A free platform launched at the end of March to help city chief information officers (CIOs) and city managers connect and discuss responses to the coronavirus pandemic now counts more than 150 members.
Called UrbanLeague, the portal is split into a technical one for CIOs and another for city managers which focuses on policy. Created by UrbanLeap, the closed community portal allows CIOs and city managers to converse in a vendor-free space to share best practices and insights on responses to coronavirus.
“What we found lacking was the ability for cities to talk to each other in these uncharted waters,” Rich Lechner, Vice President, Business Development at UrbanLeap told Cities Today. “Aside from those cities that have a good contact list of other city managers, or CIOs, there wasn’t a convenient place where they could come together and communicate with each other in a free and safe form.”
The portal tracks upcoming webinars and hosts a list of resources, including ‘how-tos’ on preparing public transit for COVID-19, working remotely, preventing the virus from spreading through homeless shelters, and handling economic assistance for small businesses.
Users can upload their own resources and community events like webinars, participate in live chats, and provide information they think will help others. In April an enhanced post and reply model was added to further facilitate communication.
The platform is moderated to keep discussions on task, and directs city officials to useful resources. Those who join are vetted to ensure that the right people have access to the right information.
“It’s not just a city manager talking to another but actually if the question is raised we can use our network and our expertise–our experience–to help find and curate content that might be relevant to that individual and help them out, and therefore create more dialogue,” he added.
The platform remains free to join and Lechner believes that over time members will want to not only talk among themselves but will then engage with the private sector, or the solution provider community to see if “someone has an answer for us”.
“That would play to the strengths of UrbanLeap because we would enable them to easily coalesce around framing the problem, defining the desired criteria and outcomes, and then soliciting ideas and bring in the vendor community in an organised fashion,” he added.
To date, over 150 city officials have joined UrbanLeague, with CIOs from Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Las Vegas, Budapest, Tel Aviv and Belfast participating.