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André Corrêa d’Almeida (ed.), Smarter New York City: How City Agencies Innovate

New York, Columbia University Press, 448 pp. - 2018
Chiara Lucchini
p. 231-232
Bibliographical reference

André Corrêa d’Almeida (ed.), Smarter New York City: How City Agencies Innovate, New York, Columbia University Press, 448 pp. - 2018, Paperback: - $ 30,00 - ISBN: 978-0231183758

Full text

1The book reports the outcomes and findings of a collective work brought about by the Smarter NYCitywide Research Group, where thirty scholars from twenty-two different research institutions and ten universities worked as a multidisciplinary team for three years, involving three hundred people, thirty city agencies and twenty private companies. A collection of twelve stories taking place in the city of New York between 1994 and present, it aims at depicting innovation residing in local public administration, questioning the idea that city agencies (public offices, city units and departments, etc.) are for the most part unmovable and ineffectual bureaucracies.

2The reasearch is not providing a (further, umpteenth, motionless) definition of what a “smart city” is, but proposes to explore “smartness” as a process, something contextual, incremental and locally based, closely related to a bottom-up and top-down duality. Overtaking most common idealized tech-centered concerns, the relationship between the multiple descriptions of smartness and how innovation takes place in cities is framed taking into account historical, institutional, organizational factors driving local development processes. Data and technology are then looked at within the broader city-administration ecosystem and in parallel with other equally internal and external innovation forces – institutional context, leadership and decision making, networks and collaboration, organizational structure and culture.

3“Smarter New York City” offers a wide and well articulated collection of cases, spanning from data architecture, organizational structure and technological infrastructure of a smart city, to the galaxy of services (for economy, energy, water, waste, air and health) and safety and mobility policies. Each study case is analized through a common framework, based upon three principles: 1. innovation as a process of adoption and adaptation, where problems and opportunities are firstly identifie, to then design programs and pilots, implement actions and finally evaluate the outcomes; 2. innovation drivers as embedded in the local institutional context, the organizational structure and culture, networking and cooperation skills, leadership and decision-making arenas, the capacity to measure results and impact; 3. the delivery of analytical tools to explain the complexity, non linearity, challenges, limitations and lesson learnt emerging from each program/pilot.

4A useful insight on how city departments and units are incubating innovation from within, the research strives to witness how government agencies can grow in flexibility and capacity to generate change – though it lacks a specific and dedicated analysis of the different roles played by these organizations from time to time (facilitator, promoter, etc.), and along the processes. Nevertheless, the book offers a rich reflection about what new ways of doing, seeing, analyzing, deciding and assessing are necessary in order to improve, advance, evolve and optimize a city. It explores the ways in which trial and error unfold within city agencies, looking at innovation from an evolutionary perspective, in which individual local agencies search for, select, test, and implement new solutions whose outcomes are not necessarily known or expected when they are launched, and are not necessarily succeeding at first.

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Bibliographical reference

Chiara Lucchini, “André Corrêa d’Almeida (ed.), Smarter New York City: How City Agencies InnovateArdeth, 5 | 2019, 231-232.

Electronic reference

Chiara Lucchini, “André Corrêa d’Almeida (ed.), Smarter New York City: How City Agencies InnovateArdeth [Online], 5 | 2019, Online since 01 May 2020, connection on 08 December 2023. URL:

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About the author

Chiara Lucchini

Urban Lab – Torino

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The text only may be used under licence CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. All other elements (illustrations, imported files) are “All rights reserved”, unless otherwise stated.

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