Civic Innovation: Looking for a few good startups

On the Game-Changing Smart Cities of the Future radio show “Smart Cities and Civic Innovation: Perfect Together” , Jay Nath, Chief Innovation Officer for the City of San Francisco, CA, Maryann Kongovi, Chief Operating Officer of Code for America and I discussed this important topic.

What is civic innovation? There’s broad consensus on what civic innovation is, even though there is no standard definition. Civic innovation engages citizen ingenuity to develop urban solutions to today’s challenges. Civic innovation often uses technology to improve processes, methodologies or service delivery. Techniques for civic innovation range from hackathons to startup in residence programs. Local students, data scientists, citizens, businesses, and non-governmental associations work together with local government organizations to solve problems. Examples of such successes include simplified mobile applications for needed food assistance to improving emergency response capabilities.

Civic innovation is on the rise for many reasons. Here are just a few.

  • City and local government leaders face many challenges due to environmental threats, political change, increased urbanization, lack of affordable housing, and insufficient transportation.
  • City and local government have limited financial resources to address these challenges, even in the best of times.
  • Political changes, such as Brexit in the UK, the refugee crisis in Europe, and election of Donald Trump in the US may place even more strains on limited local government resources.
  • Off-the-shelf solutions do not exist for all the problems local governments seek to address with technology.

How can I play a role?

By now, you may want to participate. If you’re a start-up, your timing is perfect. The San Francisco Mayor’s Office of Civic Innovation is accepting applications for the 2017 Startup In Residence Program until April 10th, 2017. Startups interested in creating new technologies to address community challenges will be paired up with government agencies from San Francisco, Oakland, San Leandro or West Sacramento.

If you’re not a start-up, but want to participate in civic innovation, look for local hackathons or other events in your community.