21st Century Cities: A Primer

A “101” Overview of Technology and Innovation at the Local Level

What does a 21st century city look like?

That’s a question I’m asked fairly often.

Indeed, I’m often tasked with giving an introduction on local government innovation — to new mayors, potential investors, etc — and after a couple dozen hacked together presentations, I decided to put some effort into it, and put together this document.

Since the definition of a “21st Century City” seems elusive, or controversial, I did what I do: tell some stories.

It’s a kind of “greatest hits” with simple examples and takeaways from three key areas of impact from the last few years: digital services, data science/analytics, and civic entrepreneurship. It closes with a high-level set of recommendations including policy and staffing. This way it works as a presentation or a leave behind.

I’ve found it helpful in various setting — conferences, pitches, and just casual conversations — so in the interest of transparency, I figured I’d share it publicly.

Share, comment, and critique freely.


EthosLabs is a government innovation consultancy designed to help cities and startups work together to embrace this opportunity. If your city or company is interested in working together, get in touch: hello@ethoslabs.us