Impressive. That was all we could say after Rustavi Innovation Hub finished listing all that they’ve done over the last year. No mammoth sum of money showered the city, no legal or procedural exceptions were all of a sudden granted to Rustavi from the central government. For the city 2018 could’ve been a year like any other, except it wasn’t.

Exactly one year ago, in March 2018, I came to Rustavi for the first time. We were working with a recently established municipal Innovation Hub. The approach of the newly elected Mayor was brilliant in its simplicity – select civil servants from each and every department and start bringing experts from all around the country and beyond to learn about their tools and figure out what sticks in Rustavi. The partnership that the city developed with UNDP in Georgia and Innovation ServiceLab from the Public Service Development Agency in Georgia added a significant boost from the very onset of the project.

Our presence in Rustavi is just one example of Rustavi model at work. Over the course of three months, we were exploring how foresight tools could help the municipality get local community engaged in visioning, setting priorities and working on specific solutions. Four scenarios for the city that we developed with the Hub outlined challenges and opportunities the city would be best off exploring over the next few decades.

This year, together with Magda and Monika from our Urban Workshop team, we’re here to test a consultation board game that we’ve designed based on our previous experiences. To be best prepared for the testing and accompanying workshops, we met with the Hub this morning to go over the developments of last year. We knew they had little time and money to work on innovation. Our jaws dropped.

A taste of their effectiveness is in the non-exhaustive list below. We will leave you with this raw list. We will not go into “how much more could’ve been done with additional support”. The answer is obvious and if you’re a company or an international organisation/NGO looking to invest in the most promising city out there. These are your guys.

  1. Built a partnership with Future Lab to pilot a project in 3 Rustavi schools (10 teachers in each school) on using futures thinking in making education practical and career-related;
  2. Expanded partnership with Forset, which resulted in a couple of civil servants acquiring data-related skills (esp. data viz). In May, they’re organising a hackathon on data collection;
  3. Developed a partnership with Orbeliani – microfinancing NGO, specialising in supporting youth engagement in urban development. They already have 14 projects co-funded by the municipality and Orbeliani.
  4. Built cooperation with an international company providing internships for 12 students in blockchain and AI;
  5. Announced calls for the rehabilitation of two recreational areas in the city — all facilitated by the Hub in the spirit of co-design;
  6. Built upon partnerships with Gdańsk and Łódź (both in Poland). With the former to explore climate change related projects, with the latter to look into post-industrial revitalisation processes;
  7. Secured external funding for a new forest/park, which would enhance local microclimate and provide space where citizens could spend their leisure time.