Guelph, Ont., March 3, 2021 – Today, the City of Guelph, in partnership with the Cities of London and Barrie, and MaRS Discovery District, announced the launch of the Municipal Innovation Exchange (MIX) Challenge Toolkit to help local governments modernize public service through innovation.
Cities are on the front lines of change, and many municipalities are turning to experimentation and bold thinking to meet their community’s complex and rapidly-evolving needs. As local governments are challenged to do more with less and adapt to accelerated technological advances, the MIX Toolkit outlines a roadmap for municipalities to leverage procurement as a tool to build innovation capacity and solve complicated operational challenges.
Through the MIX, which launched in 2018, the Cities of Guelph, Barrie and London worked with MaRS, Innovation Guelph, and The Guelph Lab to engage startup vendors and co-develop solutions related to road maintenance, snow clearing, and parks and trail usage respectively. Over a six-month period, the vendors were embedded in municipal planning and operations processes, working with staff and community members to design unconventional solutions to common service-related issues. Key learning opportunities identified through the MIX have been integrated into the MIX Toolkit to help illustrate how municipalities can adopt a culture of innovation for the benefit of their residents and end users.
The MIX built on the foundation established by the City of Guelph’s Civic Accelerator, which partnered private sector startups with City departments to experiment and prototype potential solutions and assess scalability in a low-risk environment, and leveraged insights gleaned through MaRS Discovery District’s Innovation Partnership: Procurement by Co-Design health innovation program.
As municipalities move through the current global pandemic, the methods and tools outlined in the MIX Toolkit can help them develop and implement short to medium term economic stimulus and recovery responses to COVID-19 for their communities. For making longer term impact, the MIX Toolkit can support municipalities to make broader change in identifying, prototyping and procuring solutions to broad societal challenges such as climate change, systemic racism, and poverty and homelessness.
“It is more important than ever for municipalities to embrace new ways of doing things, as we tackle post-pandemic economic recovery and a number of other complex challenges. I am proud that, together with our partners, Guelph has been a leader in this through the MIX. We learned a lot along the way, and this toolkit will help other municipalities benefit from our experiences.”
– Cam Guthrie, Mayor, City of Guelph
“Working with the Municipal Innovation Exchange, Barrie found a unique solution to a very Canadian problem many municipalities face – snow clearing for vulnerable residents. So far, through SnowAngelsCanada.ca, we’ve helped dozens of residents and the number continues to grow. We’ve also helped more than other 10 Ontario municipalities incorporate and promote Snow Angels Canada in their own communities. Barrie will continue to keep Innovation a focus as we move to post-pandemic recovery.”
– Jeff Lehman, Mayor, City of Barrie
“The Municipal Innovation Exchange allowed the City of London to design a solution to gain better insight on our pathway system. Working with Numina.co, the custom built technology solution helps City of London staff have a stronger understanding of pathway use and optimize operations within our public parks. The innovative process allowed City Staff to work closely with Numina, to gain insight on the needs of the challenge, and develop a solution together. This has provided London a new way to find solutions to challenges that may require brand new technology to be created for cities.”
– Ed Holder, Mayor, City of London
“While our world is currently facing enormous challenges, municipalities can embrace this moment by partnering with ventures to build and adopt solutions to local problems that lead to scalable impact.”
– Yung Wu, CEO of MaRS
About the partners
City of Guelph
The City of Guelph is a vibrant community of over 140,000 people situated in the heart of southern Ontario, just 100 km west of Toronto, Ontario, Canada. It is home to the Civic Accelerator, one of Canada’s pioneer innovation procurement programs.
City of Barrie
The City of Barrie is a dynamic waterfront community located on beautiful Kempenfelt Bay, 90 km north of the Greater Toronto Area. Home to 151,000 people, Barrie offers an excellent lifestyle and a multitude of recreational opportunities.
City of London
The City of London is situated in the heart of south-western Ontario, between the Windsor/Detroit border and the Greater Toronto Area. With a population of 418,000, London is the economic, healthcare, and educational hub of the region. Londoners take great pride in the extensive network of recreation amenities, parks, and pathways available in their “Forest City”.
MaRS Discovery District
MaRS Discovery District (@MaRSDD) is North America’s largest urban innovation hub. A registered non-profit, MaRS supports high-growth startups and scale-ups tackling key issues in the health, cleantech, fintech and other sectors. In addition, MaRS convenes all members of the tech ecosystem to drive breakthrough discoveries, grow the economy and make an impact by solving real problems for real people — in Canada and around the world.
Jennifer Smith, Manager of Corporate and Community Strategic Initiatives
City of Guelph
519-822-1260 extension 2120