Today we are extremely excited about a small box appearing in the Connecthings Showcase:
For Citymart.com and our many partners, this is an important step towards building a global infrastructure that allows high-impact solutions for cities to scale quickly. Why? Because it delivers unprecedented transparency and accountability.
This summer, we carried out a survey of 54 global cities under the Agile Cities initiative which showed that 87% of cities do not trust the information supplied by providers. Too often, cities reported, companies submit project references that over-state achievements or give no credit to project partners.
66% of cities, consequently, reported that they rely on informal contacts into the business community and often patchy follow-up on project references through calls to former customers. This is often not documented, and can lead to an overrepresentation of local companies winning contracts.
Yet, companies like Connecthings have proven they have technologies worthy of scaling globally. As winners of 4 LLGA|Cities Pilot the Future Awards in 2012, Connecthings was selected to pilot their solution in Rio, Derry~Londonderry, Hamburg and Barcelona.
The team at Citymart.com searched for providers that could certify project references to address this trust issue. Nothing could be found. So we looked at ways to build trust online, inspired by the practices used by journalists in the Arab spring to triangulate facts using Twitter and other sources.
The result is our Project Validation service, which allows companies to describe projects involving the product/service featured in their Citymart.com Showcase and invite stakeholders (such as customers, users, partners and experts) to validate the basic project facts.
Why basic facts?
Trust starts with the basics. Did the project really happen, or is it under discussion? Was it a full implementation or a pilot? Who was involved? When did it happen?
These are binary facts - either true or false. Our validation model works by establishing these facts and requiring three independent stakeholders (who have declared commercial independence from the project) to confirm such facts.
What can trust deliver?
Cities are always going to carry out due-diligence when awarding a contract worth millions. Yet, our primary aim with this new Project Validation service is to help cities manage the perceived risks associated with contracting small providers and using new approaches to solve their challenges.
If cities cannot trust project references, they have no way of evaluating what is state-of-the art in the market. How can you believe that a technology is mature if you cannot trust its past implementations? The same is true when cities attempt to establish the viability of new and different approaches, which is an issue that most companies consider the most significant barrier to market-entry. Whether your solution tags urban spaces, prevents breast cancer by making use of the sensory skills of blind women, or involves citizens in logistical tasks - cities rely on getting an accurate picture of project implementation history.
Trust in an unconsolidated marketplace.
We have often written about the challenge of a marketplace with 557,000 local governments dealing with complex technological, service and regulatory decisions. Our vision was to create a trust-building Project Validation service that was scalable in such a marketplace because, unlike other markets, cities are never going to merge and consolidate. This means that there is limited room for the specialized decision-making found in other industries. Hence, our eyes turned to sourcing validations though project stakeholders as the only viable method for validating basic project facts.
And this is just the start. Validated references are not just useful in the context of Citymart.com, but in all business activities (tenders, pre-qualifications, RFIs and corporate alliance building) in which increased trust can get you more attention from cities and create better business opportunities.