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.

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.

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.

When inertia is not sustainable: facilitating social innovation in Barcelona

With increasing social demands and decreasing resources to respond to them, social innovation is much more than a buzzword in Barcelona. Over the last 12 months, UpSocial has been working in partnership with the City of Barcelona and to (a) identify the best proven innovations capable of responding more effectively or efficiently to critical social problems; and (b) facilitate their successful implementation locally.

The idea

Social innovation does not circulate as quickly and nimbly as market-led innovation. The incentives seem to be missing. This is why social innovation (defined as a novel solution to a social problem that is more effective, efficient, sustainable, or just than existing solutions and for which the value created accrues primarily to society as a whole) rarely surpasses the borders of the initial project. “Nearly every problem has been solved by someone, somewhere. The challenge of the 21st Century is to find out what works and scale it up”, said Bill Clinton.

With this idea in mind, and inspired by the work of Ashoka’s ChangeNation in Ireland, UpSocial designed a methodology to respond to critical social challenges through the best proven innovations. played a key role in its design and in researching solutions. Actually, UpSocial used its platform to discover innovations and engage a multisectorial jury to evaluate them and select the most appropriate.

The response

This initiative, titled Social Innovation for Communities (SIC), started with the City of Barcelona and the government of Catalonia identifying four social challenges that required innovation: (a) short and long term solutions for youth unemployment; (b) opportunities for single-parented families in risk of social exclusion; (c) increasing the employability of people with disabilities; and (d) improving the environmental impact of mass tourism in Barcelona. A call for solutions was issued through CityMart and over 400 solutions were initially identified in 8 weeks.

A selection was made to present 25 solutions per challenge to a jury. The selection was based on the following criteria:

  • Evidence of impact: The existence of evidence of impact to make sure the innovation has been successfully implemented.
  • Scale: scale of implementation of the innovation, to understand whether it has been packaged in a way that replication is feasible.
  • Income: The sustainability model is consolidated, so that the model can be implemented efficiently.
  • Low barriers to entry: no major obstacles are found for implementation, such as major investment needs or legal reforms.

The jury of each challenge selected 3 to 5 innovations and the winning innovators were invited to Barcelona to meet with potential investors, replicators, and key stakeholders interested in replicating/implementing their model. Public events were also organised to present the innovations and generate debate about current practices implemented to resolve social problems.

Preliminary results

It is early to make a proper evaluation of the impact this whole process has had to date.  Impact will be measured against the outcomes generated by the new solutions implemented. However, an indicator provides with a promising result: of the 12 innovations brought to Barcelona, 6 are currently being implemented and 3 are negotiating partnerships to adapt their model locally. The development of a better ecosystem for social innovation is also emerging as a positive outcome. Social innovators have appreciated the value of being confronted with different expansion models and the support they received in designing a light but effective outreach strategy to international expansion.

Lessons learnt

This first year of implementation has helped UpSocial draw some conclusions about promoting and implementing social innovation effectively:

  • Social R&D must be a top priority: as social needs increase and become more complex, the potential results of investing in R&D become more evident. This means researching sustainability models to resolve social problems, reviewing the means and goals, bringing together problems and challenges to find disruptive solutions, etc.
  • Importing social innovation requires the participation of the innovator to capture the learnings, accelerate implementation and increase the possibilities of success, as well as the engagement of local actors capable of adapting and replicating the innovation. The two parts are necessary.
  • Social entrepreneurs and social enterprises do not usually have consolidated and well-defined expansion and replication models. There is a need to support successful social entrepreneurs in designing efficient models, usually requiring little support from “headquarters”.
  • There is a great potential in finding new business models to resolve social problems. There are also very interesting innovations in management that allow traditionally small-scale solutions to reach out much larger groups.
  • is an efficient and effective marketplace for innovation, and it works also with social innovation. Its transparent process, the capacity to identify solutions globally and the way it manages knowledge and information is extremely valuable.

For further details on UpSocial and this process, visit

Why should cities share their solutions?

Cape Town's Louis C H Fourie presents GeniUS York with their LLGA2012 award

With participation, open source and shared practice the buzz words of city governance as we kick off 2013,LLGA offers cities the perfect opportunity to share what they’ve been doing with their global peers. Whilst municipalities have a duty to explain how they’ve been spending public funds and what the results are, this opportunity goes much further. By showcasing their newly developed technology or innovative approaches on Citymart, cities are capitalising on their hard work. The result can not only be international recognition and shared continued development but even a new revenue model.

