Urban Innovation

Urban Innovation Newsletter, June 2020

June 16, 2020  • Center for Urban Innovation Newsletters

TL;DR Please take our new survey on 1) what local governments can do to use procurement for a more equitable COVID-19 recovery and 2) how philanthropy and the entrepreneurial ecosystem can help.

What we’re working on and talking about: 

There is no easy opening line for a newsletter, or email, or most forms of communication. The Center for Urban Innovation will continue to hold space for difficult conversations, so that people can say what they don’t normally say and hear what they don’t normally hear—about race, fear, pain, change, and power. We will redouble our efforts to connect innovation and inclusion in cities. Our commitment will be clear in our work: the topics we take on, the voices we include and elevate. We have a lot to learn and far to go.  

We’re finding this report from Equity in the Center useful as we think about CUI’s work ahead. And we’ll be learning more about the work that’s already being done by these organizations to make more equitable cities: “Long before this past week, black people have been out there doing more than peacefully protesting. They have been out there doing the work to build a different world, one where everyone can feel safe.” 

What does Sidewalk Labs’ withdrawal from the Toronto waterfront redevelopment mean for the future of smart cities? Here’s what experts in city innovation, privacy, and technology had to say in our late May webinar.   

We move through cities in physical bodies, and different bodies experience space very differently. I was honored to discuss transportation infrastructure with Allison Arieff, Laura Bliss, Tamika Butler, and Shin-pei Tsay in this webinar hosted by the Van Alen Institute, as part of their Remaking Brooklyn Bridge project. 

Speaking of moving through public space, here is Tamika Butler on Why We Must Talk About Race When We Talk About Bikes. “When we allow ourselves and our colleagues to perform our work in isolation, without consideration of the killing of Black people, our work lacks impact.”  

What we’re thinking about:

Our cities, systems, and relationships need healing. As many of you know, public procurement is a way to support businesses owned by people of color and make progress on the long, hard work of closing the racial wealth gap. Purchasing from businesses owned by people of color can also be a way to get better products and new ideas into city government to the benefit of residents.

Never before has it been more important for our local governments to get public purchasing and the services they provide right. How our local governments respond to the current crises will lay the foundation for more equitable communities in the recovery to come.

We want to know what you think about local procurement as a tool for an equitable recovery. When we asked for your thoughts last year on urban tech procurement we got amazing answers (more on those results below). So we’re asking again. In collaboration with Open Contracting Partnership, we’re running a survey through June 26, which asks two questions.

Please join the conversation here on the Kialo platform. We will capture and synthesize your smartest ideas in a short report, and use this report to press for changes in how procurement is done in the U.S.

If you’ve been receiving this newsletter for a while, you’ll remember that last year we sought input on how cities could increase the number of “urban tech” or “smart cities” contracts awarded to companies led by women and people of color. Your responses led to eight powerful insights, which we had hoped to refine and build on at an event in early March. That event was scuttled by COVID-19, and since then we’ve focused on COVID-19 response and recovery. But we will share our urban tech survey findings alongside the report from this new survey later this summer.

Please take the survey! And please continue to share your ideas and efforts to make cities where all people can flourish.

All best,

Jennifer & Beth

Jennifer Bradley
Director, Center for Urban Innovation

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