January 29, 2019

The Update Desk: STiR Projects

Back in November, I wrote in this Grains of Salt post about a new innovative program the City of Syracuse was participating in.
What's a city to do when there are more services needed than it can possibly provide?

Try something completely different, that's what.  And that's what Syracuse is looking to do, by joining the Startup in Residence  (STiR) program.
STiR connects governments with start up companies via a 'challenge' process; when there's a match between a governmental jurisdiction and a startup willing to work on the problem, a sixteen-week 'residency' begins, with the goal of having a viable solution at the end of the collaboration.

Syracuse put five challenges out for review, and we just learned which ones will be moving ahead:
  • Camino will develop a permit management platform that allows for collaboration and communication between both permit applicants and city employees.
  • Vite Labs is tasked with creating a crowd-funding platform to connect low-income renters to people willing to provide short-term no-interest loans for security deposits.
  • Local company Zivics will work on a citizen engagement tool for the city's Trauma Response Team (TRT) to engage residents after traumatic events, such as violent crimes. 
Two other challenges, related to waste management and autonomous snow removal technology, did not get selected to move forward.

Camino's challenge, to modernize our permitting process, will have an immediate impact on folks who submit permits - the current process is outdated and cumbersome, and can't accommodate the multiple handoffs needed as various city departments perform their review. And, hopefully it will reduce costs and improve productivity at the same time. Mike Rosengarten and Nate Levine, Camino's founders, said
We're excited to partner with Syracuse to design and develop new, innovative ways for their applicants and staff to engage around permitting. Our goal, together, is to create a more collaborative, intelligent and digital permit management system that will make a big impact on everyone in the permitting process. 
The crowd-funding platform for helping with security deposits is a huge opportunity for us, as Syracuse has a very high percentage of housing instability. People are forced to move because of landlord issues, code violations, utilities not being paid by homeowners who include it in the rent or other issues outside the tenants' control. And having to come up with a new security deposit under these circumstances is problematic.  Luke Kim, the startup's CMO, said in part
Our goal is to step in where financial institutions are currently lacking, providing a peer-to-peer micro-lending platform to address housing instability. 
Zivics will be working on enhancing communications and messaging for the city's Trauma Response Team (TRT), which I didn't even know existed until I was working on the original post. The team goes out, along with first responders, taking on a moderator role and helping law enforcement with communications to residents. And, hopefully, it will help build trust and encourage residents to be more forthcoming with information when needed. From Adam Peruta, president of Zivics
...Zivics engages citizens through direct communication of time-sensitive information and a gamified, activity-driven experience of civic participation...(the) platform aims to break down invisible barriers and favorably alter the dynamic between residence and their protectors and servants. 
 Adria Finch, the city's director of innovation, talked about the city's excitement to work with the startups and finding solutions to these problems.  I share that excitement and look forward to what comes out of the residencies.

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