Based on insights from 50 city leaders in the US, a new handbook aims to offer guidance on how technology and innovation can be deployed to benefit entire communities.
A new handbook has been released which aims to offer guidance on how technology and innovation can be deployed to benefit entire communities and prevent “aimless innovation”.
The Future of US Cities: How cities are innovating with intention to achieve impact, draws on the insights and expertise of 50 city leaders and finds Austin, Detroit and Philadelphia are leading the charge.
The handbook was authored by the Centre for Public Impact, in partnership with the Centre for Urban Innovation at The Aspen Institute and the Boston Consulting Group.
According to the authors, seven out of every 10 Americans live in a city, and while trust for the federal government continues to fall residents still look to local authorities to make a difference in their daily lives.
While it is within the reach of city governments to help millions of people thrive, the handbook demonstrates that technology-driven solutions often fail to address long-term challenges and overlook pressing needs for vulnerable communities.
“In talking with city problem-solvers, we’ve discovered a growing movement of leaders using innovative solutions to build the broad reservoir of support they need to maintain life and opportunity for all city residents,” said Dan Vogel, director of the Centre for Public Impact North America.
“When cities innovate with intention, they do so in a way that emphasises legitimacy, equity, and agility.”
While the challenges facing US cities are more complex than ever – tightening budgets, deteriorating infrastructure, and widening inequality – the handbook shares practical examples of where cities have been able to overcome these challenges.
“When cities innovate with intention, they do so in a way that emphasises legitimacy, equity, and agility”
This includes in ways that align innovation both within city government, across sectors, and innovation grows through the creation of a citywide culture that encourages continuous experimentation with measurement grounded in resident experiences.
“Cities are epicentres of innovation, opportunity, and delight. Especially in an age of smart cities, city leaders will need to continue innovating with an intentional focus on equity to ensure that all city residents are able to reap the benefits of new tools and technologies,” added Jennifer Bradley, executive director of the Aspen Institute’s Centre for Urban Innovation.
Austin, Texas,has become more populous and prosperous over the last decade. But as the cost of living has soared, homelessness has increased. As part of its efforts to address the challenge, the city created Homelessness Advisory Committee of Austin, which brings together 13 residents who are or have been homeless, to set the direction for the city’s approach to the problem.
“We needed to find a way to build the lived experience into the system. And it really is as simple as pulling people together and building relationships.” said Lincoln Neiger, a service designer in the Austin city government.
Detroit, Michigan, launched Mobility Innovation Initiative to improve the city’s public transportation. The initiative, spearheaded by the Boston Consulting Group, brought together a group of 10 public, private, and social sector entities to devise approaches to key mobility issues in the city. The coalition then worked together to define the problem within each of the key mobility issues, to ensure all were aligned on what the initiative needed to solve for.
“We needed to find a way to build the lived experience into the system. And it really is as simple as pulling people together and building relationships”
“You need to make sure you’re not just driving technology to problems that don’t exist. We need to make sure we are tackling the most important problems that residents have,” said Mark de La Vergne, chief of mobility for the city of Detroit.
To ensure that the city’s bike-share system was available to all communities, the city of Philadelphia’s strategic initiatives team worked with residents to crowdsource a decision about where to locate docking stations. They found that the credit card payment system was a barrier for many residents in low-income neighbourhoods being able to use the bikes, so the team revamped the payment system so that it doesn’t require a credit card.
“In Philly, the conversation is centered around the neighbourhoods that need the services most,” said Andrew Buss, deputy CIO for Innovation Management. “We make sure marginalised communities are at the forefront of innovation, not an afterthought.”
The handbook is available to read at: Future of US Cities: how cities are innovating with intention to achieve impact
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