Problem solving crosses cultures and national boundaries comfortably. The City of York in the UK submitted their GeniUs community innovation platform for LLGA2012 and were selected as winners by Cape Town, with whom they are currently formulating a pilot. Similarly when Sant Cugat presented their Local Innovation Plan for LLGA2010 they were selected as the winner by the jury for the City of Eindhoven in the Netherlands. Since then, Sant Cugat have provided training and helped Eindhoven to adopt the formula of citizen and business leader engagement in defining its own local innovation plan.

Further successful projects that cities are showcasing on Citymart include:

Transport for London

London: Work, Play and the Games

City of Chicago

Chicago’s Green Alley Program

City of Austin

City Supported Community Bicycle Shop

City of Hamburg

Little Bicycle-Sheds – Fahrradhaeuschen

City of San Francisco

SFpark – a new way of managing parking

City of Vienna

Smart City Wien

Traditionally there are various reasons why cities develop their own technology. While at times they cannot find what they are looking for on the market, at others they simply feel they can do it better or seek the independence of proprietary solutions. In recent years, however, cities have begun developing with the express intention of sharing their technology with other cities. In the US in particular this has led to numerous forums for sharing reusable technology and methods of working, such as the many solutions like SF Park presented by cities on our own or Code for America’s platform for sharing software on Civic Commons.

By sharing their creative thinking, cities benefit from a wider user base so that the technology is improved and developed quicker than if they were working on their own. The City of Stockholm and Astando have taken this approach with E-adept, an enabling-technology for visually impaired citizens that is actively marketed to other cities with the objective of sharing further development resources. Other cities that use the technology then advance it and provide feedback to Stockholm in a mutually beneficial relationship. Similarly, Boston has offered several apps including Street Bump for other cities to help build on and make development more efficient.

More recently cities have started developing technology with the express intention of licensing or selling it to create revenue and help offset the significant sums invested in development. With their document management platform SmartPDF, San Francisco have done just this with the objective of licensing the technology to other cities and organizations.

Whether looking for international exposure, wishing to publically recognise the work of their employees, aiming to share practice and further develop their technology or planning to raise revenue for the city, sharing approaches and technology will be an increasingly popular way for cash-strapped cities to improve services and lower costs in 2013.

Do let us know your favourtie resources or forums where cities are sharing their technologies and any additional cases of sharing.

LLGA2013 | Cities Pilot the Future. A global call for solutions to improve the lives of millions. Submit by 31.1.13.

You Never Forget Your First One: Winning LLGA2011 for San Francisco catapults SOCRATA

Not every day does an early-stage startup get an opportunity to shine on the world stage. In early 2011, Socrata then a 12-person software startup in Seattle with about 15 customers, was nominated for a Living Labs Global Award in Stockholm, by the City of San Francisco.

The Living Labs Global award recognizes innovation in cities, creating a highly visible global forum to reward cities and their technology partners for daring to try bold new approaches to solving problems. A perfect opportunity for a startup.

Socrata was fortunate to have partnered with one the world’s most innovative cities. Years before Open Data became mainstream, San Francisco realized that its data was a strategic, but idle asset, with vast untapped potential to increase the city’s service capacity and transform its relationship with residents.

San Francisco started opening up and releasing its data years ago. As the initiative gained momentum, however, San Francisco realized that it needed a scalable platform that can support the entire data-to-information continuum, from capture and collection to distribution and consumption, in the most cost-effective way possible.

In May 2011, San Francisco and Socrata won the Living Labs Global Award for their innovative plan to migrate the city’s Open Data to a new cloud-based Socrata-powered platform. On March 9th, 2012, Mayor Edwin Lee affirmed City’s ongoing commitment to Open Data through the manifestation of this plan, aptly named The website puts City data online in a way that makes it useful to citizens, businesses, developers and even city employees.

Jay Nath, the City’s Chief Information Officer told The San Francisco Chronicle, “We had all this raw data, and you had to be an uber geek to figure it all out. This platform makes it easier.”

The new Socrata-powered San Francisco Open Data Cloud offers a wide variety of feature, architecture, and performance enhancements, including:

  • Simple, easy-to-use, citizen interfaces that allow non-technical users to interactively explore data, visualize it, and share contextually-relevant information with others, on the site, across the web, and on social networks.
  • Automatic full-text indexing of every data set’s content to facilitate online search, in addition to the ability to download the data in multiple, open, machine-readable formats.
  • Automatic API access to every data set, via the Socrata Open Data API (SODA) and access to technical support and online developer resources, which will lower the access barrier for civic developers.

Mayor Lee told TechCrunch, “Making City data more accessible to the public secures San Francisco’s future as the world’s first 2.0 City. It’s only natural that we move our Open Data platform to the cloud and adopt modern open interfaces to facilitate the flow of information and develop better tools to enhance City services.”

