It's very likely that in your city, both the local authorities and the local tech sector will be excited about smart technologies. They may or may not consult local voluntary sector organisations as they develop initiatives to integrate smart tech into your city. So how can you make sure that the people that you represent and their needs are recognised in your smart city?

  • Have a vision for the future of your community and understand the council's vision too. Find ways to collaborate towards that joint vision.
  • Work with institutions that can help you. Build partnerships with people in local government, education and business who can guide you and help your community articulate how smart tech may be deployed in your neighbourhood.
  • Don’t become a testbed for the sake of it. Question how potential smart solutions would (or would not!) make a lasting difference to people in your community.

Case Study

This case study explores a strategy for adopted by one local voluntary organisation which allowed it to have a say when its city went smart.

When a city becomes smart, projects are usually deployed in the city centre, in business parks and in selected neighbourhoods. The following case study will illustrate how neighbourhoods that are inadvertently left out do not have to wait and hope city authorities will include them some day. The Future Neighbourhood association, made up of representative organisations from across a Victorian town that was assimilated into a growing smart city, took the initiative and deliberately aligned their plans to the sustainable innovation agenda developing around them.

Rooted in history and place, but scanning the future horizon

The Future Neighbourhood association was founded in 2002, within the setting of an historic Victorian town embedded in a thriving new town. The association sought input of the community to ensure that the neighbourhood would be able to fully participate of the urban development taking place around it, while protecting and enhancing its own heritage.

The first major project undertaken by the neighbourhood organization was the development of a twenty year vision for the neighbourhood and the surrounding area. The project was guided by the following aims:

  1. Ensure that community voices are heard in the development of its neighbourhood through civic engagement with the local plans and those of the city council.
  2. Support the conservation and community understanding of the neighbourhood's unique heritage.
  3. Develop and support renewable energy and energy-consumption reduction projects.
  4. Help to develop sustainable transport in and from the neighbourhood
  5. Be a well-run organisation maximising social impact and minimising environmental impact.

Re-aligning the vision

We are entering a period of rapid change in our town which is bound to have an impact on the community and businesses... However, local organisations are determined to work together to ensure that local businesses thrive through this period of change and that the community are kept fully informed of what is happening.

The Future Neighbourhood association has periodically reviewed its vision. It has done this by engaging with the local community and city authorities to update its plans. They have also worked to ensure those plans are in line with the vision for the city and that the neighbourhood plans are respected by city planners. By 2012, the efforts of the association had paid off. Various innovative and sustainable pilot programmes were introduced. These included an electric car-club programme, a commercially successful electric bus service, and a programme for increased energy efficiency and renewable energy production.

How can smart work for our history, place and trajectory?

When a smart city programme was initiated in the city, the Future Neighbourhood association was well placed to participate. The managers of the smart city project were impressed by the successes of previous innovations in the area – indeed many had become demonstrators that were implemented elsewhere. As a result, the smart city team were strongly motivated to engage with Future Neighbourhood and integrate smart tech into the other projects already taking place.

In this way, the Future Neighbourhood association played a key role in changing the way the area was perceived in the city. It did this by having a long term vision aligned with the city’s broader agenda, and by engaging local residents, businesses and community groups. Once thought of as in need of regeneration, the neighbourhood became an area leading the way on issues of sustainability and community cohesion.