IBM is extending the Smarter Cities Challenge global competitive grant program, through which more than 700 of IBM’s top experts have executed pro bono consulting projects to help municipalities and regions improve the quality of life for their residents. Below, IBM Vice President for Global Citizenship Initiatives Jen Crozier reflects on the program’s success and the ongoing challenges facing the world’s cities.
The world’s cities are vital, exciting, often troubled and always unique. Cities house three quarters of us, attract many of the best and brightest of us, and inspire much of our greatest thinking. But urban areas can amplify societal challenges as much as they reinforce cultural benefits. That’s why running a city is never easy.
When IBM launched the Smarter Cities Challenge in 2011, we saw an opportunity to make a difference by using our innovative technologies and cross-industry expertise to help transform the nature of urban life. Smarter cities are the building blocks of a smarter planet, but making a city smarter requires a unique set of collaboration and partnership skills. IBM has those skills, and we believed – and still believe – that their intelligent application has the power to engage and inspire governments, citizens, corporations and others to work together toward a common good.
Anyone looking for inspiration about how the public, private and not-for-profit sectors can collaborate need not look much further than a new book authored by Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn. Titled A Path Appears: Transforming Lives, Creating Opportunity, this remarkable book describes how individuals and organizations can make a difference in the lives of others. Two of the many examples cited by the authors include IBM’s Corporate Service Corps and Smarter Cities Challenge. These programs deploy pro bono teams of problem-solving IBM consultants who work with community stakeholders around the world, while improving their own skills and cultural literacy. Here is how the authors put it:
In their desire to showcase corporate social responsibility, companies are giving more leeway to employees to give back – just as law firms have regularly done pro bono work. IBM developed a Corporate Service Corps, modeled on the Peace Corps, and has sent more than 2,400 people to provide consulting advice in more than thirty countries. In 2010, IBM also began a three-year, 100-city grant initiative in which employees donate their time to help cities launch large projects and resolve tough issues. IBM dispatched teams of five to six people for three weeks to formulate a master plan and strategies for execution. In
St. Louis, IBM helped devise a citywide information technology system that tracked everyone who entered the criminal justice system and allowed different agencies access to that electronic information. That system contributed to a 50 percent decline in crime in some neighborhoods, IBM says. Toyota has taken its sophisticated production expertise and helped hospitals, schools, and other non- profits improve efficiencies. In Harlem, for example, it trimmed the wait at a soup kitchen run by an organization called Food Bank for New York City from one and a half hours to eighteen minutes.
We would like to see more companies step into this arena, allowing employees to use their skills to take on pro bono projects. The nonprofit world is in desperate need of the corporate skill set, and our guess is that companies would be rewarded with increased morale and greater success in recruitment and retention. In the same vein, it would be good to see more corporations take on social joint ventures from time to time, in echoes of what Danone did with Grameen to make yogurt. If we insist on nonprofits and corporations being kept in separate silos, we all lose. If you work in a company, think about how it could help, or what a pro bono policy might look like, and see if there is interest among executives.
The best programs tackle a social problem that the company has the right toolbox for. That’s why Danone’s new yogurt with micro-nutrients and IBM’s information technology systems make sense. In finance, one of the most interesting initiatives to tap private funding has been Social Impact Bonds, launched in the United Kingdom in 2010 with the help of the Rockefeller Foundation, and two years later in the United States. ‘There simply wasn’t enough money in philanthropy, even with the explosion of philanthropy, and not enough money in government aid to really solve all the social ills,’ said Judith Rodin, president of the Rockefeller Foundation. ‘Not that money can solve everything, but that for those things that required money and big money at times, that unleashing private capital to do social good was going to be critical.’
Excerpted from A Path Appears: Transforming Lives, Creating Opportunity by Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn. Copyright © 2014 by Nicholas D. Kristof. Excerpted by permission of Knopf, a division of Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
The Urban Affairs Coalition (UAC) of Philadelphia recently hosted its annual fundraising event, and I was reminded of the valuable partnerships that are helping us transform the quality of life for our city’s young adults. The UAC’s mission is to “unite government, business, neighborhoods, and individual initiatives to improve the quality of life in the region, build wealth in urban communities, and solve emerging issues.” Our partner
IBM Corporate Citizenship & Corporate Affairs has played a critical role in helping us meet our goals. The fundraising event attracted more than $500,000 in donations, and brought together over 900 community and business leaders to help us fulfill our mission.
As the fiscal sponsor for more than 55 partner organizations, UAC provides back-end financial and human resources support that frees non-profit organizations to dedicate
their time, talent and treasure to providing crucial services for more 150,000 adults,
youth and children. UAC aspires to become a high-tech, high-touch, high-quality resource for our partner organizations, and IBM is helping us on this journey. With the help of an
IBM Technology Road Map Impact Grant, we developed a scalable technology strategy that will enable us to meet our partners’ needs today and into the future.
