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By Robert Bell, John Jung, Louis Zacharilla: Intelligent Communities are those which have - whether through crisis or foresight - come to understand the enormous challenges of the Broadband Economy, and have taken conscious steps to create an economy capable of prospering in it. They are not necessarily big cities or famous technology hubs. They are located in developing nations as well as industrialized ones, suburbs as well as cities, the hinterland as well as the coast.

From One Community to a Smart Region, Part 2

December 4, 2012 By


clientuploads/Images/Scot Rourke 6-09.jpgBy Scot Rourke, CEO, OneCommunity and ICF's 2008 Visionary of the Year

In a previous Visionary Voices post, I shared some of the lessons we at OneCommunity and in Northeast Ohio have learned about leveraging technology to boost regional competitiveness. Continuing that discussion, I want to talk a bit about the critical success factors that must be addressed. In our particular case, I believe the single most important thing has been our emphasis on people/talent.

That talent has come in three important layers:  First, we’ve been blessed with access to terrific, accomplished, and dedicated tech entrepreneurs over the years.  Their rather fearless leadership, resilience, resourcefulness, and ability to navigate the vast array of social, political, economic and technological challenges cannot be overstated.

Second, we've had terrific board support. Consisting of the region's top public and private leaders, our board has shifted from primarily tech experts, to rainmakers, to possessing professional skills needed to help manage rapid growth, and now to leaders that can ensure broadband technologies are an important part of all of our regional visions. We call this our Smart Region Task Force.  Collectively this leadership’s been crucial to providing credibility, key relationships, and access to resources that’s helped us be successful.

Lastly, we also have been fortunate to have very engaged local leaders, whom I like to call “local champions.”  They are passionate civic leaders who already recognize that our future is largely driven by our ability to compete in the knowledge society.  So find them, engage them, and give them the microphone as you showcase your innovative demonstration projects and collectively illustrate to the community how IT can favorably change lives.  This lends credibility, draws important new audiences, and helps scale your initiative.

My favorite recent examples of tools that might help inspire your vision and articulation of your own Smart Region goals are OneCommunity's recent annual report, Kansas City's Google Playbook and Portland's Strategic Plan. Think of it truly as a campaign.  You need to market your vision, showcase your successes, and bring in speakers and awards for much-needed outside validation.  And again, it's about impacts, not the technology.

Ultimately, this is all about getting the leadership and infrastructure in place so that you can start the process of aligning and coordinating your regional systems.  Among friends, we call this process "social choreography."  Yes, at times it may appear like cat herding, and it can be equally as frustrating, but clearly it's the most worthwhile journey a community can take.  As is usually the case, the first movers that can get the vision, leadership, and infrastructure all aligned stand to enjoy the bulk of the rewards.  And then the laggards, well, they’ll work nearly as hard, however they won’t be fighting for greatness. Instead they’ll be looking for relevance in the increasingly competitive global economy.

Here in Cleveland, Ohio, USA, we have a great history of using our infrastructure for competitive advantage. We once generated enormous wealth as leaders in the Industrial Revolution many decades ago. While it took us awhile, we now recognize that the Internet is the “new electricity” to scale our 21st-century production lines.  We see that fiber-optic broadband now serves as our deep shipping lanes to enable collaboration and innovation not possible in many other knowledge hubs around the world.  And we have a Smart Region vision, which is aligning our leaders and plans, and coordinating our resources to ensure our leadership role once again in this next great economic shift – except this one, the Information Revolution, has only just begun. We're wired for success.

I am glad for this opportunity to share the lessons we have learned.  I hope you will return the favor by sharing your own hard-won wisdom with your colleagues in the Intelligent Community movement. 


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Intelligent Communities

About the Intelligent Community Forum
The Intelligent Community Forum is a think tank that studies the economic and social development of the 21st Century community. Whether in industrialized or developing nations, communities are challenged to create prosperity, stability and cultural meaning in a world where jobs, investment and knowledge increasingly depend on advances in communications. For the 21st Century community, connectivity is a double-edge sword: threatening established ways of life on the one hand, and offering powerful new tools to build prosperous, inclusive and sustainable economies on the other. ICF seeks to share the best practices of the world's Intelligent Communities in adapting to the demands of the Broadband Economy, in order to help communities everywhere find sustainable renewal and growth. More information can be found at www.intelligentcommunity.org.

Robert Bell
Robert Bell is co-founder of the Intelligent Community Forum, where he heads its research and content development activities. He is the author of ICF's pioneering study, Benchmarking the Intelligent Community, the annual Top Seven Intelligent Communities of the Year white papers and other research reports issued by the Forum, and of Broadband Economies: Creating the Community of the 21st Century. Mr. Bell has also authored articles in The Municipal Journal of Telecommunications Policy, IEDC Journal, Telecommunications, Asia-Pacific Satellite and Asian Communications; and has appeared in segments of ABC World News and The Discovery Channel. A frequent keynote speaker and moderator at municipal and telecom industry events, he has also led economic development missions and study tours to cities in Asia and the US.

John Jung
ICF co-founder John G. Jung originated the Intelligent Community concept and continues to serve as the Forum's leading visionary. Formerly President and CEO of the Greater Toronto Marketing Alliance and Calgary Economic Development Authority, he is a registered professional urban planner, urban designer and economic developer. He leads regular international business missions to US, European, Asian, Indian and Australian cities, and originated the ICF Immersion Lab program. John is a regular speaker at universities and conferences and serves as an advisor to regional and national leaders on Intelligent Community development. The author of numerous articles in planning and economic development journals, he has received global and Toronto-based awards for his work in collaboration and strategic development and sits on numerous task forces and international advisory boards.

Louis Zacharilla
ICF co-founder Louis Zacharilla is the creator and presenter of the annual Smart21, Top Seven and Intelligent Community Awards and oversees ICF's media communications and development programs. He is a frequent keynote and motivational speaker and panelist, addressing audiences of tech, academic and community leaders around the world, and writes extensively for publications including American City & County, Continental Airline's in-flight magazine and Municipal World. His frequent appearances in the electronic media have included both television and radio in South Korea, China and Canada. He has served as an adjunct professor at Fordham University in New York and is a Guest Lecturer at Polytechnic University's Distinguished Speaker Series. He holds a Masters Degree from the University of Notre Dame.