Challenges and innovative solutions for global cities

Pushing Meaningful Innovation for Cities onto the Fast Track

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Pushing Meaningful Innovation for Cities onto the Fast Track

Cities have always been the natural accelerators for experimentation, change and progress, always attracting those seeking opportunity and personal fulfillment. Like other complex systems, cities to-date have escaped our desire to fully understand, model or predict them. They do not follow the rational laws of nature alone, but are the space in which many forces negotiate their co-existence.

In short, if innovation is change, there isn’t a city that doesn’t innovate. Yet, in our modern urban societies expectations today are beginning to be more articulate and intentional.

Explosive expectations…

In a world where Amazon delivers within a few hours, where Twitter provides a real-time infrastructure for political expression and where more than 50 million drivers collaborate through Waze to help each other through traffic we simply have come to expect our cities to change faster, and deliver more value to our diverse personal aspirations.

In the words of our citizens, this may be expressed as “I expect my problems to be solved fast”. As we have learned to appreciate the value of innovation in solving problems in our private lives, and celebrate innovators like Steve Jobs even in children’s books, we expect the same to happen in the urban environment around us. But we we have also become pickier: solutions should not undermine opportunities for others, should not be inferior to those available elsewhere or damage the eco-system.

Our desire for innovation is expressed in the choices we make - whether it is at the ballot box, what we apply our talent to or by disrupting established urban rules by choosing services like Uber or Airbnb - fuelled by an entrepreneurial and technological ecosystem that has been radically democratized and accelerated.

…meet complex systems

On the flip-side of these truly explosive expectations are the established services and organizations that deliver many of the critical services in our communities. Most of these were conceived for a world in which a city was an island, defined by monopolies of local information and infrastructure systems and layers of obligations, regulations and contracts built up over generations.

Often big and complex, these services and organizations are certainly where the ‘big money’ of city government goes. Together, local governments around the world spend over 10% of world GDP, or USD 4.5 trillion, a year. Yet, most investors in urban innovation start-ups will tell you they prefer business models that work around, rather than with these systems.

Why meaningful innovation lingers on the slow track

As a result, we now live in a 2-speed urban world where solutions that require institutional collaboration scale at a fraction of the speed as solutions that don’t. And given the flows of venture capital and complexity of deal-making with city governments or agencies, we can expect fast to only get faster, and slow to remain a business proposition not for the faint-hearted.

To illustrate this point, let’s reflect on a simple question: “What are my chances of getting the best innovation to improve my life?”

A good way of looking at this is to understand how some solutions have become available in cities within 5 years of conception. Clearly, a solution available in more cities is more likely to be available to me quickly.

Solutions availability vs need for local institutional collaboration

Solutions availability vs need for local institutional collaboration

It is notable that there is a direct co-relation between the level of local institutional collaboration a solution requires and its ability to scale rapidly. This is not news, but can we as citizens really accept that innovations are only within our reach if they do not require our local governments, business, agencies or regulators to be involved? Can we accept that the evidently most meaningful solution on the above table, the navigation system for the blind, is not going to be available in our cities?

In short, the question of innovation in cities is not just one of change or progress, but raises questions about who innovation is meant to serve and what problem it is meant to solve. And this is where we see a painful divergence between the needs of communities (meaning) and those solutions that the marketplace today is able to deliver at scale.

How can we sustain meaningful innovation in cities?

We formed Citymart 5 years ago to deliver such meaningful innovation in our cities, by transforming the way cities solve problems. Working with 58 global cities on solving more than 100 problems we have learned the importance of involving and supporting the institutions and services that have traditionally proven to be harder to change.

Cities can take leadership and sustain meaningful innovation when they collaborate to create opportunities for change.

Firstly and foremost, we need to revisit some of our assumptions as a society as to who does what. In our fast changing world we cannot expect anyone to just fix things for us or that size alone is the answer. Each and every member of our community - citizen, business or organization - has to be empowered to participate in solving problems. Unless change is a collaborative effort of tackle problems, we are not able to make innovation meaningful in our cities.

Secondly, it requires institutions like city governments to make problem-solving their primary business. Sounds obvious, but in a survey of 50 global cities in 2012 we found that none had an explicit mission or method to solve problems and that 80% responded that they only trust solutions from companies they already know. This is why programs like Sheffield Smart Lab or Breakthru Long Beach are important in formally providing a path to tackle problems in the city, and breaking down the barrier of trust with start-ups that have the innovations that can make a noticeable difference.

Thirdly, measuring progress will sustain innovation. Unless we size-up our problems, we will not be able to measure the economic opportunity of solving them or creating the appropriate reward system. What value do we place on achieving our environmental goals, what value does the integration of a disabled person in the workplace have? Too many times we simply celebrate that something new is happening, rather than tracking the progress we make in accomplishing the goals we set out to achieve, to then immediately look to innovation to take us forward.

Yes, it is beginning to happen.

The good news is, many cities are already doing this. Global cities like New York City, San Francisco, Philadelphia and Barcelona that are transforming the way they solve problems, involving citizens and entrepreneurs alike. In the process, they are turning complex systems like adult social care or urban lighting, or processes like government procurement on their head to more immediately serve their mission of improving the lives of their citizens.

Cities are supported in this transition by a growing eco-system of organizations like the 100 Resilient Cities Initiative pioneered by the Rockefeller Foundation and What Works and other government innovation programs by Bloomberg Philanthropies help drive the systemic and institutional change toward a more intentional and explicit agenda and marketplace  for change. Building the new practices, measuring progress and using evidence as the basis for shared learning are the underpinnings tackling the risks of meaningful innovation falling behind in today's marketplace.

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Are cities getting it all wrong in public management risk?

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Are cities getting it all wrong in public management risk?

I often ask myself if our definition of risk in city management is causing a systemic failure for the world's urban population?

Risk in public management is today overly defined by process-risk with legal consequences - either by breaking procurement laws, disadvantaged competitors seeking litigation or public scandals of government waste.

We overlook the real risk - of doing the entirely wrong thing.

#citiesshare Peer Learning in London - placing the citizen at the heart of procurement

#citiesshare Peer Learning in London - placing the citizen at the heart of procurement

When is the last time local media has reported on a city government solving a problem in the wrong way, as compared to the usual outrages about cost-overruns or mal-functioning solutions.

Instead of debating the alternatives, we complain about the bureaucratic faults in delivering what usually amounts to the same old solutions. This fault line runs right through our communities - in the way we manage our administrations, the way local media reports on what is wrong rather than what could work better, and our expectations as citizens that someone else is going to fix things.

Risk for government should equal risk for citizens

Local governments spend 10% of world GDP as trustees of citizen taxes with the sole purpose of improving lives. As such, our city administrations have a powerful mandate and unequalled accountability as it is their spending and regulatory decisions affect us most.

As societies democratized, regulated and became more transparent, self-righteous government gave way to more accountable, transparent and professionalized bureaucracies that adhered to rules and introduced measures to protect in particular the process of public procurement against manipulation.

Yet, with professionalization we also saw the rise of the career politician and public servant, often incentivized by job security to inspire loyalty to the citizen and provide counter-incentives to the temptations of corruption.

"No one has ever been punished for putting too many conditions and clauses in a public contract."

But this professionalization may have also detached public servants more and more from citizens and their needs.  This can best be understood by looking at how city governments around the world define risk in procurement. Most government tenders (or RFPs = Requests for Proposals) are constructed around concepts of bureaucratic risks. By this, I mean the transactional risk in contracting that might expose the bureaucracy to liabilities, blame for mistakes or failure.

If you make the short exercise of grouping the risks in government procurement into risks to the citizen and risks to the administration you are likely to get a more balanced view:

Risk to quality of life for citizen

Best solutions are missed


Solution does not deliver impact

User / citizen rejects solution

Best vendors not interested


Under-performing services, over-spending

Delay in deployment, over-spending

Under-performing services

Failure, costly re-build

Under-performing services, citizen rejection, delays

Risk to administration

Insufficient vendor capacity

Solution failure liability

Cost overruns

Internal resistance


Deployment delays

Unpredictable cost-overruns

Delays, over-spending

Poorly scoped solutions, delays, citizen rejection, no impact delivered

In a political and bureaucratic culture where failure is not tolerated, it is natural that those risks affecting the administration are those associated with professional blame, litigation and scandals, and therefore tend to take top priority. They have also created their own culture of experts and professionals, often attracting talent that excels at avoiding bureaucratic risk first into procurement positions.

Who then mitigates the risks of not creating citizen value?

Putting the citizen first in procurement requires empathy first and foremost. If we reduce procurement to an exercise in bureaucratic risk management, we undermine the purpose of city government spending - to create value for citizens. It requires a culture change in which the risk of not using our resources to get the best solution to our citizens is valued highest.

