The Freedom to Innovate

Earlier this year, the City of Philadelphia hit the national stage to highlight its commitment to innovation and civic technology. We hosted the Philly Innovates Summit at the PA Convention Center, officially announcing the partnership between the City of Philadelphia and Salesforce in the launch of a new 311 CRM (Customer Relationship Management) system. The system, a robust technology typically used in the private sector, will allow city government to connect with citizens in more effective and meaningful ways.

The Philly Innovates Summit was not just an announcement for our new CRM, it was a celebration of all we’ve accomplished over the past few years. Between our technology initiatives, our successes in open data, and our new approaches to engaging and serving our most troubled neighborhoods, Philadelphia city government has proudly carried-on the long-standing tradition of innovation in our city. Because a number of people have asked for a copy,  I have included the video of my speech from the Philly Innovates Summit titled, “The Freedom to Innovate” which focuses on Philadelphia’s great tradition of innovation, and city government’s large role in keeping that tradition alive. I’ve also included the text from the speech below. I hope you enjoy it and I hope it encourages you–in some way–to keep “The Freedom to Innovate” alive and well.

The Freedom to Innovate:

Since the beginning of our City’s history, Philadelphia has been at the forefront of innovation, innovation that has been fueled by our essential freedoms. The freedom to assemble, freedom of opportunity, to conduct commerce and enterprise, to solve problems, and pursue happiness. Implicit in those freedoms is – The freedom to innovate. 

As Rosetta said, we are widely known as a City of Firsts.

Whether it’s William Penn and the public square, or the long lists of Ben Franklin’s achievements, Philadelphia has long been a hub of innovation. And, as we all know, it was here that our founding fathers came together to innovate a country.

But we also know that innovation doesn’t always need to be so revolutionary – it can also be about using practical solutions to solve everyday problems. Nor does innovation always have to be about science and technology. It can also be about nuts and bolts simple solutions. So here’s one great example of Philadelphia Innovation that you might not know about. 

In the year 1790, the first U.S. Patent ever filed was filed right here in Philadelphia by Samuel Hopkins.  It was for the making of “Pot Ash” by a new apparatus and process. Pot Ash had many practical applications – it was used in soap, glass, gun powder and fertilizer.  It doesn’t get more practical than fertilizer. The patent was signed by Secretary of State, Thomas Jefferson and President George Washington.

Today, 225 years later, Philadelphia has been the source of more than 14,000 patents.

We are a city of innovators. The spirit of Mr. Hopkins is alive in Philadelphia today.

And as a community, we have made great progress in recent years.

In 2007, when our administration began we had a great deal of work to accomplish. Many of the innovations we share today were still ahead of us.

A discussion with Mayor Nutter and former White House CIO Vivek Kundra at the Philly Innovates Summit. Photo by Mitchell Leff.

A discussion with Mayor Nutter and former White House CIO Vivek Kundra at the Philly Innovates Summit. Photo by Mitchell Leff.

You are going to hear from one of those innovations in a few minutes —Adel Ebeid.

In 2007, we had no Chief Innovation Officer like Adel, driving an innovation strategy.

  • No- Chief Customer Service Officer – Rosetta
  • No – Open Data Officer like Tim Wisniewski
  • No – 311, Award winning mobile app
  • No – PhillyRising – neighborhood initiative – empowering citizens
  • No – Social media presence – connecting with citizens in new ways
  • No – Innovation lab
  • No – Center of Excellence – modernizing project management, and performance management.

Today, all of that has changed.

As the first Administration of the Digital Age, we have embraced innovation and our place in the Innovation Ecosystem. 

Today, we have new positions leading new efforts to improve City government and provide first class service to our citizens. We do not innovate for innovations sake, as Adel says “we innovate with intent.”

Our intent is to create a culture of continuous improvement inside of government and to empower and engage with our citizens outside of government. And we know we can’t do it alone we need great partnerships to succeed.

You are seeing an example of that today.

Philly Innovates Summit. Photo by Twitter users @YungMoo.

Philly Innovates Summit. Photo by Twitter users @YungMoo.

A partnership with a great local company, Unisys, and a great global company, Salesforce. You will hear more about that partnership later. That is just one example of the types of relationships we aspire to. Create efficiencies and an interconnectedness with our citizens. A type that can evolve with us as we re-imagine the citizen relationship.

Yes, we will put technology in the hands of our employees, but we won’t just create and wait  – we will take technology to our citizens as well.

We will work to give Voice to the Voiceless, to Connect those who feel Disconnected, to Empower those who sometimes feel Powerless. To better Serve those who may feel Underserved. That is the power of technology. 

We know that today’s leaders must prioritize and lift up the entire community. They must not be afraid to connect and join the conversation – even if that conversation is happening in 140 characters.

Today’s leaders are smart enough to know they don’t have all the answers. They know the smartest person in the room, is the ROOM!

They know the best solution for the neighborhood – usually comes from the neighborhood! They know that public service IS customer service.

That is how we redefine the citizen relationship!

Citizen as customer.

Our Mayor has made it clear, in Philadelphia we have no throw away citizens.  No Throw Away Citizens!

That is an awesome responsibility

  • To value every person
  • To strive to hear every voice

To empower the quiet heroes in our neighborhoods

To build allies in our fight to improve the Quality of Life.

To provide the tools to connect with the City and with each other.

To connect with those who are like minded who also want to make their neighborhood a better place.

That is the VISION!

A vision that can not only be embraced but it can be built upon, that can evolve far beyond anything we can imagine today.

That is why we are here, not just to talk about where we are and where we are going.  But so we might light a spark, an idea in your mind, that we can learn from each other and move forward together.

The Philly Innovates Summit

With government playing its role, sometimes working as a convener, sometimes as a facilitator, and yes sometimes just getting out of your way.  If we are truly going to be successful, it will take government and all stakeholders working together. Because when Philly Innovates best – we innovate together.

If we are going to continue to rise above the long term challenges that plaque our City, an education crisis, gut-wrenching poverty, quality of life, we need creative solutions and the will to accomplish great things.

In closing, I’d like to leave you with this. Today, thanks to many of you, there are great innovative things happening across all sectors, in our big companies, in our colleges, hospitals, energy sector, on Nerd Street, Indy Hall, Philly startup leaders, DreamIt Ventures and many many more.

We are not only Re-Innovating Government, we are reimagining relationships between all stakeholders.

That IS the innovation ecosystem everyone is talking about.

They are talking about all of us.

This room is what an innovation ecosystem looks like!  We know all our institutions should be great headquarters of imagination.  And it is up to all of us to do our part.

Let today be just the beginning of the conversation.  Together, we can make sure the Freedom to Innovate is alive and well and freely exercised in Philadelphia!

Thank you, God Bless…. Have a great summit!

Rich headshot 1

Rich Negrin is the City of Philadelphia’s Managing Director and Deputy Mayor for Administration and Coordination. Service Centered Leadership is the Managing Director’s blog series appearing on PhillyInnovates. Follow Rich on Twitter @RichNegrin.

One thought on “The Freedom to Innovate

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