On Saturday, September 20th, I had the opportunity to meet a special group of new students at Richard J. Daley College, one of the City Colleges of Chicago. These students came in on a Saturday to learn about the Daley College community and the resources available to support them on their educational journey.
What distinguishes this group 100+ students is the fact that they do not yet have a high school diploma. They are taking courses at Daley College while enrolled in Sarah E. Goode STEM Academy, one of five Early College STEM Schools created through partnerships among the Chicago Public Schools, City Colleges of Chicago, and five technology companies led by IBM – creator of the P-TECH grades 9 through 14 schools model. Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel launched the Early College STEM High Schools in 2012 based on recommendations from an IBM Smarter Cities Challenge partnership with the City.
Perth – Australia’s most westerly capital city – is known for its sunshine, its natural beauty and its relaxed pace. With an estimated population of a little over 1.97 million, Perth is Australia’s fourth most populous region and is growing rapidly. And that growth requires a strong and considered strategy for city development.
To ensure that we provide the best possible services to our citizens now and well into the future, it was clear to us that Perth needed to be smarter in the way we collated, distributed, accessed and used key infrastructure data. Transport, water, energy and other infrastructure utilities need to be in sync with each other for us to be able to plan and use resources in a valuable and efficient way.
In the 1960s, the world was a simpler place. The Cold War structured the international system, sovereign states were the main international actors, physical (versus virtual) warfare was the main security threat, and economic barriers limited international trade
and finance. The news cycle was longer than 24 hours, and there was no internet. But today’s states and multinational organizations share a very different world with financial institutions and corporations, non-profit organizations, terrorists, drug cartels, even pirates. “Sovereign states” aren’t as sovereign as they used to be, and security threats include vulnerable financial markets, failed states, cyber threats, infectious diseases, terrorism
and climate change.
Today, two non-traditional actors – American private foundations and U.S. corporate philanthropies – exercise a degree of global reach and influence that once was the province of states and multinational organizations. Over just the last two decades, we have witnessed a huge increase in the number and size of private foundations and the scale of their international activities as they pursue social, economic and even political change. U.S. corporations also are increasingly global, and are involved in social, environmental, health and other public issues in the countries where they operate.
Cities around the world face issues that are unique to urban environments, but just as often, it takes a broader approach to solve them. Less than one year after Reno, Nevada (United States) received an IBM Smarter Cities Challenge grant, the city assembled 11 local and regional agencies to agree on an action plan to implement the recommendations of their IBM team – the first Smarter Region Summit of its kind in the area. By bringing together local governments, regional planners, K-12 and higher education, businesses, tourism and the airport authority, these leaders are poised to make great progress on the city’s vision for economic development and industry growth across the region.
I recently had a chance to speak with Reno Mayor Robert Cashell to understand how IBM’s expertise is helping the region to engage as a collaborative team, and what he sees on the horizon after his mayoral term ends in a few short months.
Jen Crozier: How did the Smarter Cities Challenge grant change the way you approach economic development in Reno?
Robert Cashell: The Smarter Cities Challenge grant fundamentally changed the way that Reno understands and undertakes economic development. The IBM team gave us a long overdue and much needed “outside-in” perspective. They told us that for Reno to improve our economic development outcomes, we needed to change our mindset and start acting cooperatively with other agencies and other units of local government in our area – primarily, the City of Sparks and Washoe County. Rather than competing against each other to attract new industrial growth, which is what we had been doing, we would achieve more by working together. The team also told us that we would be better off by allowing the private sector – which is our regional development authority – to lead the charge.
Big Data is all the rage these days – from helping doctors diagnose patients by using analytics to sift through decades of historical information, to allowing marketers to learn how to better personalize experiences for customers. But there often isn’t the chance for citizens to see how data might affect their everyday lives up close and personal.
Here at the Chicago Architecture Foundation (CAF), we wanted to show citizens how data provides a critical lens for exploring and understanding the design issues that matter, like community health, safety and sustainability. To do this, we devised the upcoming exhibition Chicago: City of Big Data. Opening yesterday, the exhibition explores the digital age of urban design and shows Chicago the effects of Big Data on the city’s lifeblood.
It’s been years since we learned that the world is “flat” and that all enterprises – whether commercial, governmental or non-profit – are globally connected. But what we’re still learning in this era of global integration is how to prepare the next generation of leaders to realize what we characterize as the triple benefit – developing their skills while solving communities’ problems and opening new markets. This isn’t just a “business” problem.
It’s an issue that impacts – and will shape the future of – almost every human endeavor
on the planet.
Running our cities, educating our children, protecting our health and sustaining our environment are just some of the world’s critical challenges that no single company or economic sector can address or solve alone. Mastering the world’s challenges requires the world’s collective intelligence and expertise and true collaboration. That’s why legacy models of top-down corporate philanthropy have become obsolete. In their place have arisen innovative approaches to transforming the ways we interact, learn and lead. At IBM, these approaches involve maximizing the value of our most important assets – the time and talent of our employees – versus merely donating our excess cash.