I was privileged to be part of an Aspen Institute working group on regulation and the innovation economy. Aspen’s Center for Urban Innovation, headed by Jennifer Bradley, just launched a web site devoted to the topic. In incorporates a number of interesting case studies to learn from, including the Austin’s attempts to regulate Uber and Lyft, and attempts to launch to home cooked meal delivery platform Josephine in the Bay Area.
I also recorded some podcasts some people and businesses who were involved with the project. This included my conversation with Charley Wang at Josephine, which is both an inspiring and tragic story. And my discussion with Rhode Island public utilities department administrator Macky McCleary about their “innovation lanes” program.
Jennifer Bradley also recently penned an op-ed for Next City on the topic.
Many city governments in the U.S. and elsewhere are torn when it comes to innovation. On the one hand, constituents live in a world that increasingly demands flexibility, interaction, and iteration, and governments want to be seen as responsive to new ideas and services. On the other, the “move fast and break things” ethos of many technology companies seems wildly inappropriate when public health and safety are at stake. Cities are bound by regulatory processes developed decades ago and designed for predictability, stability, and protection—not for speed, ease, and invention. In addition, regulations have accumulated over time to respond to the urgent concerns of years or even decades ago, which might be irrelevant today.
The real work for city leaders today is to create not just new rules, but new ways of writing and adjusting regulations that better fit the dynamism and pace of change of cities themselves. Regulations are a big part of the city’s operating system, and, like an operating system, they should be data-informed, continually tweaked, and regularly refreshed to respond to bugs and new use cases.
Please do check out the project, because this is a very important emerging area for cities and states to get right.