Smarter New York City: How City Agencies Innovate

Challenge / Opportunity
Screen Shot 2020-03-03 at 5.36.51 PM.png

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.


The lack of knowledge and understanding of how city administrations innovate is particularly critical when the 17th Sustainable Development Goals calls for global and local partnerships. How can city agencies be viewed as effective change actors and modern partnerships with the private sector be built if the role of municipal authorities in development continues to be so poorly understood and downplayed?

Intervention / Solution / Approach

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; real-time data collection, technology, AI/ML, and IoT; 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, policymakers, civil society, and potential private-sector partners.


Under the leadership of ARCx, this project counted with the collaboration of 28 researchers from nine different universities and 21 research centers who worked together, for three years, to create and offer several methodologies on how local administrations and their private partners can map existing innovation across agencies/units and build innovation agendas incrementally based on what exists. The robust conclusion of this book offers 13 critical strategies and recommendations that anchor a city on its quest to become smarter.

Click here for more information, table of content and book reviews by Jeffrey Sachs, Saskia Sassen, Daniel Doctoroff, David Dinkins and Jonathan Woetzel.