Skip to content
CPI in the news Article August 12th, 2020
Infrastructure • Cities • Finance

ICYMI: Mayors, Government Leaders Speak to the Importance of ‘Failing Forward’

Partnering for Learning

We put our vision for government into practice through learning partner projects that align with our values and help reimagine government so that it works for everyone.

Partner with us


Elysa Neumann, Centre for Public Impact

+1 202-630-3383


ICYMI: Mayors, Government Leaders Speak to the Importance of ‘Failing Forward'

Following the Release of “How to Fail (Forward),” A Chorus of Local Government Leaders Share Failures and Flag the Importance of Failing Forward

Washington D.C. - Following last week's release of “How to Fail (Forward): A Framework for Fostering Innovation in the Public Sector,” a report by the Centre for Public Impact and the Aspen Institute Center for Urban Innovation, local government leaders from across the country are speaking out on the importance of failing forward in government. Leaders are candidly sharing their failures and commenting on why a ‘Fail Forward mentality' is more critical in the wake of COVID-19 than ever before.

During a ‘Fail Forward' virtual panelMayor Quinton Lucas of Kansas City, MO, spoke candidly about recent challenges and failures. His comments covered topics ranging from his citywide mask order, the murder rate in Kansas City, racism, and relationships with the press. Overarchingly, Mayor Lucas noted that “when we speak about failures, we want to defend ourselves...but that's not what it's about. It's about owning up to our failures and our own concerns.” Further, the Mayor reflected that part of “a job is saying when we were wrong, and how we can do better.”


In the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, Melissa Bridges, the Performance and Innovation Coordinator for the City of Little Rockwrote that after the initial difficulties in transitioning to an online-only environment, “We learned, adapted, and improved at a pace more rapid than previously thought imaginable...This culture of learning and continuous improvement has been enabled by a mindset shift we have seen from both the people of Little Rock and those of us working in local government.”


Bobby Humes, Director of the Seattle Department of Human Resourcestalked about how his department became “much more vulnerable” in light of COVID-19, and how they turned that around and asked, “what do you have to lose?”  He talked about how Seattle “started up an internal talent transfer system to allow us to respond to COVID, redeploying folks who weren't working because of lockdown. We turned that from a concept to implementation in three weeks - in the public sector.”


Kate Bender, Deputy Performance Officer for DataKC in Kansas City, MOdiscussed how COVID-19 caused a complete reevaluation of their telecommuting policy, from “being actively against it,” to “having a group of senior-level staff championing it and not just in reaction to COVID.” She wrote that “The rapidity with which it's happening has convinced me that there are going to be some system-wide culture shifts.”


The office of Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson Tweeted, “To respond and recover from COVID-19, local governments need to innovate. Learning from failure is critical for successful innovation."


Grace Simrall, Chief of Civic Innovation and Technology for Louisville Metro Governmenttweeted that “You cannot truly innovate if you don't take/manage risks and learn how to fail forward.”


In addition to those mentioned above, others working in local government voiced their support for Failing Forward in government. Kansas CityRick Usher the Assistant Chief Manager for Small Business and Entrepreneurship in Kansas City, Little Rock, the Little Rock Parks Department, and Youssef Kalad the State Smart Cities Director - Technology and Innovation at Office of New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, have all commented on Twitter.


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 Center for Urban Innovation

The Aspen Institute Center for Urban Innovation (CUI) is a network hub that catalyzes and supports a broader movement to define values-led approaches to developing, piloting, regulating, and evaluating urban technologies.  We connect city leaders, non-profit organizations, and emerging businesses who share the belief that people deserve more than “smart cities.”  We deserve cities that promote human flourishing and digital infrastructure that enhances the experiences and opportunities that city life affords for all residents, particularly those in underserved neighborhoods.


Written by:

Elysa Neumann Director, Communications & Storytelling, North America
View biography
Share this article: