The ZenCity team and I recently had the honor and privilege of participating in the 86th US Conference of Mayors in Washington DC. Alongside over 200 mayors, we were able to discuss the challenges American cities are facing today, and highlight the role data analytics can play in city-making.
The United States Conference of Mayors itself is the official non-partisan organization of US cities above 30,000. Twice a year, they hold an in-person meeting, and throughout the year, they work together on initiatives, policy papers and more, shaping local and national urban policy. We were inspired by dozens and dozens of Mayors that we met and learned from all over the country – Flint, Oakland, Miami, Tacoma, Baton Rouge – the list goes on.
The conference was a unique opportunity for us to be part of the discussion about the challenges cities in the country are facing. Here are our main takeaways:
- It’s really about the local. Throughout our conversations, the overarching truth that stood out to us was that local is what matters most. When we built ZenCity as a group of urban enthusiasts, we focused on the city because this is where our personal and professional passions lie, but the Conference reaffirmed to us that this is also where the future lies. Today, at a time of growing challenges on the national and international level, the buck stops at the local government, and regardless of partisan affiliation, cities must deal with (and are dealing with) the real and metaphorical “potholes” thrown their way.
- The struggle is real — the challenges US Mayors and their city managers face are present and growing. Mayors are dealing with the classic pains of urban governance like providing services and maintaining infrastructure, confounded by broader, national challenges like immigration. But, the Conference also affirmed that these challenges can and are being overcome.
- Now is the time for good data. At ZenCity, we strongly believe the first step to dealing with the challenges cities are facing is to understand them. Cities need good data, and they need to know how to analyze, work with and extrapolate meaningful information from good data. It’s from this lens that we see great initiatives, like What Works Cities, which announced it’s first certified cohort at the conference, and of course our own technology — helping cities understand citizen needs.
Looking forward to this summer at the next Mayor’s Conference in Boston!