Jay Nath adds, “Two years ago, when we launched, Open Data was a visionary experiment in reinventing the government of the future. Today, with increasing worldwide adoption, we view Open Data as part of our new cloud infrastructure to deliver citizen, social, and programmatic interfaces to government services, in a much more cost-effective and agile model.”

San Francisco will continue to be one of the nation’s trailblazers in data as a platform for innovation. Socrata, now boasting over 50 of the world’s top public sector organizations like New York City, the World Bank and the United Nations, has grown by leaps and bounds since then and is now the recognized market leader in Open Data. The people of Socrata will always remember fondly the first award that recognized their work with one of the best cities anywhere in the world!

Building a better bus stop

From Paris, here is a great idea to make transit a more appealing option in cities -- make the stop an attraction in itself. The main Paris transit agency, RATP (Régie Autonome des Transports Parisiens), has rolled out a "bus stop of the future" that offers a number of features and services while passengers wait for the bus.

In too many cities, the placement of bus stops along the road seems to be an afterthought, with the priority placed on providing a set distance between stops rather than considering the appeal of the stop location or its accessibility. Everyone has probably noticed from time to time a bus stop sign plopped next to a major road, with no sidewalk, bench, shading, or other amenity in sight, and -- to no one's surprise -- equally devoid of people.

RATP aims to attract users with a new kind of bus stop that serves as an attractive, multi-purpose public space. Its key function will still of course be to pick up and drop off passengers, but the bus stop of the future will also provide a place to purchase food and drink, access the internet, buy a transit ticket, and look up maps and information on the city, among other things. The pilot stop, located outside the Gare de Lyon, also includes a bike share station to better connect transit users to the surrounding city.

RATP's bus station design provides an example of how transit agencies can think about their systems and how they can better integrate their services with the surrounding environment. Rather than simply affixing a sign to a slab of concrete, bus stops can and should be designed as something more.

Integrating other services at transit stops can increase their use by recognizing and catering to the appeal of better accessibility, convenience, and functionality. Studies have shown that people view their time spent waiting for transit much more negatively than time spent traveling on transit itself. Making that wait less burdensome with other amenities could attract more people to the option of public transit. You can view more photos of the stop here.

~ Allison Bullock

L.A. plans electric highway to reduce truck pollution

[youtube]One of the most notoriously polluted cities in the U.S., Los Angeles is no stranger to smog. A brown haze can be seen hovering over the city many days of the year. In a region with such a temperate climate, LA's poor air quality is more the result of transportation emissions - freight trucks in particular - than building energy consumption. Now the possibility of an electric freight trucking system is being investigated to help curb LA's pollution.

The idea was presented last month at the Electric Vehicle Symposium as the Siemens eHighway. The system consists of electric wires suspended above a designated highway lane, which would help to propel hybrid diesel trucks down the road. Along the proposed stretch of highway, a truck would be able to enter the lane and attach to the electric cable, switch off its diesel engine, and run on an electric motor. The trucks would have a mechanism known as a pantograph installed, which would automatically engage the cable above, not unlike the device used on the cable cars of yesteryear. The pantograph would be wired to disconnect from the overhead line when the truck driver brakes.

A stretch of Interstate 710, also known as Long Beach Freeway, is slated to accommodate the first eHighway in the U.S., and the first real-world use of the eHighway in the world. The 710 currently funnels huge volumes of freight traffic from the ports of LA and Long Beach north to other parts of the city and out to the rest of the country. Together the two ports account for more than 40% of the freight that is shipped to the U.S., making the 710 an ideal place to test out such a project. If successful, the LA eHighway could allow for the conversion of millions of freight truck-miles from diesel to electric each year.

The South Coast Air Quality Management District, the air quality control agency for much of LA and the surrounding region, hopes to have the project underway within the next 12 months.

~ Allison Bullock

Cairo takes to crowdsourcing to tackle traffic

With the revolution over, Cairo citizens are banding together through social media to take on a new challenge -- the city's notoriously terrible traffic. Egypt-based company Bey2ollak has devised a smartphone app that connects users to report on the latest traffic conditions throughout Cairo.

In a city where getting from Point A to Point B may easily take 2 hours, Bey2ollak (an Arabic term that roughly translates to "word on the street") is a welcome resource to avoid the most heavily congested roads. And road users aren't the only ones taken with the new app; Bey2ollak was recently awarded first prize in a Google-sponsored competition that sought out Egypt's best start-up enterprises.

