Institutional Pioneers are characterized as city-government-led solutions that leverage significant public resources and financing, for example, deploying technology and infrastructure. However, although the public sector is the actor leading the urban innovation, scope and approach, the success of these projects often strongly relies on the private sector’s technical know-how and innovative capacity to build and implement—and, at times, manage—the solution. Depending on the government-mobilized resources, we can identify two types of Smart Innovation for Institutional Pioneers: Pragmatic and Tech-Driven.

Pragmatic Institutional Pioneers

Pragmatic Institutional Pioneers lead innovative solutions that respond to persistent, citywide challenges by reimagining and repurposing the way public assets are used. Led by public entities and often supported by the private sector, they radically shift ways of living for their city residents by thoroughly reimagining the status quo. Through sheer persistence and a deep commitment to change, these bold solutions apply global best practices and solve unique, citywide challenges by restructuring constrained physical resources in a more socially beneficial way.

Key characteristics of Pragmatic Institutional Pioneers

  • Urban challenge diagnosed and innovation designed and delivered primarily by the government, with the private sector supporting the solution through technical know-how and implementation partnerships.
  • Challenges are diagnosed using city data; solution design is based on global best practices and urban design principles and tailored to address the city’s specific challenge.
  • Existing financial resources are used to restructure physical assets in innovative and efficient ways with the help of frugal technologies.

Tech-Driven Institutional Pioneers

Tech-driven Institutional Pioneers lead innovative solutions through greater and more deliberate use of technology, intending to stay ahead of the curve and increase the city’s capacity to respond to urban problems that can be complex. The defining feature of these solutions is strong interdepartmental collaboration, which helps to promote bold, scalable changes. These shifts are often supported by investment in the right tools to elevate their capacity and efficiency.

Key characteristics of Tech-driven Institutional Pioneers

  • Urban challenge diagnosed and innovation designed and delivered primarily by government with strong partnership and implementation support from the private sector.
  • Upfront use of city-aggregated data for problem diagnosis; continuously updated and iterated after initial identification using digital platforms and devices. Real-time city data is collected, aggregated and analysed using digital tools and platforms to inform adaptation of the solution.
  • Significant investments in digital infrastructure with potential to create new infrastructure should it be required to meet the evolving needs of the community.

How to promote Institutional Pioneers?


  • Articulate a bold, inclusive vision for citywide change. You will need others to join you in realizing your vision, so invest in creating a bold one. Share it with others to gather feedback and use the refined version to design your intervention.

  • Seek and rally commitment through partnerships. Rally support for your initiative within government and the private sector through close consultations, gathering resources and coordinating what you need to successfully carry out the intervention.

  • Test and iterate the solution. You are introducing a big change; continue testing your solution until you are sure you have the right answer, carefully measuring your impact during each round and adjusting as needed.

  • Plan for early wins. This is a long-term commitment; it is important to celebrate wins along the way to keep partners engaged and committed.