What is Sity?
Sity is an association founded by Italian New Yorkers, with diverse backgroundss, experiences, and professions, who have grown both personally and professionally in the City. Sity is open to everyone, Italians and non-Italians, who live in New York or have their heart in New York. Our goal is to stimulate open and frank conversations with personalities from all over the world, on politics, policy, current affairs in Italy, Europe, and the United States.
We will promote the exchange of innovative ideas, best practices and solutions that may help achieve prosperity among the communities where we live, wherever they may be. To this end, we will leverage New York City’s global leadership role in many realms, from technology to social innovation, from life sciences to arts and culture. In the spirit of Pietro Verri’s Caffè, with a contemporary twist, we want to meet and discuss in informal and convivial settings.
Sity is a word from Old English that means “seat” (same root as the verb to sit). It is pronounced exactly like “city”. The city is New York, the quintessential city and the city where we live. Cities, or rather urban centers and their network of relationships with their neighboring suburban and rural areas, represent both the origin and the solution of most of the problems that societies face today.
Currently, more than half of the world’s population lives in urban centers. By 2050, this percentage will rise to about 75-80%. Cities produce three quarters of global GDP and three quarter of total emissions. This is why one of the cornerstones of the innovation we will talk about will be urban innovation, which includes urban planning, fighting climate change, energy, digitization, mobility, access to housing, air and green space quality, equity and diversity. The “seat” also recalls the conviviality of the conversations we want to have. A bit like the “fireside chats” that FDR invented (one of our models of inspiration).
Inside “Sity” there is also a bit of “Italy”. We believe in a new localism that, through empowerment of local administrations and jurisdictions, solves problems more effectively and without demagogy. Local administrations have little room for demagogy, as they deal with issues that affect the lives of citizens on a daily basis. Giving them greater powers and responsibilities makes them not only more effective, but also fairer: Demagoguery has no use when your job is to provide clean and drinkable water, keep the streets clean and pothole-free, manage a sustainable waste collection, provide affordable housing and so on. In the words of Bruce Katz and Jeremy Nowak, two of the worlds most respected experts in urbanism, “Responsibility for addressing some of the world’s hardest challenges is being pushed down to cities and metropolitan areas, often without compensating resources or structural authority. As a result, problem solving is increasingly bottom up rather than top down and delivered by networks of institutions and leaders rather than the public sector alone.”
In a nutshell, this is a new localism that is becoming ever more common in the US and around the world. Differently from previous iterations when localism might have been a synonym of parochialism, this new form is instead rooted in openness and inclusion. Examples abound, in the US and around the world.
Equity, diversity and sustainability. Our tools are our intellects, our passions and our knowledge. Everything else, ethnic origin, sexual orientation and religion are completely irrelevant. We are progressive in orientation, but we also believe in liberalism: we are open to dialogue with anyone, regardless of their political and party affiliation. We are interested in spreading solutions, not in self serving diatribes.
What else does Sity want to do?
Sity also aims to promote a transfer of know-how and best practices from New York and other parts of the world that are represented in New York, or are globally visible thanks to New York. To this end, we also hope to stimulate research initiatives in economic, social, environmental, labor, immigration, health, education, and international relations. We will emphasize purpose-driven innovation, whether technological or not. That is, innovation that seeks to resolve social and environmental challenges. The most pressing challenge we face is climate change, with its vast social implications. This existential threat requires a drastic energy transition towards beneficial electrification and the end of fossil fuels. We believe this transition represents a great opportunity for economic and social transformation that can generate millions of jobs and a fairer society.
New York is now one a powerful global innovation hub, second only to Silicon Valley. It is the world capital of purpose-driven innovation and it is first in life sciences and female entrepreneurship, anong other things. Thanks to a series of laws and public-private initiatives that catapulted it from a place of lag to a position global leadership. It is our conviction that over the next 10 years, New York will become one of the world’s leading Green Economy hubs.
Investments, skills and passions from all over the world flow through this city. We are fortunate to live, work, and study here, and we have a moral obligation to use this magnificent platform called New York City to contribute to the communities we are a part of, no matter their nationality or location.
One special word about Italy, given that this endeavor was started by a small group of Italian visionaries. We believe Italy must reignite economic growth, albeit in a more sustainable and inclusive direction. Its economy, despite many strengths has been stagnant for over twenty years. Most of all, it has become more inequitable and social mobility has stopped. This is happening everywhere, not just Italy.
Italy’s population is aging fast. And this also is not only an Italian problem. However, it is the country where this trend is most pronounced so it may serve as a blueprint for other countries. In addition, the country has a serious problem of depletion of human capital. Every year, 120,000 young people leave, and in the last 10 years we have lost more than one million. It has become common to sat that the 6.5 million Italians who live abroad, out of a total population of 60 million, are Italy’s twenty-first region. In the face of this hemorrhage, not much blood flows in. Tax incentives can make only make small dent. The only medicine for this is an economic transformation vision with a radically different immigration policy. “First” world countries need to invest more in the industries of the future to retain and attract talent, welcoming more, not less immigrants, and enact policies that will favor purpose-driven entrepreneurship and full integration into their economic and social fabrics.