By Kathleen Carlson, Bloomberg Philanthropies Government Innovation program
Public service is – in my opinion – a job everyone should hold at least once in their lives. It offers the incredible opportunity to make real change where you live, impact the lives of millions of citizens, and turn the idea of “uninspired government bureaucrats” on its head.
By Anne Emig, Bloomberg Philanthropies’ Government Innovation program
Since 2013, hundreds of cities around the world have competed in Bloomberg Philanthropies’ Mayors Challenge by proposing bold new ideas that solve urban challenges, improve city life – and have the potential to spread.
By Garnesha Crawford, Bloomberg Philanthropies’ Government Innovation team
Last week, Bloomberg Philanthropies convened 100 leaders from 20 city teams in Bogotá, Colombia to challenge the ideas they developed to improve city life in Latin America and the Caribbean. Each team is in the race for five awards as part of Bloomberg Philanthropies’ Mayors Challenge – an ideas competition that invites hundreds of cities within a region to define a serious problem within their city, and then develop a bold, new idea to solve it.
By Katie Appel Duda, Bloomberg Philanthropies Government Innovation team
How can City Halls go beyond business as usual? It can start with a conversation. Having frank discussions with cities facing similar challenges is one of the best ways local governments can share ideas and spread their most innovative practices.
Beth Blauer, Executive Director, Johns Hopkins University Center for Government Excellence
In 2003 I was working as a juvenile probation officer in suburban Washington, DC. I was an intake worker responsible for deciding if children who were accused of breaking the law should be referred for prosecution, should be detained in a detention facility, or could go home with their family while receiving services or awaiting trial. At the time, these decisions were based on a 30-minute interview with the family and a police report. I had no idea whether the child had been in school that day, whether there was a social worker involved in that family’s life, whether there was food in the house. The information was limited and if you tried to find more, you were faced with endless barriers and systemic excuses. It was an injustice that was deeply troubling and one that I would ultimately focus my career on unraveling.
Innovation teams (i-teams) are in-house innovation consultants who use the tested Innovation Delivery approach to help mayors and other partners solve cities’ biggest challenges. We have invested in more than a dozen i-teams around the world, and recently caught up with the Los Angeles i-team to share their story. They are rethinking neighborhood revitalization and testing ways to make neighborhoods inclusive even as they change.
L.A.’s i-team director Amanda Daflos reflects on this challenge. She discusses how the i-team is learning from successes and failures, and how they are contributing to a renaissance in the city, harnessing data, innovation, and collaboration to benefit city residents.
Idea generation is a key component of the innovation teams (i-teams) model at Bloomberg Philanthropies. In order to address the most critical issues in their cities, i-teams seek out the advice and counsel of a number of stakeholders: residents, government officials, community leaders, innovators from other cities, and more. From there, the creativity kicks in, as i-teams branch off in numerous directions in order to develop actionable ideas and solutions.
By leveraging best-in-class idea generation techniques and a structured, data-driven approach to delivering results, Mayors have effectively used this approach with their i-teams on issues as diverse as murder reduction, economic development, and customer service.
Bloomberg Philanthropies asked i-teams directors and team members to define what idea generation means to them, and share their thoughts on how they approach this vital step in government innovation.
Despite tackling incredibly different social challenges, government innovators often find themselves in need of useful tips to take on tough issues in cities. After working with winners and finalists for the European Mayors Challenge, Innovation Unit Chair Paul Roberts shares emerging insights about common challenges to implementing bold innovations
By Tommy Pacello, Director, Mayor’s Innovation Team, Memphis
Innovation at the city level is vital for long-term growth and stability, but developing bold solutions to big urban challenges requires a devotion to process and partnership and strong leadership that is willing to try something new. I didn’t fully understand the difficulty of this until I had the opportunity to serve on a team dedicated to taking on tough city issues using a new approach.
City agency staff and nonprofit managers from across the country came together in Nashville, Tennessee to kick off the third year of the Financial Empowerment Center replication initiative. Financial Empowerment Centers provide one-on-one financial counseling as a free city service, helping local residents reduce debt, build assets and move towards financial stability.
The model was pioneered in 2008, under the Bloomberg administration in New York City, and then replicated in 2013 with support from Bloomberg Philanthropies to five cities (Denver, Lansing, Nashville, Philadelphia, and San Antonio).
The Financial Empowerment Center model began as a simple, yet ambitious idea: people in financial trouble need help, not just education. Financial counseling delivered by highly trained professionals could be successfully scaled into a measurable, high-quality public service. Through the Cities for Financial Empowerment (CFE) Fund’s replication initiative, each of the five initial cities demonstrated that this idea works, even across different geographic contexts and resident needs. The success of the model inspired new waves of city administrators to follow suit.