Envisioning a Smarter City in 3 Steps – Zapopan, Mexico

Posted on behalf of SCC Zapopan team member Patricia Waldron

Earlier this year, IBMers from US, Mexico, France and India — representing GBS, STG, S&D, Research and Corporate Citizenship — came together for three weeks for a Smarter Cities Challenge in Mexico. One team worked together to bring “agro-food” — a system of agriculture designed to shorten the path that food takes to get from farmer to table — to the city and municipality of Zapopan. Specifically, IBM worked with municipal leaders in Zapopan (located in the Mexican state of Jalisco) to bring to life their vision for an agro-food cluster and industrial park to connect local farmers, academies, companies and government to increase the area’s economic health and fuel a better quality of life for its citizens.

Zapopan team Mexico 8x10@300

The project, spearheaded by Zapopan’s visionary mayor, Dr. Hector Robles Peiro, promises to not only improve daily life for his constituents, but also position Zapopan as a role model for other communities at the state, national and global level. Thanks to IBM, Zapopan is becoming a smarter city.

Here’s how we spent our three weeks:

Our first week was devoted to discovery. We met with dozens of stakeholders, from research agencies and academics; to CEOs of Jalisco-based food manufacturers; to small, local farmers and entrepreneurs, and government agencies. We listened carefully to their challenges, pains, hopes and vision for the future.

Our second week was focused on solutioning. We pooled together our hundreds of observations. Then we documented, prioritized, and grouped them by theme. After arriving at three major themes, we reviewed them with our “coach” (the mayor’s advisor, Ian Paul Otero) and refined them based on his feedback. Using our collective knowledge of industry and technology — as well as knowledge from others in our respective networks — we then came up with a vision of the “art of the possible” for the agro-food cluster and its stakeholders.

Our third week was spent preparing, in this case a set of recommendations to present to the mayor and other key stakeholders. These showed a holistic approach to the project’s solution that truly brought together the best of IBM: solutions, research, consulting and infrastructure. Our proposal’s three themes were also its three recommended steps:

  1. Organize a governance model and roles for the stakeholders.
  2. Inform with a digital platform (supported by cloud, mobile, social and analytics) to engage and educate the stakeholders.
  3. Sustain the new agro-food cluster — financially, environmentally and socially.

“Listen for need, envision the future” — and its components — shone through as a core IBM Practice throughout this short but intense project:

  • Unite across IBM, and beyond. We worked together in Zapopan, brought in expertise from our extended networks of SMEs, and shared our experiences via social media, connections, blogs, and tweets.
  • Get it done. We immersed ourselves in the project — and in the local culture too! We gathered what we needed quickly, “divided and conquered,” and then came back together as a team for the final presentation.
  • Work with thoughtful urgency. With only three weeks available for the project, the team worked quickly and efficiently, with an agenda that made the best possible use of our limited time with the municipality and its stakeholders, allowing us to present them with a comprehensive vision and roadmap.

We presented our findings to Mayor Robles and his advisors, Ian Paul Otero and Vanessa Peres Lamas. They commented on the thoughtfulness and depth our or findings, and Mayor Robles had a true “aha moment,” telling us that we’d inspired him to think of taking the expected benefits of the cluster to the state level, for a greater impact on the citizens of the region and ultimately all of Mexico.

The initiative has wide-ranging benefits for the area. Farmers will benefit from improved, more concentrated access to agricultural markets and market data. They’ll also be able to utilize new technology to help them make better decisions on where, when and what to farm. Industries will benefit from the co-location, both physically and technologically, of farmers and food companies. These industries will have greater ability to sell high-value and more cost-effective products to the people of Zapopan and in the state of Jalisco, as well as for export. And citizens will enjoy a better quality of life due to better services, good jobs and greater prosperity for their city and state.

Following the presentation, Mayor Robles presented each of us with a plaque of recognition for our work and a figurine (appropriately made of corn husks – a key agricultural product) as a reminder of Zapopan. I’m certain the experience will not be something any of us will forget.

We presented our recommendations and final report in October, 2014. Work on the industrial site is scheduled to start now, just a month later, in November. This is a big milestone and represents tangible progress for all the stakeholders.

We look forward to following the progress and keeping in touch with the people we met and grew close to during this amazing assignment.

Our team included: Abhijit Majumdar, IBM India; Alan Foster, IBM US; Carlos Saucedo Maciel, IBM Mexico; Claude Basso, IBM France; Diane E Shimmon, IBM US; Manuel Avalos Vega, IBM Mexico; Patricia Waldron, IBM US.

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Filed under Alumni reflections, Zapopan, Mexico

Looks like I have started following all things LA

Following up on the BBC POP UP…. they have been writing more about Louisiana in their travel across the US series.

Read  this very sad story about how islands are disappearing due to natural erosion…..


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Go dté tú slán

Guinness Tasting... Done!

So all is done and dusted for us in the Dublin SCC team.  Most of the team have headed off, and the rest of us will have departed this fine city by the end of the day.  I’ll miss it, but I’m looking forward to getting back to my family.

Our presentation is delivered, and that was a great (if slightly nervous) experience, and our final report is submitted, ready for the editing team to correct all of our spelling mistakes and tortured English.  I’m very much looking forward to seeing the final product.

It has been a very immersive experience.  We were advised to leave our day jobs behind as much as our day jobs would allow us to, and looking back I can see why.  For three weeks we have all been living and breathing Dublin, and Solar.  The team has come from a number of different countries and cultures, and we all have different backgrounds, within IBM and HSBC.  The result has been a very dynamic and fulfilling experience; it’s not been without its moments of lively discussion, but I can honestly say that I have found every member of the team a delight to work and spend time with.  It’s been a group of people who have engaged, entertained, challenged and amused me.  I could say the same about the members of Dublin City Council and those others we have worked with, and of course Deirdre and the local team who have made it all work pretty much like clockwork.  Thank you!

