In Amsterdam, city officials are working on an upcoming project that has been described as an Airbnb for municipal buildings. The pilot would allow residents to sign up and use city-owned, underused meeting rooms for various functions. To ensure that there would be no competition with companies that provide office space, usage would be limited to groups working for a social purpose. Depending upon the success of the project, the city may also offer idle cars and tools for citizens to borrow.
Increasingly, universities are partnering with struggling schools, leading to benefits for both. For some schools, these partnerships can give them more freedom in determining how their schools are run, including teacher hiring and choice of curriculum. Universities can use the schools as proving grounds for student teachers, as well as areas where academics can conduct research. Despite these benefits, challenges still abound as these new types of collaborations with school districts and the communities they serve are worked out.
New York City’s Fire Department has found a way to cut down on pollution without curtailing its ability to act in the event of an emergency. The department is installing compact pedestals on city sidewalks that will keep ambulances connected to power (for on-board communications and refrigeration systems) without the need to keep engines running, decreasing air and noise pollution. The pedestals also include mechanisms to help ambulance drivers locate working kiosks, self-diagnose problems, and track pollution mitigation.
Policymakers continue to refine behavioral science approaches to help solve municipal problems through testing to tweak and improve government programs. San José, California, recently used behavioral science to combat illegal dumping. With the help of the Behavioural Insights Team (originally a UK government organization) through Bloomberg Philanthropies’ What Works Cities initiative and community partners, the city assessed the problem, identified solutions, and maximized outreach to collect over 320 tons of dumped materials. Other cities have also taken a similar approach. For example, officials in Denver used three trials to improve its online tax portal and saw an increase in online business filings of 67 percent.
The Fire Department of Syracuse, New York, with assistance from a predictive computer algorithm, will determine which houses in the city are most likely to be without working smoke detectors and work to get them installed. Working smoke detectors are often the difference between life and death, and officials want to make sure they can use statistical data about the homes and its occupants to pinpoint those homes that are more likely to catch fire and less likely to have a smoke detector. The city is still determining the best way to notify homes in at-risk areas.
For the past several years, the Seattle/King County Health Care for Homeless Network and the University of Washington’s Harborview Medical Center has been running what is considered the first national program that sends mobile teams to provide palliative care to homeless people facing terminal illness. Funded by a federal grant through 2017, the program aims to reduce unnecessary or unwanted end-of-life care and to give homeless people a say in the process. Since its inception in 2014, it has sought out over 100 seriously ill men and women in the Seattle area, tracking them down at shelters, drop-in clinics, tents under bridges, and parked cars. The team travels by bus and looks to connect them with medical care, help them evaluate complicated treatment options, and accompany them as they pass away. Patients enrolled in the program have also reduced hospital stays and emergency room visits.