Public-sector innovation thrives when cities learn from each other, build upon one another’s successes, and, in doing so, reduce the time and risks involved in adopting proven ideas. But the effective replication of already-winning ideas isn’t as simple as it might sound. It requires both a strategy to uncover great ideas and the know-how to adapt and implement them to ensure they best meet the needs of the city.
These are some of the elements at the core of a blossoming effort to replicate Stockholm’s Biochar Project, a winner of the 2014 Bloomberg Philanthropies Mayors Challenge. The project turns plant waste into a product, biochar, that solves several problems at once: locking up carbon in ways that prevent it from accelerating climate change and, when mixed with soil, soaking up storm water and helping trees grow stronger and taller.
Seven cities are now building upon Stockholm’s innovation with the help of Bloomberg Philanthropies. They include Helsingborg, a Swedish city of 100,000 that hasn’t just embraced biochar, but is taking the idea to the next level. (The other cities include Darmstadt, Germany; Sandnes, Norway; Helsinki, Finland; and Cincinnati, Lincoln, Neb., and Minneapolis in the U.S.)