One of the most important and latest emerging trends that local governments are adopting for cities is the appointment of officials to the position of "Chief Innovation Officer", which is often followed by forming teams to work with these leaders, so that together they are responsible for exploring new ways to solve internal challenges and organizing different tools such as data analysis andHuman-centered design andBehavioral Sciences, with the aim of assisting their partners inside and outside the municipality in improving the level of services provided to residents.
In light of the growth of these investments aimed at strengthening the innovative capabilities of local governments, The following important question arises: How can cities ensure the sustainability of innovation in their businesses? Despite the urgency of these capacities for local governments, But city leaders face a real challenge in terms of funding and providing ongoing support to teams responsible for innovation. especially when they face complex problems resulting from most innovative efforts due to the long time it takes to achieve results in this aspect, Or entrenched opposition and bureaucratic procedures should be an essential part of the challenge.
As Director of the Innovation Teams Program at Bloomberg Philanthropies, , I was able to see firsthand how these factors actually evolved on the ground. As the second batch of 13 innovative teams draws to a close, I spent the past reflecting on the lessons these cities have learned. In this article, he outlined five key findings and points on how to build sustainable innovation capacity in local governments.
- Accuracy in the selection of pressing issues
It is important that innovation teams focus on the highest priority issues that involve the most difficult challenges for the city. Therefore, Innovation teams supported by the Bloomberg Foundation are working to solve issues that have a tangible impact on residents' lives and that are identified by the mayor himself; this will provide continued attention from city leaders and other stakeholders to the work they do. Because the support of these officials for innovation initiatives is an important factor in this equation, Most importantly, it affects the lives of residents and workers in the city.
"Innovation teams should receive clear formal guidance from the mayor and city senior leadership, which is a prerequisite for its success."
This was evident to us in Boston, where the innovation team chose to work on an initiative to provide affordable housing. In an effort to solve a problem that is not only urgent in a city that is experiencing a growing population and rising wages, It was also a headline on Mayor Martin Walsh's campaign program. Therefore, Boston's innovation team founded the Housing Innovation Lab To engage residents and housing industry experts in efforts to understand the challenge and provide innovative ideas, One of them was the Intergenerational HomeShare Program, which connects seniors who want to rent rooms in their homes with people looking for a place to stay. Walsh saw the usefulness of this valuable solution and led him to transform the laboratory into a permanent municipal office .
Even when innovation teams are responsible for tackling difficult and complex challenges, It is imperative that you find an appropriate scope for these challenges that lead to successful and beneficial impact as quickly as possible.
2. Provide mutual support between innovation teams and municipal leadership
Innovation teams should receive clear formal guidance from the mayor and city senior leadership, This is a prerequisite for its success. This is due to, In part, to the nature of the work of these teams, which includes interaction with a range of government institutions, Which enhances its chances of continuity by obtaining the continuous support of the mayor. In contrast, At the same level, it is important to create a sense of real responsibility for innovation efforts and to provide support to the innovation team to ensure that progress is accelerated. Both have played a major role in the innovation effort in the city of Los Angeles , where the innovation team has the support of the mayor, Mayor Eric Garcetti, He is distinguished by his ability to work with various government departments and agencies from his institutional position in the Mayor's Office for Budget and Innovation. At the same time, The innovation team should build and strengthen networks with organizations and customer service teams they work with, In addition to their partners in society such as non-profit institutions, universities and others. The positive impact of this does not stop at building a broad base of community support for innovation efforts. It also creates a basis for sustainable change in the way municipalities overcome the challenges they face.
"The innovation team should work to build and strengthen networks with organizations and customer service teams"
One of the teams that has achieved great success in this regard is the innovation team in the city of Syracuse, About 70 municipal employees were trained on innovation methods, Brainstorming sessions with staff to address specific challenges, He also organized competitions to present new concepts inspired by the ideas of municipal cadres. These interactions have expanded and deepened the culture of innovation within the municipality. And created many solutions that the innovation team could not have come up with, It also contributed to building a strong relationship between the innovation team and the customer service team. In addition, The Syracuse innovation team has formed strong relationships with many department heads, Syracuse University, Code for America, and United Way. Building this support network has not only helped new Mayor Ben Walsh continue his innovation work, It also enabled him to accelerate these efforts, which began during the reign of his predecessor.
- Diversity of skills and strengths of innovation team members
Innovation efforts flourish when a team with diverse experiences, opinions and perspectives work on them. The Los Angeles innovation team is one of the most important examples of this important aspect. Where his manager enjoys, Amanda Davlos, With a consulting background in the private sector, As for her deputy, he is a senior employee of the government sector, In addition to the presence of a data science specialist who takes into account the comprehensiveness and accuracy of the quantitative research conducted by the team. Designers are implementing a human-centered approach to innovation design. The team also includes members from the journalism, information technology and engineering sectors, The majority are women.
Davlos says: "We have been able to implement everything we aspire to thanks to this diversity of skills, Ranging from new programs, technology products, behavioral science projects and marketing, Right down to massive skills-based learning conferences, Because this combination of skills is essential for the success and excellence of any team if it is managed and developed properly."
