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Article Article July 1st, 2021
Cities • Infrastructure • Innovation • Legitimacy

Reimagining government in North America: what we’re learning

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After engaging with over 125 cities and counties in North America, @Dan_Vogel shares how @CPI_foundation understands its role in driving lasting change for public problem solvers and the residents they serve.

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Interested in exploring what it means to engage @CPI_foundation in North America as a learning partner? Get in touch w/ @Dan_Vogel!

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"We believe it is of central importance that we provide a forum for government changemakers to share what they are learning, and for our team to share what we’re learning alongside them, so that others can benefit," says @Dan_Vogel

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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

Earlier this year, our global Executive Director, Adrian Brown, shared an update on what we’re learning about reimagining government. He introduces CPI as a learning partner: an organization that helps others build their own capacity to learn. CPI does this by helping its partners center their work in experimentation, data gathering, sense-making, reflection, and reflexivity. 

For our team in North America, Adrian’s piece articulates the underlying nature of much of our work over the past few years. But, perhaps more importantly, it represents the vision for how we plan to focus our energy and partnerships moving forward. As we steer our work and partners in this direction, we believe it is of central importance that we increasingly provide a forum for government changemakers to share what they are learning, and for our team to share what we’re learning alongside them, so that others can benefit. 

We believe it is of central importance that we provide a forum for government changemakers to share what they are learning, and for our team to share what we’re learning alongside them, so that others can benefit.

Learning to be a learning partner

When I last shared a broad reflection on our work in North America, we were two years into our journey. We had a small team of smart, passionate individuals who were committed to understanding what “reimagining government” could look like in North America and putting it into action through mission-aligned partnerships. We were “testing and learning” various approaches for delivering the most impact in the most differentiated way.

Fast forward to today - our North America team has grown to 27 changemakers who have executed in-depth programming in 125+ cities and counties across the globe, with the bulk of that work taking place in North America. This work with a wide range of government leaders has helped our team understand the role CPI is best positioned to play in driving lasting change for public problem solvers and the residents they serve. 

While we gain valuable insights from each project and initiative, the following have been particularly impactful for us to sharpen our understanding of what a learning partner can do and be:

Our Government Innovation portfolio supported 30+ cities to build core innovation capabilities as they design, test, and prototype solutions to pressing city problems through our work in Innovation Training and the Bloomberg-Harvard City Leadership Initiative’s Innovation Track. Across each program iteration, CPI has seen the tremendous impact that fostering people-centered, experimental, and iterative mindsets in local government can have on creating solutions that better meet resident’s needs. 

In 2020, our team worked with Rockefeller Foundation to design and manage a horizontal learning network - the Pandemic Solutions Group (PSG). The PSG created a space for more than 50 U.S. cities, states, and Tribal Nations to share insights and solutions in response to the extremely complex and fast-moving COVID-19 pandemic. The PSG demonstrates the powerful role that decentralized learning networks can play in accelerating innovation and allowing individual, local innovation efforts to become greater than the sum of their parts. 

Fail Forward is an ongoing program based on a key finding from our Future of U.S. Cities work: that the ability to learn from failure could be the critical link between innovation and impact in government. Our team turned this insight into action by digging deep into the hypothesis to produce a framework for fostering innovation in the public sector and explore the impacts of privilege and racism on one’s ability to fail forward. In the coming months, we will sharpen our understanding of failure’s role in innovation by launching Fail Forward programming in counties across the country.

In our Inclusive Economies portfolio, Built for All brought together leading minds to unpack the shortcomings and opportunities of our global economic systems. After Built for All was published and shared at exciting forums like Davos, our team continued to test assumptions and dig deep into the framework’s utility by conducting a listening series with 30 government leaders. These conversations helped us translate the theoretical ideas into practical action, unpacking what it takes to cultivate inclusive economies in particular contexts. Building on this, we are now encouraging action-learning and knowledge sharing among individuals and organizations working to build inclusive economies through our collaborative Inclusive Economies Hub and three programmatic offerings. In the coming months, we will also release metrics for practitioners in the government, civic, and private sectors to gauge their progress on the Built for All outcomes. 

Legitimacy, or the relationship between governments and the people they serve, has long been a cornerstone of CPI’s work. It’s a thread that runs through the resident feedback coming during the Mayors Challenge, the thousands of sticky notes written by passionate citizens and public servants in the Bloomberg Harvard City Leadership Initiative, the local speakers representing their communities at the Pandemic Solutions Group, and the deep engagement and co-owned solutions with at-risk communities in the TOPcities program. 

While legitimacy will remain a through-line for all of our programs, we are also building up a distinct and stand-alone Legitimacy portfolio of work. This portfolio is focused on better understanding what builds trust and legitimacy between residents and government and then equipping public servants to partner with the people and communities they serve in new ways. We are proud to launch our first offering, a Learning Cohort on Earned Legitimacy. This 10-week program is an asset-based, values-driven approach to strengthening the relationship between government and residents. 

Moving forward

The past years have been a tremendous time in the history of the world. We’ve lived through an unprecedented global pandemic, our country is reckoning with systems that have perpetuated racial injustice, and we’ve faced fundamental threats to our democracy. 

In the midst of this turmoil, people across North America are asking for change. They are unsatisfied with a status quo that has not always served the many, and are asking how we can come together to support equity, sustainability, and flourishing of all. These complex challenges will require public systems and public servants to think and work differently - and to be better at learning and adapting more quickly.

I’m so proud of how our North America team has risen to this challenge, growing into the role of a learning partner for changemakers seeking to reimagine government and to help bring our world into a brighter tomorrow.

Reimagining Government across North America

We help government changemakers and their allies to think and work differently, so they are better equipped to address complex and pressing challenges.

If your organization shares a dedication to reimagining government so that it works better for ALL residents, we would love to work with you. 

Work with us

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