The General Director of the MUF - about the successful transformation of Moscow

The General Director of the MUF - about the successful transformation of Moscow
Press Service of the Moscow Urban Forum
What surprised foreign experts the most in the capital and why, despite the pandemic, one can look at the world's megapolises future only with optimism. Denis Boikov, General Director of the Moscow Urban Forum, answers these and other questions.

After a two-year break, the capital in early July hosted the anniversary X Moscow Urban Forum (MUF), which this year was held in a new, hybrid format. Most of the foreign experts joined the discussions via teleconference, and the MUF broke the record for the number of participants in its entire history. 

Despite the success of virtual technologies, Denis Boikov, General Director of the Moscow Urban Forum, believes that it is difficult to replace personal communication with something. He told how the landmark international congress was held, what was the focus of attention of its participants and why it is important to see with own eyes how Moscow is changing.

Denis Boikov, Director of the Moscow Urban Forum

International attention

- The X Moscow Urban Forum was held in a hybrid format for the first time. Is this a successful experience?

- This year's MUF was held in difficult conditions. In some countries, due to the pandemic, there is a prohibition on leaving and entering, that is why we chose a hybrid format, when some speakers connected online from different parts of the world - from Singapore and Seoul to Los Angeles and New York. Nevertheless, some of the guests were able to get there, and we were happy to accept them in Moscow.

Thanks to this format, we were able to expand both the geography and the number of participants, attract more speakers with high status. For many people, it is quite difficult to find time in a busy schedule and come to Moscow. And when people are at home in their countries, it is easier for them to find time.

But I still hope that in the future guests will come to us. It's one thing to join the forum online and tell about your agenda, as well as to hear something about Moscow at the session. It's another thing when you come and see everything with your own eyes. This is important, because one of our goals is to demonstrate the transformation of Moscow.

- Can we say that the hybrid format is the future?

- We held the tenth forum in such a way as to show that Moscow shares its experience of urban projects that have been implemented in recent years. Therefore, I would say that the future is for an even more mixed format, when as many participants as possible meet face-to-face and those who can't, connect via teleconferences. Personal communication is difficult to replace with something. It is better to see once than to hear a hundred times.

- What are the main results of the anniversary forum?

- The main result: despite everything, the forum was held at a decent level. A record number of speakers from many countries indicates a special attention to the work that is being carried out in Moscow.

We have done everything that was possible. I repeat: it is extremely important for us to bring a large number of speakers and show them Moscow live. This is necessary to popularize what is happening in the city. People come, see how Moscow is changing, and they have more impressions.

World-class projects

- What were the main topics at this year's forum?

- The cities life in the pandemic era is one of the topics that it is impossible to make do without in today's conditions. The issues related to this were included in the agenda of the Urban Health second international congress, which was held within the framework of the Moscow Urban Forum. Its participants paid a lot of attention to this topic and health care issues in general.

The key topic of the entire forum was the transformation of cities that has occurred over the past 10 years. During this time, many truly world-class projects have been implemented in Moscow. The MUF participants looped over all sectors: they discussed the development of transport, technologies, public spaces, cultural projects, projects in the field of urban planning and economics.

- How did the forum participants assess the main challenge - the coronavirus pandemic? Are there any forecasts, prospects for the fight against COVID-19?

- It is difficult to make predictions in this area, but there is an opinion that the coronavirus overcoming largely depends on the level of collective immunity, which is achieved both by vaccination and by the number of people who have been ill. The high pace of vaccination that Moscow and the world as a whole have gained will help us to return to our usual way of life as soon as possible.

It is clear that there is still a lot of work to be done, but, as it was said at the forum, now vaccination and the achievement of collective immunity are the most important in the fight against the pandemic.

- Which Moscow projects presented at the MUF exhibition interested the guests the most?

- Many guests are surprised by the rate of changes that the capital demonstrates today, how quickly it was possible to go this way. Over the past 10 years, Moscow has become a leader in the number of megaprojects and urban development projects.

We are talking, for example, about changing public spaces. Here you can recall the creation of the Zaryadye Park, the renovation of the Northern River Station and the territory around it. Within the forum framework, we had a press-tour, and we showed all this places to foreign journalists. They were also taken to the sports cluster in Luzhniki, which is actively developing.

Experts did not ignore the transport projects of Moscow. This includes the Big Circle Line, which will become the longest ring metro line in the world, as well as the construction of transport hubs, the development of railway transport - the Moscow Central Ring, the Moscow Central Diameters. A unique renovation program is also relevant, because we are talking about the relocation of more than a million residents. This is comparable to the population of some large European cities. The projects scale that are being implemented in Moscow is surprising and cannot leave anyone indifferent.

Both a challenge and a success

- In addition to the business program, what else did the forum offer to people who are interested in Urban science?

- According to tradition, a festival was held for the citizens, but due to the epidemiological situation, it was held online. The speakers were in Zaryadye or connected via a teleconference, and their speeches were broadcast on the forum's website. The activity in the Network was high: we have more than 350 thousand viewings of open lectures and other events. And we even conducted sports training online. During this year, people apparently adapted to this format, were active, listened to lectures and played sports.

I would also like to mention the Urban Health project laboratory. Several teams of young specialists participated in its work, who offered solutions in three areas: inclusive environment, fight against loneliness and weight loss. They presented interesting projects, from which they have chosen the three best ones.

- And what personally impressed you the most at the MUF this year?

- Probably, I was interested in the format of the forum itself. It turned out to be mixed from start to finish. Recently, we have seen face-to-face events with exact time online connecting speakers at the plenary session, as it was at the St. Petersburg Economic Forum. Or events were held without spectators, only online. Therefore, it is especially gratifying that we managed to make the forum hybrid in every sense. Our broadcasts were watched by more than 100 thousand people from 75 countries of the world. But we also invited people to the forum site. We were visited by a limited number of people, but they were there. This is both a challenge and a success at the same time.

- Have you already started preparing for the XI Moscow Urban Forum? What topics will be the main ones next year?

- While we are busy summing up the results, we are clarifying the figures, evaluating the PR effect and so on. But as soon as we finish this work, in two or three weeks we will begin active preparations for the next forum. We will offer dates, a platform, and formats.

I believe that the focus will be on urban development, taking into account the fact that we are already living in a different era - the post-pandemic one. The spread of the coronavirus has greatly affected not only the usual way of people life, but also the management of cities and the projects that need to be implemented.

Cities are now focused primarily on the health and well-being of residents, their safety and sustaining their lives. I think that in a year's time, when we jointly cope with the challenge of the pandemic, we will have something to discuss, sum up, share experience and understand how such challenges can be prevented. In any case, we have good grounds for looking to the future only with optimism.