Preceding our President’s Conference in England’s very own Venice, i.e Birmingham (56kkms of canals), this year’s annual conference of Socitm’s Major Cities of Europe (MCE) partner took place in Venice (42kms of canals). Hosted and organised together with the Municipality of Venice, the Cà Foscari University and VENIS S.p.A. at the Cà Foscari Economic Campus, the overarching theme of the conference was “Channelling Change – Digital cities in a changing world – Explore more, Discover more, Create more”.
Close to 350 delegates came from 20 countries to share their experiences, including our own Socitm representatives.
Sandra Taylor and Nadira Hussain shared the many achievements from Socitm’s unfolding Leadership, Diversity and Skills Programme and some of the extraordinary testimonies from our Leadership Academy. Nadira also had the opportunity to chair a panel discussion titled ‘Digital Transformation: The Leadership Paradox’; sharing experiences as to how we can improve the adoption more widely of good digital government practice. The point of reference being we can all think of cities who are said to be “leading” in these areas, but few who can be said to be following that lead – in which case, is there true leadership?
Martin Ferguson gave an enthusiastic and thought-provoking contribution, drawing upon UK experience, to a session entitled: The Moral Maze – the role of cities in avoiding a digital dystopia.
The conference was a unique opportunity to:
- interact and exchange directly with other European municipalities in a non-commercial environment
- discuss about the real challenges that municipalities currently deal about digitization
- test ideas with ‘digital leaders’ from cities across Europe
- understand how to involve citizens in designing and achieving better outcomes
- see how to use data and information more effectively
- hear the truth, not the spin
- be informed, challenged, and involved.
The topics for the different sessions of the conference included:
- Cities as service hubs: Citizen at the centre – Local governments become integrated service providers and partner to provide citizens services with other local public and private players.
- New and Emerging Technologies: How to ensure that innovative technologies add value to the lives of the citizens? How to leverage Blockchain, Artificial Intelligence and other emerging technologies?
- The Moral Maze: How local governments ensure that the use of technology is ethical and that citizens’ participative initiatives through social media are managed in an ethical and protected way?
- Troubled Projects – Good Procurement: How procurement decisions are taken and how solutions or technologies are selected to be the right foundations? How to manage troubled projects? How to take the right decisions and to persuade the organisation?
- Changing roles, change management and digital transformation: to face the dangerous chasm between the existing managerial and professional skills and the new required skills and abilities.
- World Café: On the second day the programme included the World Café. Several topics arising from the conference programme were debated at many different discussion tables. The discussions will be collated into a final report.
These conference sessions and future workshops provide valuable material for our own Socitm Inform research programme – evidence of this is in resources generated from the most recent workshop on leveraging data:
For anyone who may be interested, membership of MCE is open to all municipalities and provides a unique opportunity to gain fresh perspectives on the contemporary issues facing digital leaders in their many diverse places.
Next year’s conference, which is free to attend for all MCE members, will be in Larissa, Greece 27-29 May 2020
By Sandra Taylor, Nadira Hussain and Martin Ferguson.