A few weeks ago, I was honored to welcome more than 200 Chief Information and Technology Officers to Philadelphia. We candidly discussed the challenges we face in closing the talent gap around technology and the importance of STEM education. The event was also a great opportunity for me to highlight many of our efforts around innovation. I am proud to say the room was “a buzz” over the progress we have made in Philadelphia over the last few years.
Last week, the City of Philadelphia’s Office of Innovation and Technology was recognized for one of its most successful years to date. The StateScoop 50 Awards, honoring state and local government’s “best and brightest” presented the City of Philadelphia with not one but THREE awards this year. The City’s Chief Innovation Officer, Adel Ebeid won a “State Leadership Award.” Ashley Del Bianco, Program Manager for Innovation Management, won a “State Up and Comer / Most Inspiring NewComer to Watch Award.” And the City’s newly piloted Academy for Municipal Innovation (“AMI”) won a “State Innovation of the Year Award.” All three of these awards were well deserved.
Under Ebeid’s leadership, the City has seen success in innovation management, mobile technology, G.I.S. services, open data, and improved IT infrastructure, among other areas. Ashley Del Bianco has been an essential part of the City’s expanding innovation management effort, including but not limited to, the KeySpots program, which helps to close the digital divide in our poorest neighborhoods, and our new Academy for Municipal Innovation which provides our municipal employees with the training and tools to innovatively solve problems into the future.
Ebeid and Del Bianco have been working in their new roles for years, however, the Academy for Municipal Innovation’s win was especially significant since the program only launched this past January. The Academy, a first of its kind for city government, partnered with Philadelphia University in an effort to build capacity and institutionalize creative thinking and innovation in the municipality. Nineteen (19) selected City employees, worked through an 8-week program at PhilaU to learn the tools and techniques of innovation used to find solutions to complex problems. Significantly, at an official graduation ceremony, participants formally received a framed certificate in Municipal Innovation. With this inaugural class, and more to come, the academy will create a network of innovators who will then spread the innovation gospel throughout City government. The StateScoop 50 Awards “honor the best and brightest who make state and local government more efficient and effective.” To see more of the StateScoop 50 winners, click here.
Congratulations to Adel, Ashley, and AMI!
Take It To The Lab
These great efforts are just the beginning of our innovation efforts. Next month, we will launch the first true Municipal Innovation Lab right here in Philadelphia.
During the Nutter administration, the City of Philadelphia has made innovation a priority. We have seen the creation of a Chief Innovation Officer, an Office of Innovation Management, a Chief Open Data Officer, a Director of Civic Technology, an Office of New Urban Mechanics, and an important shift in culture that embraces innovation and creative problem-solving. We strive for a culture of continuous improvement. A physical innovation lab that sits upon the top floor of our Municipal Services Building with a majestic view of City Hall will serve as both a concrete commitment to these changes and a vehicle to expand our innovation efforts across the City. It will also serve as an important symbol to all stakeholders that we are truly in the innovation business.
Currently, Philadelphia city government views itself as a convener, facilitator, champion, and advocate for innovation in the city. The innovation lab will further these roles by serving as a publicly-sponsored R&D lab to innovate inside and outside of city government. This will be accomplished through a range of core functions and programming. Specifically, the lab will:
- Open a creative technology enabled space that energizes participants around innovative thinking and problem solving in an atmosphere never before seen in municipal government. Put simply, the space will be bright, colorful, and just cool.
- Provide a location for the Academy of Municipal Innovation to hold classes, meetings, and brainstorming sessions.
- House a formal process of ideation (facilitated by the Center of Excellence or AMI graduates) through which teams of City employees can solve old problems in new ways.
- Facilitate projects/initiatives/events sponsored through the City of Philadelphia’s Innovation Fund (in addition to other efforts related to the Mayor’s Fund for Philadelphia).
- Provide a location for senior executives and city leaders across departments to meet around innovation, strategic planning and other project management efforts.
- Sponsor hackathons (collaborative tech events focused on software projects), specifically internal hackathons, and other tech-related programming for City employees.
- Provide programming for the City’s youth, including but not limited to, hackathons, and other tech-related activities where neighborhood youth can be exposed to technology and mentored by City employees.
- Space to highlight partnerships with the local tech community around emerging technology, current partnership efforts and potential joint programming opportunities.
Through this innovation lab, we will see our innovation efforts spread to every part of city government, and more importantly, outside of it.
The lab will see public-private sector partnerships, collaboration between government and constituents, and inclusive programming for community members. The lab will reach into our neighborhoods and pull-in our children to excite them about public service and the power of technology to create positive change. The lab will be a living, breathing catalyst for innovation—innovating around our fundamental purpose—to improve Philadelphia and the everyday lives of our citizens.
“As we take our thoughts and systems to the cloud, let us keep our feet firmly rooted in our neighborhoods.” Rich Negrin, CIO Executive Summit on May 6th.
With these important efforts we hope to institutionalize innovation, not just for the remainder of our administration, but for the future as we change the way City government thinks. Working together, we believe Philadelphia, a City of so many firsts, can help lead the way on innovation for our entire community. Today’s leaders must make sure innovation is baked into their teams DNA. Today’s leaders must not only create the conditions for innovation, they must boldly demonstrate the behaviors that make innovation possible throughout their organization.
What are some of the things your team is doing to encourage innovation?
Rich Negrin is the City of Philadelphia’s Managing Director and Deputy Mayor for Administration and Coordination. Service Centered Leadership is a blog series appearing on PhillyInnovates. Follow Rich on Twitter @RichNegrin.