Buenos Aires City’s Collaborative Roundtable for Innovation and Creativity

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Buenos Aires

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Main actors

City Government, Community / Citizen Group

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Project area

Whole City/Administrative Region

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Ongoing since 2013/01

The central idea of these roundtables is to engage a frank dialogue between the municipality and its citizens and to stimulate imaginative and innovative actions by senior officials.

Like many local government administrations Buenos Aires face a wide range of bureaucratic barriers. Buenos Aires decided to reform its governance system with a management initiative called Collaborative Roundtables for Innovation and Creativity” which emerged in 2013, as an answer to the challenge of transforming creativity, modernization and innovation in a government’s management axis, in order to mobilize it to reach and benefit people.

The varied projects which came out of the initiative include Schools of the Future” focused on robotics and 3D printers; an Enterprise Academy to deepen entrepreneurial potential; a WiFi for Inclusion” initiative to close the technology gap for less affluent citizens; and a platform to unlock the potentials of foreign market enterprises.

Sustainable Development Goals

Reduce inequality within and among countries
Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable
Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels

Guangzhou Award

This project was shortlisted for the 'Guangzhou Award' in 2014.

Buenos Aires, Argentina

Size and population development
Buenos Aires extends across an approximate of 200 square kilometres, in a perimeter of 60 kilometres. The population in the city is 3.06 million people, whereas Greater Buenos Aires is comprised of 14 million. According to The National Institute of Statistics and Census (INDEC), the population density is at par with that of Mexico City, with 15,000 people living per square kilometre, with 75 percent of the households in the city being apartments. Future projections of population growth is low, with the city intending to keep the number of citizens constant between now and 2040.

Population composition
As an important multicultural city, Buenos Aires is very diverse, with 38 percent of its population being born elsewhere, with one third of this international. The women-to-men ratio is 114 to every 100, respectively. The average age for women is 35 whereas for men it is 40, which is to say that Buenos Aires is an aging city. Buenos Aires houses the largest population of Jewish people in Latin America, with an approximate of 250,000 Jewish inhabitants.

Main functions
The Autonomous City of Buenos Aires is the capital city of Argentina, located on the Western side of the enormous estuary known as Río de la Plata, which separates the Argentina from Uruguay (it is not to be confused with the province of Buenos Aires, to which the city does not belong). The capital is an autonomous district with an ample conurbation that is understood as Greater Buenos Aires. It is the most populated city of Argentina, and a significant multicultural centre in South America. Buenos Aires is both the financial hub and the cultural capital of the country. The cultural attractions of the city are housed in any of the 30 public libraries, 7 theatres, 11 museums, and more than 40 cultural centres. The city excels in the number of active theatrical plays that are presented, having more than 300 plays enacted every weekend.

Main industries / business
The main industries of the city of Buenos Aires are hospitality, medicines and textiles. The production of goods is intended both for local consumption and exports. In 2016 there was over US$316 million worth of exports, with the city contributing 22 percent of the national Gross Geographic Product. The Port of Buenos Aires, one of the busiest in the whole of Latin America, transacted a total of 11 million revenue tons. The finance and real-estate sectors of Buenos Aires are also prominent, as they contribute 31 percent of the city’s economy. As a touristic capital, Buenos Aires welcomes 4.5 million people every year, with an intensive influx other Americans, north and south, particularly Brazilians, Canadians and those from the United States.

Sources for city budget
The budget of the city of Buenos Aires is decided by the National Congress, after the Executive Power concocts the priorities and amounts desirable. Three main sources for the budget can be distinguished: the city government’s tax revenues (78.9 percent), funds from national co-participation (a scheme through which the provinces of Argentina and the city of Buenos Aires share a common pool of national tax revenue), and other local revenues sources (e.g. theatre events, transit violations, concessions, etc.).

Political structure
Politically, the city of Buenos Aires is divided into 15 comunas or communes, which are ruled by the Juntas Comunales made up by seven members belonging to the neighbourhoods of each comuna. The Juntas will propose a governance plan through on behalf of their constituents. In 2011, the city spent 26 percent of its budget on education, followed by health and public services with 22 and 17 percent respectively, whereas the lowest percentage of budget was dedicated to law enforcement. The city of Buenos Aires, houses Argentina’s the Executive, Legislative and Judicial branches of the federal government. However, since the city is an autonomous district, it is governed by a chief of government who is elected by vote in a double round election, with a duration of four years that may be doubled through re-election.