City leaders can take a range of measures to mitigate the risks of not getting the most citizen value out of procurement - none of them create additional risks to the administration, but more likely strengthening the bureaucratic risk position also.


Procure by publishing problem statements instead of design specifications

Proactive market research and engagement

Transparency and citizen participation

User-friendly processes

Careful risk planning

Pay for impact / performance


More solutions presented, more competition, eliminate re-invention, focus on problem throughout the process

Reach all possible solutions, recruit more bids, engage hard-to-get vendors

Share market research, promote debate about solutions to allow citizens to reject solutions before costly deployment

Lower the barriers to bidding to an absolute minimum to broaden the possible vendor pool including small-businesses, citizens or start-ups

Give fair chance to small businesses or disruptive approaches

Shifts risk to vendors and maximizes incentive to invest in problem-solving

And why would this happen?

It is happening already. A growing number of cities are actively changing both the culture and process of procurement to create more value for the citizen.

Cities like Barcelona, Philadelphia and San Francisco have found that using problem statements instead of specifications in their procurement process, lowering the barriers to vendors and investing in market research and communications is paying tangible dividends.

  • Costs are driven down by opening procurement to a wider solution and vendor-base. Barcelona and San Francisco found dozens of vendors compete to solve problems that in the past had just a handful of qualified vendors.
  • Citizens and entrepreneurs get more engaged. A recent $1,5 Million RFP by the city of Barcelona (maximum contract size $250,000) attracted 55,000 visitors of the RFP page in just 3 weeks through a coordinated local and global outreach campaign.
  • Philadelphia is accelerating a new crop of urban solutions through its FastFWD start-up accelerator program, integrated into a broader vision of a more responsive and open procurement system.

In just four years Citymart has helped more than 50 global cities to publish problem statements to find the best solutions to match their community needs learning about entirely new approaches to solving their problems that offer more value at lower cost.

A stupid question can go a long way

Most successful innovators are experts at reframing risk – often breaking down a seemingly unchallengeable risk into manageable pieces that allow new value to be created. Who would have invited strangers to sleep into their home before Airbnb or Couchsurfing turning our perception of trust on its head?

Changing risk frameworks doesn’t just require experts, but common sense and a clear sense of priority for citizen value which helps us ask the challenging question “why”?

  • “Why” can only companies with $10 million annual revenue or more present solutions? Will that really help the citizen or exclude too many new ideas?
  • “Why” are we really certain when we specify a solution that we know it doesn’t already exist, or that a better alternative may be out there somewhere?
  • "Why" do we need to buy a solution? Can we not lease it, give a concession or pay for the results achieved?

Each of these questions alone (and we ask many others every day) can transform the outcomes and results for the citizen. Most often, no one is asking them – so go ahead, and do it.

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LDN gov | Cities Summit 2014

LDN gov | Cities Summit 2014

In June 2014, the Mayor of London hosted the Cities Summit in partnership with Citymart and sponsored by Citi which brought decision-makers from 30 world cities together to learn from each other.


#citiesshare Session 4: Delivering innovation in cities

Cities aim to foster innovation, and yet, organising internal processes to actually deliver does not seem straightforward. During a peer learning session, James Anderson, Head of Government Innovation Programs at Bloomberg Philanthropies, and Philip Colligan, Deputy Chief Executive of Nesta, challenged global cities' representatives on what assets could be mobilised to make innovation a tangible reality. 

As an introduction to the session, Philip Colligan presented recent research that has identified four types oiTeams (innovation teams, units or funds) that make innovation happen in local and national governments around the world:

  1. Developers – creating new solutions to specific problems/policy priorities (from idea generation to delivery).
  2. Enablers – engaging citizens, NGOs and businesses to find new ideas (e.g. using challenges to make government an innovation platform to generate and run ideas, engaging SMEs, reaching to business /non-profits via challenges, etc.).
  3. Educators – looking at and changing culture of governance from a broader and deeper perspective, transforming processes, skills and culture of government  (up-skilling civil servants, training, consultancy).
  4. Architects – situated outside government but paid by government, thinking on macro-level, wider policy and system change.

City officials were asked which of those approaches resonated the most with cities, and whether there was a fifth type of team for innovators that could help them adopt or design in-house capacity.

What did city officials take away from this session?

  • Enthusiasm for innovation has moved beyond our capacity to measure it. Too many people are busy re-inventing things; yet we must get better at accounting for investment into innovation. E.g., hold competitions not based on app quality but on impact.
  •  Innovation teams that survive administrative shifts are the ones who measure and demonstrate impact data, while those that survived and didn’t measure, were good at describing their minimum value proposition. 
  • Get the Mayor or CEO of the city to champion the team. The Chief Executive’s role seems central to create an enabling environment, provide political support and foster a positive innovation climate. 
  • Leadership drives behaviour and is key in all levels to make innovation possible –it can be an enabler or a barrier.
  • Innovation teams do not need to be a permanent fixture. They can –and sometimes should– have a short-term mission.
  • The role of cities is to provide assets for innovation, and the number one asset is open data. However, data should be collected and stored in useful ways, such as for economic development.
  • Cities need to bridge the gap between public and private sector to benefit from the skills and expertise of industry. This can be accomplished by building partnerships between cities and other institutions to access knowledge. E.g. enablers are open to ideas outside government, such as teaming up with universities, like in Newcastle and Krakow.
  • City leaders are interested in better ways of connecting with peers in other cities, finding out what they are doing and how they are adapting and managing change. E.g. moving from pilot to scale.
  • Examples presented by city officials included: the Mayor of London Low Carbon prize; Dublin’s adoption of “Code for America”; the introduction of GIS in San Luis Potosi (Mexico) fighting management resistance; the design lab to educate civil servants in Sweden; Moscow’s Center for Innovation Development to close the gap between government and entrepreneurs; open innovation and engagement in York. 

What else should local governments do to deliver innovation? Share your insights below. 


From 23-25 June 2014, Mayor of London Boris Johnson hosted Cities Summit | Solutions Worth Sharing together with Citymart and supported by Citi. The Summit brought together city governments, businesses and entrepreneurs with bright ideas to help improve citizens' quality of  life. The Summit kicked off with a Peer Learning Session for cities, creating a dynamic dialogue among city officials around four key themes on how to make innovation a tangible reality. Participating cities included London, Barcelona, Dublin, Fukuoka, Heerlen, Kristiansand, Krakow, Lobito, Louisville, Madrid, Malmö, Moscow, Newcastle, Philadelphia, San Luis Potosí, Sant Cugat, Seville, Sheffield, Tampere, Tartu, Valencia, and York. 

Check out the entire #citiesshare series in our blog for the contents of the other sessions. 


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#citiesshare Session 3: Overcoming procurement barriers

How to overcome the hurdles in public procurement? Filipo Sabatini, Managing Director at Citibank, and Adrian Walker, Global Co-Head of Hogan Lovells Infrastructure, Energy, Resources and Projects, facilitated a session with city officials on how to prevent jurisdiction from becoming a barrier to innovation procurement. Representatives of global cities exchanged ideas on how to adopt the best solutions to enhance public services and citizens' quality of life, while respecting the rules.

City officials discussed the following ideas on how to make public procurement less prescriptive and more collaborative:

  • Rules and regulations can be positive. There are two options: 1) de-regulation for innovation with a supporting infrastructure, or 2) new regulation to support SMEs through innovation partnerships.
  • Overregulation cannot guarantee better procurement; hence, it is necessary to make compromises between regulation and solutions. It is hard to innovate when validation and proofs are required.
  • It is important to explore problem areas and not just solution areas, and avoid prescribing technology.
  • Rules can help or hinder. Legislation, especially at national level, can become an excuse for doing things in the same way. On the other hand, new deal structures can lead to more flexible interactions.
  • Fear is the biggest barrier of innovation, followed by conservative, defensive attitudes within leadership. It is important to find your champion and change the mindset to overcome conservatism and inertia. Show good examples from other cities when you have to deal with a conservative leader, and understand that some environments are more prescriptive than others. The best way to convince a city to do it differently is to show that another city has already done it successfully.
  • Departments and teams should work together, and there should be open conversations between the legal and procurement teams.
  • Meet and learn from other cities. Find out how other cities procure and learn from their experience, mistakes, and successes. Cities can help each other by sharing positive examples and welcoming private sector expertise. Embracing and learning from failure is essential.
  • Governments look at innovative management and finance models, such as innovative procurement and PPPs, although risks are still perceived. Part of the future procurement challenge will be to stimulate wider market appraisal. Invite another level of government (e.g. central or regional government) to make the process multilateral and encourage market development.
  • Specific examples provided by city officials included: using regulation to avoid corruption and to increase transparency (Moscow); asking the market for solutions and conducting market consultation for up-to-date technology (Eindhoven); including social considerations and value (Malmö); providing opportunities to SMEs through legacy projects (London).
  • Regarding the key issue of scaling solutions, Barcelona considers important to have a fixed budget to spend on innovative solutions. In Japan, procurement processes are deregulated which has increased flexibility and speed, thereby leading to greater competitiveness. In Philadelphia, a new approach has been introduced to invest in exploration and look into problem areas.

