Community Engagement

Spark Growth Defines:

Community Engagement as empowering citizens to move from “feedback givers” to “solution generators” which takes a community from Good to Great!

Although Wikipedia defines community engagement as “a dynamic relational process that facilitates communication, interaction, involvement, and exchange between an organization and a community for a range of social and organizational outcomes,” very often it is perceived as an unnecessary barrier and waste of resources and ends up as simply a box to be checked off on a task list.


Google Sidewalk Labs Toronto

community engagement display

However, when neither government nor the private sector have the financial resources alone to solve the problems that we are facing as communities and solutions developed and deployed often face highly polarized and political landscapes, harnessing the power of a community’s citizens can produce significant benefits far exceeding the time and money necessary for actual engagement.

Collaborations are advantageous in breaking down silos between organizations. Those connections create resiliency and benefits that can include new insights, leveraged assets and resources, an organized and consistent public voice in government decision making, and cost savings via cooperative attitudes facilitating deployments and economies of scale.

Citizen-driven generative networks have never been more important than today where things change very quickly, and communication happens instantaneously.

Toward Smarter Communities

As the McKinsey Global Institute asks: “Imagine the communities of the future – will people navigate from place to place with ease, or will the streets be chaotic and gridlocked? Will communities be healthy and sustainable places to live, or will environmental problems spiral? Will communities be able to provide adequate housing, infrastructure, and services to keep up with the needs of surging populations?”

The journey to becoming a smarter community is about finding ways to make life better for the citizens who live there, based on each community’s authentic culture and heritage, where technology is used as an enabler for transformative change. While many communities are only beginning their journey whether the place is a town, city, county or metro area, and may not know where to begin and every community is different,  the challenges faced by leaders are often quite similar. Toward Smarter Communities brings together leaders to learn, share and grow together for this very reason.

The Toward Smarter Communities initiative is based on a platform proven by Spark Growth in collaboration with Dr. David Ricketts, chair of the Smart Cities Innovation Accelerator series and an Innovation Fellow at the Technology and Entrepreneurship Center at Harvard (TECH). These include invitation-only workshops designed to spark creativity in defining and refining initial strategies, bringing best practices and learnings from around the “Smart” world to the government leadership arena. For key decision-makers, they are an opportunity to learn from and co-design your “smarter community” strategy solutions with your peers, build relationships, and understand best practices for digital innovation as you work alongside expert industry partners.

The Florida Toward Smarter Communities launched in Tampa, Florida at the Synapse Innovation Summit in January 2019. Synapse Innovation Summit Looks “Toward Smarter Communities”

Becoming a “Smart City” is not about a specific technology, but rather about working smarter to meet the needs of the citizens who live in your community. In addition to the specially convened workshops for multiple municipality leaders, Toward Smarter Communities provides a framework and processes for individual communities to understand more clearly what being a smarter community means. An agile process develops collaborations while identifying the best courses of action and existing assets that could align with your efforts to more clearly determine where to begin in your community.  

With the wide breadth of possibilities in your Smart Cities projects – where do you even begin in your community? At Spark Growth, in response to our work with city leaders and industry partners we are excited about the Toward Smarter Communities initiative to help you navigate the complexity of your situation and focus on meeting big “smart” goals with high impact for your community without getting lost in the details or the sparkly aspects of the latest technology gadget.