Abu Dhabi

The Department of Community Development, the regulatory body overseeing the social sector in Abu Dhabi, revealed details of its 'Community of the Future' initiative while hosting the fifth edition of the 'SITalks' (Social Innovation Talks) series, a forum dedicated to fostering dialogues on social innovation in order to address critical social issues and explore innovative solutions that can improve the quality of life for individuals within the community.

'SITalks' was held at the Yas SeaWorld Research & Rescue Center, and was attended by H.E. Awaidha Al Marar, Chairman of the Abu Dhabi Department of Energy, H.E. Eng. Hamad Ali Al Dhaheri, Undersecretary of the DCD, along with Mohamed Al Zaabi, Group CEO of Miral.,

The event included a showcase of the 'Community of the Future' initiative, launched by the DCD to support the ongoing comprehensive and sustainable development witnessed in Abu Dhabi. This initiative aligns with the country's efforts during the Year of Sustainability and in anticipation of COP28, which will be held in the UAE. The initiative aims to enhance students’ thinking and analysis of the environmental, social and economic challenges facing members of society, in addition to contributing to providing innovative solutions that enhance sustainable development.

The 'Community of the Future' initiative includes a range of activities designed to foster a culture of sustainability, promote social responsibility, and inspire the youth. It achieved this through a series of interactive workshops that saw the participation of more than 50 students, both male and female, and 10 guides, representing 6 educational and academic institutions in Abu Dhabi.

The students demonstrated five models for The Community of the Future, in addition to formulating a policy that includes more than 10 proposals in line with sustainability standards and societal values, as envisioned by the innovative school and university students who applied sustainability standards and societal values that were discussed at a number of educational and practical workshops held by the DCD and other authorities. The students' ideas were refined through their active participation in the workshops that were organised at Khalifa University and Yas SeaWorld Research and Rescue Centre.

The ‘SITalks’ session was presented by Jeff Risom, Chief Innovation Officer at Gehl, an urban design and research consultancy, offering expertise in the fields of architecture, urban design, landscape architecture, and city planning. Risom presented his views on the concept of ‘Life Between Buildings,’ stressing the importance of friendly and inclusive areas for all community members and public facilities as hubs for human communication.

The dialogue session, entitled ‘Life Between Buildings’ dealt with the importance of pedestrian-friendly zones, green spaces, communal areas as hubs for human interaction, and the use of global and local studies to share the latest ideas by promoting social values and sustainability to build cohesive, sustainable and inclusive societies for all groups in innovative ways.

The session focused on empowering young people to think critically about sustainability and social responsibility, to enhance awareness about the art of designing cities that focus on the quality of community life by bridging the gaps between theoretical and applied aspects, and to enhance youth participation in envisioning a sustainable future for Abu Dhabi.

H.E. Eng. Shaikha Alhosani, Executive Director of the Social Monitoring and Innovation Sector at DCD, expressed her enthusiasm, stating: “As we approach COP28, sustainability and the ways in which we incorporate it into our societies and communities has gained even more importance than ever before. Through hosting SITalks and the Community of the Future initiative, we are committed to facilitating these crucial discussions and engaging esteemed experts, thought leaders, social entrepreneurs and future leaders, the youth.”

She added: “We affirm our commitment to enhancing the role of these dialogues by engaging international experts, thought leaders, specialists in the social field, future leaders, and youth. We want to inspire them to come up with ideas and visions about creating an overarching culture of sustainability and building a sustainable society that ensures a decent life for future generations. Additionally, we want to inspire active student participation through the Community of the Future initiative. This represents a very important opportunity that helps enhance innovation and creativity among these exceptional young people and instils a culture of cooperation and the values of cohesion, inclusiveness, flexibility and responsibility.”

SITalks fosters collaboration across diverse sectors to effectively solve and overcome societal challenges through social innovation in new strategies, ideas, and organisations. These dialogues are aimed at fulfilling the social needs of various sectors that work to promote and strengthen civil society, all while keeping in mind the global surge in interest in social innovation and a shared goal of contributing to sustainable economic growth.

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