Cities are uniquely able to innovate and transform citizens’ lives, but face many barriers to developing and implementing solutions to tough challenges. City governments are not always organized to support innovation, especially when it comes to addressing “horizontal” issues—such as poverty reduction, sustainability, or customer service—that are the shared responsibility of multiple departments and chains of command. The absence of standard management and engagement strategies to overcome department silos makes it harder for leaders to define, deliver, and sustain solutions to these complex and multifaceted challenges.
Further, many mayors’ offices lack the human capital, organizational capacity, or financial resources to take on bold ideas. A tension exists between “putting out fires” and managing day-to-day responsibilities and finding the time and space needed to think, plan, and launch new solutions.
There are few incentives within bureaucracies to experiment and try new things—but there are plenty of motivations to maintain the status quo or settle for incremental change. New programs that fail tend to attract more attention than those that succeed. And when it comes to innovation, there will inevitably be efforts that do not work as planned.
The i-teams program was created to provide cities with a method to address these barriers and deliver change more effectively to their citizens. By using the most effective approaches to innovation, i-teams greatly reduce the risks associated with this work, and provide mayors with assurance in their ability to develop and implement effective solutions to their highest-priority problems.