Data: Smart Cities
New tools offer unprecedented opportunities for local government to make better decisions, even as citizens have vastly expanded resources to engage their leadership. What are the most impactful ways in which big data, machine learning, and sensor technology are fostering justice and opportunity in small cities today, and what are the perils associated with this new age of connectivity and information?
Design: Industry and Makers
In the past 20 years, America has shed 28 percent of its manufacturing jobs, but the decline of employment isn’t the whole story. In terms of output, U.S. manufacturing has grown over the past three decades, and with technologies such as 3D printing, it has become easier than ever for small and mid-sized firms to participate in global markets. What do these trends mean for small cities, and how can cities support makers and manufacturers in their midst?
Energy: Climate and Adaptation
It has been a terrifying year for natural disasters, from wildfires to hurricanes, and we have not yet reached “the new normal” defined by global warming. Can cities make a dent in this international challenge? What can they do to mitigate the impact?
Food: Opportunity and Impact
The 21.5 million workers in the food system make up the largest employment sector in the United States. As interest in artisan and local food continues to grow, can this small business approach to food production promote middle-class job creation and intergenerational wealth? Do existing guidelines for how work in food production and service is rewarded help or hurt local entrepreneurs?
Health: The Community Hospital
As employers, innovators, and healers, health systems anchor communities. What is the role of the modern hospital today, and what role should cities have in setting priorities for these institutions?
Investment: The Startup Ecosystem
New firm creation is at a fifty year low in the United States, due in part to the concentration of lending into established businesses and of venture capital into a few square miles of real estate in California and New York. Can small cities combine new tools and traditional institutions to buck the trend?
Media: History and Identity
How do cities foster a distinctiveness of place? From Shaker furniture to Delta blues, American regions and localities have long been a rich with cultural capital, but the “feel” of a small city has more recently been defined by national franchises on the one hand, and aspirations for coastal lifestyles on the other. By embracing preservation, native materials, folkways, and architectural idiosyncrasies, how can cities cultivate unique and inclusive identities in the 21st century?
Social: The Future of Federalism
In recent years, cities have stepped forward to lead national and international innovation in areas such as gun control, paid family leave, and climate change. At the same time, state legislatures have more aggressively deployed their powers of pre-emption to nullify city ordinances. These conflicts call into question dynamics of American federalism. What are the different sides of this issue, and how can cities lead within the law?