The City 2.0: People’s Insights Volume 2, Issue 6

What is The City 2.0?

In 2012, TED announced a new platform, The City 2.0, to crowdsource ideas on how cities can be better equipped for the future, encourage collaboration and to inspire urban citizens to take action. Ten of the best ideas would be awarded $10,000 each to kick start change.



As Nate Berg, staff writer at The Atlantic Cities said:

“TED unveiled a new website that aims to crowdsource ideas on city-focused projects and award mini-grants to enable the best ones.”

According to TED, the vision for the platform is to build an “ever-expanding network of citizen-led, scalable experiments.”

Writer Anthony Flint describes The City 2.0 as:

“a kind of global Wikipedia connecting citizens, political leaders, urban experts, companies, and organizations, with the goal of improving the 21st century city using up-to-the-minute crowdsourcing techniques.

“The ambitious goal is to create a clearinghouse for tools and methodologies and best practices to reshape cities around the world.”


The platform and the innovation competition are supported by a $100,000 TED Prize and funding from private foundations and corporations. Changemaker Conor White-Sullivan noted:

“The platform is supported with $250,000 in funding from the Knight Foundation, and a number of large corporations are throwing their weight behind it as well, including IBM and Autodesk.”

2012 TED Prize Wish: The City 2.0

The City 2.0 platform was re-designed in January 2013.

Inspiring people to become changemakers

The City 2.0 mobilizes people to participate in the process of driving change. As Inhabitat’s Tafline Laylin commented:

“It’s a novel idea, but it is also incredibly inspiring. Instead of placing the responsibility of our future in the hands of a few politicians, TED is encouraging all citizens to take it back into their own.”

People can participate online by sharing inspirations, stories and projects on The City 2.0 platform, submitting resources, competing for a grant and sharing feedback. Offline, people can organize or participate in TEDxCity2.0 events and TEDxLive viewing parties for the same.

To learn more about city initiatives, The City 2.0 encourages people to browse through city-themed TED and TEDx talks and has created a book City 2.0: The Habitat of the Future and How to Get There.

TEDxCity2.0 – An amplification channel

The City 2.0 is further supported by the TEDx program, through which passionate individuals and changemakers organize independent TED-like events in their communities. In October 2012, 28 global TEDx communities hosted TEDxCity2.0 events, helping the initiative increase its reach, build a network of changemakers, crowdsource more ideas and inspire action at the grassroots level.

AlexanderDSM commented:

“With TED’s City 2.0 [the focus is] not just big American cities, but cities around the world. TED’s core competency is not just in the curation of ideas, but it’s also worth noting the TEDx program. With over 3,000 TEDx events in three years, there is the chance for the TEDx communities in cities to embrace this year’s TED prize and enact it in their local communities.”


Mark Dewey, who organized a TEDxCity2.0 event in San Diego, commented on the event’s contribution to creating a global community of changemakers:

“Being a part of this global event opened the exchange of ideas to include what has and has not worked in other cites (sic) and questions about we can adopt best practices from proven models. Far too often, these events only dive into local problems with local solutions. Sometimes we need to expand beyond our zip code to understand what our problems really are. We have an incredible pool of thought leaders right in our backyard, but it will take all of us working together to become the City 2.0.”

To encourage sharing of stories, inspirations and projects, TEDxCity2.0 introduced a new initiative – Action Pitch Sessions – which invites five members to share their ideas on-stage in a two minute pitch. After the pitches, event organizers encourage the audience to support one or more of these ideas and help bring them to life. Talks and Action Pitches from the TEDxCity2.0 events are available on YouTube here and here.

A second TEDxCity2.0 day will be organized in 2013.

The City 2.0 Challenge

The City 2.0 Challenge bootstrapped the crowdsourcing process and served as an incentive for participation. People submitted their ideas online, and winners were announced on a rolling basis first at TEDGlobal in June 2012, and then on the TED blog. The winners received $10,000 each to fund their project.

ArchDaily’s Vanessa Quirk reported:

“The Award, which offers $10,000 to 10 innovative ideas in Urban Transformation, has been awarded – so far – to an eco-artist, a Wikipedia of house-building, a noise mapper, a couple of sign-post rebels, and a public-health activist and educator.”

Playlist: 8 City 2.0 award-winner videos

Can crowdsourcing drive civic change?

While The City 2.0 benefits from the size and reach of the TED and TEDx communities, thinkers debate the potential of the crowdsourcing platform in creating the city of the future in real life.

Jake Barton who runs a similar platform, Change By Us, commented:

 “Creating a website is not terribly difficult. But creating a project that actually has an impact on communities? That’s really hard. From my experience, the website is a great way to gain attention and motivation and traction, but to actually make real change happen, it’s people.”

Diana Lind, director of Next City and one of the winners of The City 2.0 Challenge, believes the challenge model is more efficient than the open collaboration platform:

“While the Internet is great for ordering shoes or reading blogs, it might just not be the best holistic system to organize people or to create change in cities. We have realized that the public sector isn’t going to solve every civic crisis alone, but in fact works best when partnering with the private and non-profit sector. It could be that the Internet, by itself, is also insufficient.

“While the competition portion of The City 2.0 is clearly oriented toward that kind of in-person collaboration that is required to create change in cities, the TED prize, with its “wish list,” suggests that the Internet is the magic wand that’s going to jumpstart change in our communities.”

Blogger Kyle Rogler feels the ideas shared can inspire solutions:

“Crowd sourcing ideas from citizens may not provide exact solutions to the problems faced by a city, but it will help inform general opinions and generate a huge variety of unique ideas that designers can draw inspiration from to provide more precise solutions.”


Models of innovation

Several changemakers and organizations have used crowdsourcing and collaborative social innovation to drive civic change. For instance, crowdsourcing initiatives like Open Ministry in Finland and programs that incorporate collaboration like Let’s Move! Cities, Towns and Counties in the U.S. are seeing early signs of success in enabling citizens to propose new laws and mobilizing local leaders to take action.

Open Ministry & Let's Move!

Left to right: Open Ministry (, Let’s Move! Cities, Town and Counties (

* MSLGROUP’s People’s Lab crowdsourcing platform and approach helps organizations tap into people’s insights for innovation, storytelling and change. The People’s Lab crowdsourcing platform also enables our distinctive insights and foresight approach, which consists of four elements: organic conversation analysis, MSLGROUP’s own insight communities, client-specific insights communities, and ethnographic deep dives into these communities.

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As an example, 100+ thinkers and planners within MSLGROUP share and discuss inspiring projects on corporate citizenship, crowdsourcing, storytelling and social data on the MSLGROUP Insights Network. Every week, we pick up one project and do a deep dive into conversations around it — on the MSLGROUP Insights Network itself but also on the broader social web — to distill insights and foresights. We share these insights and foresights with you on our People’s Insights blog and compile the best insights from the network and the blog in the People’s Lab Quarterly Magazine, as a showcase of our capabilities. We have synthesized the insights from  2012 to provide foresights for business leaders and changemakers — in the ten-part  People’s Insights Annual Report titled Now & Next: Ten Frontiers for the Future of Engagement.

As you can imagine, we can bring the same innovative approach to help you distill insights and foresights from conversations and communities. To start a conversation on how we can help you win with insights and foresights, write to Pascal Beucler at