smart-city-ecosystemFirst, there was the question “what is a Smart City?” Then definitions with varying degrees of details emerged, leading to the second question—how is a Smart City actually defined? Though these questions are still being debated and no single definition has emerged, what has evolved without question is both the need for and rise of Smart Cities as well as the powerful presence cities now have on the global stage.

This evolution has brought significant opportunities to communities around the world. The identification and sharing of best practices related to Smart City solutions between municipalities is a driving force within the Smart Cities industry. City leaders know that emerging and disruptive technologies have the potential power to provide tremendous impact in quality of life improvements within their communities. However, the threat of failed solutions can be a paralyzing force.

The solution to this conundrum is more simple and obvious than most may have expected … it requires the development of collaboration, shared risk and reward and especially the integration of perspectives. In developing Smart City ecosystems in cities around the world, Leading Cities has experienced the trials and tribulations between differing objectives, varying value propositions and needs and a multitude of tolerances for risk. Identifying these differences is, of course, the first step and we understood the critical need to address them.

To unlock the real potential of Smart City solutions, Leading Cities had to develop successful methodologies that would bring all five sectors of society together (the Q-helix) to identify, define and prioritize Smart City solutions through conversations led by city officials, using our collaboration methodologies and including the perspectives from the public, private, non-profit, academic and citizen sectors of the community. And with that inclusiveness and direction, the Smart City Ecosystem was born.

The simple truths are these: 1. Cities have challenges and citizens have needs that must be met 2. Academia is researching new theories of social justice, equity, technology, system design and so on 3. Non-profit organizations are out in the field providing services and understanding these challenges in a very real context 4. the private sector—from entrepreneurs to fortune 100 companies—are developing tools and solutions to address these issues 5. City leaders want to solve these problems, but must be risk averse when it comes to spending political capital and, more importantly, taxpayer dollars.

So, while the questions of what is a Smart City and exactly how it is defined continue to be debated, the real question has become—how do cities pursue Smart City solutions? The answer provides a more risk tolerant, confident manner to allow an easier path to “yes” rather than what is currently accepted as a safer answer: “maybe.” It is a disservice to residents, visitors, workers and all who live, work or play in a city to not resolve the challenges of society.

Though not as feared as the risk associated with a failed attempt there is also risk with complacency. As the risk associated with complacency rises the perceived risks of implementing Smart City solutions, whether successful projects or fast failures, is dramatically shrinking. With the growing expertise in Smart City solution planners, providers, implementers and managers, fear of risk associated with Smart City solutions is being eliminated and city leaders are in a position to take action…

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Author: Michael Lake, CEO and President of Leading Cities

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