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This coming year will likely see a change of government in the UK, an hour or two of reckoning as the Obama administration marks its first anniversary in the White House, Japanese prime minister Yukio Hatoyama wrestling with his nation’s ­stifling bureaucracy and leaders (and consultants) of the Gulf states tweaking their sales pitches to investors and potential collaborators.

In the US, commercial property owners and local governments are trying to figure out what to do with blocks of empty shops and derelict strip malls along busy thoroughfares. In the UK, the best local authorities can do to fight the threat of “ghost-towns” in many city boroughs and market towns is to convert vacant shops into youth centres. In Dubai, urban pl­­­­­­anners are being contracted to deliver concepts for greater density to stimulate desolate concrete corridors. And out in the desert, rows of Airbuses and Boeings are parked herringbone style because there aren’t enough passengers to fill them.

The patient may opt to wait things out and hope for better days to return because these things are always cyclical. Or are they? The fixes that everyone from developers to airline CEOs to strapped school-boards have found themselves in can easily be blamed on a saggy economy, but we’d argue that many are the result of continued poor management long before markets declined. But the good news is there are many solutions to re-engage communities, create more attractive cities and turn out more intelligent students. Here are our 10 monocle manifestos for 2010.

01 Soft power diplomacy school

Some countries have learned the skill of winning friends and influence the soft way. They use cultural institutes to help get their way, they send in engineers not soldiers (see report page 69) and they let their food cultures and pop singers warm up the international scene for them. Now it’s time to establish a soft power institute, a central seat of learning where aspiring diplomats can be versed in Francis Bacon not bullets and Turandot not tanks. The Norwegians have become masters of this approach – with their diplomats’ negotiating skills in demand all over the world – but it’s the Germans who have perfected this skill. We look forward to them breaking ground with soft power at the Berlin School, but they may need to call in some help to explain how pop music can win you friends.

02 CV for a new politician

What do we need from a modern politician? Charisma for sure – someone who knows what to say in a crisis and can articulate a nation’s feelings; experience – career politicians are usually outshone by their counterparts who have had careers in the real world; stamina – Obama’s zest and bounce are a good thing; presence – we need people who look good on the global stage; and a touch of the maverick – dull may be reliable but it is just dull. Perhaps the person who best encapsulates all these traits is the French minister of foreign affairs, Bernard Kouchner. In his earlier life he founded Médecins Sans Frontières, he was a UN representative in Kosovo and he has spoken out against the Vatican’s views on condom use in Africa. He’s good for brand France and more politicians with his style could make 2010 much more interesting.

03 A new inflight announcement

In-house airline PR teams should work harder at keeping their CEOs away from TV cameras – particularly during quarterly result announcements. If it wasn’t the fuel price then it was the economy. If it wasn’t delivery delays from an aircraft manufacturer then it was a quieter than expected Hajj. The world’s major airlines have run out of excuses.

If we were asked to consult on an airline, our first management move would involve the creation of a new post in the executive suite – Chief Dignity Officer or CDO, who’d pound airport concourses and sample their own product full time. Passengers might be demanding many things but at the core of their desires is the restoration of a dignified travel experience.

04 Healthcare model for all

“Healthcare tourism” just shouldn’t exist. Nations should be capable of providing the medicine and doctors that their people need. Yet around the world countries are still struggling to find a model that works. In the US, healthcare reform has become such a contentious issue that whatever ends up being agreed, it will be more about pressure groups than blood pressure. In an ideal world, we would have a system that combined the clinical excellence of the US with the universal openness of the British system and the all round quality of the French. But for now we’ll stick to a Swiss clinic when we need an operation. The country’s passion for efficiency and their universal private insurance model isn’t bad either.

