Modernizing Local Government for the 21st Century

What if 20 college students of various backgrounds and disciplines split into teams of five to compete for a cash prize for the best new technology? And not just any technology: These millennials are creating new technologies to improve municipal services and enhance our local quality of life.

It’s not a “what if”—it’s what’s happening.

“MuniMod” is a unique technology competition, sponsored by the Florida League of Cities Center for Municipal Research and Innovation. To pull it off, the League partnered with Florida State University, Florida Agricultural & Mechanical University, Tallahassee Community College, and Domi Station, a Tallahassee startup incubator and co-working space.

By harnessing millennial talent in both the business and academic communities, MuniMod has created an environment that encourages collaborative approaches to “Big Ideas” that improve citizens’ quality of life. The goal is to create new, cutting-edge municipal technologies while also promoting civic awareness among millennials; fostering new ways of addressing local challenges; creating scalable ideas for the smallest municipality and the largest; and tapping the knowledge of local elected officials, who serve as mentors and resources for competitors.

In December 2015, students presented their MuniMod projects and teams were judged on the following five categories: product idea; functionality; scalability; community impact; and presentation.

Team Socrates won MuniMod’s Fall semester with their product, Green Score—an energy efficient app that allows municipal departments to track both water and energy use internally, in real time, and compete in a “gaming environment” to reduce a municipality’s carbon footprint. Through the app, local governments can compete internally or externally, with other local communities, to improve energy and water efficiency.

MuniMod 2.0—held in 2016—was equally exciting. This year’s winner was Team Astrolite and its product, GNIE—a new software platform that allows municipalities to competitively bid select municipal contracts to pre-approved vendors in real-time.

Not only has MuniMod engaged younger Americans in the work of local government, it’s injected entrepreneurship into public affairs and produced exciting new local government technologies for Florida. Some of these ideas have already graduated to the next stage of development, with the potential for full-scale commercialization on the horizon.

Jenna Tala and John Dailey contributed to this article.