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CPI in the news Article February 4th, 2020
Cities • Finance • Legitimacy • Innovation

Helping Local Governments Embrace Failure: New Initiative Launched by the Centre for Public Impact and the Aspen Institute

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Helping Local Governments Embrace Failure: New Initiative Launched by the Centre for Public Impact and the Aspen Institute

Seven local governments, representing 23 departments, selected for participation in pioneering “Failure Foundries”


Washington D.C.-The Centre for Public Impact and the Aspen Institute Center for Urban Innovation announced today that Kansas City (MO), Little Rock (AR), King County (WA), Seattle (WA), Dallas (TX), Philadelphia (PA), and Washington D.C. have been selected to participate in “Failure Foundries.” These seven local governments, representing over 20 different departments, will participate in workshops to better understand and overcome the barriers they experience to learning from failure, ultimately catalyzing cultures of innovation.

The private sector has long recognized that learning from failure is the critical link between innovation and impact. From the ethos “fail early, fail fast, fail often” to 3M (home of the Post-It) saving 20% of its budget for ‘failed ideas,' the private sector values the importance of failing to succeed.  In government, however, learning from failure isn't quite as simple.

Local governments' ability to identify, learn from, and do something about failures is limited by longstanding cultures of risk aversion, budgetary limitations, and public obligations. CPI and the Aspen Institute's Fail Forward program is designed to help governments understand and overcome barriers to failing forward. Ultimately, this project seeks to promote cultural changes surrounding the concept of learning from failure, thereby fostering innovation to meet the great challenges of our time.

“From rising inequality to climate change to the promise and disruption of technological advancement, the challenges facing our country are urgent,” said Dan Vogel, North America Director at the CPI. “To address these pressing issues, government must be nimble, responsive, and creative. This culture of innovation can only be achieved if we begin to accept learning from failure as a key component to creating better outcomes. By participating in Failure Foundries, these cities are leading the charge to create better outcomes for residents today and in the future.”

“We deserve cities that promote human flourishing,” said Jennifer Bradley, Executive Director at the Center for Urban Innovation at the Aspen Institute. “By embracing and learning from failure, cities have the opportunity to optimize their operations, dive deep into constituent concerns, and, ultimately, enhance the experiences and opportunities for all residents.”

Beyond the Failure Foundries, CPI and the Aspen Institute are rounding out their efforts with research, interviews, partnerships, and a FailureCon in May 2020. Among the list of strategic partners for the program is ELGL, a nationwide, big tent local government organization with the mission of engaging the brightest minds in local government, and The Atlas, an online community for local government officials and staff to post questions, browse case studies, and follow trending topics in local government.

“Local government is stronger when we share and learn from each other's experiences - both big wins and failures,” said Kirsten Wyatt, executive director of ELGL. “We look forward to sharing these stories with ELGL members to spur innovation and creativity in local services and communities.”

“The Atlas is excited to partner with the Centre for Public Impact and the Aspen Institute on this work,” said Ellory Monks, Co-Founder of The Atlas. “We are thrilled to share this innovative work with our community of local government officials and staff, and especially to share specific lessons learned in our database of 500+ city case studies.”

To learn more about the Fail Forward program, visit us online or contact Elysa Neumann at .


About the Centre for Public Impact

The Centre for Public Impact is a not-for-profit founded by Boston Consulting Group. Believing that governments can and want to do better for people, we work side-by-side with governments—and all those who help them—to reimagine government, and turn ideas into action, to bring about better outcomes for everyone. We champion public servants and other changemakers who are leading this charge and develop the tools and resources they need, like our Public Impact Fundamentals, so we can build the future of government together.

About the Aspen Institute

The Aspen Institute is a global nonprofit organization committed to realizing a free, just, and equitable society. Founded in 1949, the Institute drives change through dialogue, leadership, and action to help solve the most important challenges facing the United States and the world. Headquartered in Washington, DC, the Institute has a campus in Aspen, Colorado, and an international network of partners.

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