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New Innovation Project Targets Small and Rural Governments

The program, launched through a partnership between ELGL and UrbanLeap, is specifically focusing on cities, counties and towns with fewer than 30,000 residents. Other similar projects have often focused on big cities.

The startup UrbanLeap and the local government network ELGL are joining together to create a one-year program where 25 cities, counties and towns will work together to find common problems, test solutions and then share what they’ve learned.

But don’t expect to see the typical big cities involved in it — the Small Places, Big Ideas Innovation Cohort is specifically looking for small and rural governments.

"UrbanLeap is working today with big municipalities such as Las Vegas, Pittsburgh and the County of San Mateo,” said UrbanLeap Founder and CEO Arik Bronshtein in a press release. “We want to bring the same tools and best practices to smaller municipal agencies, too."

The organizers will favor places with populations lower than 30,000, though it is encouraging those larger to apply as well. The idea is to bring the kind of collaboration opportunities to smaller governments that larger governments with more resources see more regularly. In fact, the project bears some resemblance to the MasterCard City Possible network, which has pulled in larger cities like San Diego and Baltimore.

There are, however, far more small cities in the U.S. than medium and large ones. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 47 percent of cities have populations of 1,000 or less.

ELGL’s network includes more than 3,000 local government employees, exactly the people UrbanLeap designed its platform for. The company offers a kind of project management platform meant to help government try new things — whether that means technology or simply a tweak to a process.

Ben Miller is the associate editor of data and business for Government Technology. His reporting experience includes breaking news, business, community features and technical subjects. He holds a Bachelor’s degree in journalism from the Reynolds School of Journalism at the University of Nevada, Reno, and lives in Sacramento, Calif.