Joseph Schilling, Interim Director of the Metropolitan Institute and Professor and Program Director of the Urban Affairs & Planning Program-Alexandria, partnered with Kermit Lind, retired Cleveland Marshall College of Law professor in the City of Newburgh, NY to head the launch of its new Strategic Code Enforcement Initiative. Both are law professors with extensive experience in helping cities rebound from near catastrophic conditions. Click here for more details.
Joe Schilling has been invited to speak at the 2012 National League of Cities (NLC) Congress of Cities and Exposition. The annual conference brings thousands of city officials together from across the country to share resources, learn new innovations and explore the challenges and opportunities facing cities today. This year’s conference is being held November 28 – December 1 in Boston, MA.
Schilling will be presenting at the “Comprehending Comprehensiveness: Getting Started with Sustainability” session, to be held on Friday, November 30th, at 9:00 am. As an expert on sustainability planning, Schilling will be sharing his insight and understanding of sustainability plans and sustainability frameworks for strategic policy planning with conference participants. At the session, Schilling will be joined by Jamie Kidwell, City of Ann Arbor, and Peter Brandom, City of Hillsboro. The workshop will focus on community-wide sustainability planning and strategies. Community-wide sustainability is difficult to define and is often less about the individual topics – energy, transportation, waste, or water – and more about the intersections and interactions among them. In this session you’ll hear about the tangled, complex, and dynamic world of community sustainability and identify strategies to approach and navigate through a planning process that sees the forest and the trees.
Additional conference programming will highlight three overarching strategies for cities: building sustainable communities, promoting strong local economies and strengthening neighborhoods and families. Each of the strategies will be explored through keynote addresses, workshops, peer networking sessions, mobile workshops, leadership training seminars, the City Showcase and the Exhibit Hall. For additional conference information and a detailed schedule visit: www.nlccongressofcities.org.
The National League of Cities is dedicated to helping city leaders build better communities. NLC is a resource and advocate for 19,000 cities, towns and villages, representing more than 218 million Americans.
The German Marshall Fund of the United States (GMF), Cleveland State University (CSU), and the Metropolitan Institute at Virginia Tech have launched the Strong Cities Strong Communities (SC2) Fellowship Program with the selection and placement of 17 fellows working to build local capacity in seven SC2 pilot communities: Chester, PA; Cleveland, OH; Detroit, MI; Fresno, CA; Memphis, TN; New Orleans, LA; and Youngstown, OH.
The fellows have varied backgrounds, ranging from planning and economic development to workforce development and program management. Over the next two years, they will work on a variety of high priority projects in each of the communities, including small business development, grant writing, vacant property management, and the creation of data-driven economic strategies. A full list of fellows and brief bios can be found here.
The full press release is available online here.
Joseph Schilling was recently interviewed on the Baltimore NPR-affiliate on the Vacants to Value program. The program focuses on selling the vacants in specific transitioning neighborhoods.
Listen to the whole story here.
Schilling speaks to the importance of community engagement when addressing vacant property concerns. The Metropolitan Institute hosts the Vacant Property Research Network, which shares information between researchers, practitioners, and the community.
MI’s Director, Kevin Desouza, outlines five guidelines to consider for Leveraging the Wisdom of Crowds through Participatory Platforms was published on Planetizen. The future of design and planning is certain to be around participatory platforms, designers and planners should embrace these platforms and leverage their potential towards designing smart(er) cities through open, inclusive, and collaborative approaches. Planners need to learn how to orchestrate participation on these platforms so as to arrive at plans that are representative of community needs and within scope, budget, and resource constraints. Failure to achieve this will result in plans that fall prey to the foolishness or the rowdiness of crowds. I outline five simple guidelines to consider. To read more, click here - LINK
We are starting a working paper series that will feature research being conducted at the Metropolitan Institute. Copies of working papers can be requested by sending us an email.
Emerging technologies are transforming government agencies and the nature of governance. In this paper, we outline how the US Census Bureau leveraged emerging technologies during the 2010 census. The US Census Bureau used technologies not only to complete the 2010 census under budget, but also deployed them innovatively to engage citizens through the design of viable participatory platforms. The Census Bureau also managed risks associated with using emerging technologies effectively. The 2010 Census campaign, led by Steven J. Jost, Associate Director for Communications, focused on increasing response rates and encouraging citizen participation through innovations in the communication process with citizens and the infusion of technology.
Kevin C. Desouza is the director of the Metropolitan Institute and an associate professor at the Center for Public Administration and Policy at Virginia Tech.
