Gotham Innovation Greenhouse: 2nd Meeting On New Ideas

Last Tuesday, June 19, the collaborators of the Gotham Innovation Greenhouse met at the WHITE BOX gallery on Broome Street in NYC.

These were the innovative proposals that were presented and discussed:

Dorothy Nash presented a project to retrieve and extend translation software developed for Haitian Creole after the quake in 2010, and develop the tools further to provide services for Brooklyn’s Haitian Diaspora community and their relatives in-country.

Dana Karwas presented BLDG BLOK (, an app to socialize and identify the history of the world around a person.  As a modern cartographic tool, it aggregates unique data sets to tell the story of a particular place. The maps explore the confluence of architecture, landscape, literature, news, cultural and social history, film/tv, and future visions for the cityscape. She and her co-founder hope that the connections that are sparked will inspire new thinking and ideas that could change the world.

Andres Fortino presented CREDS, an idea for a central repository of educational and other credentials that a person needs during the vetting process for a job.

David Turnbull presented his idea for an East River Think-Place, a blended-reality public construction with an initial emphasis on soccer as a tool of engagement.

There was also discussion about next ideas and expanding the current group of GIG collaborators. 

If you have an interest in participating, either in New York or virtually, please contact me at

More information about GIG can be found at http://www.gothaminnovationgreenhouse/wordpress.

© 2012 Norman Jacknis


21st Century Spaces and Experiences In The New American City

A few days ago at the 80th Annual Meeting of the @USMayors, I was asked to elaborate, for its Council for A New American City, on one part of the future-oriented economic growth strategy I have developed for them – the blending of physical and virtual space to create new destinations and experiences that will attract and retain people in this century.

These ideas are intended to help a city remain vital in a future world where people can live anywhere. (See earlier posts if you want more background on the technology and socio-economic trends that are creating this future world.)

I described blended spaces for working, shopping and, in general, living in an urban area.  First, cities need to enable new, more informal workspaces in which most people will earn a living in the future.  These can be in formal co-working spaces or in homes.  But they might also be in hotel lobbies or in parks (like Bryant Park in New York City that is equipped not only with Wi-Fi, but also electrical outlets along the edge of the grass for when your laptop needs recharging).

Second, cities should enable new virtual shopping options, which might be part of transportation systems, on the street, or in any public space where many people go by (and could buy).  The deployment of virtual shopping has direct economic benefit to the city government because it can increase sales tax revenues, increase revenues from advertising in public spaces (like bus stops) and even allow the city to get a piece of the sales transaction that occurs in its facilities.

And, at least until it becomes more common, virtual shopping can provide people an exhilarating “experience” that adds to the quality of life in a city.

Beyond shopping, I gave several examples of how blended virtual/physical space can improve quality of life – how it can provide a “wow” factor for a city.  For example, the mayors were intrigued by 3D projections on buildings.  I referred, for example, to how Chattanooga could project on downtown walls or streets what was going on in its large freshwater aquarium at night when the aquarium is closed.

I also reminded the mayors that quality of life includes the experience of being a citizen in a city.  That experience goes beyond merely getting city services on the web, but includes active citizen engagement in the co-creation of public policy and co-production of public services.

Finally, I noted that any city can implement at least one of the ideas I presented, without a big capital project.  Compared to lots of other projects, these had little cost – and sometimes no cost at all to the city government.  So the final guidance was: go ahead & experiment!

If you’re interested in getting a copy of the whole presentation, please feel free to contact me (

© 2012 Norman Jacknis


How Intelligent Communities Get Fit For The Future Innovation Economy

I had the honor of making the keynote speech at the Intelligent Community Forum’s Annual Summit, where the Top 7 most advanced cities/regions in the world competed to be designated the world’s best.  For the first time in ten years, an American city won – Riverside, California.  Congratulations to Mayor Ron Loveridge and CIO Steve Reneker!

So what can you tell people who already are ahead of the competition?  You tell them how they can step up their game even more and get fit for the future innovation economy.

The key points were:

  • Plan for the future way that most people will earn a living.  This means recognizing the shift to tangible services, work from home and other informal work spaces, etc.
  • Offer a video/collaboration platform for innovation, which means building both physical/communications and human infrastructure.  Innovation is a result of collaboration and the free flow of ideas, not the work of some isolated genius.  Today’s Internet enables creative people to engage with each other despite great distances and each community should ensure that its residents have the tools to do so.  I pointed out that the best university research all of the world is available through the Internet and that their communities may already have entrepreneurs with the skills to commercialize research, so before they try to recreate a Stanford or Princeton University, they should make sure that that local entrepreneurs have access to academic research elsewhere.
  • Link to a global ecosystem for dependable economic growth.  I suggested they establish an entrepreneurial extension service, modeled on the US Agriculture Extension Service which greatly enhanced American agricultural productivity.  Similarly, I recommended that the public libraries should be tasked to organize the vast amount of free training and courses online in a range of subjects from business knowledge for entrepreneurs to technical skills – and become the corporate reference library for those without big corporate resources.  
  • Provide people a quality “experience” so they stay.  I noted first that quality of life includes the citizen experience, so residents need to be engaged in community decision making and even the delivery of public services.  As the physical and virtual worlds will become intertwined, make new destinations in a city that blend the virtual and physical.  I gave several examples of how this is already being done around the world.  
  • Shift some investments from the old approach to this new world.  Take some of the money spent on incentives for large companies and shift it to strategies that help entrepreneurs and individual residents flourish in a global economy.

The full presentation and video will be on the ICF website in a few days and I’ll let you know the exact web address as soon as its there.

© 2012 Norman Jacknis


The Shrinking Office

Last week, as part of its regular reporting on the real estate market, the New York Times had an interesting article, entitled “More Room For Ideas In A Smaller Office”.See

The article highlights the greater collaboration and innovation that have resulted from the use of smaller, less traditional office space.

I do have the sense, though, that these newly discovered desirable features amount, in part, to making a virtue of necessity.

The Great Recession of 2008 made people think that the vacancy rates of commercial office space was a reflection of the poor condition of the economy.  But the reduction in the need for traditional office space has been a trend for a while.

Not mentioned in the Times was a recent survey by Jones Lang LaSalle, a major real estate firm. A report about that had these findings, as well:

  • 40% of IBM employees work from a location other than an office at IBM.  [The same is true for Cisco and many other organizations, not only IT companies, but those in any kind of intangible service.  Indeed the TImes article featured 22squared, an Atlanta advertising agency.]
  • The current rule of thumb concerning office space per employee – 200 square feet per employee – is shrinking to just 50 square feet by 2015.
  • As early evidence of the trend, office tenants renewing their lease nowadays often cut their total space by around 10%-30%.

In past blogs, I’ve pointed out how, traditionally, city plans and taxes have heavily depended upon office space.  Commercial real estate has been the goose that has laid the golden eggs for local governments around the US.

The trend of reduced space per employee will clearly have consequences for those cities that do not start shifting their assumptions about the way the economy will increasingly work.  

Those cities will also find their own financial success increasingly misaligned with the financial success of their residents, who are quickly adapting to the new work environment in the home and other places that don’t look like offices.  That is not a good situations for mayors and other elected officials.

© 2012 Norman Jacknis