 In conclusion, it is important to fast-track innovation, and allow test & scale in procurement.

Join the discussion by leaving a comment below. 


From 23-25 June 2014, Mayor of London Boris Johnson hosted Cities Summit | Solutions Worth Sharing together with Citymart and supported by Citi. The Summit brought together city governments, businesses and entrepreneurs with bright ideas to help improve citizens' quality of  life. The Summit kicked off with a Peer Learning Session for cities, creating a dynamic dialogue among city officials around four key themes on how to make innovation a tangible reality. Participating cities included London, Barcelona, Dublin, Fukuoka, Heerlen, Kristiansand, Krakow, Lobito, Louisville, Madrid, Malmö, Moscow, Newcastle, Philadelphia, San Luis Potosí, Sant Cugat, Seville, Sheffield, Tampere, Tartu, Valencia, and York. 

Next post will cover how to organize and deliver innovation in cities. 

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#citiesshare Session 2: Sharing solutions

Why are good solutions not spreading more quickly across cities? Scott Cain, Executive Director at Future Cities Catapult, and Sascha Haselmayer, Citymart CEO, challenged city officials during a peer learning session to ask themselves how good solutions could scale faster.  City officials were asked if they had bought or “copied” a solution from another city, instead of reinventing their own. One of the ideas stressed during the session, was the importance of embracing failure and learning from mistakes.

What did city officials take away from this creative session?

Sharing and borrowing ideas (or shameless “stealing”)

  • Take something that works 90% and improve it rather than trying to (re)invent something from scratch that is 100% right.
  • Collaborate: find partner cities and work together.
  • Political transitions can be complicated, but sharing can be enabled by political change (post-mayoral legacy), not for political gain.
  • Being a first-mover city means making more mistakes, and there is often political risk involved.
  • Define a process to collect bottom-up data.  
  • Solutions are not always transferable. It is important to adapt and align, taking the key elements, and analyzing the ability to implement it (considering organizational challenges, resources, economic environment, and citizens).
  • Seek innovation through start-ups, create capabilities and provide training to align departments. 

Embrace failure

  • Cities never talk about bad ideas or experiences, however, this information should be shared. Learning from what did not work minimizes risk. City officials should get together to discuss.
  • Open and honest sharing of failure (“permission to fail”) should not only be acceptable, but part of the scaling process. As an example, in Philadelphia, one out of three projects is expected to fail. It is important to agree on an acceptable amount of risk and failure.
If we do not fail we are not trying enough

Buying ideas and spending on scaling

  • Beware of provider “lock-in”. Cities are supersaturated with vendors all claiming to have the “best” solution, and it might become too overwhelming to choose one solution and be sure it is right.
  • In a snap survey in which cities were asked what percentage of annual budget they should spend on sharing solutions, all agreed that at least part of their annual budget should be allocated to this purpose (answers varied from 10 to 60%).

Creating a common framework for evaluation

  • Cities need a more coherent framework that focuses on their needs, starting with problem definition and service delivery.
  • Think fast-follower: see solutions and learn why they worked; let others make the mistakes and learn from them.
  • Evidence and KPIs: identify and engage what can deliver and measure priorities. Proven ideas bring more efficiency.
  • Consider the viewpoints of citizens on how to create trust and validate ideas.  Their opinion should be represented and they should be involved in identifying challenges through open innovation platforms.
  • It is important to break silos. You could either nominate and train a high-level team of “barrier-busters” as a “coalition of the willing” that can break down the silos between different departments through collaboration, or invite anyone that wants to join to a crosscutting innovation forum.
  • Change attitudes from “Nice idea, but it wouldn’t work here because…” to “Nice idea! Here’s how it could work here…”

What else can be done to share high-impact solutions among cities? Share your insights below. 


From 23-25 June 2014, Mayor of London Boris Johnson hosted Cities Summit | Solutions Worth Sharing together with Citymart and supported by Citi. The Summit brought together city governments, businesses and entrepreneurs with bright ideas to help improve citizens' quality of  life. The Summit kicked off with a Peer Learning Session for cities, creating a dynamic dialogue among city officials around four key themes on how to make innovation a tangible reality. Participating cities included London, Barcelona, Dublin, Fukuoka, Heerlen, Kristiansand, Krakow, Lobito, Louisville, Madrid, Malmö, Moscow, Newcastle, Philadelphia, San Luis Potosí, Sant Cugat, Seville, Sheffield, Tampere, Tartu, Valencia, and York. 

Next post will cover how to overcome public procurement barriers.



#citiesshare Session 1: Financing innovation

During a peer learning session for city officials, Daria Kuznetsova from Big Society Capital and Paula Hirst from Future Cities Catapult, facilitated a dialogue on how to finance ideas that transform tomorrow's cities. The key question was how city authorities could enable an ecosystem that provided finance and support to city innovation.

The key takeaway was that cities needed to create investment-conducive ecosystems for innovation. This can be done by designing service delivery around users and engaging them in the process; providing support to SMEs; running challenge-based opportunities; and establishing incubators.

Another learning outcome was that cities should become an entrepreneurial enabler that encourages confidence, providing clarity and opportunities. Local authorities acting as entrepreneurs could work with big and small investors; meet directly with all investors and decision makers; co-invest; create guidelines or frameworks; enable external funding through multiple channels and mechanisms; and provide finance to the most innovative ideas.

City officials shared the following  ideas on how to finance innovation in cities:

  • Pay by result: outcome-based finance mechanisms can support and deliver service innovation. While providers benefit from greater freedom due to public-private shared risk, it might be difficult to negotiate or might face certain regulatory restrictions.
  • Open challenges followed by implementation through an innovative process: discovery + prototype + deliver, as well as prize fund challenges providing incentives such as access to capital finance.
  • Open city data to unveil assets, encourage ideation, and find out how to quantify future revenue.
  • Participatory design providing shares for citizens.
  • EU investment and sustainable benefits (e.g. low-carbon programmes, improving waste management).
  • Fast-track innovation through procurement.
  • Refinance existing service contracts to lower costs in order to obtain funds to invest in city services.
  • Venture funds for city service delivery.
  • Citizen-led social funding and foundations for innovation.
  • Increase diversity of providers and get major suppliers to use SMEs via supply chain.
  • Finance cultural activities for the community.
  • Social start-up to work for the government.
  • Mass market funding, which might involve more risk and have no return, but creates research value.
  • Private investment with a long-term return, sponsorship and angel investors.
  • Sell shares and invest revenue.
  • Rethink taxation systems.

What other ideas could help enable ecosystems that support city innovation? Share your insights below.


From 23-25 June 2014, Mayor of London Boris Johnson hosted Cities Summit | Solutions Worth Sharing together with Citymart and supported by Citi. The Summit brought together city governments, businesses and entrepreneurs with bright ideas to help improve citizens' quality of  life. The Summit kicked off with a Peer Learning Session for cities, creating a dynamic dialogue among city officials around four key themes on how to make innovation a tangible reality. Participating cities included London, Barcelona, Dublin, Fukuoka, Heerlen, Kristiansand, Krakow, Lobito, Louisville, Madrid, Malmö, Moscow, Newcastle, Philadelphia, San Luis Potosí, Sant Cugat, Seville, Sheffield, Tampere, Tartu, Valencia, and York. 

Next post will cover how to share and scale good solutions among cities.



Why cities open problems and share solutions

Together with our partner cities we promote the vision of cities sharing solutions. It seems obvious, but today even the most successful solutions such as public bicycle systems scale at a pace that reached just 0,1% of communities in over 10 years. Over the past 3,5 years we have learned much about the barriers, but have also found some solutions to overcome them. So, when we talk about cities becoming more open, agile and empathic it is because they fundamentally do two things: open their problems and share solutions.

When you imagine this model applied to 557,000 communities and 10% of world GDP, it would be an incredibly active marketplace. We remain far from it, but after running more than 90 challenges with global cities we are, ourselves, impressed to see just how actively cities collaborate to solve their problems.

And in many ways, this is just a beginning. Increasingly, as at our recent Cities Summit hosted together with the Mayor of London, cities are making much bolder commitments to open problems and share not just solutions, but the methods that will transform their procurement.