Akshay Bhagwatwar is a doctoral student in the Information Systems Department at the Kelley School of Business, Indiana University. His areas of research interest are Information Technology Service Management, Virtual Collaboration and Policy Informatics. For more information on his research work please visit www.akshayb.com.
My first semester as Director of the Metropolitan Institute at Virginia Tech (MI) is drawing to a close. Similar to my 60 day update, I would like to share with you selected achievements and strategic activities of the institute. The institute is now home to a number of blossoming research efforts, including a policy informatics network, expanding work on citizen engagement, critical looks at development patterns in distressed cities, and the local and global patterns of community resiliency.
Roundup on Grants and Proposals
We continue to diversify our funded research portfolio. Joe Schilling led the Metropolitan Institute’s effort to partner with the German Marshall Fund and Cleveland State to manage, mentor, and evaluate a new executive fellowship program as part of the Obama Administration’s Strong Cities, Strong Communities initiative which seeks to build capacity in six economically distressed cities—Cleveland, Detroit, Memphis, New Orleans, Fresno, and Chester, PA. Joe and his colleagues at Cleveland State will assess the impacts from the fellowship while mentoring roughly 30 professionals over a 3-year period. Maggie Cowell and I received a seed grant from the Institute for Society, Culture, and Environment to build a research program on designing resilient networks for local communities. Read more about the project here. We received an IBM Center for the Business of Government grant to study the role of citizen apps and its influence on governance. Read more about the project here. We are hoping to hear positive responses on several grant proposals we currently have under review.
New and Emerging Partnerships
An institute’s strategic alliances are one of its most valuable assets. Building winning partnerships takes time and effort, and the payoffs for both parties are not immediate. We have spent a great deal of time and effort to connect the Metropolitan Institute with our industry, non-profit, and government friends. We have formed a partnership with ACT for Alexandria, a community foundation dedicated to stimulating philanthropic giving on the local level within Alexandria, VA. The ACTion Alexandria project is a new citizen engagement platform with interactive tools to make it easier for residents to take an active role in addressing community problems. The institute will partner with Act for Alexandria and use the ACTion platform to design and test practices that encourage citizen participation using online tools. Read more on this project here. Tentative collaboration agreements are in place or being cultivated with a number of other organizations including the American Red Cross, the US Green Building Council, the International for City/County Managers Association (ICMA), and City and County of San Francisco, among others. Within Virginia Tech, we continue to work closely with our partners in the Northern Capital Region and Blacksburg on a number of collaborative efforts.
Please continue reading for updates on our work in Community Resiliency, Policy Informatics and exciting international outreach and our vision of the future.
It is time for me to catch my breath and take a few minutes to report on what we have been up to at the Metropolitan Institute. Depending on how you count, I have been working in my role as the Director of the Metropolitan Institute for about 60 days, or since June of 2011 (when I began serving on the President’s Long Range Planning Task Force). As I do not want to bore you with all the details of what we have been up to at the Metropolitan Institute, I will give you the CliffsNotes version:
- I have had the pleasure to meet with leaders across Virginia Tech. These leaders have included the President, Provost, several Vice Provosts and Vice Presidents, heads of academic units (e.g. Electrical Engineering, Management, etc), Development Officers, directors of research institutes, faculty, staff, and graduate students. During these meetings, I spent time listening to their thoughts about the future of Virginia Tech, their impressions of the Institute, their ideas on how to grow the Institute, and exploring avenues for collaboration.
- Joe Schilling (Associate Director of the Metropolitan Institute) and I have met with leaders from various organizations including, among others, the US Green Building Council, IBM Center for the Business of Government, and IBM Smarter Cities Program, to explore collaborative research relationships.
- We have done a lot of work to build a viable infrastructure for the Institute. The faculty of the School of Public and International Affairs have been open and receptive to the new vision for the Institute. For the first time, we now have seven fellows of the Institute (Ralph Buehler, Margaret Cowell, Matt Dull, Ralph P. Hall, Derek S. Hyra, Paul Knox, and Kris Wernstedt). The Institute will work to support these researchers as they collaborate on projects, outreach efforts, and preparation of grants. We look forward to welcoming even more faculty to the Institute. Much effort has gone into envisioning the future of the Institute. One outcome of this effort is that we now have six research themes that bring researchers, practitioners, and students together to solve the most pressing problems facing metropolitans. These research themes are: Megacities and the New Metropolis, Resilience, Sustainability, Policy Informatics, Transportation, and Urban Regeneration. We also have a new website. While we still have more to do in terms of setting up an infrastructure, we are off to a wonderful start.
