Introduction to the Civic Innovation Spotlight
Who will you meet?
Cities are innovating, companies are pivoting, and start-ups are growing. Like you, every urban practitioner has a remarkable story of insight and challenge from the past year.
Meet these peers and discuss the future of cities in the new Meeting of the Minds Executive Cohort Program. Replace boring virtual summits with facilitated, online, small-group discussions where you can make real connections with extraordinary, like-minded people.
As the world’s leading center of innovation, San Francisco has a significant impact on international economic activity and culture creation. As the Bay Area Council Economic Institute reports, “the region’s ability to play a role in the creation of entirely new business paradigms and spaces of social activity is unrivaled, producing world-leading companies and jobs in the Bay Area, nationally and around the world on a large scale.” As home to the top technology and creative leaders in the world, San Francisco also sees an increasingly talented workforce being drawn to the Bay Area.
San Francisco’s technological ecosystem provides the ideal components for civic innovation to flourish: investors; research institutions; startup accelerators, incubators and coworking spaces; as well as legal and professional services to support the innovation sector. This rich network and exploratory landscape creates a unique opportunity to improve the lives of San Francisco residents by thinking outside the box and bringing innovative ideas and resources into government.
“The key to how the region innovates is a culture that encourages risk-taking and accepts failure—an environment that supports entrepreneurial activity. Perhaps the most important binding factor, however, is the region’s openness to new ideas and new participants. Multiple disciplines collide and interact, creating novel ideas and unanticipated applications. This is enabled by a culture that is highly permeable, with few institutional barriers to the movement and combining of people and ideas.” – The Bay Area Innovation System, 2012
San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee’s Office of Civic Innovation (MOCI) cultivates a space for creativity and entrepreneurship within government and creates paths for collaboration and new ideas. This expanding civic innovation in government space can have a transformative effect on communities which is why MOCI was launched in 2012 to make San Francisco more innovative, accessible, responsive, nimble, and efficient. MOCI’s projects cover areas including supporting an entrepreneurial workforce, data-oriented decision making tools, and streamlining permitting for projects in public spaces. Chief Innovation Officer, Jay Nath, explains MOCI’s guiding principles:
“We believe in making the walls of government more permeable and inviting citizens to become a part of the ecosystem that will transform how we run City Hall. We need a government that is willing to take smart risks and celebrate both successes and failures. Most importantly, we need a government that not only serves the public but invites them to co-create new solutions.”
Meeting of the Minds is working with MOCI to illustrate how the City is providing cutting-edge and innovative services. We will share a handful of these stories through a new, monthly feature called the Civic Innovation Spotlight. The Civic Innovation Spotlight series will go deeper into the untold stories of government innovation and inspiration in San Francisco. Stay tuned for civic projects that address accessibility, education, health, energy, and public services in San Francisco.
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Spotlighting innovations in urban sustainability and connected technology
In my business, we’d rather not be right. What gets a climate change expert out of bed in the morning is the desire to provide decision-makers with the best available science, and at the end of the day we go to bed hoping things won’t actually get as bad as our science tells us. That’s true whether you’re a physical or a social scientist.
Well, I’m one of the latter and Meeting of the Minds thought it would be valuable to republish an article I penned in January 2020. In that ancient past, only the most studious of news observers had heard of a virus in Wuhan, China, that was causing a lethal disease. Two months later we were in lockdown, all over the world, and while things have improved a lot in the US since November 2020, in many cities and nations around the world this is not the case. India is living through a COVID nightmare of untold proportions as we speak, and many nations have gone through wave after wave of this pandemic. The end is not in sight. It is not over. Not by a longshot.
And while the pandemic is raging, sea level continues to rise, heatwaves are killing people in one hemisphere or the other, droughts have devastated farmers, floods sent people fleeing to disaster shelters that are not the save havens we once thought them to be, wildfires consumed forests and all too many homes, and emissions dipped temporarily only to shoot up again as we try to go “back to normal.”
So, I’ll say another one of those things I wish I’ll be wrong about, but probably won’t: there is no “back to normal.” Not with climate change in an interdependent world.
I caught up with Steph Stoppenhagen from Black & Veatch the other day about their work on critical infrastructure in Las Vegas. In particular, we talked about the new Bleutech Park project which touts itself as an eco-entertainment park. They are deploying new technologies and materials to integrate water, energy, mobility, housing, and climate-smart solutions as they anticipate full-time residents and park visitors. Hear more from Steph about this new $7.5B high-tech biome in the desert.
Planning for new, shared modes of transit that will rival private vehicles in access and convenience requires a paradigm shift in the planning process. Rather than using traditional methods, we need to capture individual behavior while interacting with the systems in questions. An increasing number of studies show that combining agent-based simulation with activity-based travel demand modeling is a good approach. This approach creates a digital twin of the population of the city, with similar characteristics as their real-world counterparts. These synthetic individuals have activities to perform through the course of the day, and need to make mobility decisions to travel between activity locations. The entire transportation infrastructure of the city is replicated on a virtual platform that simulates real life scenarios. If individual behavior and the governing laws of the digital reality are accurately reproduced, large-scale mobility demand emerges from the bottom-up, reflecting the real-world incidences.