"WITHOUT ACCESS TO OUR GREAT NETWORK OF INNOVATION PARTNERS WE WOULD NEVER HAVE GOTTEN TO THIS POINT."
The City of Syracuse is just one of 19 cities across the world to have an innovation team thanks to a grant from the Bloomberg Philanthropies (find the whole list here). In our work, we have talked to city workers, local businesses, residents, professors, groups like TNT and FOCUS that give us a great sense of the things that do and don’t work well here.
We’ve also relied on the other i-teams in places like Atlanta, Boston, Long Beach, Jerusalem, Memphis, Peoria, and Rochester for advice or for “group therapy”.
Peoria, Illinois and Atlanta, Georgia are also working to make improvements to their infrastructure systems, and are focusing on things ranging from smart infrastructure to combined sewer overflow separation projects. Syracuse’s infrastructure work has taken a slightly different angle, but we’ve still been able to learn a lot from these cities.
Atlanta has introduced us to companies and organizations that promote the integration of technology and infrastructure. Thanks to New York’s State and Municipal Facility Program, Assemblyman Bill Magnarelli was able to secure $10 million dollars to help with the City of Syracuse’s infrastructure, including a portion that can be invested in new technologies that can help predict or better address infrastructure problems.
Peoria has been approaching their work from a slightly different angle. They are federally mandated to address their sewer system. Initially we thought that this could limit the Peoria i-team’s work. However, they’ve tackled this challenge by investigating ways to couple their sewer challenge with other infrastructure issues. Onondaga County falls under the same type of court order, so it has been interesting to see the progress of projects like Save the Rain locally, while also tracking the work of our Midwestern colleagues.
"SYRACUSE'S INFRASTRUCTURE WORK HAS TAKEN A SLIGHTLY DIFFERENT ANGLE, BUT WE'VE STILL BEEN ABLE TO LEARN A LOT FROM OTHER CITIES."
In addition to our great peer network, we also have coaches that we work with every other week to ensure that we are moving in the right direction. Our coaching team is matched perfectly with the work that we are doing. One of our coaches, Emily Love, used to work for the Atlanta i-team, so she is intimately familiar with the innovation delivery process and the challenges associated with it. Since Atlanta is also working on infrastructure challenges, Emily comes with great suggestions every time we speak. Our other coach, Bjorn Whitmore, is originally from Ithaca, so he is very aware of the issues surrounding upstate cities. Together they act as a sounding board and help us to logically address the innovation and infrastructure work that we are focusing on.
"ONONDAGA COUNTY FALLS UNDER THE SAME TYPE OF COURT ORDER, SO IT HAS BEEN INTERESTING TO SEE THE PROGRESS OF PROJECTS LIKE SAVE THE RAIN LOCALLY..."
One of the biggest things that our coaching team has been emphasizing is that the innovation delivery process is not linear. Even though we are technically working through how we will implement some of our ideas (step three of four in our process), we should constantly be conducting research (step one) and generating ideas for infrastructure improvements (step two).
So, we’ve been following our coaches’ suggestions and conducting ample research on technologies, data systems, and best practices over the past few weeks. We’ve come across some great technologies including devices that could be mounted to Department of Public Works vehicles which would use video and sensor feeds to grade the roads. This could help to prioritize areas for repair and also feed information into a road asset management system.
We’ve also continued to brainstorm new ideas that could quickly address our city’s infrastructure systems. One of these newer ideas involves using a service that could notify the community about a wide range of upcoming important dates, while also serving as a platform to push messages about emergencies, like water main breaks. This type of service would not only allow the city to communicate more effectively, but could also save the city money by reducing the number of printed materials mailed to constituents.
"ONE OF THE BIGGEST THINGS THAT OUR COACHING TEAM HAS BEEN EMPHASIZING IS THAT THE INNOVATION DELIVERY PROCESS IS NOT LINEAR."
Without access to our great network of innovation partners we would never have gotten to this point. We can’t wait to see our portfolio of initiatives take shape over the next two months, and are incredibly excited to start putting things into practice early next year.