Episode Archive

SCP E268 Summer Series: Moving from Smart Cities to Smart Regions, with Jennifer Sanders

Hi #smartcommunity friends! Welcome back to the Summer Series here on the Smart Community Podcast. As you know, we’re taking a little break from new content over the Australian summer holidays, and instead we are sharing the replays of a few of our all time favourite episodes. This week we’re sharing my interview with Jennifer Sanders from Episode 170 which was recorded pre Covid-19 Pandemic, in February of 2020. 

In this episode of the Smart Community podcast I have a great conversation with Jennifer Sanders, the Co-Founder and Executive Director at the Dallas Innovation Alliance or DIA as she refers to it a lot in this episode. Jennifer tells us about the DIA, how it came to be and the needs-based, neighbourhood-centric approach that they take. We cover the importance of educating and empowering citizens, especially young people and people from underserved neighbourhoods, on how they can engage with their communities and Jennifer shares a great story about the benefits of giving kids a seat at the table when discussing solutions to community problems. We discuss how Dallas is embracing the Smart City concept and the real impacts and benefits of the openness, transparency and knowledge-sharing that goes on between individuals and organisations in the Smart City space. Jennifer tells us about the projects she’s working on with the DIA, including their focus on equity, digital inclusion and having a regional focus through the North Texas Innovation Alliance. We have a great chat about how the regional approach is the natural next step from the city-centric focus and how it helps with efficiencies and economies of scale for smaller towns with fewer resources. Now the DIA has dozens of partner organisations from all sectors and Jennifer tells us about how they approach integration and collaboration with so many stakeholders. We finish our chat talking about the emerging trends of data privacy and ownership in public data-driven projects, and we have an interesting chat about telemedicine too. As I mentioned previously, this episode was recorded before Covid-19 brought travel restrictions and lockdowns to the world and so it will be interesting to see what the innovations in that space are once we get through this pandemic. 

We will be sure to get Jennifer back on the show in future for a full update about what she has been up to and how our thinking has progressed since this conversation. But in the meantime, 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: 

  • About the Dallas Innovation Alliance (DIA) and their needs-based, neighbourhood-centric approach
  • What sparked Jennifer’s interest in the Smart Community space
  • What Smart City and Smart Community means to Jennifer 
  • Why the Smart concept is so important as we move into the future 
  • The importance of educating and empowering citizens, especially young people and people from underserved neighbourhoods, on how they can engage in their communities 
  • Why we should bring kids into the room and give them a seat at the table 
  • How Dallas is embracing the Smart City concept 
  • The maturing of the Smart City conversation to be more community-centric 
  • The things Australia and the US can learn from each other in the Smart Community space
  • The regional approach as the natural next step from the city-centric focus and how it helps with efficiencies and economies of scale 
  • The impact and benefits of the openness, transparency and knowledge sharing with each other in the Smart City space 
  • Projects Jennifer is working on with the DIA focusing on equity, digital inclusion and regional connectivity
  • The dozens of partner organisations that the DIA works with and how they integrate and collaborate with so many stakeholders 
  • The emerging trends of data privacy and ownership in public data-driven projects, and trends in healthcare such as  telemedicine
  • The fundamental importance of connectivity infrastructure for all these Smart projects, but especially for rural America


“A Smart City really looks at that intersection point between community, data and technology to improve quality of life, inclusive economic development and resource efficiency.”

“How do you empower those communities that have been underserved and under resourced? And how do you make sure that they come along with that?”

“Bring kids into the room when you’re looking for solutions, because the ideas that a 10 year old has, they see things so differently, as we know. But some of the ideas that I’ve heard from them have been some of the most brilliant and are ones that certainly the adults in the room would never have considered. So I love the idea of bringing kids into advisory committees or hackathon type events where you’re creating civic solutions because I think all the adults would be surprised.”

“When we think about how we coordinate as a region, both operationally and strategically, I think that’s just something that needs to happen. And I think there’s a great hunger for that to happen. There’s economies of scale and policy implications now, beyond that, so regional is just critical at this point.”

“This is the first industry I’ve ever worked in where people are willing to share what went well, but also what didn’t. That level of candor and authenticity is really prevalent in this [Smart Community] space and that’s something that has been so heartening to me.”

“If you can bring the small towns in on these larger projects, then they’re able to do more with less resources, because they’re both learning from and implementing alongside their neighbours. There’s a powerful way to elevate that whole region large and small, which also extends into rural communities.”

“We hear a lot about how did you get everybody in a room, and it really was that everyone has a passion for Dallas and everyone wanted to see the city get better and see this opportunity continue to grow. And so getting everyone in the room wasn’t hard. Getting everyone to understand what we were talking about instead, what the Smart Cities thing is, was an education piece at the beginning. And then it was really about figuring out what part everyone wanted to play.”


Dallas Innovation Alliance

Smart Columbus

DIA’s Regional Initiative, the North Texas Innovation Alliance 

Australian Smart Communities Association

Susan Crawford’s book Fiber: The Coming Tech Revolution—and Why America Might Miss It


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

Connect with Jennifer on LinkedIn or Twitter @dallassmartcity 

Connect with me via email: hello@mysmart.community 

Connect with My Smart Community via LinkedIn or Twitter and watch on YouTube

The Smart Community Podcast is produced by Perk Digital.


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