How do you inspire today’s public-sector innovators? Start by putting them in the same room

Innovation Teams from Anchorage, Austin, Baltimore, Detroit, Durham, Long Beach, Los Angeles, Memphis, Mobile, Syracuse, Tel Aviv, and Toronto gather in Los Angeles City Hall.

By Roland Persaud, Government Innovation

Los Angeles may be best known for sunny skies and celebrities, but recent buzz in the City of Angels surrounds L.A.’s City Hall, home to its very own set of “superstars” — Mayor Eric Garcetti’s Innovation Team.

As cities face growing challenges like gentrification and climate change, mayors are increasingly looking for guidance in solving intractable problems and becoming more responsive to the concerns of residents. Bloomberg Philanthropies’ Innovation Teams program was designed to meet this pressing need. Bloomberg Philanthropies has invested in Innovation Teams (known informally as “i-teams”) since 2011, providing cities with support to create a dedicated team of innovation experts who report to the mayor and tackle the city’s biggest problems. Amassing rich sets of data and collaborating closely with residents and city stakeholders, i-teams are changing the culture of city governments for the benefit of residents across the globe.

Earlier this month, we held training for new teams in Los Angeles, which joined the i-teams program in 2015. Led by Amanda Daflos, the L.A. i-team has already achieved some wins that are helping residents navigate the increasingly unaffordable housing market, such as:

  • Increasing awareness of rent stabilization rights, which protect residents from high rent increases that have become the new normal;
  • Doubling the number of rent stabilization cases the City resolves within 60 days to help people get relief faster; and
  • Paving the way for City and state legislation that makes it easier to build accessory dwelling units — new homes that go on the same grounds as existing homes — to increase more affordable housing options. As of July 2017, the percent of permit applications is 658% higher compared to the same period in 2015.

Despite the fast-paced work of the i-teams, we have learned there is value in taking the time to come together and learn from each other. Convenings offer a unique opportunity to strengthen the global network of innovators and develop new skills. This time, we welcomed teams that joined the program in the past year, including Anchorage, Austin, Baltimore, Durham, Detroit, and Toronto, to the community.

Innovation Teams gather in front of the Urban Light sculpture at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA).

Here were some of the highlights of our time together:

James Anderson, head of Government Innovation at Bloomberg Philanthropies, discusses the merits of innovation with Mayor Eric Garcetti of Los Angeles.

Mayor Garcetti sat down with James Anderson, head of Government Innovation at Bloomberg Philanthropies, for a conversation about his approach to bold leadership, and how the i-team is helping him solve problems and change the way government does business.

The next day, the group took a private tour of Walt Disney’s Imagineering Studios in neighboring Glendale to see how a pioneer in another industry approaches innovation. This exclusive behind-the-scenes look at the design and animation process served to inspire our new teams to discover the truth in Walt Disney’s saying: “It’s kind of fun to do the impossible.”

We visited the headquarters of the Los Angeles Police Department to hear from some of L.A.P.D.’s finest, who are working closely with the i-team to develop strategies that will help the City attract and recruit a stronger, more diverse police force of the future.

Captain Alan Hamilton, a representative from the Recruitment and Employment Division at the Los Angeles Police Department, described the many benefits of collaborating with the Los Angeles Innovation Team.

Our new partners in France told us about their work at La 27e Région, a not-for-profit public innovation organization that aims to make France’s public sector more inventive, agile, and suited to the needs of citizens. The new i-teams had an opportunity to network with their French counterparts and learn about the innovation labs currently being set up in cities like Paris and Mulhouse.

Teams had the chance to learn new problem-solving skills that have helped cities across the world produce better results for residents. They rotated through exercises designed to teach them new ways to synthesize data, engage and manage stakeholders, prototype and implement new ideas, and measure impact — all cornerstones of successful i-teams.

Participants from the Tel Aviv, Syracuse, and Toronto i-teams practice new methods of analyzing qualitative data.