The Smarter Cities Challenge team arrived in Burlington, VT on Easter Sunday with tremendousenthusiasm and drive to immerse ourselves in a new environment and make a difference… And what an experience it’s been! Feel very fortunate to be in such a wonderful city and to have outstanding support from the local hosts, stakeholders and the SCC program.
Already half-way through this incredible journey, we are tirelessly engaging with Burlingtonians from government, business, education, non-profits and the community, absorbing information and focusing our energy to derive the best possible recommendations for a place we’ve grown so close to.
The team is truly a “dream team,” I could not have imagined putting together different people in a way that more perfectly complements our strengths and motivates us to do our best. I am completely inspired by the caliber of leadership talent and am learning at every step. Everyone is committed and working very hard, but we also play hard, and naturally have come to make the most of our intense routine and international sense of humor, and balance our strong personalities and diverse styles, to ultimately enjoy fantastic camaraderie.
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We started strong, conducting over 30 interviews in our first week. We had the opportunity to tour several facilities – demonstration sites of renewable energy use – including the local biomass generation plant. Everyone we’ve connected with has been open and generous with their points of view and helpful resources. It’s especially rewarding to feel the positive energy and passion for sustainability that the city shared.
We met with the Mayor and his staff, representatives from several other government departments; utilities; local college, university, high school and teaching hospital staff and students; small business owners, non-profit organizations; community members; activists; and local IBMers. We listened, took notes, asked questions, listened some more, asked further clarifying questions, … and repeated over and over again, to gather as many relevant perspectives and ideas as possible.
For the weekend, we took a break and enjoyed a gorgeous sunny day. We had a surprise in store when we pulled up to the “Bread and Butter” Farm in nearby Shelburne, and were invited to figure out how to make mozzarella cheese – without instructions – to demonstrate our teaming journey. The team passed the “test” in flying colors – clearly graduating into “performing” quality – and made delicious cheese, which we got to sample along with our lunch at the Shelburne Vineyard. Retired IBMer – turned winemaker and vineyard owner Ken, and his wife Gail, were gracious hosts and shared a flavorful sampling of their local wines. What a treat!