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Outline and determinanten

Central question is: “What is the state of the city related to a certain issue or value?”. The city is a metaphor for both a specific area or target group (the object) and the responsible actor(s) for governance (the subject)).

The purpose of carrying out this scan is to diagnose how the ecosystem of involved organisations actually is functioning. It is a look inside. The object and the subject of governance are linked within this approach, because both are part of the one ecosystem. This is unique.

The scan is carried out in a three steps along the main determinants of a natural ecosystem:

1. The issue and the value
What is the issue?
What caused the issue in terms of (own) leadership et cetera?
What in general is the state of the city, described in your own words?
What public value should be delivered to solve the issue?

2. The system
2a. Determinant: components
Which type of components are involved in the public value?
How many components are involved (numbers)?
What is the weight/power/influence of the involved components?
How are the components structured according weight and influence?

2b. Determinant: interactions
What are the main interactions between the most involved components.
Can you describe the main characteristics these interactions?

2c. Determinant: traits
What are the main traits of the involved components.

2d. Determinant: roles
What are the roles of involved components?
How do you rate the division of roles related to value delivery?

2e. Determinant: factors
What are the main biotic factors?
What are the main abiotic factors?

2f. Determinant: cycles
Where do water cycle and city meet, rate on quadrant where the city is involved
Where the nutrient cycle?
Where energy cycle?
Where democracy, money, policy?
Guidance from governance perspective?

2g. Determinant: processes
What are key processes?

3. The elements of governance, based on FORTE™ (Kruf et al, 2019).


Ecosystem City®

The codex Ecosystem City® has been developed for CINETONE®. It consists of a set of methods and techniques to measure determinants to diagnose the status quo of (a part of)  the public domain, like a region, city, district or even neighbourhood.

The codex is based on that of the forest ecosystem. Oldeman (1990) developed an diagnosis approach for the highly complex forest and is elaborated into the science of silvology. We assume that the laws of nature rule everywhere and are directly applicable to cities too.

If the organisations in the city are considered as the living components – compared with the organisms in a forest – we therefor can follow the lessons in measurement of extensive and decennia long studies of forest ecosystems. Oldeman et al. (1990) states that “the basic criteria used in model building of all kinds seem to be only three… In essence, one can measure only three characteristics and continue with advanced (cross) ratios from there”:

  • Population: presence, numbers, quantity, population.
  • Production: weight, dosage, biomass (literally) and importance, power and influence (figuratively).
  • Architecture: structures, forms, shapes.

Eagle view by remote sensing and field view in forests have always been a good marriage, Combining both views have inspired many scientists for advanced accuracy and balanced diagnosis by the combination of top-down geographical and statistical measurement with more perceptional bottom-up findings from the street. We embrace this combination.

1. Components

Based on the city – forest analogy and the triangle  government, business and civil society (Meijer, 2018), the first draft of a set of components to be used in diagnosis was designed. Organisations are the basic components of the public domain of the city, like organisms in a forest.

Mintzberg (2016) talks about species of organisations, in the way they are managed and focused. He elaborated this idea from his earlier publication Structure in Fives (Mintzberg, 1983). Adding the scope of organisations on content and value approach is a challenging step. Introduction of these types – taxonomically in analogy with that of the classification of species within genera and accordingly within families – is an exploration in itself. The starting point is the basic triangle, extended with nature. The colour red symbolises the organisations related to civil society and as a metaphor the ecosystem of city life. The colour green symbolises nature as a whole, the colour blue symbolises government, the colour yellow that of business. From here the set is diversified in which for every family of organisations a colour has been chosen. Presently the codex consists of a set of 16 colours, 16 families of organisations:

