It’s one thing designing and building a city to be sustainable, and another to then maintain it through the years to truly sustain it. While this may be seen as mostly the government’s job, most people would probably agree that it can be very inefficient and costly. At the intersection of tech startups and civic organizations is a new frontier: civic accelerators. Government recognizes that the old way of trying to sort through thousands of forms and make decisions based on data that’s only available on paper is too slow in this day and age. Using technology, government can cut costs of sorting through everything manually and provide the services the taxpayers need to make the city run better.
The Points of Light Accelerator Program picks a few startups every spring and fall that have some civic mission to connect people and inspire change. They provide mentoring in their accelerator models and a $50,000 investment to the two most promising ventures to get them going in the right direction.
Revelstone is one of those companies that participated in the accelerator program. Their goal is to provide citizens with the power of data, all compiled and transparent so that city decisions can be made based on data, not politics. This helps people understand what is truly going on in their city, using analytics to make informed plans. Another startup by the name of Recovers organizes disaster relief by letting you search by community and see what efforts are being made. Organizations post about what they need and residents can respond and volunteer, and on the other hand residents can request help or offer their time and organizations get in touch with them to coordinate relief. After Hurricane Sandy, 30,000 locals signed up through the app to volunteer or donate items to local organizations. Last spring, one of the tech platforms in the running for the accelerator program is InvestNextDoor, which connects small businesses with local investors to help grow the local economy.
As Christopher Alexander explains in “A City is not a Tree,” communities need to go beyond their design. Administrative and executive roles may branch out like a tree, but ad hoc lines extend even beyond that based on who is interested in finding solutions, and these civic accelerators enable the community to participate in making cities sustainable too.