LLGA | Cities Pilot the Future 2014: Seven Cities, Seven Challenges, 1000+ Solutions

LLGA2014 Logo v2

Innovative finalists from 15 different countries answer the LLGA 2014 call for solutions

London, Glasgow, Malmö, Sant Cugat, Lagos, San Luis Potosí, Moscow: these are seven of the forward-thinking cities participating in Citymart’s 2014 LLGA | Cities Pilot the Future programme. Through this revolutionary initiative, these 7 cities have taken the bold step of publishing their challenges on an open platform to be seen by solution providers worldwide. The latter have answered the cities’ call by submitting viable solutions to the cities’ challenge areas, which include:

Street commerce enhancement • Off-grid power • Peak electricity demand • Traffic noise management • Food poverty alleviation • Citizen engagement for co-creation • Neighbourhood revitalization through collaborative consumption

Now, the results are in: over 185 companies and organizations from around the globe have submitted high-impact, implementation-ready solutions to these cities’ pressing social and urban challenges. Winners will be invited to partner with these visionary cities, with the ultimate goal of helping them to improve the lives of their combined 27 million citizens.

January 2014 marks the 5th edition of Citymart’s LLGA | Cities Pilot the Future programme, through which cities around the world are publishing challenges on a rolling basis throughout the year. This on-going open competition presents endless opportunities for innovators worldwide to scale up and export their solutions to cities that venture to share their challenges. So far, seven cities have publicly and transparently posted their urban and social challenges, joining the ranks of over 80 veteran LLGA cities that have trusted Citymart’s tried and tested open innovation process since its 2009 inception.

Citymart's LLGA  5-step process for open innovation. Connecting cities with solution providers through LLGA | Cities Pilot the Future forges a joint commitment to spread proven innovations in a more cost-effective and sustainable way, but also a unique effort in helping build smarter, more resilient urban communities.

Levelling the playing field for SMEs

The 40 finalist organisations are incredibly diverse in location, size and scope, from the Social Life in London, UK, which reconnects placemaking with people, to Nag1 ApS, a noise-absorbing guardrails company based in the Denmark, or Ikuna, a Chilean handicrafts start-up. In addition to boosted visibility and access to global markets, LLGA | Cities Pilot the Future unlocks unprecedented opportunities for SMEs to achieve recognition and consideration in local government pre-procurement processes, which would traditionally preclude them due to insufficient track records.

And the finalists are…

Over a 3-month period, Citymart researchers identified 1137 providers that can offer verified and feasible solutions for the seven LLGA challenges. A total of 151 solutions entered a first round of evaluation after being assessed by a panel of expert jurors chosen by each city.

Of these, 40 nominated companies entered the second and final round of the programme, in which they have the opportunity to showcase their products and services in depth to each city’s jury, which will choose one winner per challenge.

To see the finalists for each LLGA city challenge, click below: • GlasgowLagosLondonMalmöMoscowSan Luis PotosiSant Cugat

Cities Summit | Solutions Worth Sharing

From 23-25 June 2014, the 40 finalists will join key leaders from over 25 Citymart partner cities, past LLGA winners and urban innovation experts at an exclusive Summit hosted by the Mayor of London. During the Cities Summit, LLGA finalists will have the chance to pitch their solution in front of 200 attendees at London City Hall. Winners will be announced together with upcoming challenges and exciting new Citymart initiatives and partnerships.

Watch this space for more Summit news, and congratulations to all LLGA 2014 nominees!




Barcelona makes procurement sexy

Barcelona has broken new ground with the BCN|Open Challenge in a number of ways. Barcelona is one of the first cities to procure by challenge, meaning that the RFP for six solutions to be procured is not stating the desired solution, but the problem to be solved.

Mañana de sábado de trabajo intenso BCN | Open Challenge @barcelona_cat

— AnnA (@Fenix_Anna) May 24, 2014

But BCN|Open Challenge also seems to have hit the spot by breaking down the many barriers experienced in procurement, and creating excitement among entrepreneurs and citizens alike. In fact, the RFP page has received over 30,000 visits in the first 2 weeks of the announcement.

This is not a coincidence, but the result of a remarkable effort by city leaders, administrators and managers to design an open process. Further, the city has shown its creativity in a media campaign that reached citizens on all social and media channels - including the screens on buses and metros.

So it is not surprising to find a Tweet (see above) that celebrates public procurement as a lifestyle experience. How many of your friends or colleagues would post a picture reading an RFP at breakfast?



Citymart teams with Barcelona City Council to break the public procurement mould

Citymart and Barcelona City Council have partnered to launch a trailblazing public procurement initiative. BCN|Open Challenge turns urban challenges into opportunities by opening them up to local and international innovators, with the aim of promoting economic growth while transforming public services to improve the lives of Barcelona’s citizens.

For the first time, companies – especially SMEs & start-ups – are directly linked into the public procurement process. Barcelona City Council has further committed to acquire and support the winning solutions with a comprehensive development package to ensure their fruitful implementation.

Barcelona City Council in partnership with Citymart launches BCN|Open Challenge, an international call for innovative businesses and entrepreneurs to propose pioneering solutions to six challenges carefully designed to address key issues that affect the citizens of Barcelona in their daily lives.

Companies have until 16 June 2014 to present solutions to the six challenges. Finalists will be announced in late July, while the winning proposals for each challenge will be contracted by the end of the year.

Rather than prescriptively defining the solutions they are looking for, Barcelona publishes six urban and social challenges they are facing and asks for new solutions. Companies with new technologies and innovative approaches stand to gain from this simultaneously inclusive and disruptive model.

Backed by a 1M EUR innovation fund, BCN|Open Challenge will welcome the winning companies with a comprehensive business development package including dedicated landing space as well as financial and human resource training.

Using public procurement as a vehicle to stimulate development and attract new talent, BCN|Open Challenge offers a model that will catalyze innovation and accelerate business growth and job creation in the city. In line with the Barcelona Growth initiative, which designs the economic strategy of the city, this programme enables Barcelona City Council to strengthen its position as a leading global city for innovation and entrepreneurship.

The six challenges are:

1. Reducing bicycle thefts in the city 2. Empowering support systems to reduce social isolation 3. Monitoring pedestrian flows in the city 4. Tools for digitisation of museum and archive collections 5. Automatic detection and alerts of damaged road surfaces 6. Empowering local retail through technology

BCN|Open Challenge

“Citymart is proud to partner with Barcelona to pave the way towards a more open, entrepreneurial and innovative city government” remarks Citymart CEO Sascha Haselmayer. “This is a unique and bold step to improve the lives of citizens, and an unprecedented commitment to support the global innovation community.”

The Deputy Mayor for Economy, Business and Employment, Sonia Recasens, highlighted this pioneering initiative as one that will “accelerate efficiency and transparency in public procurement so that it becomes a powerful tool to strengthen the Barcelona brand, attract investment to the city and establish synergies with local companies.”

BCN|Open Challenge sets a new standard for accountability and transparency within Barcelona’s regulatory and procurement decisions. Through this programme, Haselmayer says, “Barcelona is positioning itself as a leading global city for innovation and entrepreneurship by opening up and inviting entrepreneurs to transform the city.”

For Recasens, the benefits for the city of Barcelona are similarly apparent: “The proposals arising from this international call will enable us to build a more innovative, competitive and global Barcelona at the hand of local and international companies. It will also encourage foreign investment projects that will undoubtedly strengthen the role of the city as an economic and knowledge hub.”

Together, Citymart and the Barcelona City Council are proving that even in times of austerity and budget cuts, it is indeed possible to shift the public procurement landscape to enable business-led innovation to transform the lives of citizens in a more direct and transparent way.

To learn more about BCN|Open Challenge, visit

About Citymart Citymart supports cities in transforming their communities by strengthening their innovation capacity and sharing inspiring solutions & methods to address urban and social challenges. The company provides tools and methods adopted by 52 cities to-date – such as London, Paris, Barcelona, Boston, Fukuoka, Cape Town and Mexico City – to leverage entrepreneurship and markets early-on in the public procurement and regulation processes. As a result, cities invest less public resources to greater societal effect, and create more sustainable, resilient and responsive communities.

Over the last 5 years SMEs from around the world have won 98% of the Calls published on By opening procurement and finding new approaches, cities stand to save between 5-10% of operating budgets, according to a study by McKinsey Global Research. More competition reduces costs, creates local jobs and increases entrepreneurship. The role of Citymart is to bring such city-innovator partnerships into being.

For more information, visit, follow us @CitymartTeam or on

About Barcelona Growth Barcelona Growth is an initiative led by the City Council of Barcelona that brings together public and private representatives from various fields to guarantee the conditions for economic growth. It was born after the City Council called the main economic agents of the city together and invited them to work jointly on researching specific measures to restart the local economy. Barcelona Growth is at the centre of a package of policies and measures aimed at promoting the economic development of the city of Barcelona over the next few years. With this programme, the City Council aims to be practical, work in a network, alongside the actors and in a fast way, taking into account the situation, with the clear aim of achieving growth and acting as a motor for the country.

