COURSE TITLE: Tech and the City: How to Get Urban Innovation Right

INSTRUCTOR: Molly Turner



MEETING DAY(S)/TIME: First 10 weeks


CLASS FORMAT: Lectures from professor and high profile guest speakers with live cases, followed by interactive discussions, and group presentations. 

REQUIRED READINGS Timely news articles and a few carefully selected chapters from books on urban history and tech innovation, such as Jane Jacobs’ “Death and Life of Great American Cities,” Evgeny Morozov’s “To Save Everything: Click Here,” and Anthony Townsend’s “Smart Cities”.

BASIS FOR FINAL GRADE Class participation, brief memos (1-4 pages), a group project and presentation.


This course will help you be a more successful and impactful urban innovator. Today some of the most transformative and fastest growing tech companies are “disrupting” urban life. At their best, these companies make smarter cities. At their worst, they make inequitable cities. This course will critically examine how new technologies and business models are impacting cities and will identify the approaches that produce not only the best business outcomes, but also the most equitable and sustainable outcomes for cities.

Throughout, we will address some of today’s most challenging questions, such as:

To begin, you will get a crash course on the history of cities, learn from the biggest mistakes of our urbanist past, and develop the tools to thoughtfully assess the impacts of today’s tech businesses on cities. Then, with the help of guest lecturers – high profile founders, government officials, and journalists – we will look at a variety of tech companies that are innovating in cities today and examine their impacts, regulatory challenges, government relations strategies, and community engagement strategies. Finally, you will apply everything you’ve learned by conducting a thorough investigation of a contemporary urban innovation topic of your choosing.

CAREER FIELD: If you work in the tech sector, this course will teach you how to be a more civic-minded technologist. If you work in the public sector, this course will teach you how to be a more entrepreneurial civil servant. At the very least, this course will teach you to be a more critical consumer.

BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH: Molly Turner is an urban planner and tech policy pioneer. As an early employee of Airbnb, she founded the company’s public policy team in 2011 and co-authored some of the world’s first “sharing economy” regulations. Then as Airbnb’s Global Head of Civic Partnerships, Turner directed the company’s partnerships with governments around the world, including its international disaster response program and its 2015 business launch in Cuba.

Today, Turner is a leading voice on urban innovation as a member of the Aspen Institute’s Center for Urban Innovation Working Group on Innovation and Regulation and as a board member of the urban policy think tank SPUR, and the urban ventures accelerator Tumml. She is also an advisor to several early stage tech companies.

Before Airbnb, Turner worked for the San Francisco Mayor’s Office of Economic Development, the UNESCO World Heritage Center, and a sustainable tourism consulting firm. Turner holds a Master in Urban Planning from Harvard University and a BA from Dartmouth College.