Hacking city government
It seems like there's a new startup, app, or piece of
hardware capable of transforming our lives trotted out just about every day in
the Bay Area, so it's not surprising that municipal government in San Francisco would join the wave. City Hall has embraced innovation, looking
to tech-savvy residents to come up with solutions to a wide range of challenges.
"Because of innovation, cities are co-creators in solutions to longstanding problems," said San Francisco Mayor Edwin Lee, speaking at the Meeting of the Minds 2012, of which the Lincoln Institute is a co-spsonsor. "Government must learn to let go." San Francisco essentially crowdsources technology solutions, doing an end run around more cautious bureaucratic processes. The city has not one but two chief innovation officers. Is there a better way to manage the transit system or permits? All ideas are welcome, in "hackathons" that have replaced brainstorming at City Hall. Phone booths -- remember those? -- are thus transformed into giant IPads and wi-fi terminals, as detailed in this article by Fast Company.
Major companies here and across the nation are similarly handing the reins over to employees, letting them decide where it's best for them to work on any given day -- headquarters, home, or a "third place" arranged by companies such as LiquidSpace.
Meeting of the Minds 2012, the annual leadership summit sharing ideas in innovation, advanced technology, urban connectivity and sustainability, featured leaders in government, the private sector and the non-profit world, sought to identify breakthrough policies and practices enabling our institutions and systems to become more connected and more resilient.
Among the presenters were Mayor Gregor Robertson of Vancouver, British Columbia, on that city's efforts to be the top green city in the world, through strategies in land use, transport, green building, and reducing greenhouse gas emissions; Bill Reinert, national manager of advanced technology for Toyota Motor Sales, USA, on the urban mobility revolution; Bruno Biasiotta, CEO & president of Philips Lighting North America, on smart lighting solutions for cities; Matt Grob, executive vice president & chief technology officer, Qualcomm, on increasing network capacities for cities, among many others.
Armando Carbonell, senior fellow and chair, Department of Planning and Urban Form at the Lincoln Institute, shared the latest thinking on Opening Access to Scenario Planning Tools, an initiative to promote public engagement in the long-range planning process, by making visualization and other tools widely available on an open-source platform. Urban planning today must consider a range of unknowns and uncertainty, he said, because cities don't know precisely what the future holds, whether sea level rise or energy constraints in the decades to come.
Others sponsors and organizers in addition to the Lincoln Institute were the Regional Plan Association , the Urban Age Institute, the Presidio Graduate School, Cisco, Schneider Electric, IBM, SOM, CH2M Hill, Jones Lang LaSalle, the Annie E. Casey Foundation, The Netherlands Consul General, The Ford Foundation, and SPUR. The gathering concluded with the launch of a new website, looking ahead to next year's convening in Toronto.