To find about more about Barcelona Growth, visit


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Cities sharing solutions - who is trading?

Inspired by articles by The Economist and Paul Romer and Brandon Fuller, we at have for the first time visualized the city-to-city trade of solutions through 82 challenges run through our programs. Destination cities are those seeking solutions through challenges, whilst origin cities are the home of the companies or organizations providing the winning solution. Solutions by companies originating in Paris fared the best, followed by successes of solutions originating in Barcelona, Stockholm, San Francisco and New York City. If rated by countries, the US leads the table as a provider of winning solutions, followed by Spain, the UK and France.

What data are you interested in? Let's see if we can share it.

Cities sharing solutions through (2010-13)

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Citizen engagement in procurement on is primarily considered a government to business marketplace, helping cities procure smarter by getting full exposure to all approaches to meet their needs. But also provides a very important asset for citizens in opening up a decision-making process typically handled behind closed doors.

This, in fact, is quite revolutionary.

If we take a look at traditional public spending in cities, we find that rules and regulations focus on the correct tendering process, which legally starts when you send out your specifications to solution providers for bidding. In most global cities, these are today published. What the citizen doesn't know, and cannot know, is how the need that this investment is to solve comes about, how the specification was determined, and whether preferences were given to certain types of providers in the process. The process of identifying the need and specifying the tender are still treated as 'discretionary', i.e. it is up to each official to do this as they please - which usually means doing it behind closed doors, constitutes a breeding ground for bad practices and wastes public resources. unfolds this discretionary process into a shared methodology, today adopted by 47 cities. Each step is documented and offers new opportunities for citizens to engage:

1. Opening Needs, Opportunities as Challenges

Each city working with receives a methodology on how to identify needs, or as we call them: challenges. Many cities, such as Sant Cugat or Cape Town, have chosen to run challenges to find new methods to engage citizens in determining priorities. Genius!York and Mindmixer are to examples of solutions now being used by cities to engage citizens in prioritizing city needs.

Cities publish their challenge on, as for example the 22 partner cities of LLGA2013 did - meaning that long before specifications are done, cities share their intentions. All information is public, and cities commit to publishing local press releases to assure citizens are informed.

2. Finding Solutions, Engaging Communities takes these challenges and proactively invests in a 3-month research process, to find all available solutions. Citizens can follow and interact with the research team on our Storify feed, and through our extensive social media campaigning. Not only can they see what we find, but they get access to valuable background resources to learn about the key issues.

Special emphasis is given to explore all possible approaches to solving a challenge, a key feature for a public debate on how we would like our cities to develop.

All solutions that are submitted to a city are published, meaning that citizens can see exactly what options their public leaders had when they considered their course of action. This is an unprecedented step forward. is an open catalogue, meaning that any citizen can search relevant solutions for their needs and interact with providers, or share these with other members of the community.

3. Decisions & the Jury Process provides cities with a jury tool, to which they can invite decision-makers, but also members of the public or civic leaders in an effort to arive at best decisions. In fact, provides cities recommendations on diversity and composition of juries. documents the jury behaviour, and each member of the jury has clear guidelines on potential conflicts of interest. Should citizens seek information about any part of the process, the data is available and can be shared on instruction by the city.

Names of Jurors are published on, to provide full accountability. Each solution provider receives the original jury evaluations directly in their showcase.

Result: Citizen value becomes central

As a result of this openness, like in many other aspects of open information, cities have become more considerate in how they frame their needs and interests. In our experience of running 87 challenges, cities are increasingly moving away from technical concepts to citizen value and impact concepts. See our related article on the Rise of Citizen Engagement.

Further, creates opportunities for citizens to take matters into their own hand. McKinsey has shown that in Dublin, for example, would be a significant opportunity to create new start-ups that respond to the challenges and needs of the community. 90% of challenges on are won by SMEs, of which about 25% are NGOs or citizen organisations that have the most meaningful solutions to community challenges.



Citymart 2.0 – Plastilin invests $1M to secure growth and independence of transformative impact venture, the world’s leading marketplace for cities today announces an investment deal with Norwegian investor Tharald Nustad through his investment company Plastillin. The deal, which values the company upwards of $3M, is designed to secure the next phase of growth and development as well as the long-term independence of the marketplace by a deal equally emphasizing governance, social impact as well as solid opportunities for return. Showcase - Catalogue follows the vision of helping 557,000 global city and local governments to use their spending and regulatory powers to greater effect for the good of citizens around the world. This is achieved by building a fair and open marketplace connecting cities, vendors, organizations and citizens. counts 50+ global cities as its customers, such as San Francisco, London, Lagos,  Barcelona, Fukuoka and Moscow. founders Jakob H Rasmussen and Sascha Haselmayer welcomed the deal which concluded a fundraising process which exceeds the general pattern of startup-to-venture investment seen in most markets. Through a rigorous process of identifying an investor who, in addition to interests to invest in a venture, is also committed to helping secure the venture’s social impact, the independence of the marketplace and scalable growth are secured. As an Ashoka Support Network member, Tharald Nustad was drawn to the investment opportunity because the partnership with represented a commitment to social impact, company viability and venture growth which is being fostered by leading social entrepreneurs that are alleviating a major challenge effecting cities, governments and citizens worldwide.

Ashoka, the world’s largest organization of leading social entrepreneurs and changemakers, played a key role in matching the investment needs of with a social impact-oriented investor and member of Ashoka Support Network – a global network of successful business leaders focused on changing the world with changemakers.

The investment of $1M will give Tharald Nustad an equal share to’s founders, who are committed to a common social impact purpose. It will also enable the creation of an independent conflict-resolution organization that will protect the marketplace from conflicts of interest and manipulation, as well as help to further develop its online tools (e.g. localization functions, project validation systems), which have been adopted by 25 global cities to date and are revolutionizing the accessibility of public contracts for SMEs and start-ups. will use the investment to further develop its online tools such as localization functions, the validation system for project references, today adopted by 25 global cities that revolutionizes access to public contracts for SMEs and start-ups. Further, will extend its program of strategic partnerships such as the 2-year partnership with Moscow announced in November that will help reform the $25 billion annual procurement process in the city.

About helps cities collaborate and share in new and highly scalable ways providing technology platforms, methods and policies that to-date have helped create the world’s largest catalogue of high-impact urban and social innovations; the adoption of common reporting standards on sustainability. has shown that local government procurement and regulation could be made at least 10% more effective by adopting more open opportunity or problem based approaches and providing fairer access to opportunities to new ideas, approaches and businesses.

Founded in 2011, is based in Barcelona and Copenhagen and counts more than 50 global cities among its clients, discovering more than 10,000 solutions to city challenges in the past 3 years. With more than 1,200 social and urban innovations published by providers around the world in the Citymart Showcase, the platform constitutes the most complete global catalogue of solutions for cities today. 39 urban deployments initiated by reach more than 33.5 million citizens in global cities such as Lagos, Barcelona, San Francisco or Boston today, notably improving access to open data, tourist experiences, road quality or urban energy and lighting systems.

About Plastilin A/S

Plastilin AS is a private investment firm working with startups in the fields of digital technology and communications. Our philosophy is that a great idea needs to be supported by good values, positive organizational culture and capable management to achieve success in business. It is essential that we understand the technology, concept, organization and industry for us to add value to the venture we invest in. We engage in strategic development of the portfolio companies in addition to capital.

Tharald Nustad is a Norwegian private investor and main owner of the investment firm Plastilin A/S. He has been an entrepreneur in several tech startups and is actively engaged in all the portfolio companies of Plastilin. Tharald is also a member of The Ashoka Support Network Scandinavia.



Ending poverty through innovation: translating ideas into actions and challenges into opportunities

There are numerous initiatives and programs that target underprivileged communities. A wide variety of academic studies, economic analyses and policy briefs that list out recommendations to break the cycle of poverty have been written. And many governments around the world, such as those in Latin American countries, have federal agencies specifically dedicated to design and implement social policy for poverty reduction. Efforts come from the developed and the developing world, from different levels of government, from large international organizations to local NGOs and grass-roots associations.

And yet, despite the amount of effort and resources, the process to achieve the main goal – ending poverty - seems to be moving slowly, and there is an urgent need to accelerate it. We often hear about cooperation but it hardly materializes into concrete actions. We need to land those initiatives and translate ideas and good will into action. This requires changing the paradigm through which we have envisioned the end of poverty and making the shift away from the traditional models.

In recent years, we have witnessed the expansion of a phenomenon called “urbanization of poverty”. As cities continue to grow, the number of pressing needs increases in all fields, from health to public infrastructure and utilities, transport, education and employment. At the same time, citizens have changed from being passive service recipients, to key actors that get actively involved and demand transparency and results to their governments. How can cities improve the services they deliver to their communities in a faster way? In the era of knowledge and information, we have the very powerful tool of technology to deliver change.

