By Steven Pedigo and Alisa Pyszka.
When it comes to addressing the most urgent priorities of our urban communities — issues like job creation, brain gain, affordable housing, and racial equality — city governments often look to strategy as their first order of business. While this is a wise, albeit necessary, step for any urban development project, it is not responsible for keeping a vision alive. Rather than relying on strategy to solve a problem, cities require a tangible, detailed action plan that serves as a playbook for achieving their goals. Building on our on-the-ground work advising cities around the world, we’ve developed six key elements that make up a successful government action plan.
Designate a project manager: City governments must designate a highly engaged project manager at the outset of their strategy development. On a macro level, the project manager should be responsible for implementing an action plan, developing metrics for each action, and identifying any necessary resources. At the same time, he or she should know how to source data, accurately measure results, compare data and deliverables, and coordinate with stakeholders to confirm that action steps are being implemented.
Establish clear ownership: Governments must also identify a single partner or staff member as the lead stakeholder of a specific action. Consider the following scenario: A community outside of Austin decides to construct a major road for an industrial park in hopes of landing a deal with a budding clean energy company. But, unless they identify a clear stakeholder who can guarantee that the project will be designated, funded, and constructed on a capital improvement program, their strategy will never be realized. While the stakeholder need not perform this task directly, he or she is ultimately responsible for ensuring that it gets done.
Give yourself a reality check: A good action plan is grounded in market reality. While many cities have expressed interest in developing large-scale innovation districts, this strategy is only wise if a local university or developer with widespread resources buys into the project. For cities without these resources, a more appropriate way to attract talent is to create meet-up and networking opportunities for local innovators and entrepreneurs. In the wake of the recession, for instance, the city of Portland supported its nascent software industry by developing an ad-hoc co-working space in vacant creative offices, establishing a culture of innovation with minimal investment or risk.