|Rob van Gijzel
The best description I have ever heard about ICF as an ideas-driving think tank for enabling Digital Age policy for cities and towns was from Rob van Gijzel, the former mayor of Eindhoven, The Netherlands and the ICF Foundation’s first chairman. He called us, “The method of transformational decision making for cities.”
And we are. Or at least “a method” for this. We are also a group that inspired communities to believe that, yes, they can.
The world has cooperated with the ICF vision. Thanks to broadband and satellite telecommunications the world became flat. Like the sound of a rail train’s whistle, people heard something familiar and it allowed them to rethink the proposition of the small and the midsized city especially. It dawned on them that “the middle of nowhere” was no longer their domain. They had places with a history and assets that could be transformed.
These cities and towns have begun to determine the course of the global economy because of how they have moved from using smart technology to become Intelligent places. This year’s Smart21 is laden with them, from Vietnam to Ohio to India.
As if more proof were needed that the Top7 could come from places that use brains instead of size and brawn, on Friday (February 8) the Global Innovation Policy Center of the US Chamber of Commerce reported that Taiwan ranked #20 on the global Intellectual Property Index, right behind Canada, who checked in at #19. Think of this when you think of ICF’s transformational method because this nation (Taiwan) ranks 52nd in terms of population! Canada is not exactly overcrowded either, being #38. (For the record, and for both Mr. van Gijzel’s glee and for the Dutch who will be in attendance at the ICF Top7 announcement in Quebec City tomorrow, The Netherlands was ranked #7!! (That’s not a typo.) They have a mere 17 million people – fewer than in my building in Manhattan. Or so it seems.
So no one should be surprised by who is named to the eminent list of seven this year. While they may not look, act or even always perform like the marquee capitals of Singapore (1999), Toronto (2014) or Melbourne (2017), this group comes from countries that have been applying the ICF Method and investing in their own technology, business growth and educational expansion systematically for a long, long time. Not all will be as familiar to the world as some – or as some of our previous recipients - but in this century it has become pretty obvious that any place can become great once the ideas are poured into the engine of political and social desire.
Size and even geography matter far less than ever before. People can stay right at home and thrive. That’s the good news that these seven will carry to New York in June and around the world tonight.