As Sascha Haselmayer, CEO and co-founder of, acknowledges “there is great technology out there and it is in everyone’s hands; these technologies are scalable and can transform societies”. These words were pronounced at the 8th Forum of the World Alliance of Cities Against Poverty (WACAP) that took place in Dublin earlier this year, to introduce the Program “Cities Pilot >>> End Poverty”.

Cities Pilot to End Poverty

This two-year Program is designed by and Dublin City Council to find the most innovative technologies to end poverty and implement them in real life. The World Alliance of Cities Against Poverty (WACAP) and the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) endorse the Program.

The process starts by finding the 30 most committed WACAP member cities that share the values of innovation, collaboration, openness and transparency. Selected cities will join forces to call for the most innovative solutions to empower our communities. gives cities the tools they need to get inspired by worldwide social and urban innovators to find solutions to their most pressing challenges. In order to achieve this, our team’s expertise provides cities guidance to identify a specific problem and frame it as an opportunity. Together we define the city challenge in a way that attracts global response from social and urban innovators, and which is published as a global call for solutions on our virtual platform.

Once the call is open for submissions, our dedicated research team starts a proactive outreach campaign to discover worldwide solutions that have the potential to address the city challenge. Each submission to the call is a commitment by a provider to co-invest in a community to implement a high-impact pilot, if selected as the most promising solution. Research findings are documented and shared with cities in real-time, so that their officials, representatives, stakeholders, and citizens can participate. Cities are also encouraged to communicate this opportunity to their local community of social and urban innovators.

In order to select the solution that best meets the city’s needs, we help cities to coordinate a Jury composed of a minimum of five members and at least one international representative. All submissions will be evaluated, five of them will get nominated, and the most promising one will get selected. sets up the technological tools to assure an accessible, transparent and straightforward evaluation process.

The campaign results are announced at the Dublin Summit in February 2014, where cities and providers get together to express their commitment to implementing the selected solution on the ground, while they share how innovation turned a local challenge into a global opportunity. This is a unique experience for both, cities and providers, to network and kick-start new collaborations in their communities.

Most importantly, the ideas get translated into actions, as the selected providers actually demonstrate their innovative solutions in participating cities. A pilot is a cost-effective way to test the chosen solution, which allows cities to make better-informed decisions and smarter investments. In two years from now, cities will meet again at the WACAP Forum in 2015 to collaborate and exchange results.

In this win-win scheme, cities accelerate problem solving through innovation and technology, and social and urban innovators have the chance to implement their solutions to an unresolved need. All participants exchange results as part of a global collaborative community, and facilitate the sharing of high-impact solutions across cities. Together we deliver real change and the outcome is community empowerment and a better quality of life for our citizens.



Enabling New Lifestyles in Cities - A debate at LLGA | Cities Summit

During the Parallel Session, Enabling New Lifestyles, participants gathered to talk about the changing face of public health issues in cities today, and what new solutions are emerging. The panelists drew on their experience working with STD screening, technology for aging in place, and accelerating community health outcomes. In all cases, technology is playing a critical role in public health concerns and solutions, alike. During the session, a few key characteristics of such technologies emerged:

LLGA2013 15.5.213 Parallel Session D

 (1) Provide in-the-moment interventions

  Participants saw plenty of ways in which mobile technology, advanced sensors, digital displays, and other digital tools have   provided a new opportunity for on-the-spot interventions.

For example, Alexander Börve, an orthopaedic surgeon and creator of iPhone app iDoc24, discussed the proliferation of “hookup” apps that help connect users for casual sex purposes. In high-density urban centers, individuals can publish and browse profiles through a variety of mobile apps — Tinder, Grindr, BangWithFriends, among others — to connect with instant dates, outside of traditional spaces, such as bars and clubs. The shift has interrupted many public health programs ability to provide safe-sex education and intervention, he noted, by removing a specific location where information and access can be provided at the point of contact between potential partners.

Instead of viewing such apps as a problem, however, the group saw opportunities to leverage the popularity and pervasiveness of these apps for encouraging positive behaviors such as STD and HIV testing, providing information about safe sex, and perhaps—in the case of infections such as chlamydia, for which public health officials try to notify partners of infected individuals—improving anonymous data collection and outreach.

Esther Dyson, of EDVenture and HICCUP, discussed the promise of a coordinated public health campaign, that could attempt to provide dozens of interventions into the average community member’s day. Among other ideas, technology tools could be used to provide on-the-spot feedback to program participants and community members about various behaviors — encouraging walking and biking, discouraging elevator use, etc. — through mobile apps, informational displays, and more.

(2) Leverage on-the-ground, non-digital relationships

Technology tools can provide a certain amount of access to community members, helping provide information at just the right moment. But that information needs to be actionable, too.

Participants discussed the need for technology tools to tap into existing networks of physical-world providers and infrastructure—health clinics, transit systems, bike lanes, emergency care, food service providers, property managers, and schools—to ensure that when information is given, it’s connected to programs with funding, resources, and expert knowledge that can provide an intervention that promotes or protect’s the user’s health.

Laura Mitchell, of GrandCare Systems, spoke about the way in which her company’s technology links senior’s personalized care needs, determined by doctors and overseen by medical professionals, with off-the-shelf technology to help seniors age in place. The technology is a critical piece of the puzzle. It helps alert family and providers when something unusual or unexpected happens. But those family and providers are needed to help put real-world plans into action when something is wrong.

(3) Use technology to reduce cost of care

Across the board, many participants were optimistic about the opportunity of technology to provide an inexpensive baseline of care for more people, helping reduce baseline costs and reserving more costly, expert-necessary care of those who actually need it.

For example, Dyson, whose HICCUP campaign doesn’t provide funding to partners, suggested that coordination of existing funding and programs could be tied together. How might that work?

Börve, whose STD Triage app allows users to have a photograph of their genitalia evaluated by experts for possible infections, noted that 69 percent of their users do not have an STD. Despite the high number of infections — 20 million new std infections in the U.S. each year— there is also a large amount of overscreening. At one university health clinic, only 40 of 1,500 students who were screened tested positive. There is a cost for paying for screening services, and the benefits of screening extend beyond just the individual who is treated for a positive result. By using low-cost interventions, like the screening app, clinics and public health officials can focus spending on patients with known cases and on preventive measures.

Similar advantages also exist for elder care, where regular, remote monitoring can help flag potential issues before they become untreatable, and reduce unnecessary doctor visits for routine checkups and screenings.

(4) Address the digital divide

As technology becomes an increasingly important tool for cities to help manage and address public health, it will also be important to ensure that all residents have access to those tools.

Participants discussed some strategies for ensuring fair access for to these new tools, from public WiFi, to text-message based alerts, to encouraging pay-as-you-go  packages for Internet access from mainstream providers (which would allow low-use customers, such as seniors and many other potential customers, to access inexpensive important services without subsidizing heavy-bandwidth users).

Several of the participants also discussed the importance of working on age-appropriate interfaces, designed to make technology accessible to users with limited sight or familiarity with technology, when such services are aimed at seniors.

Celeste LeCompte is an independent researcher and journalist, focused on innovation and the environment, based in San Francisco and Guangzhou, China.


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Urban Systems & Services - A debate at LLGA | Cities Summit

The Urban Systems & Services Parallel Session was moderated by Barbara Hale, the Assistant General Manager of SFPUC. Barbara focused the session on how cities are becoming massive interconnected systems and how to use technology as a tool to improve the quality of life of citizens. Parallel Session C

Speaker 1: Modupe Ajibola, CEO, OTG Playa

First up to speak was Modupe Ajibola of OTG Playa whose presentation centered on the role of technology in Africa and how it is slowly moving from a luxury to necessity. For example, there are already over 140 million cell phones in Nigeria making it one of the world’s largest mobile telecom markets. These devices had a multiplier effect creating many new jobs and services that were not available before. The problem is that many in the educated workforce are content in taking these newly created middle class jobs when they should be working in the white collar sector. For example, many of the electrical engineers end up working in call centers because it creates a life much better than they had growing up. While the progress is noble, it should be taken a bit further. These engineers should be working in R&D creating products for Africans by Africans. People in Africa want iPhones and iPads, but they don't want to pay a premium price. They end up buying Chinese knockoffs that break a few months later. Perhaps Africa could copy the U.S. and move to the subsidy model for mobile phones? By encouraging these engineers to start developing products and services for Africa and the rest of the world, the needs and wants of the people can be addressed while keeping the money inside the continent.

