By 2050, over 70 per cent of the world will be living in cities. It is therefore crucial to start thinking about ways we can create smart solutions to develop a more clean and sustainable city environment.

To create a more sustainable planet, it is going to require the time and investment of everyone, from families to businesses – not to mention those introducing new and exciting innovations in the business space. Which is why today we're taking a look at three social entrepreneurs and their creative solutions.

One of the most effective ways to make a city sustainable is to engage its citizens in the task. Ashoka Fellow Tom Steinberg developed a platform, mySociety, to help people engage with democracy locally, regionally, nationally and internationally in an accessible and effective way. Moving away from the incomprehensible language usually used around government websites the mySociety platform simply gives people the power to get things changed, by using technology to connect up governments and citizens directly.

The issues addressed by mySociety are varied, for example, “Fix My Street” is, as the title suggests, a way of calling attention to local problems from litter to broken street signs – simply enter a problem on a map and the platform directs it to the relevant local government authority. Another project, “They Work For You” brings transparency to politics by directly connecting voters to the voting records of their MPs and enabling them to understand exactly what it means when a politician represents them. 

Virgin Unite, Ashoka, Disruptors,Guy Milnes

Virgin Unite, Ashoka, Disruptors,Guy Milnes

Working in a similar way is Danish Ashoka Fellow Sascha Haselmeyer, CEO of In his own words, Citymart is “a method to help the many thousands of cities and local governments in the world share the best solutions that can quickly improve the lives of citizens.”

One of the most effective ways to make a city sustainable is to engage its citizens in the task

Sascha has developed a fellowship of smart cities, by creating a platform that allows professionals and citizens from different cities around the world – San Francisco to London and Barcelona to Rio de Janeiro – to communicate, exchange and collaborate on creating solutions around many different issues such as sustainable tourism, energy and transport. The platform works as a laboratory for new ideas where millions of public leaders can access a knowledge database that allows them to make better decisions, as well as improve people’s lives. 

Virgin Unite, Ashoka, Disruptors, Rob Hopkins

Virgin Unite, Ashoka, Disruptors, Rob Hopkins

Tom and Sascha have developed powerful tools to mobilise individuals on issues around local government, but what about bigger social problems? Transition Towns is a movement developed by Ashoka Fellow Rob Hopkins, with the intention of finding innovative solutions for climate change and peak oil challenges.

Inspired by the idea of building resilient communities, the community is divided into smaller groups and each one tackles a different aspect of local life, from agriculture and housing to energy and economy. Every citizen that participates is encouraged and supported by the project and highly recognized for their achievements. The Transition initiative educates the community through creative approaches that involves talks by experts in the field of climate change, film screenings followed by discussion groups and articles in local papers.

Rob has been able to address these challenges at a local level, making them more accessible and tangible in community members’ everyday lives. Transition Towns has strengthened the local economy, reduced living costs and redefined their relationship with the world around them. 

Virgin Unite, Ashoka, Disruptors, Fiona Ward

Virgin Unite, Ashoka, Disruptors, Fiona Ward

In the face of mounting challenges smart cities increasingly seem to be at the forefront of solutions, perhaps their value lies in their engagement of citizens to lead social change. What’s your take on the debate? 

By Daniela Bach, Education Volunteer at Ashoka UK

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