Tech Tuesday: Introducing the Innovation Ecosystem

Innovation involves creativity. One might associate the innovation process with a free-flowing exchange of ideas. One might not associate the innovation process with the concept of management. Even the term innovation management sounds like an oxymoron. Should a creative process be planned for and managed?


The City of Philadelphia’s Office of Innovation and Technology (OIT) has developed a plan to help manage how it fosters and supports innovation. The objective of the plan is to establish and sustain an innovation ecosystem in Philadelphia.

Here’s what that means.

An ecosystem, in nature, consists of a community of interdependent entities. Each entity—from the ecosystem’s core, stretching outward—has something to give and something to take. It’s a collaborative process of pushing and pulling and building and growing. The key to a thriving ecosystem is allowing this exchange to expand to the surrounding environment.

The same applies to the innovation landscape of Philadelphia. OIT hopes to create an innovation ecosystem starting with the Philadelphia governing body at the core. The ecosystem will wind its way through city departments, programs, and initiatives—through the community—until it eventually stretches outward to private, non-profit, and individual entities throughout the region. The thought is that every department, project, company, or idea will have something to add and take from this support system. As a result, the system will thrive.

The plan for this ecosystem begins at a firm, technological foundation. This foundation is comprised of networks, databases, security and user support robust enough to facilitate both present needs and future wants.  This foundation is led by the operational leadership within OIT and connects with external technology companies.

At the next layer is the development of applications. Mayoral priority leads this development with the help of various city departments to determine specific end goals. Once a direction is agreed upon, OIT’s Office of Engagement Management works with external firms and pertinent city departments to produce a tangible product.

The final layer, building on the two below, is the layer for innovation development and support. This layer is the most external of the three; its overall direction is led by the needs of the public. To satisfy these needs, OIT depends on external, technological support and consultation. The end result of this collaboration is the ability to provide the people of Philadelphia with the best possible services. Another result is a more effective, fluid operation from within the government.

This third layer extends in a number of different directions to work towards goals and connect with external entities. These extensions aim to innovate in four main categories:

  • Digital Inclusion – Programs and initiates striving to provide all citizens with access to technology.
  • Access to Data – Initiatives and practices developed to effectively enhance government transparency.
  • Mobile Application Development – The introduction of new products aimed at providing better governmental customer service.
  • Government Efficiency – Technology and collaboration establishing better government processes.

This approach to innovation will provide the City of Philadelphia with the absolute best resources for growth. While the overall direction of internal innovation will be led by the likes of Mayor Nutter, Chief Innovation Officer Adel Ebied, and Chief Data Officer Mark Headd, the processes and end products will be propelled forward by external thought leaders and technology firms throughout the area.

This collaborative approach allows for both departmental successes throughout the government and achievements in innovation throughout the city. Under this approach, the government will thrive because of its city and the city will thrive because of its government.

An innovation ecosystem in Philadelphia means a better way to grow.

4 thoughts on “Tech Tuesday: Introducing the Innovation Ecosystem

  1. Extremely well written article. Glad to see the OIT taking a proactive approach to educating and informing the general populace. Looking forward to more articles like this one and big things from the office in the future.

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