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The 15-Minute City Framework is gaining international traction as a way for cities to improve post-pandemic urban development by providing equal access to core services and opportunities with the intention of enabling all citizens to meet their basic needs close to home. At this point we know what must be done, but less about how to do it. That is why BLOXHUB, Novo Nordisk and Gehl co-organized an international, cross-disciplinary workshop to get concrete about how the 15-minute city framework can accelerate global, impact-driven, sustainable urban development.

The workshop ”15-minute city – framing the future of urban development” was held on August 18 at BLOXHUB gathering a variety of different experts in the realms of food security, mobility, data, urban planning, architecture, human rights and creative economy representing a wide range of sectors from research institutions, SMEs and global companies to architecture studios, innovation hubs and non-profit organizations. All of them armed with different perspectives on how to build back better in light of the global COVID-19 pandemic. Anne Gadegaard, Associated Director at Novo Nordisk, explained the intention behind the interdisciplinary workshop:

“This partnership with BLOXHUB and Gehl builds on a common interest in turning the concept of the 15-minute city into a concrete framework, which can be used in a political and operational way, and our hope is that it will result in a set of recommendations reflecting our combined knowledge, competencies and experiences. These can help us create results when it comes to an approach to sustainable urban development, which values proximity, community and social inclusion. Results that may be scalable or simply inspirational to others in all parts of the world.” She said.

A holistic understanding is key to problem-solving
As a global healthcare company on a mission to defeat diabetes and other serious chronic diseases, such as obesity, Novo Nordisk has a keen interest in the type of cross-border, cross-sector collaboration that is necessary to tackle such complex challenges. For Anne Gadegaard the collaboration with BLOXHUB and Gehl is one way of responding to the societal need of not only thinking in terms of individual treatment options, but also in terms of how the urban structures can undermine health and well-being from a prevention perspective.

“Our experience shows us that it is necessary to solve concrete challenges by working together across departments, stakeholders and disciplines in organisations and between organisations. It is about bringing together different competencies and nurturing the understanding that everyone has a role to play in solving the challenge. This is extremely challenging, but also vital if we are to make a difference for the 650.000.000 people worldwide struggling with obesity. It is necessary to do something for the individual, but certainly also to look at the systems that reinforce individual behaviour. A good example is the ways in which urban planning can support and nudge healthy living when rather than sitting on a bus for an hour just to be able to buy fresh produce, access to fresh produce is considered as part of the built environment and promoted through legislation. Building on a holistic understanding of how different variables feed into the solving of complex problems is key.” She explained.

Equality, proximity and community
Over the course of a day the workshop participants explored which elements are necessary to create a scalable, analytical methodology for the 15-minute city framework that both cities and companies can integrate in urban development projects built on a bottom-up engagement model. The exercises revolved around a recent study on healthy foodscapes conducted by Gehl Architects. The study maps out local food systems in the city of Bogotá through community observations and surveys to assess local challenges.

In 2014 Novo Nordisk launched the global city network, Cities Changing Diabetes, with the purpose of addressing the social and cultural factors that can increase vulnerability to type 2 diabetes among certain people living in urban environments. One of the goals of the program is to increase local capacity among the more than 35 cities in the network, and as Anne Gadegaard points out the corona crisis further accentuated the importance of the local when it comes to urban development.

“The idea of the 15-minute city gives us a platform to enter into dialogue with local municipalities about how to best support people living with diabetes apart from treatment. The corona crisis taught us something about the importance of equality, proximity to services and amenities and close-knit communities. If you manage to re-activate a community feeling where people invest in each other, it will result in a greater sense of respect and security and a higher quality of life.” She said.

A human rights-based approach to urban development
Apart from Novo Nordisk and Gehl the workshop participants included representatives from heavyweights in the Danish building industry, such as Arup and Schmidt Hammer Lassen as well as several research institutions such as Aalborg University, Lund University, University of Southern Denmark and the Raoul Wallenberg Institute of Human Rights and Humanitarian Law. Director of the latter, Morten Kjærum, emphasized that a human rights-based approach and participatory design is fundamental when it comes to sustainable urban development in general and for the 15-minute city framework specifically:

“Inclusive development is extremely important, why? The corona crisis revealed many of the inequalities, which are built into the structures of modern cities, and showed us which social groups are the first to be left behind in a crisis. If you look at the death statistics following in the wake of covid-19, it becomes clear that the people who were hit the hardest were people in nursing homes, mental health institutions and those who had difficulty receiving information due to cultural or language barriers. It’s the people who were in the front line, taxi drivers, nursing staff, the people with the lowest income. The mechanisms simply weren’t in place to assist those social groups.” He said.

When ideas meet reality
According to Juan Diego Ortiz, CEO of Coolture Investments, who has worked on a number of urban development projects in Bogotá, it is important to challenge the applicability of the 15-minute city framework by testing how new ideas hold up when they meet concrete experience and knowledge from local communities in different parts of the world.

“This workshop opened my eyes to the value of the 15-minute city framework for complex cities like Bogotá as a way of strengthening quality of life, equality and food security. From my point of view, it would be interesting to integrate the 15-minute city framework with the poli-centric theory, for example, because it argues for the creation of new city centres, so that people don’t have to suffer long commutes to opportunities and jobs among other things. This way we make sure that the framework works for everyone and does not isolate people within a radius of 15 minutes of an area characterized by scarcity that is not desirable to live in.” He argued.

For innovative SMEs from the BLOXHUB ecosystem the interdisciplinary workshops offer an opportunity to network and explore collaboration potential with new partners around current challenges within sustainable urban development. That is why BLOXHUB member and International Senior Business Developer at Technolution, Danny Vroemen, decided to participate in the workshop.

“The fun part of participating in this workshop for me is exactly that it is interdisciplinary. Too often problem-solving adopts and unrealistically narrow perspective. As a Business Developer at Technolution it is also a great way for me to meet new people, strengthen relationships with Danish networks, companies and contacts to explore how we can collaborate. Technolution provides integrated solutions – in Copenhagen, for example, we delivered the traffic management system that connects to the traffic lights, dynamic bike displays, etc, in order to improve the traffic performance. In terms of the 15-minute city, it will have an impact on the current way we manage traffic and as such is very relevant to us.” He concluded.

Interested in more?
If you would like to hear more about the 15-minute city or the possibility of organizing a workshop with BLOXHUB’s Urban Partnership’s team, please read more here or contact Program Manager, Torben Krab on e-mail: or phone: +45 51624031.