The third cohort of the Academy for Municipal Innovation kicked off in October 2015. This is a blog series written by participants about their experiences in the program. Today’s author is Amanda Wagner, Customer Service Programs Strategist in the Managing Director’s Office.
Within the initial two classes of the Innovation Academy the same statement has been reiterated: city government is reactive opposed to proactive. This is a part of our culture—albeit deeply engrained—that those of us participating in the Academy are collectively trying to change. As an entity, city government reacts to an issue and answers when questioned.
In many instances this reactive tendency is true of our processes and daily routines. We fit just enough room into our schedules for asks and (for a lack of a better word) cleanups. However, what does city government look like when we are proactive, when we prevent issues, and when we ask the questions before they are asked of us?
The second session of the Academy focused on ways we can incorporate integrated design thinking and solution-based thinking into our daily practice. These thinking practices involve exploring goals instead of focusing on a specific issue one might be encountering, and using creative solution tools to do so. Tools like stakeholder maps, the creative matrix, rose/thorn/bud, and the importance/difficulty matrix can be used to discover new opportunities through system design thinking.
Granted, if you do not have a MBA (which I do not) these terms can mean very little. In practice, however, tools like the creative matrix can provide structure to an otherwise unstructured brainstorming session. For example, in my position I have to think about new ways to grow our Neighborhood Liaisons Program, which trains committed community members to use Philly311 to improve their neighborhoods. If I apply this issue to the creative matrix, I can draw a grid with one column listing ages of our liaisons and a row of different kinds of communication vehicles. From here, I can fill in the blanks by asking questions like, “How might we engage middle-aged community members through social media? ”
Generating ideas and thinking about our larger goals are the first steps in becoming a more proactive city government. It is important for us to know that there are tools out there that can assist us in finding creative solutions. I challenge you to use either the creative matrix, or some of the methods I’ve mentioned above to collaborate, solve a problem, or to simply brainstorm about a goal.