Last month, Tina and I attended the first Behavioral Cities Summit organized by the Kahneman-Treisman Center for Behavioral Science & Public Policy at Princeton University. The Center hosted representatives of five cities committed to the use of behavioral science to improve city government.
No shiny presentations to share
The event was different from many conferences in that there were few project case studies and little self-congratulation. Rather, the Summit was built around frank discussion of what had and hadn’t worked for each team: from day-to-day operating models to managing external partnerships. Our shared hope was that the connections made during that day would form the basis of a network of practitioners who could share learning across our different cities.
I was most interested in learning how other cities had scaled their work. New York and Chicago have embedded teams from Ideas42, a leading non-profit design and consulting firm in the field. GovLabPHL has pursued a strategy of partnership with local academic institutions, bringing the insights of expert researchers to the way that that the City of Philadelphia communicates with its residents. In a time of significant budget pressure for the City of Seattle, we believe that the use of behavioral science could improve the effectiveness and efficiency of the City’s work across many domains, and it was inspiring to see other cities deploying this expertise to such ends.
Expanding the amount of technical expertise available to a city government is only half the story. The inspiration for each of our projects came from our colleagues within the City of Seattle; people who think daily about how to improve the way that the City works and communicates. Our job is to bring those ideas to life. Next year, I want to make sure that we reach more teams in more departments to explore how we could help them achieve their goals.
So what will be different? As we plan for next year, we are going to explore options for scaling our work; bringing more external expertise to the City and engaging more of our colleagues. We will make it easier to engage with our team and share ideas. As we develop these approaches, we will share them on this blog. Let us know if you have any ideas!