Episode 3.04 – Barb Swartzentruber – ED of Smart Cities Office, City of Guelph

Barbara Swartzentruber is currently the Executive Director of the Smart Cities Office at the City of Guelph. As winners’ of the Canada’s Smart City Challenge, the City and County of Wellington, are collaborating with public and private sector partners to create a data and technology enabled Circular Food Economy. Building on the principles of a circular economy and leveraging the power of data and technology, they are re-imagining a sustainable regional food system that increases access to healthy nutritious food for all, prevents food loss and waste and creates circular businesses for a regenerative economy.

Barbara is a public sector innovator with work at the local, provincial and national levels in the areas of public policy, smart cities, citizen engagement, digital economy, rural broadband, open government, data and technology. She has taught public policy, community development and advocacy at several Canadian universities. She was appointed to the Council of Canadian Academies Expert Panel on the Circular Economy in Canada.

You can learn more at Our Food Future.


Balancing Smart Cities and City/County Difference in Regional Partnership

You can listen to the full episode Thursday at 7pm

To frame the conversation below are some topic areas. The first half of the show is standardized (more or less) with each guest talking through these themes.

  • First we begin with you, the guest, allow you to introduce yourself as the guest and share your story. Who are you? How did you end up ED of Smart Cities in the City of Guelph? 
  • Describe the City of Guelph as a whole. Paint a picture for someone who has not been to your community before or has only seen it as a sign on the side of 401. 
    • At a high level, what is working, and what is not, what are you building towards?
  • How does it fit into the local region (Wellington County)?. Your roll oversee a project for both Guelph and Wellington County (from my understanding) how do you balance those competing needs/wants?
  • Finally, how does your community fit into SW Ontario as a whole? 

The second part of the show we dig into more specific discussions. 

  • For those listening who may not know, what is the role of municipal administration? Can the administration advocate for the “right decision”? Do you put out materials impartially, or if your (and other admin) expert opinion is that X is the best solution do you advocate for that? 
  • What was the Smart City Challenge, what did Guelph-Wellington put forward as their challenge? How is it measurably going to hopefully improve people’s lives in Guelph and beyond? 
  • How important was community consultation to the success of your Smart City Challenge proposal? You hear a lot about Smart City projects/proposals getting bogged down in trying to get to the shiney “tech solution” – skipping engagement then facing resistance, wanting to get the exciting announcement before work has been done or just wanting the branding of being a “smart city”, how did Guelph not fall into this trap? 
  • Looking more broadly, Guelph’s proposal built on existing food sector strength and the research strength of academic institutions in your region. Although food is universal, is there a risk for some communities looking to leverage smart city solutions and attempting to double down on their strengths of falling into a Sunk Cost Trap? Where smart city solutions don’t lead to economic diversification or solve a social issue rather develop a narrower more niche specialized economic base or an inability to transition workings from existing modes of production to smart modes? 
  • You just launched a new and innovative incubation program called COIL can you break what it is, why it is exciting for the listeners? 
  • If you had to think about the next decade for Guelph and Wellington County, what are the biggest opportunities and challenges for your region? What will the legacy of the challenge be? 
  • If you could wave a policy magic wand, change one policy (local, provincial or federal) what would you change and why? 
City of Guelph

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