Building a culture of innovation in a small city – interview with Jessica Kahlenberg
6 minute read
The challenges facing cities are more complex than ever. But real momentum for change is building in, and spreading across, U.S. cities. Across the country, city-problem solvers are innovating with intention to tackle problems, and create more legitimate, equitable and agile cities for residents.
The Centre for Public Impact, in partnership with The Center for Urban Innovation at The Aspen Institute and the Boston Consulting Group, have created a handbook to tell the stories of city problem solvers all over America, surface the emerging practices from cities, and extract lessons from conversations with those within cities leading the charge.
This handbook is for anyone within a city who seeks to innovate with intention to improve outcomes for all residents in their city.
Innovation should be about how you make sure new programs or process improvements improve the lives of residents who need it most.
Justin Entzminger, Director of Innovate Memphis
We have to think about equity in everything. As we create opportunities, with innovation we must make sure they benefit all residents.
Thea Montanez, Chief of Staff for Hartford City, CT
You need to make sure you’re not just driving technology to problems that don't exist. We need to make sure we are tackling the most important problems that residents have.
Mark de La Vergne, Chief of Mobility for the city of Detroit
The key is asking the questions that are most important to residents and, together, innovating to solve those questions.
Jessica Kahlenberg, Innovation Strategy Advisor, Chelsea, MA
Our conversations illuminated how cities are using innovation and technology to drive impact against the most pressing challenges to achieve better outcomes for residents.
the broad reservoir of support that allows governments to deliver positive outcomes for all
creating the conditions that facilitate equal access to new innovation and technology so that all residents can share in the benefits
the ability to respond quickly to change in order to meet residents’ expectations and capitalize on new opportunities as circumstances shift on the ground
Cities that are driving impact with innovation Align innovation efforts, Empower all actors in the ecosystem to be able to innovate, and Grow an innovation culture city-wide.
"We have already done all the easy things. How do we mobilize everyone around tackling the hard things? That’s the key to driving change"
Noah Siegel, Interim Deputy Director of Transportation, Portland
Case study: San José created a first of its kind, $24 million Digital Inclusion Fund (DIF). Financed by access fees paid by telecommunication companies, the DIF will support programs to expand broadband access and increase digital literacy in the community. San José’s ambitious goal is to bring broadband connectivity and digital skills to 50,000 households over the course of the next decade - and this initiative explicitly earmarks funding to achieve this goal.
"Innovation cannot stand alone, or exist in silos. If it does, it makes innovation one person’s job and not an organizational mandate."
Brenna Berman, Executive Director at UI Labs and former CIO of Chicago
Case study: Kansas City, MO ran a 12-week Innovation Partnership Program (IPP) to create a 'Living Lab' - giving entrepreneurs the opportunity to develop, test and demonstrate innovative solutions using city data and infrastructure. The program benefits both the city and the entrepreneurs: the city has the opportunity to test new technology at no cost, and entrepreneurs can develop a valuable use case for their products and services. To date, the city has adopted over half of the solutions it has tested.
"It is foolish to think that doing the status quo both protects you from risk, as well as produces any new results. We have to experiment to achieve breakthrough innovation to really affect residents’ lives for the better."
Grace Simrall, Chief of Civic Innovation & Technology, Louisville, KY
Case study: In 2018, Tulsa, OK launched the CitiVoice Index, a partnership with Gallup that aims to transform its typical approach to measuring impact. It marks a shift from gathering city-centric data on customers’ satisfaction with city services to resident-centric data on the extent to which residents are (or are not) thriving. Nearly 4,500 residents responded to the survey on questions ranging from access to basic needs and services to the strength of civic support in their neighborhood. To define how to measure ‘thriving’, the city formed a working group consisting largely of community leaders outside of city hall. The index has already provided tangible benefits to the city, informing policy developments, city programs, and their broader approach to partnering with local organizations.
Cities have the ability to shape their own destiny
Jennifer Sanders, Dallas Innovation Alliance
This handbook is authored by the Centre for Public Impact, in partnership with the Aspen Institute and the Boston Consulting Group.
We have also written up our interviews with some of the city problem-solvers we spoke to, as well as written case studies to highlight how cities around the United States are using innovation to drive change.
We intend to continue these conversations through convenings, follow-up research, and direct support to help cities translate the ideas raised here into action. We want to build networks and collaborate with anyone who feels passionately about the potential of cities. So we invite you to join our discussion online, to tell us what you agree with, what you disagree with, and what else we should consider.
6 minute read
4 minute read