Embracing smart city partnerships

Blog by Brook Dixon, ASCA Vice President

Partnership is the new black in government; especially in the digital city which is built on networks, co-design, innovation and connecting things, ideas, data, and people. No man, woman, organisation, or thing is an island, entire of itself, in the digital city.

Leading digital cities understand and embrace these connections. They are receptive to the opportunities of course, but also systematic and deliberate in both planning for, and entering into partnerships. 

In San Jose, for example, one of its smart city values is to “effectively partner with the private sector, universities, foundations and other organisations to accelerate impact”. 

And to make this a reality San Jose has committed to making it easier to partner with the city, by:

  • Creating an Office of Strategic Partnerships in the Mayor’s Office to provide a single point of contact for philanthropic and private sector organisations, to improve its ability to secure external expertise and resources to drive results; and
  • Streamlining procurement processes to more easily work with the city on initiatives.

Such commitment recognises that, notwithstanding possible benefits, all relationships have a cost - in time, friction, opportunity and effort - and these costs often preclude or include partnerships. 

For cities seeking positive partnerships, they should first identify and smooth the systematic and procedural points of friction and cost.  As San Jose says, it should be easy to partner with the city. No need to gift-wrap the partnership in red tape.

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