Speaker 2: Gianni Minetti, President & CEO, Paradox Engineering

Gianni Minetti followed by focusing on the open standards needed to network all the infrastructure for our cities. The shift from rural to urban is only accelerating, and he presented several facts to back this up. For one, 1.3 million people are moving to cities every week. This means that there are now 21 cities with over 10 million people. Paradox Engineering wants to put lighting, pollution monitoring, and power all together in one open system. While this may seem like something obvious to do, the problem is that many cities have separate systems for each infrastructure component. Not only is it expensive to build redundant infrastructure, it creates a spectrum crunch. By building an urban multi-utility network, we can make technology a tool, not a hurdle. By using open standards we can future proof the networks ensuring ROI protection for cities.

Speaker 3: Bill Oates, Chief Information Officer, Boston

Bill Oates spoke about how the city of Boston was using technology to solve its problems. The smartphone application, Citizen's Connect, has proven immensely popular, which isn't all that surprising considering 35% of the city's population is between 20 and 34. With the application, citizens can report potholes, streetlight outages, graffiti, and other problems. After seeing how much citizens loved using the app, city workers got their own version allowing the city to more efficiently dispatch workers and catalog repairs. Version 4.0 of the app, slated to be released by the end of the year, will allow citizens to be notified when the problem they reported is fixed. Embracing the recent trend of gamification, the new version of the app will allow citizens to thank the workers who fixed their problem. The app has allowed citizens of Boston to interact with government in ways previously not possible. Taking the application a step further, the city of Boston unveiled Street Bump, which uses a smartphone's accelerometer to passively detect potholes. Interestingly enough only 10% of the bumps reported were potholes; the other 90% were the 307,000 utility castings in the city. Using technology is essential for cities that wish to thrive in the 21st century. Bill Oats highlighted the point that if you stay at the status quo, you're falling behind. Historically, government has been very risk averse, but technology doesn't have to be risky. Those that avoid it completely will be left in the dust.

Speaker 4: Philip Playfair, CEO, Lowfoot

Last to present, Philip Playfair explained how his company pays people to use less energy when consumption (and thus prices) is peaking. The main purpose is to encourage consumers to shift power consumption from peak to off peak. His company has contracted with 6 companies with over 5,000 smart meters. In a way, the software can act as a virtual peaker plant. When demand exceeds supply, energy usage can automatically be reduced. The consumers are compensated for this inconvenience via monthly payments. Additionally, the software measures carbon savings to show consumers how shifting their energy usage benefits the environment. In order to increase engagement Lowfoot has added gamification aspects to the product. For example, users get badges for saving energy and can brag to their friends over Twitter or Facebook. While solutions like Lowfoot can marginally reduce power consumption, the main problem is that energy is too cheap to motivate people’s decision making. In order for huge shifts in consumer behavior, energy prices need to go up.


Whether it’s using mobile applications to encourage engagement or unifying infrastructure communication systems, technology is changing how cities operate. While governments have been traditionally viewed as slow and cumbersome, in order to keep up with the ever evolving world, cities need to speed up deployments of innovative solutions. The problem is that government procurement has been very slow and risk averse. In order to help solve this problem, cities need to adapt new processes to accept technology with open (but vigilant) arms.

Reported by Chris Mojaher

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Civic Engagement, Community Development, Inclusion and Sharing - A debate at LLGA | Cities Summit

By Fedor Ovchinnikov and Ruth Doyle

20+ delegates interested in civic engagement, community development, inclusion and sharing took the opportunity to enjoy five inspiring presentations from speakers representing the UK, India, Argentina, the US, and Brazil. The presenters talked about resilience building at the city level, engaging the residents of a city yet to be built, co-creation as the ultimate goal of decentralization and participation, democratization of city space using the concept of pop-ups, and development of social intelligence through online civic engagement platforms.

Session moderator Allison Arieff (Editor + Content strategist, SPUR) opened the session by introducing the topic. According to Allison, civic engagement with city authorities is too much focused on complaints, so cities spend massive amounts of time and resources reacting to these complaints. In order to save time and resources, and to solve problems more successfully, cities need to move from adversarial to cooperative engagements based on action, innovation and citizen empowerment. Engaging the public in solution development cannot just be left up to high-technology or smart phone based solutions: simple low-tech measures are often capable of improving city services. Allison finished by calling for a “declaration of interdependence” to form the paradigm for reinvention of public participation in the 21st century and to make citizens feel that they have agency and are inspired to contribute to city development.

LLGA2013 15.5.13 Parallel Session A

James Togut (Founder, The Good Life for All) talked about resilience in Brighton & Hove, the first city worldwide to formally embed the “One Planet Living Framework” and concept of “resilience” within its city action plan (“One Brighton”). The core of resilience is the ability to transform and adapt to one planet living whilst providing good lives for all. Resilience implies fostering resourcefulness in material terms - meaning waste (“just a resource that is in the wrong place”) and in human terms – implying the cultivation of imagination, inventiveness, and enterprise. Cat Fletcher (Materials Coordinator for Brighton Waste House) introduced Brighton Freegle Group – an “online dating for stuff” which helps people to become personally resilient in their own lives by developing a peer to peer, and cross-sectoral sharing market place. This platform has 1.4 million users and contributes annual economic value of 120k. Drawing upon the concept of City Makers, Cat & James talked about the need to nurture passionate individuals (change makers and visionaries) within each sector – public, private and voluntary – who are not afraid of disrupting the norm. Cat suggested that City Councils should make dedicated efforts to identify, support and empower these people who are well connected on the ground and have catalytic qualities.

Scott Wrighton (City Manager, City of Lavasa) discussed his experience of building a new city from nothing. The City of Lavasa is the foremost lifestyle development project in India and represents part of the rural-urban migratory shift taking place where it is estimated that 350 million people will move to urban areas in the next 30 years. Lavasa is a private city that creates profit, sells real estate and invests in joint ventures with the private sector to enable the provision of city services. Interestingly, the biggest challenge that confronts this epic endeavor is not infrastructure or money, but acquiring land and dealing with poor governance systems that are not conducive to new ways of city management and public engagement and reduce autonomy for public private partnerships.

The assumption that most people want to engage with their government does not ring true worldwide. Scott suggested that dealing with government can be very off-putting in India where local governments are micro-managed by state government. In this case he stated that there is a desperate need for a change in paradigm to make new inhabitants of Lavasa eager to engage with the city to build organizations that they hope will evolve sustainably and extend citizen engagement. So how do you engage the residents of a city yet to be built? Who should decide and design the mechanisms? Scott noted that after starting with a paternalistic approach where the provision of infrastructure prevailed, the next challenge is to look at the invisible social fabric so that civic engagement mechanisms are in place.

Daniella Rosario (Technical Coordinator, Ministry of Public Utilities and the Environment, Municipality of Rosario) introduced the efforts of the Municipality of Rosario, Argentina to shift to embed sustainability within its city governance and shift to a more decentralized and participatory governance model. Introducing two successful projects – Rosario Mas Limpia (Cleaner Rosario Campaign) and the Green Homes Network Program – Daniella emphasized the need to move beyond government as service provider to paradigms of co-creation with citizens.

Mariella and Pete Watman (Co-Founders of Pop-Up Brands) talked about how pop-ups create a multitude of economic and personal opportunities.. Pop-Up Brands addresses the problem of underutilized and poor listing of available city spaces by providing a marketplace for short term commercial space of all kinds. This approach gives entrepreneurs and artists an opportunity to prototype their ideas in spaces they could not previously afford. Pop-ups can create vibrancy in vacant neighborhoods and regenerate the area. Some pop-ups become permanent while others recycle and evolve thus contributing to the resilience of the area. The growth of the Pop-Up Movement is linked with the trend for the democratization of space – championed by the “Noisebridge Group” – the makers space in San Francisco, focused on citizen empowerment and action over deliberation, through their paradigm of “Do-ocracy”.

The session concluded with a presentation from Brazilian entrepreneur, Daniel Bittencourt (Co-Founder, Lung) who introduced an engagement system called Wikicity. Wikicity is a collaborative platform where, through use of mapping systems, residents highlight city problems as well as projects that may be developed by communities themselves. Each point on the map turns into a lively discussion on the Internet, through the debates promoted on Facebook. The ideas are then sent to local governments who help to create and implement these concepts. In Brazil, the initiative mobilized over 15,000 citizens in, and a growing number of cities around the globe are starting to use this innovative solution to become better places to live!

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Out Now: Faster, Smarter, Greener

This is the urban century. Today, more than half of the world’s population lives in cities. By the middle of the century more than two thirds of us will. But such growth comes with corresponding challenges. Municipal governments are facing challenges of increasing complexity, including climate change and the need for sustainable, resilient and low carbon development.

