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Today at Sylver Consulting, we celebrate the power of CIVIC INNOVATION!

by Carrie Graham

Last year, Brianna Sylver worked as an Innovation Coach for three of the 35 Champion Cities selected by Bloomberg for the 2018 Mayor’s Challenge. These cities made such impressive strides in their approach to problem solving and today we feel pride seeing how far they’ve come.

While a few cities had some familiarity with the innovation process, for many of them it was a completely new experience. Here are a few key takeaways from Bloomberg’s process of introducing innovation into the public sector:

  1. The problem of engaging residents

    While most cities understand the value of public input in the design of new city programs, resident engagement is still a pain point. If the traditional town hall meeting isn’t drawing people in, what should an innovative city do? Try something new.

    Cities were encouraged to come up with new methods to gather resident feedback, such as a low-cost augmented reality program to help them visualize new city planning ideas in New Rochelle, NY. Bringing these interactive programs to the farmers market was an enjoyable way to engage residents in something useful for city planning.

  2. Introducing Prototyping

    In the business world, prototyping early versions of a product with customers is standard practice. This is much less so in the public sector. Bloomberg introduced prototyping as a low risk way for cities to test ideas with residents. The hope is that cities can push their ideas further, and consider taking new leaps in innovation:

    “Because it uses low-cost, low-fidelity methods, prototyping gives City Halls a safe space to throw some caution to the wind. Ideas are, after all, just ideas. Prototyping gives stakeholders a chance to explore how a new initiative might work, ask any questions that they might have, and get used to this new idea in their world.” — James Anderson, Head of Government Innovation at Bloomberg Philanthropies

  3. New Ways of Working For Government

    While prototyping as a tool can go a long way to impact how cities solve problems, lasting change requires a shift in mindset. The champion cities worked in collaboration with universities, NGOs, private industry, and design professionals who not only filled knowledge gaps, but also encouraged new ways of working together. The goal of these collaborations was to create a lasting cultural change in city hall.

The 2018 Mayor’s Challenge is a great step in the direction of empowering city leader’s towards the bold changes needed to move our cities forward, but there’s still a long way to go. We hope that through this initiative, more and more cities begin to embrace the power of innovation in 2019 and beyond.

Bloomberg Philanthropies has published a report entitled, “The Creative City.” It highlights what each of the 35 Champion Cities learned during the 6-month “Test & Learn” phase of the competition. We encourage you to check it out and be inspired. How might you bring more resident/ user engagement and prototyping into your process?

  • News
  • 2019
  • Civic Innovation
  • Bloomberg Philanthropies
  • Prototyping
  • Design Thinking
  • City Planning
  • 2018 Mayors Challenge
  • The Creative City
  • Innovation Coaching

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