The functionality of the app is simple, which has likely contributed to its success. Users can post updates through the app to let others know how light or heavy traffic is along a certain route, and they can check the most recent posts for a certain corridor before or during travel.

Not only can these features make travel easier for individual road users, but they may also help to mitigate or even reduce traffic congestion along some streets. Those stuck in traffic may use the app to re-route to a less congested road, and drivers who have not started their trip may check the app in advance to avoid traffic altogether. The app can essentially help to spread traffic out throughout the city rather than having it concentrated along a few over-used corridors. Users may also decide to delay certain trips, such as running errands or other non-work trips, if traffic conditions are very poor.

Perhaps the most important influence of the Bey2ollak app is its potential to reduce the total number of motorized trips taken within Cairo, thereby reducing overall congestion. Those who see in advance how bad the roads are may weigh the decision to travel more carefully and may simply decide to stay at home or take a shorter trip by foot or bike. In this way, Bey2ollak and other traffic alert apps may provide unanticipated congestion mitigation benefits to urban areas in addition to the intended time savings benefits to individual users.

~ Allison Bullock

21 world cities reveal the winning solutions to improve lives of 110 million citizens

Twenty-one cities from Asia, Africa, Europe, North and Latin America have announced the winners of the Living Labs Global Award 2012 (LLGA 2012) in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The Award presented major urban challenges faced by cities such as Barcelona, San Francisco, Cape Town, Mexico City, Birmingham, Rio de Janeiro or Lagos, to which 555 companies from 50 countries responded by presenting their innovative solutions. Cities spend EUR 3.5 Trillion annually in public procurement, and technologies promise major efficiency, accessibility and service quality gains.

During the first world meeting in Latin America on the smart use of technologies and services, public leaders from 21 global cities have revealed the winning innovative solutions that best meet strategic challenges like Affordable Housing Units for Lagos (Nigeria), Data to Help Fight Obesity in Eindhoven (The Netherlands), Changing Private Car Use in Lavasa (India), Wireless Control of Urban Systems in San Francisco (USA), a Knowledge Square to enhance digital inclusion in Rio de Janeiro (Brazil), Participation in Service Design and Delivery in Sant Cugat (Spain), Digital Public Transport in Mexico City (Mexico) and Engaging Visitors Experience in Barcelona (Spain). Winning solutions of the LLGA 2012 will now be piloted in the 21 participating cities over the next 12 months, to evaluate their impact to meet the pressing challenges.

 The winning solutions are:

 City of Barcelona (Spain): Contactless tags to bridge real and physical worlds, by Connecthings

City of Birmingham (UK): Composting on-site in Green Communities, by Susteco AB

City of Cáceres (Spain): Sustainable Cities. Motion is Energy, by OTEM2000 - Green Solutions & Management S.L.

City of Cape Town (South Africa):  Cape GeniUS!, by SCY

City of Coventry (UK): HLG SYSTEM, by GLASS COVER Europe S.L.

City of Derry~Londonderry (UK): Contactless tags to bridge real and physical worlds, by Connecthings

City of Eindhoven (The Netherlands): The App that gets teenagers moving, by GGD Brabant-Zuidoost

City of Fukuoka (Japan): Smart PathFinder, by Where 2 Get It, Inc.

City of Glasgow (UK): SmartCity Málaga, by Endesa

City of Guadalajara (Mexico): Guadalajara: Keeping Road Surfaces in Top Condition, by Falcon Road Maintenance Equipment

City of Hamburg (Germany): Contactless tags to bridge real and physical worlds, by Connecthings

City of Kristiansand (Norway): City Direct, by Innovation Center Iceland

City of Lagos (Nigeria): Lagos state Housing Solution, by TEMPOHOUSING NIGERIA LIMITED

City of Lavasa (India): SKYBUS, by Skybus

Mexico City (Mexico): Modern Urban Transport Information, by Clever Devices

City of Rio de Janeiro (Brazil): Contactless tags to bridge real and physical worlds, by Connecthings

Rome - Lazio Region (Italy): Get on board and play with bUS, by Placemaking srl

City of San Francisco (USA): From Street Lighting Management to Advanced Smart City Services, by Paradox Engineering

City of Sant Cugat (Spain): MindMixer, by

City of Santiago de Chile (Chile): SFpark - A New way of managing parking, by San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency

City of Terrassa (Spain): CityWalking, by UPC BarcelonaTech

In a unique global effort, 555 technology solutions from about 50 countries submitted to the Living Labs Global Award 2012 in February, while 109 were shortlisted in March. Winners have been selected after an international two-round jury process involving 147 jurors, under the auspices of Living Labs Global, a non-profit association based in Copenhagen and Barcelona working with 50 cities and 1,000 companies around the world to promote service innovation in cities. The Living Labs Global Award is a unique global process providing full accountability in the evaluation through independent experts. The LLGA 2012 was promoted by 21 global cities in partnership with Living Labs Global,, Oracle and The Climate Group.

