Our Smart City and Towns Network is ready. Will leaders approve? Will you?

A version of this article appeared in the Asheville Citizen-Times.


The community ‘innovation engine’ that I developed, Open Strategic Innovation for Communities (OSIC), can assist in organizing further positive change in Asheville and Buncombe county. When it comes to solutions to our greatest challenges, there is less ‘low hanging fruit’. So what’s next?

OSIC also serves as a unique, powerful backbone for our statewide Smart Cities and Towns Network… a network we need. It often seems like we are short on resources and solutions. With a great approach to leveraging what works and our talent, we can overcome challenges faster, more, and better.

Each municipality, i.e. the Asheville Smart City Network, gains a better overall public program management capability for comprehensive plans, grid modernization initiatives, and other agendas. Municipalities can compete at times, but there has never been a better time to openly unify too. Do not expect better without existing community systems interfacing with a more open, innovative process.

Along with Sustain NC, here is another smart sustainability reference point. A recent White House report, Technology and the Future of Cities, calls for a City Web solution. I have summarized that White House definition of a City Web in this press release: http://www.sgdeep.com/avl-answers-white-house-call-for-a-city-web/. The White House City Web definition and the OSIC outline I created over two years ago match closely enough. OSIC is a sufficient City Web platform. This White House report mentions the term Smart City fourteen times. I recommend this report for those ready to innovate.

There is a large value proposition with improving our municipal operating systems. Personally I see many rationales for this Asheville ‘smarter city’ toolkit. I would agree there are many other innovative voices in Asheville than my own. What is needed is a unifying communications and collaboration system not necessary managed by government only.

OSIC Six Points 2

The OSIC technology as well as foundational processes and principles are sound, and I am willing towork with a council to go further. We have the Asheville Smart City Network.

City of Asheville’s Open City Hall has its merits and use, but there are too many OSIC – Open City Hall differences where OSIC offers more. Altogether open government is one of the Smart City principles, so many are seeking the same thing now.

So let’s take a look at Smart City thinking, in part deployed using a social project management service called Podio, in the context of what is called the “Duke Energy Partnership”. The Asheville-Buncombe Energy Innovation Task Force (EITF) represents this new partnership.

I also developed the Smart Grid, Distributed Energy, and Efficiency Program (Smart Grid DEEP) in 2006 here in Asheville. Smart Grid DEEP is an important step to a more modern, open public strategy mode. [See full size version of EITF – Smart Grid DEEP infographic PDF]

This video shows an OSIC on Podio intranet workspace: https://youtu.be/EjsJuy-JUmk?t=16m5s. This online mode of OSIC is just one part of better, real time information sharing and mutual aid value creation. Another otherwise valuable public trust initiative without making deeper use of the Digital Economy—in this case processing all the issues around WNC grid modernization in an optimized, fair way—would be a critical missed opportunity. In part the EITF is about forming new market opportunity. The Smart Cities and Towns precedent I describe through Sustain NC and Smart Grid DEEP represents the modern transparency and public trust program management that responsible funding sources desire.

Why would I do all this without working for government or getting a research grant? Because I knew we would need these solutions one day. By the way, I love in-person events and can help produce mixed online and face-to-face OSIC experiences.

With OSIC and proper support, one to two hundred EITF stakeholders and subject matter experts focused around grid modernization can inject solutions and information important to the entire state. No way is the EITF just about Asheville and Buncombe.

But it takes government leaders, universities, and other community leadership centers to adopt OSIC or all that capability goes unused. Funding sources otherwise attracted by a more open, democratizing, innovative precedent cannot be accessed.

Will at least twenty-five of our leaders try a new direction for tackling our greatest challenges? I challenge those interested in the Asheville Smart City Network to demonstrate just how smart, open, and innovative they are as strategists. If they are dedicated enough to this work, they will at minimum learn new things from the grid modernization documents I collected.


Grant Millin is an Asheville citizen, management consultant, and the Sustain NC developer: grant@innovograph.com.

Posted in Asheville, Climate Change Innovation, Innovation and Opportunity Ecosystem, Open Strategic Innovation for Communities, Poverty Innovation.