Smart Cities Challenge 2018

In the spring of 2018, the Town of New Glasgow submitted an application for the Smart Cities Challenge in collaboration with an active group of 20-30 citizens, input from up to 300 people, and many community organizations from New Glasgow, Pictou County, Nova Scotia and one organization based in Scotland. Thank you for everyone who participated from across Pictou County. Stay tuned for future engagements and information on how our application is going!  

Challenge Statement

Ranked the worst place to live in Canada by Money Sense Magazine for many years, we will close our economic divide and reverse population drain by leveraging an infrastructure of collaborative, connected technologies, and attracting more of the mobile workforce to become Canada’s capital of townsizing.

What's the main idea?

We propose a bold investment in information and social technology that fundamentally shifts our community’s access to relevant data, that is both informed by and informs on-going stakeholder engagements. The aim is to take a similar approach to the Glasgow Indicators Project to reverse our community’s current trends, thus increasing our population size and closing the economic divide. This technology and related engagements would help increase the resilience of existing organizations, identify emerging needs for initiatives, and create a vibrant community that attracts the mobile workforce.

Since our approach is founded in a systems view of the situation – which incorporates social, environmental and economic perspectives – it can be applied to help solve any type of complex challenge and is scalable to other communities in Canada.

Based on research, we know that improving quality of life, food, health, wellbeing, inclusion, diversity, and the natural environment will play critical roles in our project. Accordingly, the proposal also flushes out the development of a community events App and supports the design of an existing plan to build a Townsizing Hub. These are subject to modification depending on feedback from community using the proposed approach once the project begins.

The World Game is founded on the

World Systems Model for Resilient Communities.

Both of these fed into the Glasgow Indicators Project.

More on the Glasgow Indicators Project…

Visit the Site - Make sure to check out how the information in each node links together!

Watch the Short Video about the Glasgow Indicators Project and how it is supporting their population health.

More on the Word Game’s Approach to Engagement…

Learn about this scenario game - Click here to see an explanation, background research and the book 'Ready For Anything'.

Watch the Short Video about the World Game and see how it was used in a conversation for UNESCO.

See how the International Futures Forum proposed a version of the Interactive Asset Map for the whole of Scotland - notice the use of information like trends and discontinuities.

Summary of Application:

The Challenge Statement and 200 Word Summary are written above on this page. The next section gives a high-level view of the idea. Click here to see the full application. Please note that the main concept put forward in this application needs future engagement from more diverse groups should we be accepted into the finalist round. At this time, the final idea will be more honed - so please be in touch if you wish to participate!


Numerous recent studies, reports and community engagement activities have resulted in a cohesive set of goals for New Glasgow, as well as ideas for how to achieve these. In 2014, a report known as the Ivany Report detailed numerous challenges being experienced in rural Nova Scotia. It identified an aging population, out-migration and change-resistant attitudes as key contributors to our current economic and social pressures. Similar conclusions were reached by the Town of New Glasgow’s Engage & Empower series. With these in mind, we have set the following four goals, that fit within the Smart Cities Challenge's criteria of Connected Technology, which are ambitious, achievable and increasingly urgent:

Goal #1

Increase New Glasgow’s population by attracting more of the mobile workforce

Goal #2

Linking up information that previously sat in silos

Goal #3

Connecting community (citizens, organizations and institutions) with each other and relevant information to inform collective action, support local businesses and meet the needs of the mobile workforce

Goal #4

Improving the economy of New Glasgow and closing the economic divide

Proposed Projects

There were many great ideas put forward by citizens of New Glasgow, Pictou County and those who live further away thinking of moving here (see the 1,200 ideas and comments here!). The proposed projects below were chosen by the citizen group as best meeting the criteria set out by the Smart Cities Challenge to increase our population and close the economic divide. Together they are intended as a starting point to engage more broadly during the finalist round and if we are selected for the $5 Million prize.

Project #1:

Interactive Asset Map & Engagement Feedback Loop

Project #2:

TOWNSIZING HUB: Support Existing Initiative

Project #3:

App - Community Events and Information

Project #1

Interactive Asset Map & Engagement Feedback Loop:

We propose to build upon the exemplary work of the Glasgow Centre for Population Health ( and the International Futures Forum in Scotland ( as a starting point to create a technology platform that enables informed conversations that easily engage people in systems-based conversations. Not only are these approaches appropriate for building connected technology that serves the Challenge Statement, broader community needs, and can be applied elsewhere; it also reinforces our existing relationship and historic roots with our sister city of Glasgow, Scotland.

