Jeff Merritt is a social entrepreneur and internationally-recognized expert in the area of smart cities, the internet of things, emerging technologies, and government innovation with more than two decades of experience driving social change in the U.S. and abroad. He currently serves as Head of Urban Transformation at the World Economic Forum, where he leads a growing international team with locations in 14 cities around the globe from San Francisco to São Paulo.
Jeff began his career working with U.S. State Department-sponsored programs in Croatia, Macedonia, Albania, Serbia and Montenegro. In 2003, Jeff was named Executive Director for the Center for Civic Responsibility, where he led efforts resulting in the adoption of new pay-to-play reform legislation and the development of a statewide civics education curriculum for high school students and adults. In 2005, Jeff founded Grassroots Initiative, a New York-based startup dedicated to ensuring that government and public service are accessible regardless of race, creed or economic status. As President of Grassroots Initiative, Jeff oversaw the launch of the nation’s first non-profit election consulting firm and helped organize the first entirely online public election in U.S. history as part of a 2009 contract with the New York City Department of Education.
In 2010, Jeff joined the office of New York City Public Advocate Bill de Blasio and in 2012 was named one of City & State’s “New York City Rising Stars: 40 Under 40” for his work there. At the Public Advocate’s office, Jeff led the Public Advocate’s open government and technology initiatives and national coalitions on issues of corporate political spending and gun divestment. He spearheaded the creation of New York City’s Worst Landlord Watchlist, a first-of-its-kind tool to allow tenants to look up a current or potential landlord to see code violations in that landlord’s buildings. The resource helped spur the creation of new private sector companies and has now been replicated in other cities including Vancouver, where it led to a 75% reduction in rental building violations.
In 2014, Jeff was named Director of Innovation for the City of New York and helped establish the Mayor’s Office of Technology and Innovation. As part of the Mayor’s Office, he led a range of technology efforts including launching the city’s top-level domain, laying the groundwork for the world’s largest, fastest municipal Wi-Fi network, and leading the creation and adoption of new guidelines and tools to promote the responsible and equitable expansion of the Internet of Things. In 2016 and 2017, Jeff’s work was recognized by the Smart City Expo World Congress in Barcelona with two awards: Best Smart City and Most Innovative Idea.
In November 2017, Jeff joined the World Economic Forum where he helped to build the Forum’s Centre for the Fourth Industrial Revolution Global Network and G20 Global Smart Cities Alliance. He currently serves as a member of the Executive Committee at the World Economic Forum and in August 2021 announced plans to establish a new global Centre for Urban Transformation. The Centre seeks to increase public-private collaboration in cities and advance more inclusive and sustainable models for urban development.
Jeff holds a Master’s degree from Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs and a Bachelor’s Degree from the University of Michigan. He lives in San Francisco, California with his wife, Kristyn, two daughters, Polly and Maisy.