We follow a dual strategy, functioning simultaneously at the practical and theoretical levels. On the one hand, it shares ‘best practices’ among the cities and puts the lessons of experience in the hands of decision makers and the public in real time; on the other hand, it seeks to gain a deeper understanding of the process of innovation and the consequences for deliberate social changes in cities.
MCP is designed as a self-reflective learning process. It works to accelerate the life cycle of urban innovations: learning how and under what circumstances innovative ideas are generated, demonstrated, implemented and scaled up into public policy or adapted in other cities.
As many mayors, urban planners and city managers in Megacities feel overwhelmed and sometimes even paralyzed by the existing and growing needs of their populations, one of the first things we bring is a “can-do” attitude by showing solutions that have worked in similar places.
We lay out a pathway to a virtuous cycle as shown in the spiral diagram below. It illustrates our thinking about how to move from the present city to a more desirable city through global exchange in order to achieve tangible results.
The METHODOLOGY was developed by the founder and refined by teamwork in first 10 cities to participate. Later improved with all city members working together on it.
How do the MCP teams find the innovations in their cities?
We use a 5-pronged approach to uncover innovative initiatives that may have not been identified previously:
- By place: geography: territory—going to informal communities and seeking local leaders and innovative solutions at the grassroots level
- By topic area: convene experts, practitioners and scholars by issues such as, housing, transportation, job creation, environment, etc
- By sector: ask government, business, civil society, media and academia about innovations in their area
- By literature search: including newspapers, magazines, published articles, masters and doctoral thesis, newsletters and local community news
- By call for innovations: reach out through television, radio, social media, public meetings asking for examples of urban innovations
Using this 5-part search method, teams in every city were able to identify at least a dozen innovations to bring to the table. The mutual learning works best if all participants have experiences to share in this marketplace of successful approaches.
How do we select the innovations for more detailed case studies and transfers?
Rather than waiting for years of trial and error to prove whether innovations might help solve urban problems, mega-cities has designed a set of criteria with which to evaluate each experience according to Values, Impact and Feasibility:
- Socially equitable – does the innovation benefit only the elite, or does it reach a broader base in the population?
- Economically viable -are the costs low enough for the innovation to be replicated on a mass scale’?
- Politically participatory – does the decision process involve the people whose lives are most affected?
- Ecologically sustainable – does the innovation work to preserve or regenerate the environment?
- Culturally transferable – is the innovation too situation specific, or are there lessons applicable in other contexts?
- Be significant
- Be novel
- Haven proven merit
- Have potential for scaling up
- Be replicable in other settings
- Is the innovation practical, affordable and replicable?
How does our approach differ from others?
As opposed to online data bases and information clearing houses, our approach is geared to a community of those with something they wish to learn and something they have to teach. Our strategy
- draws upon an understanding of human nature, motivation and incentive systems and takes into account the hurdles to policy change;
- specifically spotlights and encourages inputs from the grassroots level that can be scaled up into public policy (as shown in diagram below);
- creates an Implicit (soft) competition among policy makers to help justify risk-taking and overcome the built-in resistance to change.
- reveals the connections between issues and breaks down the self-referential silos which often block the most creative solutions.
Using this strategy we become a catalyst for social change and create practical steps for bringing new ideas into the policy agenda.
In each of the 23 mega-cities where we work we have a local coordinator and research team hosted by a local, NGO; university, or research center and a six-sector Steering Committee composed of the most innovative people from government, business, NGOs, grassroots groups, media and academia.
The task of the Global Advisory Board and research team is to locate under-the-radar innovations, document disseminate and bring them to the innovation-sharing marketplace we create among the cities. Before the internet was widely accessible we met face to face for a week every year hosted by a different mega-city each time.
Click here to see the Steering Committee & Global Advisory Board who have gone on to hold major positions of influence in their cities, countries and regions around the world.
The task of the Steering Committee is to propose innovations from their varies sectors; to identify the greatest needs in their sector; to select and implement the innovations from other cities that meet their needs.
The structure is illustrated bellow with the cartoon showing that unless all sectors pull together cities are going to go over the deep edge.
MCP structure and practice creates the four conditions necessary for issues to reach the public policy agenda as set out by rigorous research by John Kingdon on what it takes for an issue to become part of the public policy agenda, given that all issues are always competing for attention to their particular crisis.
- A favorable public opinion, a readiness of the general public for action on that issue.
- a ‘window of opportunity’ in the political process, eg a new person elected, a new commission established, a new mandate.
- the existence of a tried and tested solution which is ‘packaged’ and ready for adaptation.
- a broker who can link the packaged solution with the decision maker in the window of opportunity.
Together, the MCP Strategy and Structure are designed to address all four of these conditions.
- Outreach to the public is ensured through media representatives on our steering committees
- The Project coordinators are positioned to spot any new window of opportunity in the political process.
- The short descriptions and Case Studies developed by our teams worldwide provide the tried and tested, pre-packaged policy-ready solutions
- Our Steering Committees along with the local Coordinators play the role of Brokers connecting the array of solutions to the decision-makers in the window of opportunity.
The bottom line of our work is to create momentum for the kind of transformative innovations and initiatives that bring the voice of disenfranchised to the table; reverse regressive incentive systems; and begin to establish more equitable rules of the game.
The boldness of our quest for deliberate social change and the transformation of urban practices from neighborhoods and cities to national and international levels is at the heart of whether we continue to project 19th century solutions onto tomorrow’s world, or finally make the leap to the 2lst century city.