Megacities and large metropolitan areas around the world tend to get all of the credit for being leaders in innovation and technological change. Over the past several weeks, I have mainly focused my posts on these so-called “first-order” cities — places that are recognizable to most of the world’s population by city name alone. London. Rio de Janeiro. Barcelona. Shanghai. These are places that require no introduction and have rightly been recognized for their forward-thinking enterprise.
But many other smaller places have been participating in the movement towards becoming smarter, more sustainable, and better connected cities. Some of them are involved in this year’s Living Labs Global Awards. LLG’s own Sascha Haselmayer discusses the role that these small, smart cities can play in his article, “Technology and Participation Pay Dividends in Smaller Cities,” posted yesterday on EngagingCities.
When I think of these places getting involved in public service improvements and tech development, the first limitation that comes to mind is the bottom line. Smaller cities simply don’t have the budget to compete directly with their larger counterparts. But they do have the resources to collaborate with them, and this is where small cities have the potential to be highly influential.
Sant Cugat, a city of 80,000 located outside of Barcelona, provides an excellent example of how smaller hubs of innovation can collaborate with and support the work of a nearby major city and its surrounding region. Sant Cugat rose out of its financial troubles of the early 2000s and began to reinvent itself as a place of good public management, community engagement, and local innovation. Its Local Innovation Plan won a Living Labs Global Award in 2009 and presents an inspiring way to involve citizens in discussions of city planning and development. Sant Cugat has also collaborated with Barcelona to develop technologies and ideas to create more sustainable and resilient cities.
You can read more here about Sant Cugat and how small cities can help to promote and develop urban solutions.
~ Allison Bullock