My only concern is that maybe we should have tidied the team room a bit more when we left….

Francis Bacon's studio at the Hugh Lane Gallery

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Fare-thee-well until we meet again Down by the Liffey water..


Thanks to everyone for these amazing 3 weeks – I shall cherish my memories in Dublin forever.

Thanks to my colleagues Ana, David, Deirdre, Javier, Lindsey, and Sachin, Mark and team from city council, Codema, and all the stakeholders who took the time to share their knowledge with us – I’ve learnt a lot from all of you.

I hope our recommendations to the council will bring benefits to Dublin city and its residents. I wish the city of Dublin and its residents all the best.

So farewell Dublin, Till I return to see you again..

[title from an Irish song by Brian Warfield]

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Bye…Bye…Ballarat, It certainly has been an experience of a lifetime.

Yesterday, was our final presentation to the City of Ballarat Council, Officers and City leaders. I think our findings and presentation was received well, and feedback was good. While we present our findings and recommendation, there is much work to be done, and I see this as a new beginning. As we bid farewell to a city that has been our home for past three weeks, we take a part of Ballarat with us to our homes. City of Ballarat welcomed us with open arms, gave our team full support and access to its best minds, subject matters experts and facilities. Our final presentation concluded with a photo shoot opportunity with city leaders, historic landmarks, deep discussions on our findings and future of waste management in Ballarat. Our team, which I think is one of the most talented set of individuals and best of IBM, worked tirelessly to put our best into this Smarter cities Challenge – Ballarat. While we all are excited to head back home to our families, and regular routine, we have a lot of memories and souvenirs from this great city. We are going back for now, but we are only a   click and e-mail away. I intend to keep tabs on the progress on our work effort and on new friends we have made during our stay. I would also like to take this opportunity to thanks the Council, residents and Officers of the City of Ballarat for their hospitality and opportunity to work on this important issue.

LizCrothers_6992 LizCrothers_6996 LizCrothers_7048 LizCrothers_7110

I wish all the best to the City of Ballarat and it’s residents.



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Survivor : SCC Ballarat

Today marks the last day of our smarter cities challenge in Ballarat.  At our first briefing back in March, we were told that a smarter cities challenge half work project / half reality TV show.

Thankfully there have been no cameras in our workrooms, but there is very much the parallel of being placed in a new challenging environment with a group of strangers and having to work together to achieve the goal.  Just as in reality tv shows, this is when the magic happens.

It has been an amazing opportunity working with my IBM colleagues on this project.  We walked in, eager to help and learn – and slowly we understood the challenge we were facing.  Anaerobic digestion, leachate,  kW/hour, bio-solid digestion, calorific value ???    This was going to a VERY fast learning curve.

This is when the diversity in the team and the skills we all brought came in handy.  Our more technical colleagues rapidly become something close to subject matter experts in all things waste.  Those less technical, myself included, tackled the equally important issues of people & process – and slowly things began to drop into place.   We were blessed with great team dynamics, the trust to have open debates and active discussions and no one was above doing the coffee run or taking minutes of the meetings.    No need for tribal council …. no need to vote anyone off!

We were extra blessed with the support of our IBM Citizenship Manager who was such a valuable member of our team.  In addition to her day job, her ability to engage with a wide cross section of the public provided us with diverse perspectives on waste across the city.   We can’t forget to mention our “angel” Jen from ABV who helped manage our logistics, delivered lunch each day and made coming back to our workroom a happy surprise each night with snacks, and the australian humour tacked to the fridge.

No perspective of teaming would be complete without recognition of our wonderful team at the Ballarat City Council – Ange, Leon, Sean, Lauren and Anthony….  they have been a wonderful collaborators, advisers and partners.

At our grand finale presentation today – it occurred to me how lucky I have been to have had the opportunity to have this amazing experience, acquire a deep body of knowledge around waste management and meet and work with an amazing team!


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Thanks to Everyone… and Goodbye for Now


Well – it’s that time, we’re finally getting ready to put a wrap on the Smarter Cities Challenge in Ballarat. We had our final presentation with Council this morning, and all in all I think it went very well. Even after all our work, it was a bit intimidating to present in front of all of the experts who we interviewed in the first place. The feedback from Council and all of the stakeholders has been overwhelmingly positive. Maybe we did learn something after all :).

Joking aside – it has been pretty amazing to see the volume of work produced and knowledge that can be accumulated when 5 people are locked in a hotel for 3 weeks and asked to tackle a particularly difficult problem. Lots of coffee, snacks, and wine later we’ve come out on the other side, and it’s a bit sad now to think that the experience is almost over. We’re off to dinner tonight, and then hop on our various airplanes to go back to our day jobs. Challenging as this was, the past few weeks have been a truly amazing experience, and I think we’re all better off for having gone through it.

Thank you to Mayor Philips (who we discovered today actually reads this blog), Ballarat CEO Anthony Schinck, and all of the Council members and city officers for their help and support throughout the engagement. I can’t think of a better client to work with, and I do hope that we are able to provide them some solid direction and recommendations that they can build on. Thanks too to all of team Ballarat: Nitin, Ravi, Josh, Kylie, and Miranda – it’s been truly a pleasure and an honor to work with each of you. And finally a thank you to the community of Ballarat. We have experienced exceptional hospitality and welcome (even when mangling coffee orders) everywhere we went. You have a truly lovely city that we will all remember for a long time!



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Filed under Ballarat - Australia