The LLGA 2012 Ceremony of 2 May was attended by 200 participants from 22 countries in Rio de Janeiro as part of the Rio Summit on Service Innovation in Cities.


 “Today we have witnessed a major commitment towards meeting some of the world’s pressing urban challenges, with the goal of improving the lives of more than 50% of the world’s population by using clean technologies, smart services and better accessibility. The winners will now have the opportunity to implement their solutions in real-life, and work together with stakeholders in the 21 partner cities to prove their impact,” said Sascha Haselmayer, Co-Founder of Living Labs Global.

 The Living Labs Global Award 2012 has been an important event for the City of Rio de Janeiro, which will soon host the Football World Cup and the Olympic Games. We thrive upon knowledge and innovation and this Summit exchanges experience and cutting-edge solutions. It has been a very successful event. Through the Living Labs Global Award 2012 we received 109 solutions that will help us to develop our Knowledge Square, which is being implemented in 6 areas of the city and aims to enhance digital inclusion across Rio de Janeiro,” said Franklin Coelho, Secretary of Science and Technology of the City of Rio de Janeiro, host city and partner of the LLGA 2012.

The cities will be considered at the cutting edge of innovation and progress, as contactless technologies and associated mobile services are about to revolutionize mobile usages. They will also enjoy a new two-channel interactive communication tool, visible and accessible to everyone which is particularly important for an emerging global city. Connecthings will be glad to benefit from such prestigious international references and to demonstrate that its solutions are flexible and adaptable to cities’ diverse challenges,” said Damaris Homo, Business Development Manager at Connecthings, winner of four LLGA 2012, including the categories of Rio de Janeiro and Barcelona.

With initiatives like the Living Labs Global Award 2012 we are transforming Barcelona into a platform for innovation. We would like to see successful projects in the city being replicated in others, such as Rio de Janeiro or Paris, to name a few. The city of Rio as the host of the next Football World Cup and the Olympic Games must also think about their legacy and how the infrastructure will bring benefits to its citizens in the future, said Josep M. Piqué, Strategic Sectors Director, 22@ Barcelona, partner city of the LLGA 2012.

“Over 50% of the world population lives in cities and only by having them on our side will we win the battle against pollution and build a better world. We have to disseminate the Clean Revolution to city leaders, said Molly Webb, Head of Smart Technologies, The Climate Group, partner of the LLGA 2012.

On the second day of the meeting, May 3, during the Rio Summit on Service Innovation in Cities, 200 delegates from 22 countries, including public leaders from 30 international cities and pioneering entrepreneurs driving social and technological innovation are engaging in matchmaking activities to foster partnerships and dialogues on the investment priorities of participating cities: Urban Systems & Services, Health & Wellbeing, Open Government & Accessibility, Clean and Green Cities, Tourism & Mobility.

On May 4, delegates join LLGA 2012 local immersion programme to experience some of the ground-breaking projects, such as the Change through Digital Inclusion (CDI) programme in the favelas of Rio de Janeiro, now adopted by 717 communities in 14 countries.


Citymart.coml is a non-profit association based in Copenhagen (Denmark) and Barcelona (Spain), working with 50 cities and 1,000 companies and research centres in Europe, Africa, Asia and the Americas with a mission to open the market for service innovation in cities and overcoming key technology, organisation and trade barriers. The Living Labs Global Award is an annual process over 8 months in which cities present their challenges and provide guidance to the business and technology community on future investment plans and needs. Solution providers respond by submitting existing technologies as entries for evaluation by an international jury.

Previous LLGA winners

Some of the winners of LLGA since 2010 include SOCRATA, whose solution has been implemented by San Francisco to power the city’s new cloud-based Open Data site, URBIOTICA’s intelligent waste management sensors for recycling containers and WORRLDSENSING’s cutting-edge urban smart parking solution.


More than 557,000 local governments provide services to more than 50% of the world’s population with an annual spending of 3.5 Trillion Euros per year. New technologies can radically improve transport and mobility, urban systems and services, open government, health and wellbeing and other key areas of urban life.

More information on

Follow us on Twitter (@LLGACities), and Linkedin

LLGA2012: A Journey in Numbers to Improve Millions of Lives

As we are nearing our Award Ceremony on May 2 in Rio de Janeiro, when all eyes will be on the 21 winners that have been selected by 21 global cities - such as Barcelona, San Francisco, Rio de Janeiro, Mexico City, Kristiansand, Eindhoven, Lagos, Cape Town, Rome and Fukuoka - we take a minute to recall the journey that took us here.

