A Spotlight on Cities: Urban Planners in Tech

Sep 12, 2017   |   Mariko Davidson

The spotlight is on our cities. Citywide government and policy are combining forces with new technology to help our urban communities grow. As we adopt new technology, there’s a growing need for workers in tech companies with a skillset that combines a technical quantitative background with statistics and mapping, combined with traditional policymaking.

That’s why I’m proud to share a new meetup and networking group called Urban Planners in Tech. With 50 current members meeting quarterly, rotating in different tech spaces across the city, we’re working to get likeminded individuals together to build an ecosystem of hybrid planners in the Bay Area.

Unlike traditional moving meetups that focus on the host company itself, our host takes a quick intro to summarize their cool new projects, and we spend the rest of the time socializing and networking. No pitch nights or hackathons here — just time to meet each other, exchange ideas, and finding our place in this relatively new community.

As we grow in our municipalities through political progression and technology-based innovation, we’re seeing our ecosystem as urban planners change drastically. There’s far more of a demand for cross-sector collaboration, and it’s manifesting in new roles in city teams. This trend in the sector itself is driving this small meetup group, and we can’t wait to see where we go from here.

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Mariko Davidson
Mariko Davidson

As San Francisco’s Civic Innovation and Partnerships Strategist, Mariko builds civic initiatives across sectors to leverage technology for the public good. She brings a deep expertise in cities, formally trained as an urban planner at MIT, specializing in governance, data policy and transportation. As an Innovation Fellow for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, she launched the Commonwealth’s new Open Data Initiative where she also worked on data management policy, data governance, and privacy issues. There she brokered the first multi-municipal open data agreement between Boston, Cambridge, and Somerville. She also served in the Boston Mayor’s Office of New Urban Mechanics where she focused on maker technology and girls STEM education programs. In 2015 she ran a close race for Cambridge City Council. Most recently she led the civic-focused Engagement Lab @ Emerson College as their Managing Director where she established partnerships with organizations including the UNDP Egypt, Living Cities, and the World Wildlife Fund. Prior to this, she worked across Asia on city-focused initiatives with the East-West Center and ITDP (Institute for Transportation Development & Policy).

She holds a Master in City Planning from MIT. Off hours you can find Mariko riding her bicycle or surfing the nearest coastline. In 2010 she traveled around the world on $25/day with a small backpack and her surfboard. She owes her love of community and loathing of traffic to Honolulu, her home.

Come talk to her if you want to chat cities, data policy, equity, transportation, and technology.