How the pandemic could actually save our cities

This is the third of four blogs featuring our perspective on how to digitally transform the high street. This blog was originally posted on Amplia Group’s GoBeyond Blog. You can read all of the blogs in our series here.


Photo credit: City of Malmo

By Kathy Kyle Bonomini

The pandemic has forced us to shift our perspectives on nearly every aspect of our lives. From how we work, shop, and talk to our family and friends. “Virtual hugs!” My neighbour reminds his four year old when he goes to hug our children when they ride their bikes together after dinner in the empty car park next to our homes. 

I’ve worked on local borough high street regeneration projects and also on climate change and sustainability advocacy engagements in the US and in the UK. Recently I’ve been thinking about how cities could be rebuilding their economies in a sustainable way. When it comes to rebuilding their local economy, it is important to learn lessons from the past and consider climate impacts that could send the UK and the world into a deeper climate crisis. 

Cities should develop a well-coordinated and purposeful recovery to encourage low-carbon activities and incorporate superior and efficient technologies for transportation, manufacturing, and energy production, distribution, and consumption.

Cities like Venice, Barcelona, and Prague have relied heavily on tourism to bolster their economies. They have an opportunity to reimagine their cities now that there are a lack of tourists. Prior to the pandemic, Italy’s Bureau of Statistics estimated over 10 million tourists visited Venice annually. However according to the New York Times, this is an inaccurate number, and does not take into account day-trippers, who disembark from cruise ships and public transport. One estimate puts the actual number of tourists around 20 million annually — largely concentrated in an area of two square miles and 50,000 residents (nearly half of whom are employed by the tourism sector). However, these tourists generated 3 billion euros per year in revenue. 

Venice has now changed due to the pandemic lockdown, and it is unclear what the future holds. It is a car-free space, full of history and culture – and also vacant hotels and disused AirBnB listings. Elsewhere in Italy, Italians are rediscovering museums, and there is an argument amongst the locals that for the first time, there is an opportunity for Venice to be reborn. 

There is work to be done understanding what citizens want moving forward. The most effective way to do this is to ask. 

Not everyone uses the same communications channels like Twitter or Facebook, and when you want to get real, meaningful engagement – with the widest cross section of society, sometimes the best way to do it is to make it fun. 

Enter Hello Lamp Post. The system empowers citizens to share their ideas and to connect, engage and shape their town or city by talking to street objects. Locals and visitors can use their phone and chat with any piece of city architecture using a playful text-based AI platform (connecting via SMS, WhatsApp, and messenger). 

When the City of Malmo wanted to disseminate information, engage, understand, challenge and raise citizen awareness around the UN’s Global Goals, they implemented “Hello Sustainable Malmo”. The project delivered a 75 percent increase in engagement over previous projects. 

Hello Lamp Post helped Malmo re-enforce the ambitions and goals of the city’s citizens through playful conversations. Hello Sustainable Malmo discovered local’s opinions on community initiatives, public policy and citizen’s roles and the city in tackling global issues. Read the full case study here.

Cities must make decisions about their future, together. It is widely acknowledged that post-pandemic decision making at a local level must be undertaken using agile digital technology and involve citizens…why not also make it easy, friendly and fun? 

About Kathy 

Kathy Kyle Bonomini is the Co-Founder of Amplia Group. She is an award-winning branding, PR and marketing expert with over 20 years of international experience launching and leading transformational communications campaigns. Kathy has launched a US government agency, brands across multiple verticals, and startups in the US and the UK. Kathy is an advisor to Hello Lamp Post. She is an associate at Ineo Digital

Kathy has served as a communications director and press officer for a US government agency, a public affairs firm, and for Capgemini North America public sector. Kathy has led teams and programmes in industries that include: tech, health care, education, lifestyle, sustainability/EV, climate change, life sciences, transportation, fundraising, nonprofits, legal, the arts, and government.

Kathy provides pro bono advisory services to charities like UprisingUK, Dorking Minds and to businesses that include women-owned micro businesses and Hello Hub, a freelancer networking group.

About Amplia Group

Amplia Group is a global communications agency that aspires to GoBeyond and create a new experience for our clients. Derived from the Latin root amplius, meaning to go further, we aim to exceed our clients’ expectations.

Amplia Group’s work for the Dorking Town Partnership Business Improvement District was judged by a panel of 22 industry experts. They considered the work “a truly integrated traditional and digital campaign which reflects today’s fragmented audience groups”. There were 300 entrants across 19 categories, with 100 shortlisted in the Comms2Point0 awards.

Amplia Group was also shortlisted for the Campaign Live DCM Digital Award in September 2019 with their creative partners, Objekt Films, for the Best ‘marketing for good’ cinema campaign created for the Dorking BID.