Administrative structure
The Autonomous City of Buenos Aires is divided into 48 barrios or neighbourhoods. These fit into a political division of the city’s geography into 15 comunas or communes, which are in charge of such matters as the state of green areas, walkways, the streets and of the lighting. The rest of the administration is left to the city’s government, which handles matters of education, public health transit, and water treatment.

The Roundtables' idea came up to respond to the lack of coordination of public policies on innovation and intended, from the beginning, to break the logic of compartmentalized structures. This enables an open dialogue between senior officials, allowing them to think beyond their daily tasks, to make room for innovation and think of topics "outside" their areas, forcing them to adopt a creative spirit.

The Roundtables main goals are:

  1. To make innovation an economic engine,
  2. To articulate advances in innovation with social impact,
  3. To ensure that innovation and creativity become a primary concern of the government and increase participation commitment among senior representatives,
  4. To ensure that innovation and creativity become a priority axe in terms of communication,
  5. To position the City of Buenos Aires as a leader in innovation at a regional and global level.

Since the main challenge of the Roundtable is to transform the quality of life of citizens based on innovation, the team has set out five areas of intervention:

  1. Educating for the 21st Century
  2. Entrepreneur and Creative Ecosystem
  3. Innovating for Inclusion
  4. Intelligent City
  5. International Positioning

In order to be adopted, an initiative proposed by a General Direction must:    

  1. Demonstrate effectiveness: The assistance of the General Direction of Planning and Management Control ensures that the initiative has an approved budget, clear goals/objectives, scheduling/GANTT, available equipment and feasibility in legal and administrative terms.
  2. Display the initiative and submit it for discussion at internal meetings - under the assistance of the Coordination of the Innovation and Creativity Roundtable.
  3. Convene a meeting of collaborative work with the actors interested in participating, and consolidate a common agenda - under the assistance of the Coordination of the Roundtable.
  4. Confirm the initiative and procedures with specialists of the area involved - under the attendance of the Coordination of the Roundtable.
  5. Ensure that the initiative has enough scope/impact - with the support of the General Direction of Planning and Management Control.
  6. Ensure that the initiative has enough potential in terms of communication - under the assistance of the Coordination of Communication of the Under secretariat of Creative Economy.

Above all, the Roundtable was created because the Government of the City of Buenos Aires is working towards becoming an innovative, entrepreneurial, creative, sustainable and inclusive city. So the Roundtable works on initiatives strengthening collaboration and impact. The following list summarizes some of them:    

  • "Significant Learning": Program that leads to entrepreneurship learning, which means converting entrepreneurship into a mandatory project to be taught in every public school in the city. 
  • "Program Your Future": This initiative seeks to create an ecosystem of developers through the "CodeAcademy" license, available to informatics students, students in general and in free access for all residents. 
  • "Accelerators and Seed Capital Fund Program": It promotes the creation of organizations that provide funding, working spaces and mentoring to some selected enterprises in order to accelerate their growth. 
  • "Creative Territory": The project aims to leverage the existence of physical spaces that promote collaborative work and provide the community with the necessary tools for the development of their professional projects, such as prototyping machines, office spaces and internet. The granting of soft loans by the City Bank, financing of the work or the operating costs and the State concessions are some of the alternatives in which the Government is working to encourage the creation of new spaces. 
  • "BA ID": It is a single digital identity for each citizen in the digital assets of the city. 
  • "City of Ideas": Tendering platform where every citizen can voluntarily translate their ideas on how to solve different issues. 
  • "En Todo Estás Vos Card": Integrative tool for new trade benefits, subsidies, access to cultural offerings and simplification of procedures. 
  • "Eco Bici": automatic withdrawal and return of bikes with 200 stations accessible through a mobile application and / or using the "En Todo Estás Vos" card.

Initiatives arising from the Roundtable are executed by each of the Ministries, and resources needed for their realization come from the budget allocation established in the budget law enacted by the Legislature. Meanwhile, the Roundtable participants contribute with their time and specific technical and political knowledge.