LLGA2012 in Numbers

21 Cities

110 Million Citizens

21 Challenges

3,500 Existing Solutions Found

555 Validated Entries from...

50+ Countries

147 Jurors

109 Shortlisted Solutions

7,500 Evaluations

45,000 Evaluation Data-Points will be published to providers

21 Winners

21 Pilots in next 12 months

Three years ago, we had an idea. What if cities called for solutions to their pressing challenges? Why was there no place where cities, soon home to 70% of the world's population, could share their challenges?

LLGA - the Living Labs Global Award - was born as a simple and quick experiment. In just 3 months we mobilized 12 cities to present their challenges and share an evaluation method to identify the best solutions. The results led to improved waste management in Barcelona, and to Eindhoven adopting a new process to involve citizens in their evaluation methodology,

In November 2011 we launched LLGA2012, in partnership with 21 global cities with 110 Million citizens in Europe, Asia, the Americas and Africa. Each city presented a challenge to which our wonderful research team of 10 in Barcelona found 3,500 existing solutions around the world.


After a validation, we received 555 entries from more than 50 countries, which were reviewed by 147 international jurors appointed by the cities to 21 juries evaluate the impact of the solutions for each category. This generated 7,500 evaluations and some 45,000 evaluation data-points providing valuable feedback on May 3 to participating solution providers via the Showcases on

On March 5th, the cities and their juries presented 109 nominated solutions that entered a second round of evaluation. On May 2, we will present 21 winners - selected by the cities as the most promising solutions to improve the lives of 110 Million citizens.

In the coming 12 months, these winners will implement 21 pilot projects, to show the real impact of their solutions and allow citizens, government agencies, business partners and the partner cities to experience change.

Bitcarrier, winner of a LLGA2011 Award saw their Citysolver solution launched their pilot just 3 months after winning, and signed a contract within another 3 months. Not only did they save $320,000 in acquisition costs and went to market 4x faster than usual - but the citizens of Barcelona spent less time in traffic as a result. Every single day. And that is just one winner...

Stay tuned! #LLGA

MindMixer partners with San Francisco to launch ImproveSF

   Last year, we published this post about MindMixer, an online tool designed to bring citizens and officials together to brainstorm on ways to improve their cities. MindMixer has partnered with over 100 government organizations across the provide a flexible, convenient interface for local collaboration.

Now the online community engagement service has joined forces with the City of San Francisco and its new Office of Innovation to create ImproveSF, a site devoted to providing ideas for and feedback on municipal projects. San Franciscans can submit ideas to challenges, vote on proposed projects or challenges, and review others' submissions. Office of Innovation staff oversee the proposed challenges and help to judge the submitted entries. Participants are awarded points for submitting ideas, which they can redeem for prizes in the site's Rewards Store.

One of the challenges currently open for voting is "What are the best ways for SFMTA to improve your transit travel time?" which includes a list of six possible solutions for citizens to review and comment on. While I would like to see the option to submit an original idea to this challenge outside of the six provided, this sort of online voting system is a great start to encouraging dialogue between San Francisco residents and those in charge of planning and decision-making.

Providing an interface that allows for public comment and collaboration 24 hours a day, 7 days a week goes a long way towards opening up discussions that used to be limited solely to public meetings. For those who can't make meetings because of scheduling conflicts or mobility constraints, MindMixer's ImproveSF is especially empowering.

More and more cities are getting on board with online community engagement as a way to reach out to citizens for broader, more diverse public feedback. We'll keep you posted on the latest trends from MindMixer and other innovative public outreach tools in the coming weeks, some of which have been submitted for this year's Living Labs Global Awards. Stay tuned!

~ Allison Bullock

Small cities can be smart cities too

Megacities and large metropolitan areas around the world tend to get all of the credit for being leaders in innovation and technological change. Over the past several weeks, I have mainly focused my posts on these so-called "first-order" cities -- places that are recognizable to most of the world's population by city name alone. London. Rio de Janeiro. Barcelona. Shanghai. These are places that require no introduction and have rightly been recognized for their forward-thinking enterprise. But many other smaller places have been participating in the movement towards becoming smarter, more sustainable, and better connected cities. Some of them are involved in this year's Living Labs Global Awards. LLG's own Sascha Haselmayer discusses the role that these small, smart cities can play in his article, "Technology and Participation Pay Dividends in Smaller Cities," posted yesterday on EngagingCities.