Dealing with these challenges requires two important shifts within city governments:

It is now well understood that cities must become ‘smarter’ in using information and communication technology (ICT) as both an enabler and provider of city services.
They must also seek to become more ‘agile’ – faster and more flexible in identifying challenges, and sourcing and implementing new solutions.
Smart technology and city agility are interlinked trends with each enabling the other to progress effectively, and both are clear prerequisites for the development of lower carbon, more liveable cities.

This report presents the findings from a survey and case study analysis of 50 diverse cities from around world who are engaged in efforts to improve their performance through greater agility.

The aim of this report is to better understand how these cities are moving towards greater agility in their formal processes for addressing challenges, and it concludes with key recommendations that will help deliver the smarter, lower carbon cities of the future.

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23 Solutions to Change the Future of Cities

22 global cities, including London, Barcelona, Paris, Mexico City, Rio de Janeiro, Lagos and Fukuoka have announced the 23 innovative solutions they selected to solve their most pressing urban and social challenges. In a unique global effort, these 22 forward-thinking cities opened their challenges to innovators worldwide via the LLGA | Cities Pilot the Future Programme. Out of 2,500 candidates, a total of 456 solutions competed for the opportunity to implement their solution in real-life, responding to challenges in areas such as as social exclusion, energy management, urban dereliction, tourism, ageing and health. Each of the 23 winning solutions announced during the LLGA | Cities Summit in San Francisco have committed to co-invest in the participating cities to help improve the lives of 121 million citizens.  Image

In the first LLGA | Cities Summit held in a North American City, public leaders from 22 global cities revealed the innovative solutions that best meet strategic challenges in a variety of fields like Making outside Seating Areas More Sustainable in Paris; a Storm Response Coordinating Tool for San Francisco; a Transformational lighting System in post-earthquake Christchurch (New Zealand); Digital Tools For Better Healthier Ageing in Mexico City; Sustainable Urban Mobility in Maringá (Brasil); and Regenerating Neighbourhoods Using Vacant Spaces in Barcelona. The coming 12 months will see the cities and solution providers join forces to implement the innovations that will help improve the quality of lives of citizens and shape the future of their cities.

On 14 May 2013, leaders of the 22 partner cities and the 120 nominated solution providers came together at the LLGA | Cities Summit in San Francisco to deepen their partnerships, announce the 23 most promising solutions, debate their challenges, and kick-start implementation.  

San Francisco Mayor, Ed Lee, says “San Francisco is excited to be the first city in the United States to host the LLGA | Cities Summit. San Francisco, as the Innovation Capital of the World, will facilitate a vigorous exchange of ideas and help develop innovative solutions to common urban challenges including transportation, the environment and healthcare that will build a better world.”

The winning solutions are:

Barcelona (Spain): Turning empty Space into an opportunity by 3Space

Boston (USA): Underground Technologies Elevation Units by Quality Water Products

Christchurch (NZ): Philips Lighting Control systems- a solution for the new Christchurch by Philips Eindhoven (The Netherlands): Contactless tags to bridge real and virtual worlds by Connecthings

Fukuoka (Japan): Guidebook by Guidebook

L'Hospitalet (Spain): NANA (Novel Assessment of Nutrition and Ageing) by NANA

Lagos (Nigeria): Wireless Lagos:Free & Far Reaching by OTG Playa Entity LLC

Lavasa (India) LabourNet: Enabling Livelihoods by LabourNet

London (UK) 1: Realtime Energy Opportunity System (REOS) by Brighter Planet Technology Services

London (UK) 2: Delivering Scalable Energy Efficiency in Global Cities by First Fuel

Maringá (Brazil): Modern Urban Transport Information by Clever Devices

Mexico City (Mexico): Butler, improving elderly wellbeing by Universidad Jaume I de Castellón

Oulu (Finland): Augmented Museum Tour by metaio

Paris (France): Urban Parasol by Urban Parasol

Rio de Janeiro (Brazil): Online Emergency Triage Training Platform by Virtualwaregroup

Rosario (Argentina): Sustain-A-Raisers! by Global Awareness Local Action

San Francisco (USA): ClickSoftware Field Service Optimization by ClickSoftware

Sant Cugat (Spain): estonoesunsolar by pdimonte

Sheffield (UK) 1: Econotherm - Waste heat to District Heating by Econotherm

Sheffield (UK) 2: Borehole Thermal Energy Storage by - REHAU

Tacoma (USA):  OPOS:  One Planet Operating System for Cities by BioRegional

Terrassa (Spain) : CityMakers by The Good Life For All

York (UK): Sunday Streets and Play Streets For All by Livable City

The LLGA winners reflect the many approaches available to solve cities’ problems ranging from the technological to the social.  For example, on the technological side, OTG Playa answers Lagos’ need to bring digital connectivity in bandwidth-challenged environments. OTG Playa proposes to deploy a network of boxes, which will broadcast a wireless internet cloud that is open and free to anyone in the area. This solution shows how civic technology businesses can help solve some of the most urgent global needs even in areas with limited urban services and infrastructures. On the other hand, 3Space, winner for Barcelona, is an innovative charity which unlocks the potential of empty commercial property by making it available for temporary community use. This responds, in a non-technological way, to the widely experienced problem in many cities of urban decay and dereliction.

Sascha Haselmayer, CEO of says  “LLGA | Cities Pilot the Future has transformed the way cities and the innovation community collaborate. With the announcement of 23 winning solutions, selected out of more than 2,500 candidates, companies and organizations from around the world have shown their enthusiasm and ability to collaborate with cities in solving the most pressing urban and social challenges today.”

The participation of cities and solution providers in LLGA | Cities Pilot the Future is a joint commitment to spread proven innovations in a more cost-effective and sustainable way, helping build more resilient and smarter communities. 557,000 local governments spend $4.5 trillion each year to deliver the services that shape the quality of life of the majority of the world’s population.

The LLGA initiative helps cities discover innovative, yet ready solutions to meet their problems and matches their commitment to act with the willingness of businesses and organisations to share early risks. Past editions of LLGA have proven that this process can deliver solutions to citizens at least 3 times faster and at 80% lower costs by leveraging smart solutions and avoiding re-invention.

Xavier Trias, Mayor of Barcelona, says “LLGA | Cities Pilot the Future is a great opportunity to identify and share solutions to the global challenges that cities are facing. Every city is a world in itself, and we are living in an urban world, this is why it is so important to identify those common problems which require shared solutions. Barcelona has participated in all LLGA editions, and shares the vision of this transparent process with leading technology companies, social entrepreneurs, and international research centers. Furthermore, LLGA is a great opportunity for Catalan companies to join in and participate in this global process”

Next to the 22 Partner Cities, LLGA | Cities Pilot the Future is supported by a global group of strategic partners including the City of San Francisco, Oracle, The Climate Group, and the UN Global Compact Cities Programme.

About / LLGA | Cities Pilot the Future is a global marketplace for cities based in Copenhagen (Denmark) and Barcelona (Spain), working with more than 80 cities and 1,200 companies, NGOs and research centers in

Europe, Africa, Asia and the Americas. Its mission is to accelerate the sharing of solutions for cities by matching social and urban challenges early-on with ready solutions around the world.  In the past four years has published 70 Calls for Solutions. and its one-of a kind program LLGA | Cities Pilot the Future, has been recognized by leading global organizations such as the Clinton Global Initiative, the UN Global Compact Cities Programme and Ashoka Innovators for the Public for its transformative impact on improving decision-making, transparency and accountability in cities around the world.

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For information about LLGA visit  and 

About Oracle

Oracle’s City Platform solutions leverage the company’s best-in-class portfolio of products to address complex business processes relevant to the public sector, helping speed time to market, reduce costs and gain a competitive edge.

For more information about Oracle, visit 

About The Climate Group

The Climate Group is an independent, not-for-profit organization, which brings together a global coalition of the world’s most powerful governments, brands and public figures across Asia, Europe and North America. Since 2004, they’ve been working with governments, business leaders and the world’s most influential individuals to push for the policies, technologies and investment we need to make the Clean Revolution commercially viable. Together, we have the power to create a smarter, better, more prosperous future for all.

For more information about The Climate Group visit

 About the UN Global Compact Cities Programme

The UN Global Compact Cities Programme was initiated by former UN Secretary General, Kofi Annan in 2003. It is a discrete component of the Global Compact, based in Melbourne and New York. The UN Global Compact Cities Programme provides an innovative framework for cities to develop and implement sustainable solutions to urban challenges of a long-term and often intractable nature. It was developed in response to the need to rethink sustainability approaches and to enable meaningful engagement of cities across all their activities—economic, ecological, political and cultural. By utilizing a common methodology, ‘Circles of Sustainability’, UN Global Compact Cities Programme combines the knowledge, experience and resources inherent within municipalities, business and civil society to bring together the strengths of each.

For more information about The UN Global Compact Cities Programme visit