Our co-founder and executive director Kamran Saddique was invited to speak alongside mayors at the Democratic National Convention on a Smart Cities Roundtable, put together by NewDEAL (Developing Exceptional American Leaders). The event brought together elected officials – including leading NewDEAL Mayors from across the country — as well as executives from the private sector to discuss open data issues, community engagement and government involvement in civic technology.

“Like John Oliver, I’m a Brit who resides here in the United States,” said Kamran. “This election cycle has been riveting, to the say the least. But I never expected to get a ringside seat!”

NewDEAL, an advocacy group that works with “rising stars” in the Democratic Party, has built a thriving national network of more than 140 pro-growth, progressive state and local elected leaders who focus on innovation. The discussion centered on how collaboration between the public and private sectors could harness advances in science and technology, creating infrastructure for the “collection, aggregation, and use of data to improve city services and people’s lives.”

Kamran was invited on behalf of City Innovate Foundation to inform and persuade mayors that urban problems are important to the public sector, the private sector, academia, and nonprofits. Also included as speakers were the Mayor of Phoenix, Greg Stanton; Mayor of Long Beach, Robert Garcia; Governor of Delaware, Jack Markell; Washington Congresswoman Suzan DelBene; subject experts representing AT&T, Microsoft, Deloitte, and PG&E; as well as policy experts and advisors from organizations such as the U.S. Green Business Council, University of Pennsylvania Wharton School, and SeamlessDocs Federal.

Interest in City Innovate’s work at the event was high: “The mayors were excited; I was overwhelmed by the response and interest in what we are doing at SUPERPUBLIC,” Kamran said. “We run and operate something that mayors clearly need: a neutral place to convene parties to discuss issues and bring in subject matter expertise.”

City Innovate Foundation has a unique model of solving these problems, by bringing together all of these actors into what’s called a “Test & Learn Collider” — a quarter-long sprint to get a civic tech problem into tight definition, understanding specific chokeholds from a policy perspective.

“We haven’t seen any programs put together that address issues, which we try to do through our programs,” Saddique explained. “We’re expecting federal funding to be matched with private sector funding, to embed 5 program officers into cities to be able to run projects with programs that they can run with. We don’t want to end up selling proprietary solutions to cities – we keep solutions open, so other companies can plug into them.”

Additionally, Kamran learned that if you are planning on attending a political event in a city where POTUS or FLOTUS will be in attendance, you should bring lots of work to do from the tarmac.

This is intended as a nonpartisan discussion of what it’s like to attend a political convention by one of the major parties. The Federal government has specific rules that regulate nonprofits which prohibit us from taking a partisan stance.