Power to the people: New series to spotlight urban innovators

What do you think of when you hear the words “urban innovation”? Do you think of smart technology and clean energy? Or open data and civic tech? Maybe you think of entrepreneurship or creative placemaking or the future of mobility?

It can be easy to forget what these all have in common: People. Extraordinary people. Brave thinkers and doers finding new ways to make cities more sustainable and equitable for all.

This fall, Urban Innovation Exchange and Meeting of the Minds are turning our attention to the human-powered ingenuity behind transformational change in cities for a new series on urban innovators across America.

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Who are these individuals leaning in to solve problems? How are they testing and growing new ideas? What impact will they have on the future of urban life?

This series is made possible thanks to support from The Kresge Foundation, working to expand opportunities in America’s cities.

To do this, we are calling upon an ace advisory group, including the editors at Issue Media Group, a network of online magazines covering what’s next in cities, and Tumml, an urban ventures accelerator empowering entrepreneurs to solve urban problems.

But stepping back a bit — why do urban innovators matter in the first place? Here’s our take: They challenge the status quo, obsess over ways to do better, and bring passion to problems in need of fresh thinking. Often we find them crossing sectors, disrupting boundaries, and cultivating exciting new collaborations with unlikely bedfellows.

Their verve keeps cities vital, daring us to dream of a better tomorrow.

By telling their stories, we hope to shine a light on not just the “who,” but the “how” of their work, to demystify the process of converting ideas into action.

Maybe you or someone you know is looking for inspiration to advance an idea and transfer it to your city? Or maybe you are in a position to help take an innovator to the next level?

Wherever you sit in the movement for healthier cities, we hope you will follow along to meet some pretty outstanding individuals working to shape a brighter future.

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Read more from the Meeting of the Minds Blog

Spotlighting innovations in urban sustainability and connected technology

Big Data, Automation, and the Future of Transportation

In recent years, a variety of forces (economic, environmental, and social) have quickly given rise to “shared mobility,” a collective of entrepreneurs and consumers leveraging technology to share transportation resources, save money, and generate capital. Bikesharing services, such as BCycle, and business-to-consumer carsharing services, such as Zipcar, have become part of a sociodemographic trend that has pushed shared mobility from the fringe to the mainstream. The role of shared mobility in the broader landscape of urban mobility has become a frequent topic of discussion. Shared transportation modes—such as bikesharing, carsharing, ridesharing, ridesourcing/transportation network companies (TNCs), and microtransit—are changing how people travel and are having a transformative effect on smart cities.

Smart Cities and the Weather

A study by the US National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) in 2008 found that the impact of routine weather events on the US economy equates annually to about 3.4% of the country’s GDP (about $485 billion). This excludes the impact of extreme weather events that cause damage and disruption – after all, even “ordinary” weather affects supply of and demand for many items, and the propensity of businesses and consumers to buy them. NCAR found that mining and agriculture are particularly sensitive to weather influences, with utilities and retail not far behind.

Many of these, disaster management included, are the focus of smart city innovations. Not surprisingly, therefore, as they seek to improve and optimize these systems, smart cities are beginning to understand the connection between weather and many of their goals.  A number of vendors (for example, IBM, Schneider Electric, and others) now offer weather data-driven services focused specifically on smart city interests.

Meeting of the Minds is made possible by the generous support of these organizations.