Speaker Series

COVID-19 has tested the systems and institutions our society is built on. As we move from response to recovery, now is the time to ask ‘why,’ ‘how,’ and ‘for whom.’ 

Join MetroLab Network for The Break Down–a series of talks given by experts that dig deep into the reasoning and mechanics behind decisions they’re making. Speakers will draw upon and share:

  • how and why they connect with the topic or issue,
  • what they do and how they approach their work, 
  • what they think is important to think about and consider as they move forward, and
  • what they want their colleagues and potential partners to know as we all move into (re-)creating our world.

Subject Matter Experts

Informed perspectives


Experts dig into the ‘why’ and ‘how’ of a topic, rather than the ‘what’.


Focused Scope


Dive deep on key topics and spark ideas for improvement in your community.

30+ Locations

Diverse Perspectives


Leading experts, including many of MetroLab’s members, which include 27 cities, 6 counties, and 34 universities.

Past Events

Santi Garces

Director, Innovation & Performance

City of Pittsburgh

Denise Linn Riedl

Chief Innovation Officer

City of South Bend

Mike Sarasti

CIO, Innovation & Technology

City of Miami

Digital government trends over the past decade have included migration to cloud data storage, open data, and online government services, but have never moved faster than a comfortable pace. In the past couple months, CIOs and CTOs have been overseeing sweeping digital government transformations, transitioning to a remote workforce, video council meetings, digital town halls, fully online government services, and more. They are overseeing these transitions while also protecting against cybersecurity threats, incorporating equity considerations, and supporting data and technology services that address the pandemic response itself. This session will explore these topics through the lens of three nationally-recognized city CIOs.    

Catherine D’Ignazio

Director, Data + Feminism Lab


Tawana Petty


Our Data Bodies

Seeta Peña Gangadharan

Associate Professor, Department of Media and Communications, LSE

Co-Lead, Our Data Bodies

Martha Norrick

Director of Data Strategy, Mayor’s Office for Economic Opportunity

City of New York

Data can be a huge asset, especially when something like a pandemic hits. Data can help us understand what we’re doing well, where we need to improve, where to target resources, and who we are leaving out. But what data do we have access to? And how might we make sense of it? Who does our data serve, and how? During this session, we talk with experts who grapple with data in different ways to share how they see data as a tool that can help create a more equitable society.

Debra Lam

Managing Director of Smart Cities and Inclusive Innovation

Georgia Tech

Dan O’Brien


Boston Area Research Initiative

David Sittenfeld

Program Manager

Forum at the Museum of Science Boston

COVID-19 has disrupted our lives and our work. Many events have been postponed or canceled. But, in some instances, can the show still go on? During this session, we’ll talk with experts who have come up with new ways to engage their audiences and learn about why they decided to keep at it and how they’re doing it.

Martin O’Malley

61st Governor of Maryland

46th Mayor of Baltimore

Dave Wilkinson

Executive Director, Tobin Center for Economic Policy

Yale University

Harriet Tregoning


NUMO Alliance

COVID-19 has shined a spotlight on vulnerabilities and inequalities in cities. It reveals the communal challenges of uninsured populations and the stark impacts of social determinants of health. It has forced rapid change in service delivery, from income support, to food security, to transit. This session will consider these challenges and explore how we can build more resilient systems in cities as we emerge from this ongoing crisis.