Integral City sat down in June, 2017, with Lev Gordon on his recent visit to North America. We got the “inside scoop” from Lev on how he and his colleagues had transformed the Urbanfest 2014, featuring Integral City with other urban experts, into a Living Cities Association that stretches from Vladivostok to St. Petersburg. Read our interview with Lev Gordon and catch his enthusiasm for Life!!
(In the photo below Lev is in the Top Row, First Column.)
IC: What activities does Living Cities undertake?
LG: The national community of practice “Living Cities” spontaneously emerged in Russia around 2014 based among other things on the Integral City approach. Today it includes some 1000 participants from over 75 cities who participated in annual Forums of Living Cities and other related events and who share the ideas and ideals on an holistic, integral approach to city development.
The community involves both experts and practitioners of city development activities from all 4 Voices of the city. The mission that lies at the core of everything we do is “1000 Living cities by 2035”. This really means affecting and transforming all 4 quadrants in each of those cities (there are about 1108 cities in Russia overall) through education, nation-wide and city-wide dialogue and research, generating and sharing best practices, building stronger communication and cooperation within each city and in-between cities and communities. In addition we intend that development will happen through stimulating cooperation between the 4 Voices, leadership development, as well as through a constant inner evolution process of each and every participant.
We increasingly emphasize this point – a conscious inner personal evolution is the crucial enabling condition of the subsequent changes on a community level. Where does it start? From inner realization of the creative force that goes through each one of us and through accepting a responsible, mature outlook on life that happens around and through us. This is the first step toward personal and city awakening. We bring more Life, Light, Consciousness and Interconnectedness to the cities. More healing and integration.
IC: Where does Living Cities operate?
LG: Today activities span the wide geography from Vladivostok in the Far East to Saint Petersburg in the West of Russia. Off-line and online. In small groups and during nation-wide gatherings that bring together hundreds of active smart people. Clearly, Moscow is the central hub, as many experts live there and it is logistically the easiest point to get together, but also other cities participate – including Saint Petersburg, Nizhny Novgorod, Izhevsk, Samara and so on.
In addition to physical gathering of the projects in the cities, we also see that our ideas and approaches get noticed and become operational through existing nation-wide projects. In particular, last year the Government of Russia launched a national priority project : “Creating comfortable urban environment”. They visualize that over the next 5 year period it will affect 11,000 cities, small towns and villages. Living Cities experts form more than half of the project’s Expert Council and we include the ideas of a holistic approach to city development – including both physical infrastructure and management systems, communications and communities, technologies and culture and so on – these ideas and practices are now finding their way into the project’s methodologies, educational curriculum and related legislation.
At this very moment candidates from across the country participate in the first national elections to the Board of Living Cities initiative. Overall, the level of activity and complexity of initiatives and projects is rising and so will increasingly the geography of the network of Living Cities. In 2017-2018 we plan to connect to the Creative Cities network run by the UN, European City Embassies network and other initiatives from around the globe. Online we are present at www.livingcities.ru
IC: Who is involved as service designers/deliverers?
LG: Many leading national and international experts are part of the initiative. Marilyn Hamilton, Cees Donkers, Pavel Luksha, Alexei Baturin, Sergei Samartsev, Tatyana Bochkareva, Valeria Terentieva, Sergei Zhuravlev, Arcady Chernov, Yuri Aistov, Andrei Sharonov, Sofia Trotsenko, Andrei Asadov and others – names well known both within and outside of Russia. Experts share the creative and delivery stages with people from business, government and academia – creating a synthetic approach that includes both the mind and the heart, the body, the soul and the spirit – all brought together in a natural way.
IC: How do you involve the 4 Voices?
LG: Increasingly, key projects and events are designed with the 4 Voices in mind. Wherever possible we see representatives of all voices being part of the core team.
IC: Tell me about the mayor(s) who took your courses.
LG: Over the last couple of years we saw an interesting trend – people who come to Living Cities events within a year grow from a community-minded local business person or from a senior local government official to a city mayor – we have such examples in cities with populations from 100 thousands people to 1 million. The energy, inner maturity and spirit of authentic leadership and service to the society seem to be the pillars of this transition.
IC: What value did they get from the courses?
LG: They received inspiration, broader and deeper and more integral vision, including a vision of the 4 Voices as catalysts of positive change, as well as belief in human potential and readiness to act on this set of beliefs and values. The learned how to unlock this creative potential through specific practices and tools that are developed within the Living Cities platform.
IC: Who else is taking the courses?
LG: Really everyone – from young students to mayors and vice-mayors, from regional development corporation leaders to entrepreneurs, from personal development specialists to mass-media owners – everyone who sees cities as laboratories for cooperation and exchange where the future of local communities, the country and the world is being born.
IC: What are your plans for the future?
LG: While we have a grand vision – basically creating the conditions for the next wave of human civilization to come through conscious, integral, divine cities – we also are very practical in making specific steps to gradually move towards this vision. In 2017-2018 we plan to form a robust and agile governance system for the Living Cities, building on effective teamwork – also through experimenting with teal and turquoise approaches to organization, double the number of cities in the network, form several strategic partnerships, organize the IV Forum of Living Cities, create a strong Supervisory Board, build several sources of funding, increase multifold our internet and media presence and start international cooperation projects. Emir Custurica, a world-famous movie director, founder of Kustendorf village in Serbia and a guest of last year’s Forum in Saint Petersburg invited us to hold a European Forum of Living Cities and we aspire to do it in 2018.
Yet, above all, we plan to live every day fully awake, with joy, sense of purpose, grateful for all the beautiful ways that Life chooses to creatively express Itself. We simply Follow the Energy. A country and the planet of Living Cities? Why not.