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Sharing Cities – the Importance of Values and Behaviours in amongst the Science and Process of Programme Delivery

Last week, we launched our H2020 Smart Cities and Communities Programme, “Sharing Cities”.  The two day event brought together 70 people, from 30 partner organisations, 6 countries, all working in splendid harmony across 8 highly connected work packages – well that’s the plan, eventually.  With a desire to do things differently (representatives of the European Commission and INEA watching on remarked that they had never seen a launch event like it) to achieve very obvious benefits in our communities, this was an exercise in organisation and group psychology.

Given the complexity and length of the programme (3 years in delivery; a further 2 of evaluation), we decided that a session on values and behaviours was the order of the day.  To some, this might be an easily dismissed frippery; ornate dressing on the less glamorous and oil stained ‘programme delivery’ overalls.  As programme director though, I see values and behaviours, supported by strong communications, as key contributing success factors in our programme.  So, my thoughts on what these should be:

  1. We shall continue to be different. We have laid down 10 really ambitious goals, particularly with regard to growing a genuine collaborative movement of cities and developing business models.  These require us, whilst paying heed to EC programme approaches, to constantly consider how we can do things differently.  When we need to sprint, be agile, to step outside of programme orthodoxy, we will ask for permission and then act with purpose.
  2. At the core of this is ‘perspicacity’. One of my all-time favourite words, encapsulating many things.  But in short, all of us need to be that special mix of dogged in our determination to pursue the goals, and then also energetic in our pursuit of opportunities we are smart enough to recognise in the first place.
  3. On this point, we connect widely, chose wisely, and steal with pride. There are myriad initiatives out there.  Again, we need to understand which ones connect into our programme to mutual advantage.  We are already starting to do this having identified some in our bid.  We must now add to these and make direct contacts to ensure value-adding collaboration. (CityKeys, Ready4SmartCities, Urban Platform & Humble Lamppost work streams in the European Innovation Partnerships; and more besides).
  4. We are doing this for Europe. Of course, we all expect the grant award from the Commission to translate into improvements in our own districts and cities, but the scale-up element of ‘Sharing Cities’, and the need to grow investment appetite so that cities small, medium and large across Europe can benefit from our innovation.  Success in these differentiating elements of our bid is needed to turn the lock in the door that separates the ‘demonstrator’ room from the much more appealing and rewarding surroundings of the ‘market readiness’ room.
  5. We communicate openly and honestly. Of course, a no-brainer.  But we are now at the stage when we are turning the (relative) poetry of the bid into the prose of delivery.  In these crucial early stages, in which many key dependencies need to be established, updating formally and informally is vital.  If you have something to say, do not keep it inside.  More negatively put, if we do not communicate around behaviours and values we see in others, they will remain issues across the programme lifetime.
  6. We communicate to encourage engagement with the rest of the world. We could live within the programme.  I genuinely believe in open collaboration built on communications.  I want to see volunteer bloggers updating on progress in WPs.  I want the @CitiesSharing twitter feed to be alive with content and news. I want the ‘Sharing Cities’ website to be a modern day treasure trove; a beacon of smart city value.  The more you communicate; the less you hear of me!      
  7. Our follower cities are more ‘fellow’ cities. It was obvious from our time in Brussels that Bordeaux, Burgas and Warsaw have much to offer the programme. We are now much better placed to work out how they will validate and implement the programme solutions and inject their own ingenuity into our work.     

So there we are.  On the basis that human beings remember no more than seven and dare I say it, those less inclined to be seduced by this sort of approach will recall fewer, I think they are the basis of a successful work programme.  Next time, I suggest we have a blogger other than yours truly to explain how the science of programme delivery compliments the above…