City Worker Exchange Program

Ryan Dahl

An international exchange program should be established for workers in local city services to foster the sharing of ideas. There are few opportunities for local tradespeople to share ideas and techniques outside of their region; the goal is to fix that.

My favorite part of traveling isn't seeing the historic sights but rather discovering differences in the daily operations of the country. In Paris, for example, the public trash bins aren't bins at all but a suspended steel hoop with a plastic bag hanging in it, this allows sanitation workers to very quickly tie and replace them. Or how in Italian homes the cupboard above the kitchen sink often has no bottom and houses a dish drying rack - so that after you set your dishes there to dry, they're already in the cupboard. In Taiwan the garbage trucks play a melody and it's the citizen's responsibility to bring their trash out and put it in the truck. There are countless small differences to be seen in every country. Until I visited Paris, it never occurred to me that public trash bins could be much different than they are in NYC.

We should be sharing the best ideas small and large. Localities have a lot of locked up knowledge that is difficult to share across borders.

Thus this proposal for a new type of exchange program. Except instead of an exchange program for college students it will be instead for young city workers who have just completed an apprenticeship (or first couple years of training) in some professional field. Imagine an entry level NYC sanitation worker spending a year abroad in London. There are different processes involved in London that the young worker can come home with.

The goal is the simple exchange of ideas.

It may be that leaders in, say local rail transit organizations participate in international conferences and try to learn from other cities.

Operational trades people very likely do not have opportunities to share notes. How often do NYC sanitation workers visit London? Even if they've holidayed across the pond, how likely is it that their trip involves deep dives into local sanitation processes?Maybe there’s a better way to roll up an extension cord. Maybe there’s a better way to pack a tool box. Maybe there’s a better way to wire up a railroad switch.

An exchange program of trades people. Nurses, sanitation workers, postal employees, and other trades of the like would exchange places with a counterpart in another country.

There is no need for exchange programs for programmers. All the techniques, software, and discussions are already available globally. The same is not necessarily true for trades that interact with physical reality. The more location dependent a trade, the more likely it is to contain non-digital local techniques and knowledge.

Since medieval times in Europe, various crafts like carpentry and metalworking have a tradition of their workers traveling to other towns or countries to learn the techniques of remote counterparts. This tradition has been important for the transmission of artistic style around Europe.

College students around the world participate in exchange programs. Helpful in personal development and fostering better cultural understandings.

An exchange program of city workers would facilitate the sharing of ideas that could bring improvements small and large.

Start with three different departments and two cities For city departments, I would choose transportation, sanitation, and medical. The two cities should be English speaking to better facilitate learning of trade skills. New York City and London might be good choices for the pilot program.