The Goldilocks Zone for the public sector innovation: Teresina 2030 towards resilience to climate change in the developing world

Author(s): Mariana Fiuza; Gabriela Uchoa; Flavia Maia

Abstract / Introduction (download full article at the bottom)

The term Goldilocks Zone refers to the habitable zone around a star where the conditions are just right- not too hot and not too cold – for liquid water to exist on the surface of a planet. It provides a way to predict the habitability of newly found planets and moons. Just like in astronomical science, there is evidence of a public sector Goldilocks Zone, where the conditions are perfect to find thriving innovation in the public sector. Local governments that are not too big and not too small are in this zone as they have enough complexity to create a fertile ground for innovative solutions to flourish without being excessively hierarchical and bureaucratical. In the developing world, urban populations are the most affected by climate change due to an overlap of social and environmental vulnerabilities.

At the same time, local governments often have the most limited resources to follow through on sustainability and resilience commitments such as those expressed in the Agenda 2030, the New Urban Agenda and the Paris Agreement. In this scenario, innovation works to support local governments to deliver new products and services aiming the creation of public value and efficiency gains. To support the public sector to fulfil global agendas, a group of civil servants in Brazil created Teresina 2030, a hub for innovation within the Planning Department of the Municipality of Teresina, that prototypes solutions to strengthen urban resilience, by combining open government and smart city strategies. Our aim is to update planning and policy tools to respond to the complex situation of Teresina in the face of climate change. This situation includes a difficult geographical situation — near the Equatorial line, in extremely hot weather — and a challenging economic context — high socioeconomic inequality combined with scarce technical and educational resources in the public sector. In this paper, we placed Teresina in the ’Goldilocks Zone’ for the public sector innovation and what does it mean to be in this zone. Teresina is a medium-sized Brazilian city that is not too small: it faces all these complex challenges that may not have been addressed yet by many other cities around the world as it goes beyond issues with basic services provision, what makes Teresina a testbed for new solutions.

However, Teresina is neither too big: it can avoid excessively bureaucratic and hierarchical procedures that hinder innovation in megacities. Like Teresina, there are several cities across the globe which are able to create an innovation ecosystem despite the common challenges to cities in developing countries, especially regarding the scarcity of resources. This paper explores Teresina features that position the city in the Goldilocks Zone for public sector innovation and allow this group of urban planners from the local government innovation hub to overcome five challenges in two years since Teresina 2030 was created. Political and technical barriers, low collaboration among municipal departments, staff limitation, digital divide and unavailability of data are addressed with low-cost tools, international partnerships, innovation in bureaucratic processes, as well as a serious commitment of the practitioners with critical scholarly debates, planning researches and academic networks.

Case study: 55th ISOCARP Congress Presentations
Year: 2019

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