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“Young people must play a role in city decision-making", by Carles Alsina

“Young people must play a role in city decision-making", by Carles Alsina

Carles Alsina, CEO of Sabseg Group 

What do you expect from the Barcelona of the 2040’s?

My involvement in Barcelona Global’s leadership program Barcelona 2043 has given me the chance to think deeply about this question. Inspired by John F. Kennedy, who said famously “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country,” I suggest turning the question around and asking instead: What does the Barcelona of the 2040’s expect from you?

This rather different focus helps one to take an active, committed approach to the future of the city. To this end, I believe that young people should concentrate on the following four areas.

  1. Love the city: It’s easy to love Barcelona, but the best initiatives require both reason and emotion. We must be able to transmit a love of Barcelona if we are to come up with really great initiatives.
  2. Adaptation and flexibility to change: Major changes frequently involve a certain degree of resistance, so we need to need to develop an agile culture to make sure that initiatives do not get bogged down.
  3. Social commitment:: There are already numerous city initiatives that are making a very positive impact on our environment. Doing our bit is one way to help build a better Barcelona.
  4. Constructive thinking:: I believe that criticism, if channeled correctly, conveyed in a constructive manner, and stripped of any ideological connotations, is a powerful engine for change.

With which city would you compare Barcelona? 

I find it very difficult to compare Barcelona with other cities because it is so unique. It is really difficult to answer the question without alluding to its climate, culture, quality of life, architecture, location, and all the other things that make it so extraordinary. One way to approach the question might be to compare Barcelona with other cities based on numerical parameters such as GDP per capita or volume of tourism or investment, but that would produce a very bland result.

So I think the best way to compare Barcelona with other cities is to think in terms of how it makes one feel. Although I can’t really explain it logically and Sydney is a very long way away from Barcelona, it is where I felt most at home.

What form of urban model should Barcelona adopt? 

Barcelona should make sure that all sectors in the city should have the necessary resources to enable them to develop freely. One has to remember that a cosmopolitan, dynamic and creative city like Barcelona cannot only be concerned about the people who live in the center, important as they are, but also about all those who play a role in the city: those who live nearby, those who are here temporarily, and those visit the city to work, etc.).

If we want Barcelona to retain its essence, we cannot rely on any one single model; we need to get the best out of those that have been tried and tested. In this respect, I am inspired by Gaudi, who said that: "Originality consists in returning to the origin; therefore, what is original is that which returns to the simplicity of the first solutions".

What is the main challenge that Barcelona needs to overcome in the coming years? 

Barcelona, like any large city, faces many major challenges. However, as with many cities around the world, one of the main challenges, one which especially affects the younger generations and has a huge impact on the quality of life of all its inhabitants, is accessibility to affordable housing.

There are certain local circumstances that affect housing in Barcelona, such as limits on space, but setting those aside, I think it is up to all of us to reflect on what we should ask the public authorities to do in order to resolve a problem that affects us all.

In my opinion, there is no magic formula, but I do think we should rethink some of the current measures, as they seem to have the opposite effect of that intended and reduce the supply of housing available on the market.

What role should the younger generation play in the development of the city? 

I believe that young people play an essential role in the development of the city, but we shouldn’t ignore those with more experience. They offer us valuable insights that provide a launchpad and help us to set our sights on the future.

Young people need to be encouraged to become more deeply involved in society and brought into city decision-making. Barcelona Global, which runs specific programs for young people like Barcelona 2043, are a step in the right direction.

What business sectors do you think Barcelona should invest in?

The current trend is to transform large cities into business knowledge hubs that specialize in certain areas, like IT, AI, sports, and so on, but I am cautious about defining just one single area that would be right for Barcelona. Actually, I believe that the value and attractiveness of Barcelona lies in the fact that it is a city capable of embracing different business sectors.

To clarify, I confess that I find it difficult to choose between the different dishes on a menu, so I love going out for tapas with friends and being able to try a wide variety of extraordinary dishes. What makes a good tapas restaurant exceptional, however, is not only the uniqueness of each dish, but the overall balance. So I sign off with a question: What can we do to turn Barcelona into the best tapas city, the one with the best balance of all the different flavors?

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