  • Civil society (Red) can be understood as the “third sector” of society, distinct from government and business, and including the family and the private sphere.
  • Non-governmental organisations (Orange), are an essental part of civil society, representing relevant public values and interests in a wide diversity, independent and non-profit or not-for-profit.
  • Education organisations (Gold). They come in a variety of form, steered by government, founded independently or as business. The colour has been chosen because education is the golden lining of human and social development. Education is about improvement and development.
  • Finance organisations (Gray) enable the flow of money. Financing is their main function, i.e. accepting deposits from the public, creating credit, lending and investing, performed either directly or indirectly through capital markets. Banks and investors belong to this component. The emerge as cooperation, state-owned or privately owned.
  • The system world (Black) is where the public systems of election, governance, rules and regulation, taxes, performance, services and their mechanisms meet.
  • Business organisations  (Yellow) come in a wide variety and abundance. All organisation represent the essence and vibrancy of entrepreneurschip. Yellow is the colour of innovation, brightness, power, hope and and positivity.
  • Media organisations (Beige) can be defined as the means of communication, as radio and television, newspapers, magazines, and the Internet, that reach or influence people widely.organisations come in a variety of organisational forms. They mostly are close to business oriented starting points and constraints. The deserve a separate place at the table, because of their essential roles in information dissemination as well in governmental checks and balances.
  • Science organisations (Lime Green) can be defined as a systematic enterprise that builds and organises knowledge in the form of testable and verifiable explanations and predictions about the universe. Universities and research institutes belong to this group. They emerge in a variety of forms.
  • Nature (Green) is the functional component representing all natural ecosystems and the organisations related. The colour is an obvious association.
  • Parastatals (Light Blue) concern the executive and performing domain of government, most of the time without an elected but a mandate structure in governance. The involved organisations serve the state, province, region or municipality directly and indirectly. They have a mandate to act related to government responsibilities Agencies and parastatals are part of this function.
  • Governments (Bright Blue) are key components by which a state, region, city or community is controlled. They in fact are in charge of the public governance of society as well as of the natural environment. It serves its citizens and companies. It can be the (elected) governing council with its management such as a municipality, region, province or specific organisation. The associated colour is Pantone® Imperial Blue. It links with the Latin imperium, meaning ‘rule over large territories’.
  • Elected councils (Purple) and their political parties are representing the people, the citizens through a process of election (in democracies). The colour speaks for itself, because the representation is widely considered as the highest in its forms. They are considered as an elementary and strategic part of government, interacting wit governmental councils and organisations. Their composition is based on formal elected representing members of political organisations.
  • Judiciary organisations (Brown) is the governmental type of organisation which interprets and applies the law in a country, state or an international community. Courts belong to this component. They focus on the process of study, reduction, deduction and interpretations from laws, rules and regulations and accordingly on the formulation and dictation of decisions and enforcement. They are state-owned, but formally indecently operating.
  • Religion and Culture organisations (Taupe) are related to natural expressions in art and culture, contributing to re-creation and renaissance.They are marked as a separate family of components because of their signing related to the state of society and its intrinsic indicating value. They come in a wide variety of organisational forms and appearances, but all indicate the state of the heart  of people, groups, society and ecosystems. The chosen colour natural has its own value.
  • Citizen organisation (Pink) has a separate colour. It is the prism through which we consider the world. It is symbolising youth, good health, and playfulness. It stand for femininity and romance, sensitivity and tenderness. It’s inherently sweet, cute and charming. It is all the good humans represent.
  • The Living World (White) has been positioned as the colour symbolising the virginity, dynamics, creativity, self expression, consciousness, love and life.

2. Phases

In nature, ecosystems find themselves in a palette of phases of development. The natural forest for example is not something homogenious static, but can be defined as the sum of different phases which at the same time are present and co-exist. This palette make the forest to what it is in essence. Each phase is unique and has its own dynamics and architecture.

In forest ecology the approach of diagnosis of this state is advanced and scientifically developed by Oldeman (1990). In his forest diagnosis and design of the forest he combined different sciences and approaches and brought them together in a understandable set of phases of forest architecture. It is an assumption that also cities and within that organisations, the true components of society, follow the same patterns as forests do. Why should they not, if they are considered as belonging to the same earth ecosystem. That cities and organisations also have a palette of eco-units is plausible.

Oldeman (1990) elaborated the phases of architecture of innovation, aggradation, biostatis (maturity) and degradation. In general the next phases can be distinguished: innovation (a new beginning, after a reorganisation or a fire, huge competition, new seedlings), aggradation (the build-up, individuals are in development and growing, in prospect, expansion), biostatis (individuals determining the rules, a balancing act, stable mature phase, rich structure, high biodiversity) and degradation (individuals are in decay, dying, leaving, part of the system collapse).

Within public governance the phase of development of organisations is most of the time underexposed in processes of strategy, policy and implementation. As said, every phase – at least in natural forests – has its own set of ground rules, which of course has to be recognised and respected by its stewards and leaders on one hand and the individuals of the system on the other hand. The present set of phases within an organisation can be influenced by internal (leadership, culture, styles, issues, business continuity demands) as well as external (cyber, corona, flooding, competition) factors.

3. Interactions

Relations between the elements of the public canvas can be subdivided in two main categories of interaction: oppositional and symbiotic. The oppositional relationships are predation and competition. The symbiotic relationships are mutualism, commensalism, amensalism, and parasitism. No or an independent relation is called neutralism.

Systems are structured by countless interactions between components, which are driven by the felt or experienced degree of profit of a relation with an other component, expressed as beneficial (+), unfavourable (-) or neutral (0).  Seven types of interactions can be defined, grouped in symbiotic, oppositional and neutral.

  • Mutualism + +  Components benefit from each other.
  • Commensalism + o   One component benefits from another that is not affected.
  • Amensalism o –   One component inflicts harm to another without any costs or benefits received by itself.
  • Parasitism + –  One component, the parasite, benefits from the interaction, while the other (host) is harmed. It is a form of symbiosis which comes with a price. It actually is a predator but rather than kill quickly, it consumes its host in small pieces. Some types of parasites manage to live permanently inside their host (Wilson et al.).
  • Competition – –   More components compete for the same resources or between them.
  • Predation + –   One component hunts (being predator or herbivor) and eats the other (being prey or plant). Within one type of component it is called cannibalism.
  • Neutralism o o  Two components that interact but do not affect each other, where interactions are negligible or insignificant.

4. Traits

The correlation between trait, interaction, role and environment leads to a wide variety of niches and roles, at least in natural ecosystems. The possibility of transposing this correlation from the natural world to that of the city ecosystem, i.e. the world of organisations and society, seems obvious. In the previous section we elaborated on interactions, in this section we focus on traits, environments and roles.

A trait or character is a feature of a component.

In natural ecosystems ‘traits play a central role, because it is the trait that determine how a species (component in our model) reacts to environmental change, and how this reaction influences ecosystem functions.” (Astor, 2011). There is a direct relation between the trait of an organisation and the effect on the system itself. That is truly an holistic essence. “In this respect functional traits can be defined as those phenotypical components of an organism that influence ecosystem properties or biogeochemical processes, and those that determine the response of an organism to environmental conditions” (Lavorel & Garnier, 2002; Hooper et al.,2005).

Behavioural ecology is the study of the evolutionary basis for animal behaviour due to ecological pressures. Behavioral ecology emerged from ethology after Niko Tinbergen outlined four questions to address when studying animal behavior which are the proximate causes, ontogeny, survival value, and phylogeny of behavior. If an organism has a trait which provides a selective advantage (i.e. has an adaptive significance) in its environment, then natural selection will favor it. Adaptive significance refers to the expression of a trait that affects fitness, measured by an individual’s reproductive success. Adaptive traits are those which produce more copies of the individual’s genes in future generations. Maladaptive traits are those which leave fewer. For example, if a bird able to call more loudly attracts more mates, then a loud call is an adaptive trait for that species because he will mate more frequently than a bird who can not call so loudly, thus sending more loud-calling genes into future generations than the soft-caller does.

Individuals are always in competition with others for limited resources, including food, territories, and mates. Conflict will occur between predators and prey, between rivals for mates, between siblings, mates, and even between parents and their offspring.

In the city ecosystem the trait of a component is considered to be the result of cultural factors, type of business and forms of leadership and management. This trait for an optimal development of a city ecosystem is mentioned over and over again in the extended helix concepts.

The trait has been considered as important for the greater good of local and regional development. The philosophy and the approach of the triple and quadruple helix is generally adopted as true, but it all begins with this attitude towards cooperation. The trait incorporates attitude as well as empowerment of an organisation to implement and motivate on cooperation. We developed a rate on an empirical basis from the perspective of city managers with several stages of maturity: secretive, square, delta, rolling and cooperative.

  • Secretive Inward-looking and operating complete independently from other components. Hard to be approached.
  • Square Working and focusing mainly on own targets, not aware of the bigger picture they can benefit from. Stiff and leaning back on cooperation.
  • Delta Improving and learning organisation, more and more aware of environment and possible benefits of improving basic processes to own performance.
  • Rolling Cooperating and networking with main accent on self satisfaction, basic processes are good, has a good network in which it can deliver products and services on a fairly high level.
  • Cooperative Cooperating with benefits to the max, well organised and open to cooperation. Initiating alliances and an optimal player in the bigger picture of common goals.

5. Habitats, Roles, Niches
What is a habitat? In natural ecosystems it can be defined as an area with uniform environmental conditions, that is inhabited by an organism or a community. It is a type of place, a biotope. It is made up of abiotic (physical) factors such as soil, moisture, range of temperature, and light intensity as well as of biotic factors such as the availability of food, culture and (in nature) the presence or absence of predators.

“A habitat is an area or region where a plant or animal naturally grows or lives,” 1762, originally a technical term in Latin texts on English flora and fauna, literally “it inhabits,” third person singular present indicative of habitare “to live, inhabit, dwell,” frequentative of habere “to have, to hold, possess”. – The Online Etymology Dictionary

Important in city governance and management is the knowledge of the construction of the web of habitats, their position and interaction as well as of the intrinsic status and working. It is good to think of the city as a set of layers, like the forest has many layers. The real wisdom is found in the knowledge how subsystems are constructed with intelligence to higher levels. Intelligence is built bottom-up. When ecologists diagnose the forest, they like to know how habitats and their communities are linked, how the layers upwards and downwards are connected and what carries the cohesion. Without this no true understanding of the system.

“Higher levels of systems contain not only its subsystems, but also the information serving to keep the subsystems together in an orderly manner: system = subsystems + cohesion.” – Roelof Oldeman (1990)

The habitat (or biotope or eco-unit) forms with food, water and shelter the the life constraints for communities and organisations within. The system has a built-up of habitats in layers. Upwards – in case of the city – it is part of higher systems as region and province, downwards most used in urban planning are the following four layers: (1) district or area (center, industrial, residential), (2) neighbourhood (3) streets and parks and ( 4) mini-habitats (homes, offices, walls).

A niche is the match of a component in an ecosystem to a specific environmental condition within that, the habitat. Here it is an organisation (in the City Ecosystem® defined as biotic component) linked with its physical and biological environment. The niche is the role the organisation has in the city. Most of the niches in modern cities are regulated, but sometimes something unexpected can happen and shake-up the existing palette. As we know, every ecosystem is in constant change. So do cities.

A component can have different roles in the canvas of the city. Roles on the government (system) side: steward, enforcer developer, representative, tax collector or service provider. On the citizen (living) side respectively inhabitant, servant, partner, voter, tax payer or client.

In principal all roles/niches can be taken by all components (i.e. organisations). Per component it though can highly differ and depend on time, place, value and related factors. Sometimes it can take more than one niches at the same time, depending of time and phase. Laws, rules, regulations and above all the Constitution has lead to a strict attribution (than in natural ecosystem) of niches in the city. A usable set can be found in the work of The Quality Institute Dutch Municipalities (KING) and is summarised by Aardema et al. (2005). It is a set of interconnected roles from governance perspective (system world) and from governed perspective (living world). Civitas Naturalis has chosen the chess pieces to symbolise the roles/niches:

  • Roles in the system world:  Steward (black king): symbolise, identify, connect, show compassion, taking care, welcome, strengthen cohesion, carry rituals, guard. Regulator (black queen): decisiveness, power, threaten, demand, courage, persevere, set things right, constrain, discipline, set the rules and enforce them. Collector (black bishop): go-between, facilitate, contract, collect tax, process. Developer (black knight): involve, sense of community, strengthen cohesion, share and distribute, (letting) participate, co-create. Service provider (black rook): deliver, serve, provide, distribute, front office. Representative (black pawn): chosen by the people during election in councils, representing the people as citizen.
  • Roles in the living world: Inhabitant (white king): citizen, live in city and neighbourhood. Servant (white queen): obey and follow laws, rules, regulations. Contributor (white bishop): tax pay, contribute, donate, volunteer, support, finance, fund. Partner (white knight): develop, contribute in knowledge, feelings and insights, co-create. Client (white rook): receive products and services, indicate choice. Voter: elect the representatives, the best of the best.

6. Processes

  • Multi-level governance: the process of connecting with higher and lower levels of society (from Europe to the street). It is a key process to travel across the borders of the different levels of the ecosystem.
  • Ordering: the process of ordering my measuring numbers, dosages and structures of the ecosystem.
  • Creation: the process of from sensing of trends, developing strategy and policy plan and implement and monitor them related to desired public value.
  • Delivery: the process of communicating with stakeholders and the acutal delivery of products and services.
  • Financial Engineering: the process of collecting and budgetting financial sources to make things possible.
  • Compliancy: the process of acting and working according the legislation and rules by checking, verifying, auditing, supervising, examining and measuring correctness.
  • Correction: the process of prompt, immediate and accurate management of crises and disasters to bring society back into balance, i.e. recovery process. These can be related to biotic factors as diseases or abiotic factors as flooding. Compared to society we can speak of rebuilding and recovering from crises and disasters.
  • Succession: in case of getting out completely out of balance there is in nature loss and a path towards a next generation. There are no recovery processes in place and the system slides into a next system level.

There are the natural cycles that flow through the streets of the city. The main are related to water, nutrients and energy. And there are man-made cycles related to the governance of the city, such as democracy, strategy and policy. They all relate to the core of public life, to resources, essentials and effects of decision making and city management. Cycles are essential in every ecosystem.

Water is the key source for life because all humans and communities need it: condensation – precipitation – collection – evaporation. Energy is key in all what we do: energy (solar) – production – fixation (plants) – consumption. Nutrient movement include that of carbon, sulfur, nitrogen, phosphorus, oxygen that continually recycle along.


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