The Beauty of Liveability and Innovation

Urban leaders strive to make their city, town and community a liveable place where people can flourish. Creating that liveable, sustainable ecosystem takes innovative thinking and innovative solutions – and that’s where Kip Harkness comes in handy.

As part of the Cities Leadership Institute international experts programme, Kip Harkness, Deputy City Manager of the City of San Jose, led a masterclass on the inextricable link between innovation and liveable cities.

From Newcastle, Inner West and Cumberland to Woollahra, Blacktown and Wollongong representatives from local government joined with State government and community leaders to create and curate ways to enhance liveability using technology and innovation.

Nestled in the innovation epicentre of Silicon Valley, San Jose is a city with residents at both the upper and lower end of the socio-economic spectrum making jobs, housing affordability, internet access and connectivity and digital equity real challenges.

Bringing his private sector experience in Paypal, keen strategic insights from his time in the Peace Corps and passion for agile methodology, Kip Harkness has a simple and sturdy framework for cities to develop their smart cities roadmap.

Applying this framework, masterclass participants were challenged by Kip’s “beautiful question” – what is something in your city that is:

  • causing people a lot of pain and

  • core to what the city does and

  • solvable at scale with innovation

From easing traffic congestion, better management of library space, insights from complaint handling, streamlining the development application process and enhancing community engagement, the answers to the beautiful question were diverse but direct.

Using this framework, city leaders were are able to quickly and clearly identify and prioritise real problems that matter to their communities, problems that were solvable and problems that cities have the capacity to address. It was evident that this framework empowers and focuses the city and positions technology as an enabler rather than the driver of the solution.

Pivoting to pitches, the masterclass quickly moved to collaborative ways to develop prototypes for each of these city problems. Trevor Brewty of Cumberland Council presented his groups’ solution to traffic congestion, a ridesharing app that would rely on neighbours to car pool to work. While a lot of factors come into play in co-creating such a community-based app, Mr Brewty said: “we want to develop a ridesharing app that is focused on community engagement and builds support amongst the users.”

The City of Newcastle presented a gamification approach to shift people to multi modal transport use. Incentives using dynamic pricing and route options based on time, mode, health outcomes and ‘beauty’ were included to drive behaviour change.

An overarching theme from Kip’s masterclass was the idea that the quality of life for consumers is the basis of a flourishing and functioning smart city. Kip urged this idea throughout the session: “Everybody is your customer…you need to serve everybody.”

As the masterclass came to a close, Kip asked everyone to form a “circle of gratitude” and reflect on the day. “We get little opportunity to reflect and learn" and it was evident that Kip had inspired a handful of urban leaders who will undoubtedly make a smart city change to their community.

Livability and Innovation Masterclass with Kip Harkness, Deputy City Manager, City of San Jose was held as a part of the Cities Leadership Institute International Expert programme.

Evie Maguire

Media and Communications Coordinator

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