Working across a global network of communities, US Ignite curates the best practices in designing and delivering smart city projects with leading-edge municipalities. Every community and project possesses unique traits, but to achieve success all communities must properly manage their stakeholders and partners. These five practices on handling partnerships can help any smart city service, project, or application – at any phase – find success.
#1 Inspire the right people
Innovative projects push stakeholders to unknown areas. With a clear vision, communities inspire their partners throughout the project phases to overcome the uncomfortable spots while working towards a shared goal (e.g., driving economic activity, building a learning lab, increasing equitable access to the internet). Inspired and empowered project and technical managers serve to build consensus and enthusiasm within the team and gain additional support for a project.
During the Smart Cities Connect Conference in Washington DC, Arlington County illustrated the importance of empowering a coalition of partners involved with the Safety and Innovation Zone. The partners, which included the Arlington County Board, Comcast, Juganu, and US Ignite agreed to explore innovative solutions to public safety concerns in the County. With authorization to freely explore technical solutions that could enhance service delivery, the researchers and subject matter experts designed and deployed a smart city project and evaluated success according to self-established criteria. Empowering technology vendors, business partners, and academics to openly contribute helps teams clearly see the value and potential of the project.
#2 Set and agree on the project requirements
Each partner in a project sets different internal goals and has different motivations. While private sector partners are focused on revenue, communities focus on improving the delivery of services to residents. A partnership built on each other’s operational capabilities creates room to illustrate the value to investors and the value to residents and visitors.
Source: Navigating the Intersection of Public and Private Value: Optimal Configuration (c) 2007 Prof Alan Trager, Harvard Kennedy School
Clearly setting and agreeing to project requirements helps capitalize on the partners’ differing capabilities. Establishing project requirements and parameters – including a project timeline and technology maturity – prompt a transparent understanding of the constraints and temper expectations between the partners.
#3 Build trust among the partners and with the community
Many tactics exist to build trust between partners and with the community, but across hundreds of digitally transformative projects, US Ignite consistently sees that the establishment of steering committees succeeds in fostering trust across the community. This governance body acts to institute clear expectations, roles, and responsibilities for the members. In addition, a steering committee that remains open to feedback from the public simultaneously creates a pathway to proactively socialize and seek input from local businesses, residents, and stakeholders.
#4 Prepare for an iterative process and hold evaluations
Some smart city initiatives can be approached as “learning labs,” to give the stakeholders the safe space to identify gaps during the different phases of growth. Communities leading smart city projects embrace continuous improvements on documents, work processes, selected technologies, and integrations. All the partners should be comfortable with unlearning and relearning throughout the iterative process.
When it is time to evaluate a project or initiative, communities should bring together representatives from the different stakeholder groups. This broad meeting offers a chance to re-align a project where necessary, find new use cases, and re-energize partners to carry the project over the finish line.
#5 Look forward
Smart city projects provide communities and partners a prime opportunity to create a roadmap to replicate and scale projects. Going through the different stages of deploying an innovative solution sparks conversations that lead to improved or new pathways for collaboration. The relationships developed and the knowledge gained can be invaluable in future technology-driven solutions that blend cross-sector participation. Communities should keep stock of the assets gained through smart city initiatives to reuse in future projects and initiatives.
Well-organized partnerships lead to successful outcomes for the partners, residents, and municipalities deploying a smart infrastructure project. Above all, communities that remain agile in leveraging the capabilities of their partners are more likely to deliver solutions that address a real community challenge. Communities that master this art stand to make great improvements in the lives of their residents.