Joyce Deuley: Bridging the Gap by Making Emerging Technologies More Accessibles

Joyce Deuley
Joyce Deuley

Joyce Deuley brings a unique perspective to the field of emerging technologies as the Strategic Project & Communications Specialist at Team b. Strategy +, a woman-owned small business specializing in strategic advisory and communications. With a passion for innovation and collaboration, Joyce plays a crucial role in shaping the future of smart cities by facilitating targeted innovation and sharing best practices within the industry.

While Joyce humbly avoids claiming the title of a “thought leader,” her dedication to sharing insights and fostering collaboration highlights her commitment to making the complexities of emerging technologies more accessible to others. Through her role, she strives to bridge the gap between complex technological concepts and their real-world implications for communities.

Drawing upon her fascination with emerging technologies and her diverse experiences, Joyce endeavors to bring these innovations to life, emphasizing their potential impact on communities once implemented. Her approach highlights the importance of considering the broader implications of technology adoption, with a focus on creating tangible benefits for society at large.

Below are highlights of the interview that display Joyce Deuley’s role as a Strategic Project & Communications Specialist is essential in driving collaborative innovation and promoting informed decision-making. Through her efforts, she contributes to building smarter, more resilient cities that enhance the quality of life for all.

What initially sparked your interest in working towards the advancement of smart cities, and how has your journey unfolded in this field?

My smart cities journey began as an analyst in 2016 when a client rolled out a smart water meter pilot in Texas. The projected cost savings and the amount of water that could be conserved were staggering. It lit a fire in me and made me imagine what these technologies could mean for a state or a country. And that fire hasn’t diminished over the years.

Since then, I’ve launched and led civic innovation programs in San Antonio (CivTechSA, the Geekdom Incubator, etc.), founded a non-profit to help make Texas a “smart state” (Smart Texas Alliance), served as an analyst in this industry, and served as a Director of Research and Innovation, among many other things.

In my current role, we’ve pursued state-wide technology projects to national laboratory initiatives to Federal policy work, and it’s just the tip of the iceberg of what can be accomplished at Team b. Strategy +. It’s a positive reflection of the leadership here that professionals like me have a place to grow as people while pursuing meaningful projects with incredible impact.

Over the years, I’ve exceeded what I thought was possible for me, and I know there’s always more. More to learn, to share, to do.

How do you approach leadership in the context of driving innovation and transformation within smart city initiatives?

Being ready to manage innovation, I think, is at the core of leading transformation. It’s exciting to be at the beginning of a project, but often innovation dies in the middle. In the middle layer of an organization, in the middle of a project…Having the right organizational mechanisms and talent on staff to really see a project through matters.

As every organization and city is different, those processes and mechanisms will be different across projects. Very few smart city deployments are copy-paste between communities. There’s a lot of internal work cities must do to be ready for innovation and then be able to manage and maintain it once the project goes live. For vendors, having someone on the team well-versed in how cities work is beneficial.

From a leadership perspective, you need at least one internal champion for the project. Someone who clearly sees the goal line and, most importantly, can bring others to it. Once the project is in play, have the strategies and tools to take it all the way home.

What do you believe are the most critical factors for the successful implementation of smart city solutions, and how do you ensure stakeholder buy-in and collaboration?

Let’s start with the buy-in. If you don’t have it, nothing moves forward. In smart cities it’s important to source community buy-in, but if city leadership isn’t on board, it’s going to be difficult to move forward—even if it’s the best idea in the bunch.

Be sure that what you pursue makes sense for the community and for long-term city goals; then communicate that vision to others in a way that makes them see what’s at the heart of all smart city transformations: improving people’s quality of life and access to services.

For a successful implementation, it’s more about collective will and a plan for how to absorb additional responsibilities than which new technology is implemented. Be thoughtful at the forefront and take time to map out what this will take. And, to quote a colleague, don’t let great be the enemy of good.

In your opinion, what role do technology and data play in shaping the future of smart cities, and how do you leverage them effectively in your work?

Those are the necessary components to make a city “smarter”, but they have their place. What truly makes a city smart is its ability to reflect the will of its residents and how they engage with each other.

Through technology and access to better data, cities and their partners can make real improvements to people’s quality of life. But if input from residents isn’t captured and considered, then it feels like a top-down decision to incorporate technology that they may not want at all or don’t understand. Most vendors will emphasize the need to educate the public, but engaging the public is more of what needs to happen.

Technology is an enabler, not the end all be all; data is a tool to inform and provide insight. Transformation begins once you enable those insights to bring about change within a community.

As a leader, how do you foster a culture of innovation and collaboration within your team or organization to address complex urban challenges?

I am thankful I have spent a lot of time in entrepreneurial spaces and have worked with numerous startup companies. They function very differently than a city and there is some benefit to the “fail fast” mentality that they bring to most of their projects.

There’s a way to embed lean, innovative, and startup-like processes within cities, but you must create space for cities to be wrong, to fail. And that’s difficult when you have the potential to negatively impact whole communities.

Collaboration is a bit easier. Finding people willing to help is often not the issue. Moving forward together on a project is what’s tough; especially as stamina and patience wear thin across long sales and implementation cycles, procurement issues, technical issues, etc. But having a champion(s) with a clear vision of what success means helps drive everyone forward.

What advice would you give to aspiring leaders who are passionate about driving positive change and innovation in urban environments?

Don’t wait for permission. Go out, right now, and find a way to get plugged into what’s happening in your city. Join a committee, join a non-profit, find an entrepreneurial center, a startup—whatever. Just go do it.

Then build a network of likeminded individuals. Just being around others who were engaged and building on new, innovative things altered the trajectory of my life. There’s room for you; no matter your field of study or your interests.

How do you balance the need for technological advancement with considerations for inclusivity, equity, and accessibility in smart city initiatives?

If we spend the time building new systems for a city, why would we not attempt to correct past instances of prejudice or inequity? A smart city is accessible to all, not just available to a few. Our most vulnerable or underserved communities are often left out of innovation cycles, which can make existing gaps even wider—and for decades to come.

It isn’t a matter of balancing technological advancement with considerations. Make inclusive, accessible, and equitable considerations alongside the technological decisions.

Vendors can assist cities by doing some legwork in these areas, too, prior to implementation. Better understand the cities you’re trying to serve by learning about their communities and help build solutions that reflect those communities.

Lastly, on a more personal note, what motivates and inspires you to continue your work in shaping the future of smart cities, and what legacy do you hope to leave behind in this field?

The world is facing extreme pressures to evolve across environmental, social, political, and industrial spaces. That pressure is palpable to me. In 2016, I felt then if we don’t figure smart cities out soon, we’ll be in trouble. Fast forward to now in 2024, that sense of urgency is still here and continues to spur me on.

But, in the U.S., smart city innovation has been left largely for cities to manage. It’s difficult to source appropriate funding, find standardizations or best practices at the state level, or almost any sort of national policy. However, that’s starting to change.

As far as a legacy, I want to prove that lean, intentional transformation is possible for cities of all sizes, not just major metroplexes. And that these models can be replicated throughout the country.

Growing up, I was told I wear my heart on my sleeve; I hope that’s still true. I want to enable heart-felt innovation and transformation that improves the quality of life and accessibility for others to not just live but thrive.