Dublin at the Crossroads: Exploring the Future of the Dublin City Region

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Dr Ela Krawczyk, Head of The Futures Academy at DIT,
presents a copy of the report to Lord Mayor of Dublin City, Cllr Eibhlin Byrne.

10 June 2009

What will the Dublin region look like in the year 2030? Will it be a model region that combines a thriving economy with wise planning, social harmony and environmental care, or a hellhole of urban sprawl, social division and ethnic tensions? A unique and fascinating report that offers visions of Dublin’s future was launched by Dublin’s Lord Mayor Eibhlin Byrne today,. The report, Dublin at the Crossroads: Exploring the Future of the Dublin City Region, asks one key question: “What might the Dublin city region be like in 2030?” To answer this, it does not forecast the future but rather creates three compelling scenarios or pictures of alternative possible futures.

Urban regions are the powerhouses of progress and the engines of economic growth. Almost 40% of Ireland’s population live in the Greater Dublin Area and almost 50% of its GDP is produced there. It is pivotal to the success of Ireland overall. However, it faces urgent questions:

  • What kind of Ireland will emerge from the current crisis?
  • How can a sustainable knowledge economy be built with scarce resources?
  • What governance structures will enable rather than hinder the expanding Dublin region?
  • Will Dublin be able to maintain its international competitiveness?

The report is the culmination of a study undertaken by Dublin Institute of Technology’s Futures Academy, Dublin City Council and Dublin Chamber of Commerce. It examines in rich detail how the region might evolve over the next 20 years. A wide range of stakeholders were consulted – from local government, business, arts, culture, education, politics, religion, justice and other areas of civic society. By applying a ‘futures approach’, the report identifies what futures are possible, probable and preferable. Its aim is to inspire and inform discussion on the future of the city among various groups and stakeholders – and, above all, to instigate action to meet the various threats and challenges. The report also includes specific recommendations – such as an Emissions Trading Institute, a Dublin 'Heroes' project and a Green Taxis plan.

The report establishes a highly effective platform for collaborative planning but, while including a wealth of information and statistics, it leaps far beyond most reports of its kind by offering a fascinating, rich and detailed vision of how Dublin 2030 might look economically, socially, politically, environmentally and culturally.

The project leader is Professor John Ratcliffe, Dean and Director of DIT’s Faculty of the Built Environment. A former Secretary General of the World Futures Studies Federation (WFSF), he founded The Futures Academy, an applied research and strategic consultancy organisation, in 2003 to promote a more effective approach to long-term planning. The report authors are Dr Ela Krawczyk, head of the Academy and former Assistant-Secretary General of the WFSF, and researcher Paolo Ronchetti.

At the launch, Professor Ratcliffe and Dr Krawczyk introduced the main findings of the study. Dick Gleeson, City Planner for Dublin City Council, and Aebhric McGibney, Director of Policy & Communications in Dublin Chamber of Commerce, were also present to discuss the main challenges for the future of Dublin.

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Dr Krawczyk presents the findings of ‘Dublin at the Crossroads’
at the launch in Dublin’s Mansion House

Dublin 2030: The Three Scenarios

The first scenario, 'Feet of Clay', imagines a "free mareet" future of rising globalisation, individualism and consumerism, combining technological dynamism, environmental devastation and social urest - a world of winners and losers.  The Dublin region, with 2.5 million people, is the hub of the "Eastern Conurbation".  Although thriving economically, it mixes gated communities with ghettos and suffers riots and social unrest.

In the second scenario, 'Winds of Change', the world has rejected the unfettered free-market version of capitalism and rampant environmental exploitation in favour of a more Scandinavian solution.  The Dublin region, part of the "Eastern Corridor", is less wealthy than in the early 2000s, but enjoys more social justice, environmental care and a good quality of life.  But it also faces increasing competition from the "Western Corridor"...

The third scenario, 'The Lost Decade', presents a darker future, following a socio-political backlash against globalisation and rapid change.  People have turned inward; the nation state prevails, crime is increasing and the competition for scarce resources provokes increasing conflict.  The Dublin area suffers from unabated urban sprawl, poor public transport (no change there), crime, racism and social exclusion.  Climate change has led to large areas of Malahide being claimed by the sea.  However, encouraging social and political developments raise some hopes for the future.

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