As seen below, the Roundtable has a specific stage which requires those who submit new initiatives to introduce indicators to measure impacts. Under the support of the General Direction of Planning and Management Control, it ensures that each initiative has enough scope/impact to be measured with the corresponding impact indicators.  

Meanwhile, the Roundtable measures the impact of its own work through indicators developped for this purpose, such as the Ministerial participation by initiative Index, the Level of compliance with the steps to present a new initiative or finally, the Level of communication of Innovation. The latter is verifiable, for example, through the effective number of mentions of the issues which are part of the Roundtables agenda, in speeches and /or public appearances of the Mayor, the Chief of Cabinet and Ministers.

Main achievements of the Roundtable include:    

1. Cycle of Meetings with referents and specialists in the field, and visits to places and institutions that stand as examples of the sector. The Cycle is directed and designed exclusively for the Mayor, the Chief of Cabinet and senior officials of the Government of the City of Buenos Aires. They are successful as they nourish many senior officials with innovative subjects, while they are inspired by the innovative locations they visit.

2. Newsletter submitted to the Mayor, the Chief of Cabinet and senior officials of the City Government. The Newsletter is beneficial not only because it includes local and international news on innovation but also because in this way it nourishes the speech of officials who receive it.

3. Monthly meetings with the Mayor, the Chief of Cabinet and senior officials of the City Government. Results from these meetings are very favorable because, considering that the Roundtable is not institutionalized; they serve as replacement of the meetings that the Chief of Cabinet holds monthly with each Ministry.

4. Strong articulation with the government communication team turning Innovation in one of the four pillars of government communications. 

In order to position the city abroad, the Roundtable coordinates various initiatives such as the relations with international press, or contact with international experts in Innovation, in order to communicate them the ongoing transformations.

The space of the weekly internal meetings of the Roundtable became increasingly crowded. Consequently, it became difficult to organize a work focused on outcomes and outputs. The Roundtable was able to secure the divergence of ideas (brainstorming) but could not ensure convergence, selecting the right solution and therefore plan its implementation and management.  

To respond this issue, the Governments Laboratory, which is a management initiative coordinated by the General Direction of Information and Open Government, presented the Roundtable a Proposal of Work Integration and Methodology in three formats:

1. Basic Acceleration of Projects: acceleration of initiatives from the Roundtable that need to move from being an innovative idea to becoming a project in execution.

2. Treatment of parallel themes: works on issues where innovation plays a fundamental role, but do not fall within the usual working axes of the Roundtable. The purpose of these meetings, to be attended by experts and officials concerning the related area, is to put together short reports that relieve diagnosis and transmit public policies recommendations.

3. "Workshops" by axes: meetings that serve to finish consolidating and give coherence to the work plans by axes.  

The proposal presented by the Governments Laboratory created the necessary instances to develop convergent thinking. These meetings with smaller working groups that revolve around specific topics and have specific methodologies have led to the emergence of clearer outcomes.

The Innovation Roundtable is a cross-cutting space that enriches public debate with new ideas, accelerates their development and works collaboratively on innovative projects of public policy.  

The initiative represents a novel strategy for dealing with public policy. The Innovation Roundtable is transverse, not responding to any governing body, and therefore its working methods, as well as its products are innovative. In addition, officials are, considering their high seniority, the ones who provide experience to the Roundtable. Notably, in order to develop, innovation requires bold and counter-intuitive attitudes, and that is precisely its main strength.

The Roundtable in partnership with the Programme of Cooperation of Innovative Public Policies of the Ministry of Government, organized a "Seminar on Innovation in the city of Rio Cuarto, Cordoba Province." The event seeked to share the public management initiatives of the City of Buenos Aires that were successful, in order to exchange experiences with the various jurisdictions of the country, and implement technical cooperation tools.  

- Buenos Aires, Argentina: Buenos Aires City’s Collaborative Roundtable for Innovation and Creativity, Guangzhou Award for Urban Innovation, (accessed 25 May 2016).

- Buenos Aires City’s Collaborative Roundtables for Innovation and Creativity, Urban innovation database, (accessed 25 May 2016).

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