Saying YIMBY (Yes In My Back Yard) to “Civic Innovation”

Chamber of Progress launches dedicated focus on promoting transformational tech services in cities and communities

Apps and online platforms have changed the way we work, learn, shop, date, get informed, and entertain ourselves.

And a wave of tech services have also changed the way that we live in cities and communities — from ride sharing, to short-term rentals, to ordering delivery from local businesses.

Think back to some of our lifelines during the last two years of the pandemic.

Grocery delivery services helped get essentials to families while also employing laid-off workers from other industries. Food delivery services helped keep local restaurants afloat. Home-cooking startups helped match chefs and diners. New pool-sharing services helped people find safe outdoor recreation.

And now that we’re moving past the worst of Covid, we’re on the edge of even more transformation: autonomous vehicle deployment and adoption; 3D printed houses, and drone deliveries of medicine and essentials.

Transformative Technology vs. NIMBY “Vetocracy”

We desperately need this kind of innovation in regulated sectors like transportation, housing, and education — which represent close to half of all GDP, and 60% of household budgets. We need to invest and build more, because these services can bring us a higher quality of life, more flexibility, greener cities, and more time to do what we love.

With some new technologies — like delivery drones or autonomous vehicles — government regulators have to give their blessing before a service can launch — what I’ve called “permission-slip innovation.” But governments often act as “vetocracies” — rewarded for preserving the status quo. And well-intentioned laws of the past can end up squelching much-needed improvements.

Other times, new services — like short term rentals and ride sharing — are allowed under the law, but cause friction with neighborhoods and communities after they launch. But there’s no greater enemy of progress than the NIMBY mentality. Want renewable energy, affordable housing, or cleaner transportation? For every fix you can imagine, there’s often someone saying, “I support progress…but not in my backyard.”

“YIMBY” Innovation

Our organization, Chamber of Progress, believes that most voters are optimistic about the future — welcoming new technology and excited about how it might improve their day to day lives. But if we’re going to get a better, more inclusive future for our communities, it’s imperative that we work to counter fear, parochialism, and government vetocracy.

We’ve been working on many of these issues over the past year, and we’ve seen too many innovations get stuck because of fear — rather than move forward through hope and optimism.

That’s why we’re marking our one year anniversary at Chamber of Progress by formally launching a new branch of our work: a new, dedicated focus on promoting civic innovation — technology services that have the promise to improve cities and communities for the better.

We’re marking our one year anniversary at Chamber of Progress by formally launching a new branch of our work: a new, dedicated focus on promoting civic innovation — technology services that have the promise to improve cities and communities for the better.

We are proud “innovation YIMBYs” working to support new services in categories like:

  • Autonomous Vehicles and Trucks, which will make our streets safer and transportation more accessible
  • Delivery & Sharing, including grocery and food delivery services, and sharing of rides, cars, homes, home experiences, home cooking, and more
  • Health, including telemedicine and teledentistry
  • Housing, including online real estate services, and “property tech” innovators; and
  • New Transportation Modes, including scooters, mopeds, delivery drones, and electric vertical takeoff and landing (EVTOL) aircraft

To lead our work in this area, Jamie Pascal has joined us as our first Director of Civic Innovation Policy. As a veteran of the African American Mayors Association, AFSCME, and Internet Law & Policy Foundry, Jamie has focused on the intersection of technology, cities, and workers — including areas like broadband access and the future of work.

Most state and local policymakers don’t want to be seen as the enemy of progress. They want to partner with private sector innovators to make sure that technology is working for city residents, not against them.

We’re excited to work with policymakers to demonstrate how technology can help achieve cities’ goals — including equity, sustainability, recreation, safety, and jobs; to help address concerns and make sure services are acting as good citizens; and to make our communities better places to live.

The Chamber of Progress (progresschamber.org) is a new center-left tech industry policy coalition promoting technology’s progressive future. We work to ensure that all Americans benefit from technological leaps, and that the tech industry operates responsibly and fairly.

Our work is supported by our corporate partners, but our partners do not sit on our board of directors and do not have a vote on or veto over our positions. We do not speak for individual partner companies and remain true to our stated principles even when our partners disagree.

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Adam Kovacevich

Adam Kovacevich

CEO and Founder, Chamber of Progress. Democratic tech industry policy executive. Formerly Google, Lime, Capitol Hill, Dem campaigns.