May 19, 2022

Five Questions with Laurie Guthrie of the City of Fredericton


Community Solutions Network Innovation Series

This new Innovation Series features some of the inspiring people working on smart solutions in communities across Canada

Laurie Guthrie

Title: Civic Innovation Strategist/Smart City Project Manager

Municipality: City of Fredericton

What are you working on right now? 

I’m currently planning our next innovation roundtable with our ‘innovation champions’ within the municipal corporation. These are the municipal employees who are embracing change and creating a culture of innovation within government. The roundtable provides a safe space to talk about current projects and ideate on new municipal challenges and ideas to fuel our Civic Idea Hopper. We then provide these problems to our university and college students, so that they can formulate their school projects based on real issues. These are co-creation opportunities where we get to harness brilliant minds in helping to solve our challenges. We also use these ideas to seed innovation events like our recent Boost Ideation Camp and Boost Prototype Camp. 

What do you like most about your work?  

Having creative license to identify opportunities or challenges and designing solutions to address those challenges! Just as we have done through the creation of the Boost Fredericton Civic Innovation Lab.

I have had the privilege of being able to affect positive change in my community and leading some projects that have had real impact. In 2011, I was proud to secure funding of an immigration coordinator position and city council support for a local immigration partnership, which has had a tremendous impact on our community from a talent, age demographic and cultural-diversity perspective. Within the lab, I have had the pleasure of working with exceptionally smart people from around the world, and I learn so much. I am currently working with an aspiring entrepreneur from Egypt who is developing a flood monitoring and forecast system so that the City of Fredericton can better predict and prepare for localized flood impact each spring.  

I believe you arrive at a much better end product or service when you involve the citizen or customer in the design journey from the beginning until the end.

What excites you about how the City of Fredericton is developing? 

How multicultural Fredericton has become over the last decade. People from around the world are enriching the cultural fabric of our city, and are bringing new perspectives, skills and experiences to the workforce to help our companies grow and expand. 

I also like the urban density of Fredericton, which was a very deliberate tactic in our new growth strategy, Imagine Fredericton. Through extensive community consultation – our citizens wanted to see in-fill and new types of development within the city versus sprawl outside of our community. Urban density makes for a more livable, environmentally sustainable city where people can quickly commute, consume and recreate within short distances. 

What would you like to learn more about?

Since using human-centred design methods during our participation in Infrastructure Canada’s Smart Cities Challenge, I have become fascinated with the methodology and its application and importance in delivering government services.  I would like to see more of a cultural shift within government/across the board to embrace a user-centred approach first. There are still some who would say why open pandora’s box, or why create public expectation?  I believe you arrive at a much better end product or service when you involve the citizen/customer in the design journey from the beginning until the end.

What’s next for you and your projects?

Where our Boost Fredericton living lab is a relatively new approach in government, I would like to get really good at fine tuning our model and iterative approach to identify well-defined problems in our Civic Idea Hopper; and working with our post-secondary education students, researchers and entrepreneurs to solve them through co-creation opportunities like our recent Boost Innovation Camp.  An important element of this model is ensuring access to digital infrastructure like Rogers 5G and our open data. Great prototype ideas, that are strategically aligned with corporate priorities and create value (for example improved service delivery and quality of life), get tested in our early adopter program, and if successful, move through the continuum of commercialization support to drive economic development. It’s a continuous loop!

Laurie has been active in the Community Solutions Network, recently participating in the virtual panel discussion Community-driven Innovation and the Emerging Disruption. The City of Fredericton has also been working with Open North, lead technical partner of the Community Solutions Network, to help further develop and implement Fredericton’s smart cities initiatives.

Connect with Laurie on social media: Twitter LinkedIn

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