Gift: The Making of a Smart City, by Barbara Paretsky, tells the story of HBR Case Solutions and how they were able to take the information found in hundreds of Case Studies about cities and use it to help revitalize and improve a city. Instead of just seeing city improvement from the “bottom up,” they thought of themselves as a “top down” group that came up with ideas, constructed the research, and eventually ran the Case Study Solutions.
The problem: How does one make a city successful? Well, HBR Case Solutions made cities smart. They first evaluated the city and then built a case study that would show exactly what needs to be done.
HBR Case Solutions went through each of the cities that they worked in and then surveyed citizens. What they found surprised them. Citizens loved these Case Studies and wanted more. They realized they could not just show a city what it needed to do but rather tell a city what it already had, a proven example of what works.
The first Case Study was in Cincinnati, Ohio. The city was thriving economically. They were growing rapidly and there were thousands of new homes and businesses opening every year.
There was just one problem, however: because so many Case Studies showed the same success story, the city planners who were part of the project were left wondering why the same thing did not happen in other Case Studies. How could they recreate the exact same formula, so that everyone could get the same results?
Case Solution #2 was Nashville, Tennessee. The city was struggling economically, but there were several positive Case Studies to show that HBR Case Solutions could replicate. But still, there was a disconnect between Case Studies that showed that the city was doing great and Case Studies that showed it needed some work.
The third Case Solution was Indianapolis, Indiana. Again, there were many positive Case Studies showing the city was succeeding, but again, there was a sense that the formula was flawed and the city needed some more work.
Case Solution #4 was in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Again, there was many Case Studies that showed success for the city. Yet there was a sense that something had to be changed in order to improve the city even further.
Finally, the fifth Case Solution was Detroit, Michigan. This was truly a city that needed an overhaul because of all the negative Case Studies showing it was falling apart.
This was a great book and is not your typical book on Case Solutions. It is a story of the ways that an independent, non-profit organization that has been around for over a decade, HBR Case Solutions, came up with innovative ideas to help revitalize the communities they were serving. I loved this book and can see why so many people enjoy it as well.
Case Solution #5: The last Case Solution is Chicago, Illinois. Chicago is a city that has been in the news recently because it has two crime problems. This is a nice ending to the series.