Evaluation of key drivers in the development performance of city structures

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Cities as a structural institution, are perceived to have little capacity to control their destiny. The thesis presents a different definition of city structure and contends there are a set of key drivers that can be consistently used to evaluate and guide city structure development performance. Whilst major events and structural changes may not be controlled directly, these key drivers can be used to navigate city structures, mitigate adverse risks and orchestrate change to improve a city structure’s future capacity and responsiveness. Key protagonists impact these drivers and can affect changes in a city structure’s development performance. This research examines the key drivers that shape the evolution of city structures and their development performance. City structures have evolved in four key phases and it is the current “knowledge based development” phase that provides the impetus for this research. A “City Structure is an evolutionary process determined by its network of functional activities; relationships; capital and knowledge flows” and undergoes various development stages with different rates of growth. The thesis posits key governance, economic, social and environment indicators and the compositional aspects of city structure population can collectively explain the development performance of city structures. The purpose of the thesis is to develop an integrated, multidisciplinary approach and research methodology; construct and test an evaluative framework, toolkit and analyses to assess city structure development. This approach enables a comparison across 31 city structures in different development stages and geographic regions using 25 critical indicators and 11 derived trajectory indicators. The analyses were typically over a 20-60 year timeframe and capture a number of structural changes, macro and location specific events. City structure population and GDP were identified as the key drivers of city structure development. The analysis adopted a rate of change approach for four critical indicators and their trajectory determinants (velocity, acceleration and resilience) which informed the evaluation of development trajectories and trends. The thesis delves into an emerging field where research approaches, methodologies and evaluation processes are still evolving. In spite of the exploratory and multi-disciplined nature of the thesis’ research focus and the paucity of city level data, at this early stage it is difficult (nor is it the thesis purpose) to definitively ascertain all aspects of city structure development performance. However in light of the assumptions, limitations and methodology identified, the predictive variables are robust - the evaluative platform has been validated as a proof of concept and withstood an acceptable level of rigorous analysis. Collectively the knowledge gained from this research proved the hypothesis valid; offers useful insights on the key drivers that shape city structure development; the historical and projected development performance of city structures; and makes contributions to theory, methodology, policy and practice.
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