along with glimpses into its dark side.

The schedule at TED is not for the fainthearted. Days are filled with 20+ rapid-fire talks by leaders in their field - people working to find solutions to challenges that most of us would think too hard or too complex to take on.

Over the week, I lost count of the number of scientists, practitioners and researchers that are doing good things to save the world, to make it a better place, to repair some of mankind’s harm. I am impressed by them all and thankful that they spend hours, days and sometimes years finding reasons to get up, day after day despite facing set back after set back, to ultimately find a breakthrough.

Here are just a few that I thought our members might be interested in:

  • Welsh born investigative journalist Carole Cadwalladr exposing the sinister role of social media in the Brexit vote. Read more 
  • Indian born architect and Harvard University Professor Rahul Mehrotra encouraging temporary solutions to temporary problems rather than permanent infrastructure. Read more 
  • Danish born architect Bjarke Ingels using the conventions of design to rethink buildings, places and ecosystems. Read more
  • Civic Evangelist, Eric Liu who started Civic Saturday’s in Seattle in 2012 which is now becoming a world-wide movement. Read more 

The TED participants are just as intriguing as the speakers. During TED, I met citizens of the world who are journalists, environmentalists, venture capitalists, policy makers, designers, educators, lawyers and lots of tech geeks. Yet I met no one who has a role like me.

The whole two weeks were enriching and validating. I know without doubt that our purpose of informing and advocating for change that improves the cultural diversity, economic prosperity, sustainability and world-class amenity of Perth is a noble one. How do I know? Because time and time again people I met reflected that their city needed an organisation just like ours.

Until mid-May, I will be on leave, but be certain the team is hard at work progressing our important research agenda.

Marion Fulker
CEO
Adjunct Senior Research Fellow UWA


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