The City of Philadelphia’s leadership has made great efforts to make Philadelphia an “innovation friendly” city. The end goal of this strategy is to foster a thriving innovation ecosystem where government and residents both benefit, and to create that environment the City has begun to create a strong platform of innovation infrastructure.
With an organization as large and complex as city government, however, infrastructure leading to true innovation needs to be both sustainable and versatile; it needs to be able to transcend employees and departments across the city to make impactful changes to day-to-day operations. These changes often involve a shift in cognitive approach and often aren’t dependent on technology alone.
To build the City’s human infrastructure, the Office of Innovation and Technology recently introduced a plan for a Municipal Innovation Academy. This Academy would play a key role in establishing a culture of innovation and leadership in the Philadelphia city government.
The Municipal Innovation Academy involves a developing partnership with Philadelphia University, an academic leader in innovation. Through this collaboration, the Office of Innovation and Technology would partner with Philadelphia University to establish an innovation curriculum for city employees. Unlike traditional educational graduate programs such as Public Administration, the Academy would focus on the creative process and methodology for applying innovation to workplace challenges.
This interdisciplinary curriculum would initially involve a pilot program consisting of one high-level, survey-type course offered at Philadelphia University and covering basic principles of innovation taught by Philadelphia University professors. This pilot course would be offered to 10-15 City of Philadelphia employees who were specifically chosen to pilot the program.
Pending the success of the pilot course, The Academy could be expanded to include a series of courses, each of which would focus on a particular aspect of innovation such as Systems Thinking, the Integrated Design Process, and Innovation Leadership. The completion of this program could lead to a certification for City employees that would distinguish them as emerging, innovative leaders with the ability to think creatively and apply that creativity to a work setting. Ultimately, it is the hope that this academy could become a key infrastructure in the city’s innovation ecosystem, providing employees and future municipal leaders with the skill sets required to drive Philadelphia forward as one of the most innovative city governments in the country.
While this academy is still early in the planning stages, the possibilities of how substantially it could impact city employees and innovation within the city government are nearly endless. Stay tuned for more updates as the Municipal Innovation Academy and other “innovation friendly” initiatives take form.