Municipal Collaboration & Innovation in Kansas City

One of the core ideas behind almost everything we do at Code for America is this – governments that face common challenges are uniquely positioned to collaborate and share both ideas and solutions. Nowhere is this potential for collaboration more immediate and more valuable than in the way governments make use of technology.

Governments are almost never in direct competition with each other. You don’t see one city making a move to take over parking ticket issuance in a neighboring city – municipal governments operate within a prescribed set of geographic boundaries. And whether the boundaries around cities are separated by great distances or just a few miles, all cities share common issues.

Commonality of urban problems and a lack of direct competition creates a unique environment for collaboration. And nowhere is this potential for collaboration and shared solutions more palpable than in Kansas City.

Kansas City is really two cities – sharing a name and a border but separated by a state line. The cities of Kansas City, Mo., and Kansas City, Kan., own a unique status in the country. While some citizens are literally neighbors across the street from one another, the two cities have different governments and look different directions down Interstate 70 toward different state capitals.

Their proximity to each other underscores the idea that governments face common challenges – these two cities literally share the same challenges because they have contiguous communities. The Kansas Cities are a unique backdrop against which to test the idea of shared municipal solutions, which is why we at Code for America are thrilled at the prospect of working with these two cities in 2013.

The two Kansas Cities have submitted a joint application to Code for America’s fellowship program for 2013 – the first time a joint application has been submitted to our fellowship program. Their application is also among our shortlist for potential partners to work with next year.

This application represents a unique opportunity to explore municipal collaboration in different cities that have common neighborhoods – a rare and exciting opportunity. It has additional appeal given the fact that Google is laying fiber to the homes of residents in both cities.

Together these two cities, separated by state border but connected by a high-speed fiber network, represent a sort of “municipal innovation laboratory” – a place uniquely situated to test ideas and theories about the kinds of collaboration and citizen engagement that work most effectively.

The enthusiasm of both cities’ mayors – Mayor Sly James of Kansas City, Mo. and Mayor Joe Reardon of Kansas City, Kan. – further underscores the unique opportunity to develop new and collaborative approaches.

Fostering municipal collaboration and innovation is in our DNA. What we see happening in Kansas City gets us very excited.

If you’re a fan of innovation in municipal government, it should get you excited too.

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James Michael Dupont

I am looking to move to the topeka/kc area, so I hope to get more involved in CFA and promoting FLOSS and openess in the area.