05 Lessons for life

It’s time to go back to basics and give kids some structure. In the toughest places, get kids off the street and throw them into a hive of positive activity – even at the weekend. New schemes have shown that by extending the school day and by almost taking over a potentially troubled kid’s spare time, you can turn their lives around and give them self-esteem. If you’re not in the Bronx, but in a leafy middle-class life, that’s not an excuse to go soft on your kids: feral youth is not just an issue of poverty. But schools should inspire, which involves rethinking architecture so places encourage learning and are of a quality that generates respect (see our story on the AP Møller School in Schleswig, northern Germany in issue 26).

06 Compact your community

What to do if you’re the mayor of a city that’s plagued by the ghost-town effect? All over the world cities, towns and villages are suffering from the blight of boarded up shops and the problems that go with them. Much has already been wasted at many a town hall calling in consultants to solve the problem when most could simply apply the “75m Rule”.

Rather than spending vast sums on unnecessary beautification programmes, lord mayors and landowners should scale back and consolidate their best assets into a 75m stretch. This means shrinking withering high streets so they can spring back to life. You simply create a new cluster by placing all the strong, existing tenants side by side and create a zone of density where retailers and consumers find strength in numbers and also comfort. Try it – it really works.

06 Compact your community

What to do if you’re the mayor of a city that’s plagued by the ghost-town effect? All over the world cities, towns and villages are suffering from the blight of boarded up shops and the problems that go with them. Much has already been wasted at many a town hall calling in consultants to solve the problem when most could simply apply the “75m Rule”.

Rather than spending vast sums on unnecessary beautification programmes, lord mayors and landowners should scale back and consolidate their best assets into a 75m stretch. This means shrinking withering high streets so they can spring back to life. You simply create a new cluster by placing all the strong, existing tenants side by side and create a zone of density where retailers and consumers find strength in numbers and also comfort. Try it – it really works.

07 Bulldoze the business parks

It’s not for nothing that big corporations that hug the fringes of the outermost suburbs have to come up with silly language and absurd design features as part of their corporate culture. Their staff are miserable so they allow them to have bean bag rooms and basketball hoops above waste-bins. Monocle thinks parks should be parks and places of business should be close to transport hubs with everything a worker wants within easy walking distance – this includes parks with real grass rather than Astroturf and leafy nooks to enjoy clandestine lunches. The business park was built for an era when we’d have limitless petrol supplies and we all wanted a California lifestyle. The first is no longer possible and the latter not so attractive.

08 Get socially engaged

Community is what makes everything work. If you care about your community, you won’t drop your crisp packet in the park. And you’re more likely to set up a business that improves everyone’s lives. Or build a building that really works. So, community service – even conscription – for every school leaver should no longer be seen as an old-fashioned concept. It’s also healthy to learn the skills of working in a team. People have forgotten how to think about being part of a community. We can change that by rolling up sleeves and pitching in. Since our October cover story on conscription we also noted that 12 month tours of duty also aid in creating greater social capital – read better integration.

09 An engineered NGO

Can you blame Dubai for all the troubles it met over the past 18 months? When the cranes stopped swinging and the dump-trucks stopped dumping and the construction workers headed back to Bangladesh, India and Pakistan, was it really the fault of the ruling family? The less generous might say yes but such a man-made disaster could have been averted if there was a vocal and visionary NGO to blow the whistle on poor urban planning. The Better Urbanism Forum (BUF) would employ a core management team to look after a global network of collaborators who would monitor significant urban developments and then re-imagine them when they look like they might derail. And who should be the first candidate cities for treatment? We’d like to refer Phoenix, Miami, Toronto, Brussels, Genoa and Sydney for a good BUF-fing.

10 Master classes in success

For years, teenagers have been told they need an academic qualification to get on. But that’s not always the case. So many people are not cut out for pen pushing and book worming. But if someone had put a chisel in their hand and a master had shown them how to use it, they might have grown up into the new Michelangelo, or at least a good carpenter. We need to go back to valuing the good old-fashioned apprenticeship. We want to see more people making things. And the only way to do that well is through years of slow, caring trial and error under the wings of the best craftsmen. And once you’ve done that you will be priceless. We’d import you over from Switzerland to put up our shelves any day, rather than go for the rip off man down the road whose heart is not really in it.

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