Smarter New York City

How Cities Innovate

Innovation is often presented as being in the exclusive domain of the private sector. Yet despite widespread perceptions of public-sector inefficiency, government agencies have much to teach us about how technological and social advances occur. Improving governance at the municipal level is critical to the future of the twenty-first-century city, from environmental sustainability to education, economic development, public health, and beyond. In this age of acceleration and massive migration of people into cities around the world, this book explains how innovation from within city agencies and administrations makes urban systems smarter and shapes life in New York City.

Using a series of case studies, Smarter New York City describes the drivers and constraints behind urban innovation, including leadership and organization; networks and interagency collaboration; institutional context; technology and real-time data collection; responsiveness and decision making; and results and impact. Cases include residential organic-waste collection, an NYPD program that identifies the sound of gunshots in real time, and the Vision Zero attempt to end traffic casualties, among others. Challenging the usefulness of a tech-centric view of urban innovation, Smarter New York City brings together a multidisciplinary and integrated perspective to imagine new possibilities from within city agencies, with practical lessons for city officials, urban planners, policy makers, civil society, and potential private-sector partners.

Read more here.

Smarter Cities

Our Goal

To help local governments, city administrations and municipalities:

  • Map their own administration innovation ecosystem.
  • Identify development opportunities in priority areas for administrations and citizens.
  • Develop innovation agendas and road-maps based on existing internal innovation drivers.
  • Build smarter public-private partnerships and new funding mechanisms based on incremental development and quick wins.
  • Make their programs and cities smarter places to live.

To help urban tech companies:

  • Design and implement co-development innovation strategies with local governments, city administrations and municipalities
  • Design and implement impact assessment systems.

How do we achieve our goal 

Phase 1: Innovation Mapping

We work with local governments, city administrations and municipalities to study and document how innovation from within public structures and agencies are making urban systems smarter and shaping people’s lives, how these structures have been adapting to and adopting new data and technology innovations to make their management systems more inclusive and responsive to decision making and citizens, their success, failures and replicability.

See example: NYC Innovation Cluster 

Phase 2: Innovation Roadmaps

We produce case studies and innovation roadmaps to help local governments, city administrations and municipalities reimagine new possibilities for their services and programs, for their public-private partnerships and for co-development with the private sector, academia, civil society and neighboring cities and municipalities.

See example: Open Data and Small Business Development

See example: Institutionalizing Analytic Excellence 

Phase 3: Smarter Programs

We apply our Becoming Smarter Framework (BSF) to help local governments, city administrations and municipalities, as well as their public structures and agencies, become smarter.

  • Leadership
  • Legislation
  • Organizational structure
  • Networks
  • Technology
  • Data
  • Results

See example: The Circular City Public-Private Partnership for New Lab

See example: Circular City Research Program


Current initiatives include single-city program with New York City (U.S.), multiple-city program with Lisboa, Cascais, Fundacao and Mafra (Portugal) and city-cluster program in the Pearl River Delta (China) (in design phase).

manhattan2 portugal china

Capacity Development

As part of the Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs, the Master of Public Administration in Development Practice (MPA-DP), which André Corrêa d’Almeida co-directs, develops educational curriculum and programs on sustainable development and development practice for both grad level and executive training programs. The MPA-DP collaborates with different schools on and off Columbia University campus to offer knowledge and skills based educational opportunities on some of the most pressing development challenges of our times. Currently, we work in the U.S., China, Kazakhstan and Jordan. Some of these courses include:

Development Practice Lab (DP-Lab)

This course, designed and led by André Corrêa d’Almeida, methodically delivers hands-on training for high priority skills in the development field and integrates knowledge across different disciplines. The DP-Lab is a two-semester requirement in the first-year curriculum and it consists of 16 labs taught with the participation of guest practitioners from the field. For more information click here.

China Sustainability Program

Jordan Capacity Building Program

Kazakhstan Sustainable Development Program

Professional Field Placements

These three months or more on-the-job trainings, led by Kendal Stewart, are designed to provide students with practical work experience in sustainable development practice and a holistic learning experience, deeply grounded in the local environment. The program management team curates unique consultancy-type opportunities, with established partner organizations based on their needs and works. Click the following links from more information on field placements and profiles of our students in action.

Global Refugee Response: Policy and Practice

This is a course designed and led by André Corrêa d’Almeida to (a) create a graduate level learning opportunity in the field of refugee response with a focus on the Middle East and neighboring regions, (b) methodically deliver practical and multidisciplinary trainings for high priority skills in the field of refugee response, and (c) contextualize practice within the broader political and institutional setting in which response occurs or needs to occur. For more information click here.