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HomeArchivesMaking a Civic Smart City: A New, Public Toolkit Offers Strategies to Increase Civic Participation in Design Initiatives

Making a Civic Smart City: A New, Public Toolkit Offers Strategies to Increase Civic Participation in Design Initiatives

BOSTON, MA (October 23, 2018) — A collaboration of colleges and universities, together with support from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, announces the launch of a publicaly available toolkit, “Making a Civic Smart City,” which provides an open process for shaping smart city initiatives with increased civic participation. The collaboration, which involves the Engagement Lab at Emerson College, the City as Platform Lab at the University of Waterloo, and the Center for Smart Cities and Regions at Arizona State University, is designed to bring civic engagement to the implementation process for smart city technologies with the goal of increasing public value.

“Historically, smart cities have been described as technology-driven places with sensors, autonomous vehicles, and online technologies improving urban efficiency. By involving the public more directly, this project attempts to instead begin with people and public value, then consider the role of technology,” said Founding Director of the Engagement Lab at Emerson College, Eric Gordon.

The new online workshop guide will help municipalities create local smart city playbooks that give the public a voice in how new technologies are integrated into their neighborhoods. The workshop guide offers a template for local officials, community leaders and others to run workshops with community stakeholders on how and why smart technology impacts their lives. The results are local “plays” or actions that shape smart city planning and reflect community values. These place-based smart city plays help governments understand and consider public values in decisions about technology procurement and policy.

Making a Civic Smart City workshops, run by members of the higher education collaboration, are planned in Philadelphia, Boston, Detroit, and Charlotte in the coming months, as well as a Making a Civic Smart City webinar. In addition, public officials, practitioners, and community members from other cities can use the free, open whitepaper and workshop guide to craft their own smart city plays, informing future smart city planning and initiatives.

The workshop guide is based on the March 2018 “Right to the Smart City: Designing for Public Value and Civic Participation” symposium at the Berkman Klein Center Internet & Society at Harvard University, and the design and results from that event are available in the Making a Civic Smart City whitepaper. All these products are available at

To attend a webinar or workshop, please sign up for our mailing list. To work with the project team in making your civic smart city, please contact Eric Gordon at

About the Engagement Lab: The Engagement Lab at Emerson College is an applied research and design lab that investigates and creates media and technology to reduce disparities in civic participation. The Engagement Lab works directly with its partner communities to innovate civic engagement processes, augment stakeholder deliberation, and broaden the diversity of participants in local decision-making.



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