When I think of these places getting involved in public service improvements and tech development, the first limitation that comes to mind is the bottom line. Smaller cities simply don't have the budget to compete directly with their larger counterparts. But they do have the resources to collaborate with them, and this is where small cities have the potential to be highly influential.

Sant Cugat, a city of 80,000 located outside of Barcelona, provides an excellent example of how smaller hubs of innovation can collaborate with and support the work of a nearby major city and its surrounding region. Sant Cugat rose out of its financial troubles of the early 2000s and began to reinvent itself as a place of good public management, community engagement, and local innovation. Its Local Innovation Plan won a Living Labs Global Award in 2009 and presents an inspiring way to involve citizens in discussions of city planning and development. Sant Cugat has also collaborated with Barcelona to develop technologies and ideas to create more sustainable and resilient cities.

You can read more here about Sant Cugat and how small cities can help to promote and develop urban solutions.

~ Allison Bullock

Bicibox: Solving the bike parking problem

[youtube=] As a commuter cyclist, I'm used to getting questions from people who are interested in the practicality of biking to work or school: What clothes do you wear? How do you carry all of your stuff? How do you keep your bike from getting stolen? This last one is a question that is hard to answer simply, since no lock is 100% theft-proof. Finding decent bike parking can be a problem as well. Depending on your city, it may be hard to find a secure place to park a bike because racks are nonexistent or inconvenient, forcing cyclists to lock to less secure signposts, parking meters, or street trees.

Unfortunately, studies have shown that these problems surrounding bike parking are some of the major reasons that more people don't travel by bike. Even just the fear of theft may deter many people from bike commuting. This makes the lack of secure bike parking in our cities not just an inconvenience, but a serious hindrance to citywide mobility. While some cities have started to install secure bike parking pods at transit stations and other high activity locations, in many areas the current options still leave much to be desired. But some cities, such as Barcelona with its Bicibox project, are working to change that.

Bicibox is a secure, modular bicycle parking system that is designed to offer safe and convenient bike parking options throughout the city. Smaller Bicibox stations provide 7 bicycle storage spots and take up about the same amount of space as a single on-street car parking spot, while larger stations provide 14 spots. The stations are divided into individual parking boxes, each fully covered by secure sliding doors so that bikes are shielded from weather and risk of theft. Each station is also equipped with an energy efficient console and card swipe system to access a bicycle parking space. The creators of Bicibox plan to offer pay-per-use stations in the future, but as of now cyclists may access any Bicibox station by signing up as members on an annual flat rate basis.

What I love most about this solution is that it provides so much more than just safe bicycle parking. Like the latest generation of bike share systems, Bicibox stations are fully networked and provide real-time information on parking space availability to users. Cyclists can use the system's website or the Bicibox mobile app to check for open spots and may search by destination to find the nearest station.  By making bike parking convenient, secure, easy to locate, and abundant, innovations like Bicibox make cycling an option for many people who may have otherwise found it infeasible. Eliminating the parking-related barriers to bicycling can go a long way towards promoting better mobility and access to alternative transportation options in our cities.

~ Allison Bullock

Recruitment Opportunity at Living Labs Global - Design Management Researcher!

We are looking to recruit 12 Early Stage Researchers to DESMA, a European doctoral level research training network in the area of Design Management. The positions are full time for three years, starting in September 2012. Opportunities for adding a fourth year for completing a PhD will be discussed separately for each position.

Last date for submissions is March 15th 2012

DESMA is an Initial Training Network funded by the European Commission’s Marie Curie Actions that combines 4 leading universities within the area of Design Management (University of Gothenburg, Aalto University in Helsinki, Politecnico di Milano, and Imperial College, London), 4 leading European design consultancies (Ergonomidesign, Engine, Live|work, Future Concept Lab) and 4 complementary product and service organizations (Volvo Group, Philips Innohub, Poltrona Frau, Living Labs Global) in an unprecedented cross-disciplinary effort to understand how design can be exploited as a driver of innovation and competitiveness in Europe.

We are seeking applicants with a master degree in either design or business and some professional experience. The employed researchers will conduct research projects in collaboration with their host organization, take part in a common training programme with doctoral level courses and build a forum for design management research in Europe.

