MetroLab’s 10 Principles for Government + University Partnerships
For the past several years, there has been a buzz around “smart cities” and what these cities of the future actually are. In general, there seems to be a misconception that smart cities are all about hardware (like sensors) and data, but a true smart city is one that uses that hardware and data to ultimately focus on the needs of its people.
Using tools like algorithms and sensors, smart cities increase the quality of life for their residents, by making these communities cleaner, safer and healthier. When done thoughtfully smart cities efforts can also strive to make cities more inclusive and equitable. At the end of the day, it’s all about the people who live in these communities and making their interactions with city and/or county services easier and better.
Of course, local governments are constantly balancing the need to make resident experiences more positive with constrained budgets and human capital. There is a perception that in order to truly transform into a “smart city”, local officials need to adopt the latest and greatest technology all at once or not at all. This is not only infeasible but can deter officials from thinking through what can be done to make incremental changes to improve services, and by extension, resident experiences with their local government.
MetroLab Network, a local government and university collaborative for civic innovation, helps drive partnerships between local governments and universities. We are poised to help the public sector adapt to rapid technology change and we activate this network of stakeholders through convening, collaboration, and programming.
A large part of MetroLab’s ethos is that these partnerships between local governments and their university partners can be mutually beneficial: the university is the city’s R&D department and the city is the university’s test-bed.
By this we mean that faculty and students get access to real-life laboratories to test advanced approaches aimed at addressing city priorities and challenges while cities, and their residents, benefit from research that leverages digital and information technology, data analytics, sensing, and more.
Through MetroLab Network, we promote these relationships and their work and connect the activities underway across the country on what are often overlapping issues that might otherwise operate independently. A community of practice, MetroLab is committed to the idea of better partnerships for the research, development and deployment of smart city solutions to big local government challenges. MetroLab’s partnerships are leveraging scientific and technological change to drive progress in communities across the country.
For those communities interested in forming and formalizing their own partnerships, MetroLab espouses the following 10 Principles for Successful City/County + University Partnerships:
For Mayors, and University Presidents and Provosts:
- Embrace the idea of the city as a “living lab” and the university as a research & development resource
- Formalize a partnership between your city/county and university with a memorandum of understanding
For Cities and Counties:
3. Assign a lead point-of-contact at the city/county
4. Identify problems that need to be solved and opportunities for innovation;
5. Assign a lead point-of-contact at the university;
6. Form a multi-disciplinary network managed by the university point-of-contact;
Executing on Research, Development, and Deployment:
7. Find the intersection between city/county priorities and university expertise and identify metrics that will define success on these efforts;
8. Arrange regular, predictable, monthly meetings between the city/county and university points-of-contact;
9. Approach your local business and philanthropic community to support your RD&D efforts; and
10. Engage local community groups as partners.
Even armed with these ten principles, the most important thing to consider when creating these local partnerships is to think about how your unique partnership will take shape and what topic or topics the partnership would like to tackle and focus on as an initial jumping off point.
Amongst MetroLab members, we have partnerships that are focused around:
- Institutionalizing consortiums of local universities
- Engaging with strong civic tech communities
- Formalizing collaborative projects to ensure longevity outside of a specific set of individuals
- Growing existing partnerships that started based on singular issue and wanted to expand their scope
- Onboarding neighboring governments and university partners who face similar issues in an effort to further expand benefits across a region
- Expanding intergovernmental structures seeking to work in a more interdisciplinary format
- Amplifying specific academic institutes that have applications to local issues
Whichever mechanism used to coalesce around an issue or set of issues, our takeaways for cities and universities that are beginning to think about more integrative and applied research approaches are these: invest in the process; respond to the city’s needs; and support faculty focused on developing actionable research for the city.
If you are interested in exploring topics and issues that university and local governments can help address, we recommend reading through our monthly Innovation of the Month series, in partnership with GovTech, that highlights the excellent work happening across the US.
Leave your comment below, or reply to others.
Please note that this comment section is for thoughtful, on-topic discussions. Admin approval is required for all comments. Your comment may be edited if it contains grammatical errors. Low effort, self-promotional, or impolite comments will be deleted.
Read more from MeetingoftheMinds.org
Spotlighting innovations in urban sustainability and connected technology
The blockchain could be the missing link that brings consumers, businesses, and investors together on climate change. Built for peer to peer collaboration around shared, yet immutable ledgers, it lets us account for carbon emissions and transfer verifiable climate action through the supply chain.
Blockchain allows calculated emissions from each business to be tokenized and passed through to its supply chain partners to use in their emissions calculations. For example, a token could be issued based on the dollar amount, unit quantity, or volume of the company’s products. This would allow emissions calculations to be passed through the supply chain, so that the effects of a company’s emissions reductions and climate actions would be transparent.
This paper describes the immediate and possible future impacts of COVID-19 on planning in the Greater Vancouver area.
The first part introduces three initiatives, launched in 2019, to refresh city and regional plans. The second part identifies new challenges for plans to address and initial responses to COVID. The paper concludes with transferable observations on reframing plan making in the context of COVID and fiscal constraints.
Included are four planning steps that combine inspirational objectives for economic and equitable recovery, with aspirational plans for longer term resiliency, and offer actionable programs to move forward in the context of available resources.
The pandemic has fundamentally changed our perception of how we can live, work, and move. We’ve figured out how to get goods and services without jumping in the car. We’ve learned that all sorts of jobs can be done from home offices. And we’ve learned that people like, and want, to walk and bike as part of their daily journey. Cleaner air, quieter neighborhoods, and healthier residents can be among the positive outcomes of the crisis for cities that were on their heels with traffic and congestion before. Smarter mobility can help retain these benefits.