Whether it’s about municipal reinvention, investment opportunity or collaboration, the inaugural City Innovate Summit aims to deliver a host of lessons in urban ingenuity when it debuts in San Francisco this week, June 17-18.
Organized by the City Innovate Foundation (CiS), an innovation group composed of the San Francisco mayor’s office, U.C. Berkeley and the MIT Media Lab, the summit will gather 120-plus thought leaders, including a selection of U.S. and international mayors, nonprofits and venture capitalists, to discuss and debate key concepts in civic tech.
City Innovation Summit Details
Location: Marriott Marquis, 780 Mission St., San Francisco
Foundation Chairman Peter Hirshberg said the hope is for the event to have a catalyzing effect for municipal discourse and venture-backed civic innovation initiatives, a dialog that will be rejuvenated each year.
“We really think this is about a SmartCity 2.0. It’s about co-creation where the city really is a platform, lots of people have roles, there’s a need to understand both government’s needs and what the private sector is doing — and it’s pretty cross-disciplinary,” Hirshberg said.
The summit intends to build upon the momentum of the civic tech and open data movement that Hirshberg said has gone from large corporate tech firms supplying smart city solutions to a dynamic in which multiple stakeholders — such as civic technologists, entrepreneurs and government progressives — are defining the space as it evolves.
Held in one of the nation’s tech meccas, the foundation harnesses San Francisco’s history as a cultivator of the sharing economy, with companies like Airbnb and Lyft, and also leverages top innovation talent in the region to lead its sessions, divided into eight tracks.
A few of the notable tracks include Code for America's Small Business Development and Entrepreneurship track and a Civic Innovation Track spearheaded by Microsoft; Cisco will coordinate a track on Digital Infrastructure. Other tracks include Sustainability, Mobility, Open Data Privacy and Security, Maker Cities, and Urban Planning.
“There’s just a lot of bench talent that has helped in curating these tracks, and I think that shows that this is not just about holding a conference — it’s really convening a community,” Hirshberg said.
However, the true definition of success will be what happens after the event. If innovation practices are learned and applied in new cities, if private-public partnerships are formed, and if new dialogs are created, Hirshberg said these will serve as validations.
“Governments aren’t typically in the business of experimenting or taking risks or making mistakes," he said, "so I think a big part of this is driving an interdisciplinary conversation across topical areas and continuing to build trust between government and innovator."
Jason Shueh is a former staff writer for Government Technology magazine.