I Will Wear Your City’s Tie . . . Under One Condition

  The Zacharilla collection from previous Intelligent Communities of the Year. Many of these cities will have representatives on the stage on June 13 to honor Espoo’s successor.

I am looking at Espoo, Finland Mayor Jukka Mäkelä in this video and wondering two things about the outgoing Intelligent Community of the Year.

First, I am wondering which of the seven communities now on their way to New York as I write this will succeed his city, which was an improbable and unexpected choice for the award in London last June? Which of them will celebrate their ranking among the Top7 but then walk to the stage alone, surrounded by Espoo and other former Intelligent Communities of the Year, to accept the trophy as Intelligent Community of the Year?

It is a question in the minds of hundreds of people in these seven communities, as well as throughout our worldwide network, site selectors, the media and, most importantly, cities considering using the ICF Method.

Second is a more parochial conceit. I am wondering if I will get a nice blue tie just like Mayor Mäkelä’s.

Whaaaat?! A tie? Really? Lou Zacharilla wears a tie?? Since when? And why? Ties are so – you know – Washington, DC these days.

At ICF we have a custom. We receive a tie every year from the outgoing Intelligent Community of the Year. And we wear them. Personally, I wear only ties from former ICF Intelligent Communities of the Year. And I wear them everywhere. I wear them in Morocco, Korea, Canada and anywhere that I am invited to talk about the ICF and the cities who make it work. These are the ties that bind us.

I don’t particularly like wearing ties, but I do like wearing these ties. They remind me of great years and places that achieve at a very high level for their citizens. More practically, they remind me to tell the story of that city when I am speaking. There is always a point in a speech or a talk when a reference to our top-achievers comes up. I have the luxury of taking hold of my tie, showing it to people and telling the story of how, for example, Riverside did its WiFi deal and leveraged AT&T, or how it restored its downtown; how Eindhoven survived the devastating exit of its largest manufacturer and not only recovered, but became one of the great innovative capitals in Europe.

Whatever tie Espoo gives me (and I really hope it’s that blue one . . .), the phrase “Make with Espoo” will come to mind. So will the way Espoo has organized the five sectors of their city to function as intimate, productive parts of the whole city. I will think of its Innovation Garden, which is a blueprint for collaboration and harnessing efficiently that true, endless natural resource that is inexhaustible: human intelligence.

Like monuments to the past and videos chronicling the Here and Now, ties are touchstones for me. They represent excellence and bring back perceptual data of places that understand that the ICF’s #1 logo on their website means that are tied to a mandate to continue to work on a method and process of self-improvement. That their scores for the Six Indicators may have been best in class for that year, but no city has answered all of the many questions citizens ask daily, including, “Where do we go from here? Can we make it better?” It is, like art, a constant effort to unify. I want to wear a tie from a place like this and be reminded.

So, whether it is that Columbus Ohio State University-themed tie; my tie with the pattern of Suwon. Korea’s Hwaseung Fortress displayed in bright Asian red; or the city hall of Stockholm ( I have two of these, one gold the other purple) reminding me of the site of humanity’s greatest awards program, the Nobel Prize, I am proud to tie the knot.

Well, let’s say I don’t mind wearing a tie when it is from places that are not only generous, but Intelligent!

Let’s see what Espoo comes up with!

NOTE: Those reading this blog who plan to be in New York on the morning of June 10 are welcome to attend a breakfast hosted by the City of Espoo at the Finnish Consulate General’s office in Manhattan.

You can register at https://www.lyyti.fi/reg/Espoo_Learning_City_as_a_Service or send an email to Ms Sanna Anderson at [email protected]

Louis Zacharilla
Co-Founder of the Intelligent Community Forum. Louis Zacharilla helped found the Intelligent Community movement. He is the developer of the Intelligent Community Awards program. He is a frequent keynote speaker and a moderator at conferences and events.

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