How We're Working with Different-Sized Cities Across the U.S.
2018 was an exciting year for ZenCity. We started off with one pioneering US-partner city, West Sacramento, California, and rounded out the year with well over two dozen. Our cities range from small towns, like Hooksett, New Hampshire, to some of the largest US cities, like San Antonio, Texas. As we kick off 2019 and plan for the year ahead, we decided to take a minute to deep-dive into how cities of all different population sizes are leveraging ZenCity’s capabilities.
It’s no surprise that cities of different sizes have different advantages and challenges. In the case of the smaller cities we work with, we find that the city managers and town administrators often have the privilege of lots of daily interactions and ways to interface personally with their residents. On the other hand, they often don’t have the capacity for data analytics. That’s where ZenCity comes in. With smaller populations, we’ve found that we provide the towns and cities we work with, with the necessary infrastructure to quantify and measure the impact of different town and city initiatives, in a way the city isn’t otherwise able to. Even cities of 10,000 residents produce vast amounts of unstructured data that is impossible to manage and extrapolate valuable information from without the right technology - especially without an in house team of data analysts. ZenCity becomes that “in house” team, serving this need which smaller cities often aren’t able to meet before they start working with us.
Mid-size cities are on the rise in the United States and growing cities means growing needs. One of the most common use cases we see in ZenCity’s midsize partner-cities is in bridging the gap between the city and its residents. Unlike smaller cities, where it’s common for many folks to know the city manager by name, mid-size cities face the challenge of the silent majority and connecting with the many residents who don’t attend the local council meeting or town hall. This is complicated by a capacity issue. In these cities, ZenCity provides a wider-perspective, tapping into city-wide discourse and feedback, and providing invaluable insight into what’s important to residents on a daily basis, and over time. Mid-size cities often use this information to think about policy and communications campaigns differently and to sharpen these to better respond to their residents' priorities.
The Big Kahunas
In big cities, there’s never a doubt that the data is there. Big cities often even already have some data analytics tools and sometimes even entire teams in place. However, most big cities silo their data by department and are limited as to the types of data they collect. ZenCity serves the needs of big cities in two primary ways. First, ZenCity provides one place for aggregating and layering all of the different data sets in a city. These datasets are enriched ten-fold when they can be looked at one next to the other, and when resident satisfaction is also being analyzed and quantified. Moreover, we’ve found that because of the data sources we leverage and thanks to our geolocation technology, big cities find ZenCity especially helpful in connecting to disenfranchised communities that are not otherwise being heard. ZenCity plays an imperative role in helping cities better understand which communities are not leveraging the city’s formal communication and service channels, and what they’re real needs and priorities are.
While every city is unique, the reality is that cities across the United States share many similar challenges. One of the powerful experiences we’ve had at ZenCity is seeing how cities of all sizes and in different corners of the country make the most of ZenCity’s AI and machine learning algorithms. It’s been fascinating to see the different ways we can parse the data we collect to identify patterns between cities of similar sizes, or with other shared characteristics. We look forward to a fruitful 2019 with many new partners and many new insights.