Last date for submissions is March 15th 2012

For more information visit our website:

Integrating London's public transportation options

Many cities today are striving to create dense, well-connected public transportation networks that reduce auto-dependence, mitigate congestion, and provide a variety of travel alternatives. Unfortunately, the complexity of large transit systems can be daunting even for native residents, especially when users need to transfer from one type of transportation to another. Juggling transit schedules, maps, and route listings just to get from Point A to B can make public transportation an unattractive option for some. Enter the smartphone users, who might say, “Well, isn’t there an app for that?” And they’re right – mobile apps for public transit systems abound. Having access to real-time service information, station locator tools, and interactive maps can make public transit a much more viable option for many. However, in most cities these apps only provide information on a single mode of transportation. If you need to transfer from a bus to a subway line, for instance, you would have to toggle between two apps for schedules and travel times. Taking bike share? Add a third app. And so on.

Mobile apps are designed to make our lives easier and save time, but few have been able to tackle the complexities of urban public transportation networks in a way that helps to connect users to the multitude of travel options that cities have to offer. The Travel London mobile app from Urban Times aims to do just that. It provides real-time information on bus routes, tube lines, and bike share stations throughout the city, allowing users to easily compare and combine different travel options.

While it’s of course great for residents, an all-in-one transportation app is especially useful for visitors who are trying to navigate an unfamiliar city. Being able to easily find all of the travel information you need in a single place makes a city instantly more accessible and tourist-friendly. And with the summer Olympic Games fast approaching, Travel London is doing its part to make the city an open and inviting place.

~ Allison Bullock

Signing off

Dear readers, First, I want to thank you for reading my contributions to the Report on Mobility over the last 2 years. It’s sometimes strange to sit in a room by oneself and write to a faceless, unknown audience. And at the same time the ability to do so reflects the communication- and information-rich world in which we live today whose novelty and strangeness have long since disappeared.

The opportunity presented by new media to spread ideas and engage ever-broadening audiences is being leveraged by Living Labs Global and its partners to create a world that is both more efficient and more pleasant to experience. I admire this mission and will carry it with me throughout my future in the practice of planning. As I write this final signing-off post, I wanted to reflect on a few of the big ideas of the past couple years.

Take advantage of new technology; don’t abandon traditional methods

There’s no doubt that new communications technologies have helped people with constrained time budgets who are geographically distance communicate more often and more efficiently. These same technologies are helping localities engage their citizenry in new ways; politicians are more in touch with their constituents. That said, we have to keep in mind that these advances are complements to, not replacements for, face-to-face collaboration and discussion.

Sharing and collaboration

Car sharing, bike sharing, even tool sharing have flourished in the last few years. Perhaps as a result of the openness of the online virtual world, people have become more comfortable sharing their personal things – and companies like Relay Rides are giving them financial incentives to be interested, too. The public sector has also encouraged sharing of cars and bikes, highlighting the huge efficiencies to be achieved by pooling resources.

Planners as stewards of real-time information

Smart cities, intelligent cities, city 2.0: whatever you call it, the way we manage our cities is changing. Real-time data are becoming more and more available whether it’s through mining cell phone location for assess traffic conditions, monitoring bus on-time performance, or remote security and surveillance for your home. Planners in the future will need to design these systems advantageously, to interpret the trends they reveal appropriately, and to make beneficial changes that reflect those interpretations.

Public-private partnerships

Living Labs Global itself uses public-private partnerships to forward its mission of spreading good ideas and implementing the best solutions. The success of groups like Code for America and Venture for America demonstrate the public’s thirst for solutions and the private industry’s ability to get things done.

Thank you all again for reading and providing insightful comments. I’m looking forward to completing my master’s degree in city & regional planning this spring and getting my hands dirty with planning activities in the San Francisco Bay Area this summer. Please don’t hesitate to be in touch.

-          Terra Curtis

Join us! Service Design Research Position on Systemic Change in Cities

As part of the European DESMA consortium, we are looking to recruit an Early Stage Researcher to a European doctoral level research training network in the area of Design Management. The positions are full time for three years, starting in September 2012. Opportunities for adding a fourth year for completing a PhD will be discussed separately for each position.   DESMA is an Initial Training Network funded by the European Commission’s Marie Curie Actions that combines 4 leading universities within the area of Design Management (University of Gothenburg, Aalto University in Helsinki, Politecnico di Milano, and Imperial College, London), 4 leading European design consultancies (Ergonomidesign, Engine, Live|work, Future Concept Lab) and 4 complementary product and service organizations (Volvo Group, Philips Innohub, Poltrona Frau, Living Labs Global) in an unprecedented cross-disciplinary effort to understand how design can be exploited as a driver of innovation and competitiveness in Europe.

We are seeking applicants with a master degree in either design or business and some professional experience. The employed researchers will conduct research projects in collaboration with their host organization, take part in a common training programme with doctoral level courses and build a forum for design management research in Europe.

Last date for submissions is March 15th 2012

For more information visit our website: