16 April 2021

City Shapers is a global program developed to offer early career professionals within Arcadis the opportunity to solve urbanization challenges. As of 2020, there were 27 City Shaper chapters globally, and we hope to expand this number in 2021.

The City Shapers have tackled topics such as mobility and infrastructure challenges, inclusive community projects and smart waste management to improve the quality of life in their own habitats, resulting in 16 project pitches in November. In December 2020, we selected the top 5 projects from our chapters in Melbourne, New York City, Sao Paulo, San Francisco and Sydney.

The City Shapers 2021 edition kicked off in March. Program sponsor John Batten, Arcadis’ Global Cities Director is here to provide some more insights on this year’s program and the opportunities it offers!

Q1: What inspired you to start the Global City Shapers program?

A: The City Shapers program was initiated by the City Executive of New York City, Peter Glus. He organized after-work pizza and beer sessions for early career professionals to introduce them to projects beyond their day-to-day work. This effort inspired a series of city resilience opportunities that came about as a result of Superstorm Sandy.

Q2: How did City Shapers end up with 27 chapters in 2020?

A: After I became the business sponsor for Global Shapers in 2018, I saw an opportunity to grow the City Shapers program. The City Shapers program and the Global Shapers program have a strong linkage when it comes to program objectives and target group: early career professionals. By offering the City Shapers program to Global Shaper participants, they could continue to contribute their efforts and energy towards projects that we can bring to clients after the program. We call this “after-programing impact” – the ripple effect.

Thanks to this ripple effect, the program grew organically over the last few years, resulting in an impressive 27-chapter strong program at the start of 2020. The program proved to be COVID-19 proof and able to be managed virtually, which was a great plus. As most of the face-to-face aspects of our programs like Global Shapers and Quest were on hold, we saw the opportunity to enthuse more early career professionals to join the City Shapers alternative.

Q3: Can you tell us a bit about the winning projects from last year and how they have been implemented?

A: In 2020 we selected 5 chapters from around the world to bring their projects to life: Melbourne, New York City, Sao Paulo, San Francisco and Sydney. It’s very impressive to see how these projects continue to develop following the City Shapers selection process.

For example, Jane Wu and Christina Sue from the New York City chapter have been working with field teams and the Netherlands Computer Vision team to understand how data could be collected, transferred, and trained to create a Computer Vision for Waste Detection for potential clients such as the NYCDEP, DSNY, The Ocean Cleanup, and others. The chapter has received quite a bit of positive feedback and questions on the impressive new technology and the applicability of it for detecting things like litter or plant and animal species. Jane Wu said: “I think the big piece of work now is post-COVID with funding hopefully opening up again, turning this technology into a full-scale project.

Additionally, Arcadis in Sydney is currently supporting Transport for New South Wales to deliver a world-class, urban precinct to stimulate economic activity and enrich the local community. “We saw this as an opportunity to further position Arcadis as technical experts in precinct design. By developing thought leadership on world-class precincts and creating innovative tools to support design, Arcadis can continue to assist on current and future precinct developments,” Arcadis Sydney.

Q4: How does the program work virtually?

A: The program is run locally by the City Shaper chapters themselves and their local mentor and/or sponsor. The program is administered globally from New York City, Hong Kong and Amsterdam. It is a joint effort between the global cities program and the global people function. The City Shaper chapters are local teams from the same area or city tackling urbanization challenges, and are able to meet (virtually), brainstorm and develop their projects. The global community meetings and team leader meetings are also held on virtual platforms; through our MS Teams community, we are able to communicate directly with the City Shapers and facilitate all pitches and presentations.

Q5: Who is the target audience of this program?

A: Anyone with about <10 years of work experience can participate! In 2020, we had more than 250 people from 27 cities who are active in the program. Anyone in the early stages of their career is welcome to participate and contribute towards solving some of society’s and cities’ complex urbanization issues. Participants are the heart of the program and are supported by stakeholders such as city executives and other subject matter experts.

Q6: What if someone worked on a project last year and wants to continue?

A: We are happy to encourage some City Shaper chapters to resume their great work from 2020 and evolve it into a client offering in 2021. It’s equally fine to start off on a new project with fresh team members and new ideas, especially once inspired by our new strategy. It’s up to you as a City Shaper chapter on how to narrow down your problem statement and get local energy to make an impact in your city.