SCP E113 The power of local champions in Smart Regions, with Heath Raftery

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In this episode of the Smart Community Podcast, Zoe speaks with Heath Raftery, Head of Technology at boutique electronic product consultancy, Newie Ventures. Heath tells us about his background in computing and electrical engineering, and why the strengths and weaknesses of engineers led him to study economics, communication and human behaviour. He explains how he became interested in Smart concepts thanks to initiatives of the City of Newcastle, and how he sees Australia embracing the Smart Community space. Heath shares some of the projects he’s currently working on, including the Smart Play initiative, which involves playful ways to capture, use and communicate Smart City data. Zoe and Heath then cover why integration really needs organisations being supportive of individuals being collaborative, and the emerging trend of making grass roots projects sustainable through financial as well as community support. A quick warning, the audio quality of this episode does diminish in the last few minutes of the interview, but it’s very listenable and well worth it too, as it’s such a great conversation about the importance of local champions in Smart Regions. As always, we hope you enjoy listening to this episode as much as we enjoyed making it.

Listen here:

What we cover in this episode:

  • Heath’s background in computing and electrical engineering
  • Why strengths and weaknesses of engineers led Heath to study economics, communication and human behaviour
  • What the City of Newcastle did that sparked Heath’s interest in Smart City concepts
  • How the Smart City concept has evolved from soulless efficiency metrics to human-centred social movements
  • How Heath sees Australia embracing the Smart City and Community space
  • Projects Heath is currently working on
  • Playful ways to capture, use and communicate Smart City Data
  • Why the key to integration is in supporting individuals – not just organisations – to be collaborative
  • The power and importance of local champions
  • The emerging trend of making grass roots projects sustainable through financial as well as community support

Quotes:

“[I noticed that engineers] were so consumed with being the smartest people in the room but their poor ability to relate, communicate and empathise meant that really no-one cared…I had this epiphany: all this technical talent in the world was going to be wasted if you couldn’t communicate it, if you couldn’t make people care.”

“I’m really encouraged because I think the Smart City concept has evolved over the last couple of years in the right way. Originally the narrative was really about efficiency…[but] the soulless efficiency metrics do not make a social movement. So people started to look at what has actually resonated, and that’s this concept of liveability—all those aspects of city life that make people say ‘I like living here, this is my city.’”

“[A Smart City to me] is reflective, it’s responsive and it’s delightful to humans. It’s about leveraging technology to make the city more human-centred and make it more liveable.”

“You need to celebrate those people that are willing to [collaborate]. They’ll only do it for so long if they’re not getting the support of their organisation. Even if their entire organisation can’t be collaborative and involved in every single meeting that goes on in town, at least they can support individuals being involved in these sorts of things.”

“I think one of the emerging trends is that the communities are unequally aided by champions, by people that put their neck on the line and push and push to represent the people that they’re representing. I’d love to see some more conversation about how we equip and recognise those people and the contributions they’re making.

“If you want to talk about bang for buck, look at these people who are running on the smell of an oily rag and making things happen in their local community. People think that will go on forever, but it won’t unless there’s a bit of support…These sorts of efforts need to be sustainable and they’ll only run on people’s good will for so long. A little bit of money can go a long way.”

“You’ve got to recognise those grass roots approaches because that’s what makes a community.”

Links:

Newie Ventures


Smart Community Podcast Episode 81 with Sarah Wray from Smart Cities World

Smart Play, including the Baby Bulb project

One of the projects from RAPID

Connect:

Find the full show notes at: www.mysmart.community

Connect with Heath via LinkedIn

Connect with me via email: hello@mysmart.community

Connect via LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook @smartcommpod

The Smart Community Podcast is produced by Ellen Ronalds Keene.

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