  1. Interactive Asset Map (IAM):
    IAM’s approach is based on the World Systems Model for Resilient Communities (WSM)(16) which acts: 1) as a way to organize information typically found in silos, and 2) has several interactive ‘games’ that can be played with stakeholder groups to make the data come alive. We propose to organize data according to the visual of the World Systems Model for Resilient Communities that shows 12 nodes (silos) in a circle, and their 66 points of interconnection. One of the unique features of this approach is that it would be coded to also gather and highlight information about the 66 interconnections between the 12 nodes. The Interactive Asset Map will build upon the basic concept illustrated on to create a user-friendly interface that supports individuals and groups to gain a better understanding of information that is relevant to making decisions on allocation of resources, understanding what types of businesses are needed, and general support for collaboration across NGOs, businesses, and public institutions. Being able to have a single point to access trends, reports, findings, strategic plans and innovative ideas will enable smoother collaboration. It also allows for users to move beyond writing a report into making data come alive and making connections across traditional boundaries of information. There are many ways to add layers of analysis to the data that increase the ability of people to see, understand, and make decisions based upon the interactions within and between the nodes. Furthermore, the data needs to be able to be viewed from three levels:
    • New Glasgow at a city level
    • New Glasgow as an urban centre within rural context – economic centre for neighbouring towns and rural communities in Pictou County
    • Nova Scotia in a global context

    In addition to the Asset Map being used to inform engagements and decision-making, it will also be kept up-to-date as the newly gained understanding of the situation is fed back after each engagement. This capitalizes upon the innate human ability to see and understand complex patterns.

  2. Community Engagement and Feedback Loop:
    As proven by the Glasgow Indicators Project, an iterative feedback loop will be created between the Interactive Asset Map and community engagement sessions. The engagement sessions will be facilitated by members of diverse groups in the community to engage their respective community. It will take the form of the World Game, which was specifically designed as a way to engage people in a ‘serious role play game’ that enables project planning(26). Its elegant design breaks down barriers to working with complexity, so much so that a modified version was even played with young children(16). It is anticipated that a certain level of customization will be required to overcome systemic barriers that typically prevent some underrepresented groups from participating in community engagement that relies on written language capture and sharing of background information. See Project 2 for an example of the World Game. The types of data expected to inform these engagements include:
    • Possible shock events that would destabilize the community;
    • local, provincial, national and global trends;
    • barriers;
    • opportunities
    • ideas bank, etc.
    This information might sound challenging for people to integrate, however, the success of the game rests in its ability to provide a simple way for people to feel energized and enthusiastic about the future in the face of major challenges. This allows for an added layer of insight to truly empower the average citizen, organizations and institutions to make the connection between trends (whether local or global) and the needed collective action. Identifying local, provincial, national and global trends enables us to know where New Glasgow is able to take a lead on an innovation, and where the trends indicate our resources are best placed elsewhere. Empowering people to work with simple systems and future approaches increases resilience of existing and new organizations to adapt to trends, and gives the first mover advantage, as well as knowing when to redirect resources.

Project #2

TOWNSIZING HUB: Support Existing Initiative:

Some 33 comments in the Smart City Survey directly referenced having various types of hubs as solutions to attracting the mobile workforce(24). This coincides with efforts already underway that build upon years of community requests for hubs, the town’s Community Economic Development Plan, and the at-capacity pilot ChamberHub. Moreover, a local developer is in the final stages of a $2.5-million renovation of a heritage building in downtown New Glasgow, the historic Roseland Theatre, where Viola Desmond took her stand against racial discrimination. It is our intention to utilize that location as the physical component of our townsizing strategy. See attached letter. Since the focus of the Smart City Challenge (SCC) is connected technology, and we already have momentum around the physical structure, we are proposing that the component of the Townsizing Hub addressed within the SCC is in using connected technology to better understand the needed design and services that will provide support to mobile workers unlike anywhere else they might live. Important aspects sometimes overlooked are the unique stressors and psychological needs of the people likely to use our Hub.

Design and Supports:

We anticipate that users of the hub will include a range of mobile workers, including those working remotely for established companies, entrepreneurs, and those looking to open new businesses. Research from The Mindset Project(27), highlights the unique stressors that lead to mental health problems in entrepreneurs. Other stressors faced by mobile workers looking to relocate to New Glasgow may need to be taken into account. Since this hub will also serve local residents, we also intend to partner with SFX to better support underrepresented parts of our existing population who often face systemic barriers, which has the spin-off effect of creating a more culturally inclusive community.

