Nicole Isaac is Senior Director of North America Policy for LinkedIn and a member of the Engaged Cities Award review committee. As part of an ongoing series, we asked her a few questions about the award and her own work.
The Engaged Cities Award aims to find and elevate some of the most successful and diverse ways that city leaders are actively engaging their citizens to solve critical public problems. Why do you think a recognition program like this is important?
It’s extremely important to recognize creative problem solving on a local level. Local administrators are the most tuned in to what their citizens need, and so many of them go above and beyond to help their communities. If we encourage that work to continue and expand, we can address problems in ways that are specifically geared to each city’s needs — and also learn from those local experiences to identify ideas that work on a national scale.
Local administrators are the most tuned in to what their citizens need, and so many of them go above and beyond to help their communities.
What interests you about reviewing applications for the Engaged Cities Award and/or what are you hoping to gain from the experience?
As an alumna of the federal policy world, I find it so exciting to learn about the new and innovative ways city leaders are solving problems through citizen engagement. My work on LinkedIn’s policy team has given me the opportunity to learn from city leaders about their efforts to create new pathways to economic opportunity. The exciting thing about the Engaged Cities Award is the opportunity to learn from the creativity and passion shown by these local leaders in a wide range of fields, from education to poverty relief to sustainability.
One of the results we have seen in our work with cities is that the mayors and city leaders who successfully engage their citizens to solve problems also build trust with their citizenry in the process. Why do you think city leaders are especially equipped to build these relationships?
I’ve seen firsthand the way that city leaders are better equipped to build these relationships — it’s because they face the same issues that the citizens face. Municipal policymakers can address specific, targeted issues facing their citizens in ways that the federal government rarely has the bandwidth to do.
What are you working on now that would be particularly interesting to people who care about helping citizens and cities collaborate to solve public problems?
LinkedIn’s vision is to create economic opportunity for every member of the global workforce — which certainly dovetails nicely with the work that citizens and cities are doing to solve public problems! We’ve had the privilege of collaborating with city leaders across the country — from San Francisco to Salt Lake City to Cleveland to Jacksonville — to help them identify, map, and address barriers to economic development. So much of that work depends on providing city leaders with more effective, actionable data that enables them to solve problems in a more timely and targeted way.
It’s that combination of hands-on experience and attention to detail that puts city leaders in a unique position to empathize with their communities and build a sense of trust and common purpose.
Can you tell us a story or give us an example of collaboration that you’ve seen that has been inspiring? Perhaps something you’ve observed in your work at LinkedIn that illustrates why this work is so important?
We recently partnered with the National League of Cities on a project designed to help strengthen the economies of six cities (Austin, TX; Charleston, SC; Corpus Christi, TX; Houston, TX; Jacksonville, FL; and Nashville, TN) by ensuring residents have access to higher education and employment opportunities. As our team took a road trip to each of these cities, we shared insights and data on regional labor market trends — including hiring patterns, migration, and the skills in greatest demand from regional employers. That information, in turn, enabled city leaders to identify local skill gaps and design education and training programs to fill those needs. It’s just one example of the type of collaboration that can enable city leaders to make meaningful changes in their communities.