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Urban Innovation Focus of BCW Presentation to Board

How cities and public officials can build an innovation ecosystem that attracts new ideas, creative workers and change agents was the topic of highly informative BCW presentation on Wednesday by author and brand/cultural narrative strategist Paul Kalbfleisch.

Kalbfleisch spoke at a BCW Board of Directors meeting as part of the Westchester Innovation Network’s effort to position innovation as the foundation for our county’s future economic growth.

He explained that cities must become habitats for the human spirit, which means that a community must embrace and celebrate optimism, collaboration, experimentation, and resilience to successfully attract innovators. For example, he cited the University of Waterloo in Ontario, Canada, as an outcome of business and civic leaders’ commitment to innovation.

“A lot of people think the University of Waterloo, which is world renowned, has led to the innovation of the Waterloo region. It’s actually not true. The University of Waterloo was created and driven by local businesses that worked with the government to create the type of university they needed to advance their future,” said Kalbfleisch.

Kalbfleisch is the author of The Joy Experiments, which focuses on how mid-sized cities across North America can create new vitality and identities.

One strategy he proposed is flipping the slogan “Live, Work and Play.” In Kalbfleisch’s view, the slogan should be reordered to Play, Live and Work to promote human joy. By emphasizing play as the first essential building block for creativity and invention, companies and cities can attract young innovators averse to the status quo. He cited Google as an example of companies that fill their office spaces with games, toys and collaborative spaces to encourage new ideas and inspiration.

Kalbfleisch also emphasized the importance of what he calls creative intersections—the use of public art and public space design to shape a community’s brand and bring a community identity to life. By focusing on creative intersections, communities can signal to the mobile talented workforce that their passions are embraced, while helping all residents feel a connection to the innovation sector in its midst.

The Board meeting was held at the Reckson Metro Center in White Plains. Among those attending were White Plains Mayor Tom Roach and New Rochelle Mayor Noam Bramson who were invited as guests

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