The Urban Molecule is based on my talk at the International Conference on Social Media for Good, which explored a framework for distributed social networking.

Q. How can we use social technology to build better cities?

Our cities face profound challenges as they grow. A city’s promise shows in the uniqueness and diversity of its history, communities and cultures. For a city to be resilient and sustainable, it must understand and value the people who live there.

By 2050, six billion people will live in cities. We are the driving force behind urban development. To build smarter cities, we’ll have to talk to each other, work harder and innovate more. We know what’s best for our communities, but we can’t work together if we don’t see each other. Top-down structures of governance are inadequate. Social media as-is needs to go. Distributed networks would give us greater visibility, more control, and with it, the means to improve the places we call home.

A. The remote workforce can meet urban challenges head-on.

Cities suffer when communication reinforces social and ideological barriers. How are people using social tech to connect and understand and support each other? How can social tech be used to create opportunities, build trust and strengthen communities?

Cities can use data to fix problems, prevent catastrophes, and improve quality of life across the board. A culture of open data that respects people’s rights, and inspires participation and collaboration will lead to safer and more productive communities.

Digital platforms and workplace innovations are changing the nature of work. We’ll need to adapt if we’re to meet the challenges cities face. The remote workforce is an untapped resource — one we can mobilize through the smarter use of social tech.