SCP E72: The Empowerment of Smartivists, with Tom Mueller

SmartCityPodcast_BlogTitleImage_Episode72 Tom Mueller

In this episode of the Smart City Podcast, I had a fascinating conversation with Tom Mueller, an Economic Geographer and one of the cofounders of Bee Smart City. He shares with us how Bee Smart City came to be, what they do and a bit about their database connecting Smart City providers with people seeking their services. We also discuss the fact that Smart Cities really needs to be acknowledging that it’s not always about the big cities, but municipalities of any size, which you might have noticed is an increasingly common conversation on the podcast, so watch this space….

Tom also shares his perspective on how Germany is embracing Smart concepts and the opportunities and challenges of this new paradigm globally, as well as the emerging trend of bottom-up initiatives and empowering Smart Citizens, who Tom calls Smartivists. As always, I hope you enjoy listening to this episode as much as I enjoyed making it.

Listen here:

What we cover in this episode:

  • The story of Bee Smart City’s 3 founders and what sparked their interest in the Smart City space
  • What sparked Tom’s interest in the Smart City space and
  • Tom’s definition of a Smart City and why he believes it’s so important
  • Why Tom believes we misunderstand the term Smart and misuse the term City
  • The bottom up approach and why the local level is so powerful
  • How Germany is currently embracing the Smart City concept and the recent acceleration of the movement there
  • What Bee Smart City is, and how and why they set up their database
  • The need for Cities to embrace collaboration and public-private partnerships
  • The empowerment of Smartivists and the rise of purpose-driven (as opposed to tech-driven) change
  • What the public sector can learn from the private sector about listening to customers and stakeholders
  • The emerging trend of the power of bottom up initiatives
  • What do bees have to do with Smart Cities

Quotes:

It always fascinated and also satisfied me to see how future-oriented projects and initiatives can benefit citizens, companies and the local government itself.

Altogether we have been working a lot in spacial development (whether it’s real estate or economic development) and the technology you see in the Smart City movement connects us to each other and we want to utilise this development to tackle the challenges cities have today.

We believe we can improve cities and communities by tapping into collective intelligence to leverage the best solutions and also new methodology to drive efficiency, sustainability, equality and economic prosperity. These are the big challenges that we have in cities and communities across the globe.

If you want to really change the development and successfully tackle all the problems that we have currently then it needs to be done at the local level….You need the public and private sector for this. [Cofounder] Bart is a perfect example for how the real estate industry is adopting technology to increase liveability and also support the development of cities on the local level.

Our perspective, our definition. For us the Smart City concept describes the ability for utilising the capacity of a city or community to create and adopt solutions for overcoming challenges and seizing opportunities that help transform the places we call home…to a more prosperous and more liveable place for all stakeholders.

What defines how ‘Smart’ a city is is the ecosystem of solutions that are implemented over time…It’s an evolutionary process. It is kind of a continuous development circle, in which a city or community steadily improves its services and processes for all stakeholders, and for the citizens that live in the city.

We believe it’s not purely about technology. Often Smart is explained as the technology and data, but it’s more about the Smart way of implementing solutions, which is more important than the tech. How well do you know your customer’s need? That’s the measure of success.

If you look at Smart City from a more technology perspective [in Germany]… in embracing advances in digital technologies, and this holds true especially for the public sector, the adoption of innovation has been lagging behind…Germany, has a strong security mentality and if you take our federal system into account, you will have a second reason why processes take a lot longer than in smaller or more centrally governed nations.

What we have learned is that we always talk about the big challenges ahead, but on the operational level what everybody is looking for is about lessons learned, is about proven solutions, and…we need to share best-practices globally. That’s what Bee Smart City is about, how we want to accelerate the development of Smarter Cities and Communities globally by enabling and facilitating sharing of best practices globally.

Those collaborative efforts, whether it’s government internally or external with private parters, need to be nurtured. And we see that often cities believe they know everything and this is pretty dangerous thinking if you want to make progress, because you need all the different stakeholders, and you need to be open and transparent about what you do and take into account the needs of the other stakeholders.

Governments need to take into account the knowledge and passion of local champions and citizens willing to support the development of Smart Cities and really recognise the value that this intelligence of the citizens brings into processes, because without this human-centric perspective it is a waste of money and a waste of a lot of different resources and it won’t be possible to create sustainable and working solutions.

Connect:

Connect with Tom and Bee Smart City at www.beesmart.city or find them socials @beesmartcity

Connect with me via email: zoe@thesmartcitypodcast.com

Connect via Twitter and Facebook @smartcitypod

The Smart City Podcast is produced by Ellen Ronalds Keene.

 

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