- Of course, we have submitted grant proposals and journal papers for publication. We also have been active participants in conferences and workshops (e.g. Second Conference on Community Resiliency) and a number of outreach activities.
- The Institute launched the Policy Informatics Initiative, which is gaining momentum. We are starting a few collaborative research projects, planning a workshop, forming a book proposal, and exploring funding opportunities.
One of my favorite quotes is by my football idol, Pelé who noted “Enthusiasm is everything. It must be taut and vibrating like a guitar string.” In my role as the Director, I have to be enthusiastic. Being enthusiastic is easy when you are surrounded by good people who work hard and bring positive energy. My staff has been wonderful. They have welcomed me to the Institute, have bought into the new vision and strategy, and have supported me in all endeavors. They deserve a lot of credit for the things we have accomplished to date. I will continue to count on them as we take the Institute to greater heights.
I guarantee you that things are not going to slow down in the near future. We are hoping to develop new research collaborations, select visiting fellows and postdoctoral associates, submit several research proposals, and build mutually beneficial academic-industry partnerships. I am looking forward to my upcoming visit to the Blacksburg, the main campus of Virginia Tech, later this month. I will be briefing the Urban Affairs and Planning faculty about the Institute, meeting with leaders of the College of Architecture and Urban Studies, collaborating with researchers on proposals, and participating in meetings as part of the President’s Long Range Planning Task Force.
I want to thank all of you. You are sources of enthusiasm, counsel, and friendship. I thank you for your patience, as well as your generosity with time and resources. You have been vital sources of energy that I have drawn upon (and I will continue to do so).
Tomorrow I am off to Paris to give several talks at IÉSEG School of Management. One is on designing innovation programs and the other is on building a capacity for interdisciplinary research.
It is a privilege to introduce myself as the new director of the Metropolitan Institute at Virginia Tech. I look forward to growing the Metropolitan Institute in the rich history of the College of Architecture and Urban Studies, fueled by the dynamism of the School of Public and International Affairs. As we chart a new course for the Institute, I invite members of the Virginia Tech family (students, professors, and administrators) and past/future partner organizations from the Washington, DC metropolitan region and beyond, to visit our web site, review our upcoming work, and contact us as we explore new collaborations.
For the past decade, my intellectual curiosity has focused on designing more resilient and innovative organizations. Critical to this endeavor is understanding how information is managed within and beyond the organization’s borders. As part of my explorations, I have employed numerous research methodologies from behavioral to computational, and have collaborated with industry and academic partners across a range of disciplines from engineering to public administration and management.
A necessary reality of conducting my research was traveling to various parts of the globe to study organizations, the leaders and managers who were responsible for them, and the employees who supported their mission. Over the course of last five years, I have had the privilege of traveling to over 20 cities, including Mumbai, Madrid, Rome, Ljubljana, Johannesburg, Bangkok, London, and Prague. Observing and experiencing the diversity of metropolitan forms led me to consider the design and consequences of how information traversed urban systems across infrastructures, organizations, and social networks.
Urbanization is a major force of change in our world today and will impact the future of the planet on a number of dimensions from resiliency to sustainability and economic vitality. The need to become more effective and aware of the design and implementation of policies has never been more critical. Central to developing new and more effective models of urban policy are the needs to:
1. Innovate the policy setting process, making it more dynamic, inclusive, cost effective, and timely.
2. Leverage information through the deployment of computational systems, simulation platforms, and participatory platforms that allow for crowdsourcing of solutions to local problems
3. Facilitate multi-disciplinary and multi-stakeholder approaches to framing, studying, and solving, the most complex urban problems.
I envision the future of the Metropolitan Institute as an open collaborative platform that brings together diverse expertise to solve complex urban issues. The Metropolitan Institute will fold together the best and brightest in the fields of informatics, urban planning, international affairs, engineering, and public policy to forge a new set of solutions for today’s urbanizing world. The Metropolitan Institute is a space that is open for all of you to connect and collaborate.
In the near-term, I plan to meet with stakeholders across Virginia Tech and also community partners, industry, and government to listen to your ideas. I have been humbled by the warm welcomes I have received from the various scholars and leaders at Virginia Tech. An esteemed university like Virginia Tech has many friends in public and private organizations across the 50 states and the world beyond. I look forward to meeting with the many friends of the University and welcoming them to the Institute. I am excited to begin designing a new future for Metropolitan Institute.
I look forward to meeting with you and hearing your ideas.
Kevin C. Desouza, PhDDirector, Metropolitan Institute
Associate Professor, Center for Public Administration and Policy
School of Public and International Affairs
College of Architecture and Urban Studies