Bruce Cahan is an Ashoka Fellow, and CEO and co-founder of Urban Logic, a nonprofit that harnesses finance and technology to change how systems think, act and feel.
Urban Logic began in the 1991 as Bruce’s idea to make New York City a livable city, more accountable for its sustainability decisions in real time, by using geographic information. Bruce conceived NYMAP, a composite map of all City geo-tagged information, so as to see where and what infrastructure, environmental, transportation and emergency response needs and capacities might coexist and align for greater public and private good. At first, City Agencies resisted, resting on their information fiefdoms. Through Bruce’s research and advocacy with the Mayor’s Office of Operations, Office of Management & Budget and City Council, funding was found in the City’s capital budget to create a geographic information utility, NYCMAP, that is the cornerstone today for managing NYC operations.
By the mid-1990s, the Federal Geographic Data Committee of the national Office of Management & Budget had noticed Bruce’s use of finance, law and organizational principles to deploy interoperability in NYC. They asked him to research how to finance the nation’s geographic information infrastructure on a more cooperative basis with government, corporate and nonprofit partners. Urban Logic’s reports and Bruce’s design for I-Teams allowed OMB to create a 49 state initiative to promote sharing standardized geographic information, much of which is accessible now through web services like Google Earth® and other viewers.
With the World Trade Center Attacks, Bruce became an emergency responder, stationed at the NYC Mayor’s Command Center, and serving as liaison for federal agency geographic and other assets. It was there that Bruce saw first hand how much data existed about conditions in a major city like NYC, but that remained cloistered until a crisis erupts. As a municipal bond and corporate finance lawyer and merchant banker, Bruce realized that safe, “artificial” crises could be created through a credit rating that rewarded sustainability, rather than just the ability to repay debt.
Based on his 9/11 experiences, Bruce decided to create a high transparency bank, known now as the GoodBank™(IO) project. Through the proposed bank, regional quality of life measures would reward credit and savings customers, favoring sustainable choices. As municipal finance, the bank would provide new options for livable cities and their environmental, public health and other social sector programs, and their nonprofit and social entrepreneur partners. (For more on GoodBank, see Fast Company
, San Francisco Federal Reserve Bank journal on community
finance and the GoodBank Project wiki
Bruce is bringing bankers, designers, engineers, bank technologists and fintech startups and their venture capital sponsors together through the Sustainable Banking Initiative @ Stanford
that he co-created, along with Stanford Engineering faculty.
Bruce’s design for financing smart cities doesn’t stop at City Hall, data or the pavement. As a New York subway rider for 25 years, Bruce saw the potential for small package freight to move through subways instead of streets. Urban Logic’s design (SubEx) for undergrounding this freight and creating additional revenues to support mass transit was a finalist in the 2009 Buckminster Fuller Design Challenge, http://challenge.bfi.org/application_summary/461.
Bruce was trained as an international finance lawyer and merchant banker, at Weil Gotshal & Manges (10 years) and Asian Oceanic (2 years). As a social entrepreneur, Bruce acquired skills as a government technologist, emergency responder and someone who enjoys reconnecting meaning to how the world works. Bruce graduated The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania (B.S. Economics 1976) and Temple Law School (J.D. 1979), and is licensed as a lawyer in California (2006), New York (1980) and Pennsylvania (1980).