Making a Civic Smart City: an open toolkit
This white paper is a modular tool for public, private, and government sectors designing processes of public participation in smart city planning. Rather than governments and corporations embracing smart technologies in search of problems, a civic smart city works with citizens to define problems, and reflect on potential solutions, before implementing new technologies. It is a collaborative work between the Engagement Lab at Emerson College, the City as Platform Lab at the University of Waterloo, and the Center for Smart Cities and Regions at Arizona State University.
This initiative began with a symposium entitled, “Right to the Smart City: Designing for Public Value and Civic Participation” on March 2018 at Harvard University. The symposium was designed to bring together diverse perspectives in order to explore ways in which publics can be more effectively engaged in the process of decision-making around smart city infrastructure and tools.
A civic smart city reflects on technology through the lens of public value.
The results of this symposium were five actions, namely “plays”, that can be taken by the range of actors involved in the design and implementation of the smart city. This white paper explores these plays, arguing that their implementation can result in greater civic engagement and a more equitable process.
01 – Embrace Smart Cities
To embrace the smart city means to leverage the enthusiasm of publics, the private sector, and government organizations for digital technologies and devices into conversations that encourage civic participation and provide public values. The dominant idea of the smart city as defined by its technology can be used to highlight matters of local importance and involve publics in defining the values and dynamics of the local versions of “smart”.
02 – Cultivate Local Innovation Ecosystems
To cultivate local innovation ecosystems, cities must support and partner with those private and public organizations which have an understanding of and desire to serve their community’s needs, rather than placing the development of smart cities entirely in the hands of large national corporations. Seeking talent and knowledge within the community, cultivating data literacy, and developing technologies that prioritize public values are all means by which local ecosystems can be involved in the implementation of smart city technology.
03 – Invite Public Influence
Inviting public influence requires a re-imagining of traditional means of involving the public in the civic decision-making process, developing new frameworks for participatory action and augmenting engagement with new technologies. This re-defining of what civic participation entails must be a value-centered process, specifically for those values of equity and community agency, without which a city cannot be truly smart.
04 – Question Data
To question data is to think critically about the reasons it is collected, how it is acquired, and to what purpose it is given. It is essential that these questions be asked of government, public, and private sector organizations that use large data sets in the development and implementation of smart city technology and infrastructure; doing so can help to prevent the violation of people’s privacy and civil rights.
05 – Design for play and civic imagination
To design for play and civic imagination means to look beyond the corporate values of efficiency, productivity, and profit when designing the smart urban landscape. To create livable smart cities, it is essential to incorporate creativity, experimentation, and the element of play into the processes of conception, design, and construction.
Local Process Toolkit
Finally, the report includes a template for municipalities to reproduce this process on a local level in order to ground-truth the general findings of this research and provide local texture to the definition of smart.
- Visit the initiative’s website here.