There are skill sets that have proven to be important to innovation teams, This is partly because they are completely new to local governments. The first group is data-related skills, Having a data analyst on the team is critical to researching and understanding any new challenge. It is also important to enable the team to identify a benchmark for the magnitude of the challenge in the first phase of the project and to analyse the effectiveness of intervention actions once they are implemented. The innovation team at Syracuse relied on a data-driven methodology For the maintenance of dilapidated infrastructure, This has reduced the incidence of bursting water pipes by 42 percent. He helped save more than US$1.2 million from the road works budget, Which prompted the municipality to Appointment of Sam Edelstein, He is a data expert in the innovation team, , to be the city's first chief data officer.
"Innovation efforts thrive when a team with diverse experiences, opinions and perspectives work on them"
The second skill set is Human-centered design , where designers begin by solving government sector challenges by trying to understand what residents face, and then work on developing a range of practical and innovative solutions to deal with these challenges. They're innately curious and Trained to counter prevailing assumptions to explore areas that have been overlooked or misunderstood, Besides identifying the root causes of the challenges, Testing and testing solutions with residents to ensure that new programs meet actual needs before the city invests in them. Today, All of Bloomberg's innovation teams include, At least one designer and two in several other teams.
Another skill is knowing how to apply behavioral science insights to improve outcomes. That's what the Los Angeles innovation team did to help the police department increase the number of people in its workforce; after noticing the withdrawal of more than a third of applicants, Once they have reached the stage of submitting disclosures containing their personal history, The innovation team redesigned the form and started sending emails and text messages to remind applicants to complete the online form. This has contributed to an increase in the number of people seeking employment. He motivated the city to use what are known as behavioral "alerts."
4. Storytelling about the team's work
Using stories about innovation efforts may be the last thing that comes to mind when an innovation team is busy conducting research with evaluators or preparing to launch an important initiative, but formulating the government's narrative about the efforts of innovation teams is important and essential in two respects. This helps reinforce the reputation of the municipality's innovation team as one of the most important actors in achieving results and change. Externally, It enables the population to understand how important innovation is in the work of local governments. One of the reasons why using stories is important is that innovation efforts are often seen as poor and unhelpful to the public. Therefore, Use familiar language to talk to people about what the team intends to do. And highlight the impact that is reflected in the lives of residents and workers in the city.
The Seattle innovation team does this by sharing photos and quotes from evaluators who have seen the impact of innovation through the team's blog . Teams in Los Angeles,Long Beach and California issue periodic newsletters highlighting key achievements.
"Innovation efforts are often seen as intangible and unhelpful"
Storytelling also achieves the element of engaging senior leaders and colleagues in the municipality and facilitates informing them of the latest developments. This would push those concerned to take to the field during research on racial composition, for example, To experience first-hand the power of this methodology in understanding the root causes of existing challenges. It also means inviting residents to follow innovation teams in their workplaces. In most cities, which is usually an open space designed to encourage the collaboration aspect. Of course, it is best for interested colleagues to learn about the way the innovation team solves challenges by organizing field tours for them to see how the teams work. As well as answering their questions related to research visions and ideas put forward to find solutions.
5. Early planning for sustainability
Investing in innovation pays off in the end, as innovation efforts contribute to savings, efficiency and better outputs. However, There are costs to cover, which mainly include team salaries. Whether or not this is included in the grant amount, Every innovative team must plan early and continuously to ensure that funding opportunities are sustainable for the team.
Long Beach is a good example. The innovation team started its work with funding from the Bloomberg Foundation in 2015. Shortly thereafter, The team had discussions with the city's leadership about different ways to continue working. By the time the grant ended last year, She was the team manager, Tracy Kolonga, has developed a new financing model, Government organizations are now working with the Tracy team to leverage its data-driven methodologies and design to implement specific projects. And pay from their own budgets.
This represents one example of sustainability, But there are some innovation teams that have continued to work drawing on local philanthropic sources. Many have turned into government-funded companies. For these teams, Making quick wins early is key to securing an opportunity to work on larger projects that may take longer to achieve impact.
"Making quick wins early is key to securing an opportunity to work on larger projects that may take longer to achieve impact"
Adhering to the best practices described here will enable any innovation team to build a strong foundation for sustaining efforts in this area. But that alone is not enough, Innovation teams need strong partnerships with the departments they work with, Ensure that these departments are highlighted when innovation efforts are successful. Innovation teams should also focus heavily on measuring impact and continue to report digitally to senior leadership. and inform the public about them.
It should be noted that among the 13 innovation teams that recently expired, All kept at least one team member, Most have almost maintained or even expanded their entire team. Currently, In the United States alone, More than 70 cities have appointed a Chief Innovation Officer, It is a number that continues to grow and increase until now, This is a clear sign that leaders recognize the value of these investments and how important it is to maintain innovation capabilities in the long term.
Source: This article was written by Stephanie Wade of the Government Innovation Team at the Bloomberg Foundation.