Innovation is the fabric of Philadelphia. From its non-traditional Quaker founding up to the creativity and fearlessness of Benjamin Franklin, it is innovation that helped make Philadelphia the birthplace of our nation.
Philadelphia is also known as the “City of Firsts.” This same inventive fabric wove together many Philadelphia experiments that would later become anchor tenants in our society. Philadelphia is home to the nation’s first hospital, the first free library, the first fire department, the first public school. Philadelphia’s greatness has hinged on its ability to innovate and it is a crucial factor in its success in the future.
With this in mind, the City government has worked as a convener, facilitator, champion, and advocate for innovation throughout the city. The City has a Chief Innovation Officer, a Chief Data Officer, an Office of Innovation Management. This past year, the City launched the Academy of Municipal Innovation to teach City employees about the innovation process and create a network of innovators within Philadelphia government.
On August 1st, 2014 the City will expand its innovation efforts with another Philadelphia first. The city government will open the nation’s first true municipal innovation lab on the 16th floor of the Municipal Services Building. The lab will serve as a publicly-sponsored R&D function within city government for internal and external innovation. Specially, 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 in conjunction with our academic partners.
- 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 and then enable the implementation of those solutions.
- 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 and the Mayor’s Office of New Urban Mechanics).
- 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 with the City acting as host.
- 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, work side by side and be mentored by City employees.
- Highlight partnerships and provide a space to collaborate with the local tech community around emerging technology, mutual challenges and potential joint programming opportunities for the greater benefit of our citizens.
Just as important as the functions above, the physical existence of an innovation lab has the potential to transform culture. Having a physical lab will pull-in employees and outside stakeholders to inject creativity and collaboration into municipal functions that have traditionally felt mundane. The lab will help ensure that “innovation” is not thought of as a buzzword, or a temporary initiative, but as a value and commitment in government to push the limits, raise expectations, and work tirelessly for a better city. The City’s Innovation lab will help weave innovation into municipal government and, further, ensure that innovation continues to be the fabric of Philadelphia.
*Mayor Nutter will be cutting the ribbon at the Innovation Lab’s public launch on the 16th Floor of the Municipal Services Building (1401 JFK Blvd) at 10:00 AM.