The issues facing disadvantaged communities in a modern city are complex. Poverty, health, education, employment and crime are interrelated, but in many municipalities, responsibility for programs that address these issues is spread across multiple public and private stakeholders.
The atomization of public services has led cities like Dallas, Texas to seek solutions that bring together these different stakeholders in novel, more efficient ways. Cities around the world are trying to provide for their citizens by taking an approach to community care that is innovative, sustainable, and citizen-focused.
Innovative policymakers and social entrepreneurs around the world have found effective new ways to approach community care. Scroll down to see some of the most promising approaches we’ve identified, as well as examples of some companies and organizations that might be up to the task and city programs that have already achieved success.
Collaborate and build partnerships between community organizations and outside stakeholders
Communities programs are more likely to succeed when stakeholders with different missions agree on a common goal from the outset. Cooperation to achieve shared priorities prepares everyone involved to make the most of the available resources.
BUILD Health Challenges apply local and data-driven approaches to improve health in communities that experience challenges related to transportation, food availability, and employment opportunities. Many projects have already yielded promising solutions focused on issues such as childhood asthma, housing hazards, and access to healthy foods.
A partnership between UnitedHealthGroup, the YMCA, and retail pharmacies, the Diabetes Prevention and Control Alliance establishes links between clinical and community-based preventive services through innovative programming. The Program promotes healthier habits among people at risk of diabetes, links them to local pharmacists, and helps them adhere to their physicians’ treatment plans.
Healthy Places By Design (HPBD) advances community-led action and proven, place-based strategies to ensure health and well-being for all. At local, state, and national scales, HPBD connects helps community leaders achieve lasting change by providing them with inspiring and useful success stories and connecting them with a global community of fellow changemakers.
Citymart BidSpark matched 154 solutions for this approach.
Use new technologies to leverage data and connect with citizens
A growing number of cities are experimenting with online platforms, apps, software and open code initiatives to engage residents and innovators with tech-based solutions to city problems. These tools allow residents to share information, come together, and communicate more effectively with the people who serve their communities.
The Living City Network is an open forum for resident participation and a tool for communication and debate. It aims to promote the exchange of knowledge related to the urban environment and to help cities devise urban policies that are integrated with social sustainability criteria and economic goals.
Sitegeist is a mobile application developed by Sunlight Foundation that helps users to learn more about their surroundings in seconds. From demographics about people and housing to the weather and the latest popular spots, Sitegeist presents localized information visually.
CareSpeak Communications provides medical therapy management using mobile phones, expanding a tech-enabled circle of care to include caregivers, family and friends, and healthcare workers involved in managing the patient’s health.
Citymart BidSpark matched 280 companies for this approach.
Reduce the barriers low-income residents face when finding employment.
Members of disadvantaged communities face a number of barriers when searching for employment. Establishing links and partnerships between the public sector, the private sector, schools and intermediaries can up new avenues to help citizens overcome these barriers.
The City of Los Angeles recently launched the BlueLA Electric Car Sharing Program, an eco-friendly car-sharing service that is aimed at low-income families. Cars will be available 24/7 at self-service kiosks and can be rented by the minute or via a monthly subscription.
Reseau Cocagne trains unemployed citizens to produce high-value, organic agricultural products and organizes them into local “Cocagne Gardens,” organizations that market their packaged products to conscientious consumers, who in turn commit to buying their products every week. The approach has expanded to over 100 locations across France, and has three main goals: to restore workers’ self-esteem, to achieve environmental sustainability, and to promote engaged consumption.
The NYC Career Pathways Framework focuses on building skills employers seek, improving job quality, and increasing system and policy coordination. Employers have been engaged to build trainings that can lead to employment with opportunities for growth and wages that can sustain a family. Nearly 7,500 people have been helped through partnerships with community colleges.
Louisiana’s Re-Entry Court program allows the state’s younger inmates to learn trades from plumbing to welding to culinary arts. In addition, the program provides these inmates with hours of classes on anger management and communication.
Citymart BidSpark matched 302 companies for this approach.
Create innovative funding programs and financing mechanisms
Reductions in federal and state funding, along with restrictions on municipalities’ authority to raise local revenues, mean that local governments are expected to do more with less. Communities can take advantage of innovative funding mechanisms including crowdfunding initiatives, micro-grants and public participatory budgeting to empower local leaders, increase local interest and commitment in the area and spur private investment.
The Community Innovation Fund provides grants to Minneapolis neighborhood organizations to test concepts that might later be replicated throughout the city. Priority is given to projects that involve collaboration between two or more neighborhood organizations or between neighborhood organizations and community-based organizations.
Some communities have vibrant pockets of engagement by individuals or civic organizations in community and economic development activities, even without public sector involvement. Detroit is rich in these emerging efforts, with Detroit Soup, Kiva Detroit and Hatch Detroit as prime examples.
The Seed Award Fund for Community Innovation offers grants to support, celebrate, and showcase the initiatives of creative people in the Pittsburgh region with the power to create a critical mass of positive change. Seed Award projects are innovative, non-traditional ideas that focus on current issues and challenges faced by the community, and inspire a diverse group of participants to be more active, involved, and civically-engaged.
Citymart BidSpark matched 154 companies for this approach.
Business and Financing Models
Not every innovative solution requires a large municipal financial investment. In addition to proven funding models like public-private partnerships, cities can also deploy solutions that improve citizens’ lives while costing taxpayers almost nothing.
Open Source: Use products developed for free use by individual technologists and groups of developers in pursuit of the common good.
Volunteering: Deploy solutions that leverage citizens’ willingness to work for meaningful causes, donating their time and energy for a worthy goal.
Public-Private Partnerships: Instead of purchasing software for large one-time charge, governments or businesses pay a regular fee for use of a software product
Business to Government (B2G): Vendors will look for government revenue to sustain their solutions
Advertising-funded: Solutions are free or low-cost for customers, who see advertisements instead of paying the full cost of the product.
Software as a Service (SaaS): Instead of purchasing software for large one-time charge, governments or businesses pay a regular fee for use of a software product