I view the past 10 years as the heady, roller coaster years when it comes to sustainable development.

Sustainable urban development has come about in an ad hoc manner. Individual projects have advanced, so we had some wins, but in some instances, we weren’t as successful. In some cases, we were woeful.

The work is far from settled. It’s complex, and sometimes wicked. We often compromise, knowing we could achieve more, but the timing was not right, the market wasn’t ready, the barriers were too great. Next time…there’s always next time.

The year of living dangerously must be 2016. Ideas are flowing, capital is primed, technology is awaiting deployment. The long list of technical and political challenges grows, all while we under-imagine what our major cities at 8 million could look like.

Housing affordability, integrated district utilities, land use intensification, carbon intensity, and inequitable sprawl must all be considered. Why are indigenous custodians of this country not at the table? Why are they not represented in our city-building discussions? Equity for whom? Resilience to what? Prosperity for all?

There’s an abundance of challenges.

Developing sustainable precincts is not for the faint-hearted; it’s complex, grinding work that demands new operating procedures. Heck, it needs a new operating system. This upgrade is desperately needed as so many of our cities gear up for major growth and infill development.

In 2016, we will stop fighting standardisation. It’s the year we will collectively define Sustainable Precincts 2.0. We will evolve our policy environment in a way that not only attracts sustainable precinct development, it will be a catalyst for it, accelerating the innovation we so desperately want to deploy, but that is always denied. Denied by the system, by perceived risk, by entrenched politics (big P and small p) and conservative leadership, by our lack of urgency.

False-start game changers will have no place in our dialogue, we will crush incremental boldness.

In 2016, we will knit together the complex conversations about our successes – and failures – that will drive us to do better. We will share. We will work together, united by a common agenda and a resolve to create a joint approach to solving these complex problems. You see, implementation is a win, but replication is success. And transparency will be the core lubricant for this process.

We are going to build a sandbox – a safe place we will all play in. It’s a place for sharing, thinking and testing. Its part think tank, part laboratory, part peer learning program. We neither have the luxury of time nor the capacity to resolve these issues on our own. It’s called collective impact.

A collective impact approach is the only one that will work to build sustainable cities. This type of approach binds us to a common agenda, where our activities are guided by a mutually reinforcing plan of action and continuous communication and knowledge management that builds trust and motivation. Having the support of multiple organisations and government agencies to enable this approach to thrive needs to be curated. It’s all in, and all together.

We will institutionalise an experimental and experiential approach to our work at a precinct-scale, because these precincts and neighborhoods are the building blocks of our cities.

There will be continuous communication, continuously, and we will market the hell out of it. We will be the best in the world at precinct-scale sustainable urban regeneration. You wont have to continue to read blogs about San Francisco or Seattle or Sweden or Portland, or Barcelona. We will be breaking barriers, innovating, and delivering next generation strategies. It will be Australia that becomes the global leader.

We are connected internationally through organisations like the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group. We have the support of the powerhouse Rockefeller Foundation with the 100 Resilient Cities program. We are home to leading global developers that are shaping communities around the world, and the Cooperative Research Centre’s doing some of the best research around. We’ve got this.

We just need to create the policy and strategy context for precinct scale urban regeneration for the next decade. Yes, it needs to be cross-governmental and cross-sector. We also need to unleash the entrepreneurialism of the non-profit sector and the community at large in this effort.

We will create an industry leadership platform for sustainable precincts, and advance six core ideas that we will learn from and replicate again and again.

  1. We will reboot how we work together – creating a collaborative governance blueprint for urban regeneration projects, building the required leadership and governance models that bind us, not repel us, on every project.
  2. We will build a national implementation roadmap for district utilities – creating a path to deployment. We will test it, refine it and do it again.
  3. We will bring back living systems into our cities – green infrastructure will not only become a valued asset class, it will be the most successful economic development strategy for cities in the next decade.
  4. We will be relentless in our pursuit for creating places that attract people by advancing Australia’s Urban Design Protocol in every built environment investment we make in our cities.
  5. We will create smart cities, but they will be powered by people, for people. Australia will lead in Smart Cities 3.0 advancements, and will harness the opportunity smart cities provide to build green cities and resilient cities.
  6. We will build a culture of performance monitoring and reporting, reading the pulse of our urban regeneration projects so we can support them in continually thriving, and helping catalyse healthy and prosperous lifestyles.

Who’s in?