More Conversation for Better Innovation

Rapid iteration. Fast companies. High-growth. High-impact!

The world is moving faster every day, and with that comes extreme pressure to produce, to solve, to scale.

Some problems require urgency, no doubt. Is your work saving lives? Proceed with haste!

But some of us in the "urban innovation" space could stand to slow down -- ask more questions, listen more carefully, and be a bit more thoughtful before we rush to implement and execute new ideas -- especially when our work impacts communities that have already experienced profound change.

Remember urban renewal and suburban sprawl? Both exciting new "innovative" ideas at the time. Let's learn from our mistakes, shall we?

This desire for more consideration is part of the impetus behind the Urban Consulate, a new network of parlors for urban exchange. Thanks to a grant from the 2015 Knight Cities Challenge, we are piloting this experiment in three great American cities: Detroit, Philadelphia and New Orleans.

The premise here is that we urban-minded folk, wherever we may live, have an awful lot to learn from one another. Local issues are often more universal than they seem. We just need more occasions to share and compare.

Every year there are more fantastic conferences for cross-city learning -- including Forward Cities and Aspen Institute -- which is great. But not all of us have the opportunity to be in these rooms, leaving many to feel very alone in our local challenges, unaware of solutions being tried and tested elsewhere -- OR, conversely, a bit too quick to copy and replicate, without fully understanding the nuances of the work we're mimicking.

But here's the good news: Chances are, if you're trying to figure out something locally, you have a "twin" in another place chewing on the same issue, too. Creating space for these conversations is what we love to do.

Just think, what might be possible if we all saw each other as part of a larger urban tribe? A network of city comrades across the country, all passionate about the places we live. That's a force to be reckoned with! That's a great big urban family.

If you're hungry for that sense of solidarity, we invite you to plug-in at and follow stories of urban innovators online at Urban Innovation Exchange. And maybe just maybe, if we can each make a little more time for listening, learning and exchange, we'll become better agents of the truly inclusive and equitable urban change we all seek.