World Game in Played a Hub:

One of the activities that would take place in the Townsizing Hub would be to utilize IAM and the engagement process to support coordination of action by new or existing businesses, the Town of New Glasgow, the community sector, and/or other institutions to understand:

  • local to global trends and their respective impacts or opportunities;
  • the innovations, course adjustments, and actions required to achieve common goals; and
  • possible new business ventures that address identified needs and opportunities.

Example: A small group played the World Game and looked at a few interconnected issues around Governance, Trade, Habitat and Biosphere.

  • Challenges: Each player chose one issue from their summary (pulled from IAM):
    • Trade - Mobility of People: Mobile workers want to be able to cycle between the Town of New Glasgow and beautiful locations in the County
    • Habitat & Infrastructure: The towns and municipalities in Pictou County agree to invest money in fixing the roads and adding bike lanes, but they do not have money for ongoing upkeep after initial Federal funding, so they need the roads to last longer than they presently do
    • Biosphere - Pollution: Our landfills are filling up fast - especially with the frequency people need to change their tires on the East Coast
  • Given a real scenario: Governance: The Federal government announces $180 billion in infrastructure and recreation funding
  • New business idea: The group had a sudden flash of insight - they realized they could open a business to start recycling old tires into asphalt and increase the lifespan of our roads. Since no one else is doing this locally, they can have a first mover advantage and can export their products to other regions in the Maritimes and across Canada. This is a win-win-win solution that also helps the local economy.

Project #3

App - Community Events and Information:

During our consultation with the public, we found significant demand (72 comments) for greater use of connected technologies, much of this section came directly from suggestions(24). A strong theme emerged about a need for a mobile app that serves as a centralized, comprehensive calendar for events in the county. Currently, this information is scattered between Facebook events, newspaper event listings, church newsletters, bulletin boards and the like. All are incomplete, and this sometimes leads to events being booked on the same days and times. Similar demand exists for a comprehensive, single-source-of-truth for event cancellations. Our region routinely has heavy snowstorms that force cancellations, and this leads to confusion about whether schools and events are cancelled. Plenty of other suggestions emerged as well, often inspired by social and peer-to-peer networks such as Kijiji, Facebook and Meetup. Wherever possible, we will leverage existing technology platforms such as these during the development of this app. In app development, the industry best practice is to aim for an initial Minimum Viable Product (MVP) that will fulfill certain key functions, making it both useful and stable. Since the demand for a community events calendar emerged strongly, and since this is comparatively simple from a technical standpoint, we will build the MVP around this concept. From there we can add in additional features and functions in slices, as funds become available and technical progress is made.

First Slice:

Create a comprehensive calendar for community events

  • Base infrastructure on Google Calendars platforms
  • Allow app users to add events through the app
  • Allow community members to add events by email, which can be uploaded by volunteer moderators
  • Allow calendar viewing via the app, a website and also a Google Calendar you can subscribe to
  • Allow users to add events from the app to their own calendar system: Apple calendar, Outlook, Google, etc.

Second Slice:

Add social profiles that allow people to RSVP for activity-based meetups

  • Allow users to sign up and create a simple social profile stating their name, interests, age, etc.
  • Enable users to RSVP for events on the calendar
  • Enable users to become “friends”
  • Leverage existing app technology from Meetup, possibly via API integration
  • Allow creation of interest-based groups such as sewing, hiking, squash, etc. and broadcast invites to related events to these groups

Third Slice:

Make it a one-stop shop for static local info

  • Listings of annual events and festivals such as Festival of the Tartans, Dragon Boat Festival, Winter Carnival, Johnny Miles
  • Garbage and recycling pick up schedules
    • Instructions on how to get onto the town’s existing text notification system for garbage collection
  • Coverage map and login information for the town’s free wifi network called “Flourish”
  • Transit information such as CHAD Transit and taxi contact info
  • Recreation information such as walking, hiking and biking trail maps
  • Listings for local businesses, especially restaurants, bars and cafes
  • Hospitals & mental health support information
  • Schools, community centres
  • heatre, music venues

Fourth Slice:

Establishes forums for user-submitted posts

  • Adds emergency alerts
  • Adds local rental housing listings
  • Adds user-submitted event cancellations, brought into one central list
  • “Help wanted” ads for paid and volunteer work
  • Job board
  • Ride sharing board

Possible additional features:

  • Online ordering from the New Glasgow Farmers’ Market
  • Uber-style, peer-to-peer ride-sharing and driver services
  • Online registration for sports teams, programs, services
  • Coupon or daily deals from local businesses