How a local community in Shanghai captured the UN's attention
The Wanli Community, once a patchwork of cottages and farmland in Shanghai, has become one of the model cases for sustainable urban development selected by the United Nations for the 2023 World Cities Day.
The community in downtown Putuo District became one of Shanghai's first four exemplary residential areas in 1997. Having been separated from a larger town in 2014, it became one of the youngest subdistricts in Shanghai.
It found a place in the latest edition of "Shanghai Manual – A Guide for Sustainable Urban Development in the 21st Century," becoming a role model for vibrant global eco-communities.
The UN paper features the best urban development cases selected from across the world. The 2023 edition showcases 24 outstanding domestic and international cases, including six from China.
The development experience of Wanli was promoted on Monday during the Global Urban Forum on Social Governance Innovation and Sustainable Development as part of the World Cities Day serial events.
"Everyone, including residents, food delivery workers and couriers, has a sense of ownership at the Wanli Community," said Chen Haiyun, an expert of Tongji University who has taken part in the writing of the "Shanghai Manual" for eight consecutive years.
"Everyone is a co-builder of the community and the government is no longer a central planner, but more like a facilitator," Chen noted, adding that the development of inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable cities and communities are both significant objectives in the UN sustainable development goals.
A central green area, covering about 60,000 square meters, equivalent to eight standard football pitches, graces the community's north-south axis. Wanli boasts a 46 percent greenery coverage rate, creating a garden-like atmosphere. It has also eliminated overhead cables to create a demonstration area without elevated wires.
The central park features seats with QR codes where people can scan and listen to classic literature and popular books from around the world.
These books, covering various literary classics from different times and cultures, are recommended by Zhao Lihong, deputy chairman of the Shanghai Writers' Association. Literature enthusiasts from the Sinan Reading Club have crafted detailed introductions for each book.
The community has also established a comprehensive service center. It offers more than 20 services tailored to the needs of new employment groups like food delivery drivers, logistics couriers and ride-sharing drivers.
During lunchtime on a recent day, delivery staff Yu Peng of Ele.me took a break to have lunch at the service center. He also got a free haircut there before returning to his busy work.
By the end of last year, Shanghai had over 200,000 registered riders for food delivery platforms. In Putuo, the number of food delivery riders and courier personnel exceeded 10,000.
The center also features a reading corner, a charging station, a convenience store, a medical room, capsule apartments and an outdoor basketball court.
It resolves various resident complaints as well as provides legal assistance, policy support and psychological counseling. Free English and Shanghai dialect lessons are given regularly.
At the psychological counseling room, express delivery rider Zhang Long vented his frustration to a psychologist. "I was fined over 200 yuan for doing nothing, and it's really bothering me."
He had accidentally slipped while delivering a meal in the morning, spilling the food and subsequently receiving a customer complaint that resulted in a wage deduction. Under the guidance of a psychologist, Zhang was later able to relieve his inner stress.
Chen revealed that during the international expert review for the Shanghai Manual, factors such as whether the case can be duplicated, promoted or referenced, and whether its replication cost is reasonable, are all considered.
When Chen recommended the Wanli case to the international expert review committee, it soon caught their attention.
The community continues to cultivate clean environment. For instance, like burying overhead lines on roads, and adding public seats and service stations for runners and walkers, according to the subdistrict. A children care room will open soon to meet the demand of employees and delivery staff.
From June, the community has been working on connecting the riverside walkway for the Dachangpu River, following the example of Shanghai's waterfront regions along the Huangpu River and Suzhou Creek.
"A vibrant ecological community for comfortable living and work and a broader spectrum of individuals to participate in community development. This is what we aim to showcase to the world," Chen stated.