An ‘Innovation to Transform’ approach for Boston

Bloomberg Philanthropies has proposed an innovation delivery model to help city leaders drive innovation, change culture, and create an progressing ability to address significant urban problems and deliver better results for residents. The Innovation-teams(i-team) program was created to provide cities with a method to address these barriers and deliver change more effectively to their citizens. These i-teams conducts deep qualitative and quantitative research and analyses to assess local conditions, develop innovative, responsive solutions for most pressing problems in the city.

A four-step data intensive iterative process.

The Case of Boston’ Affordable Housing Problem -

The Problem:

Boston’s population is expected to reach more than 700,000 residents by 2030. Mayor Walsh wants Boston to be a city that’s for both the rich and the poor — a place that everyone, irrespective of class can call home. With current population growth and ever increasing real estate trends the biggest challenge for Boston is building and sustaining housing for middle-income working families.

Housing for everyone defined by Mayor Walsh

The Process :

Boston’s i-team applied a human-centered design approach that directly engaged the community to understand their housing needs and co-create solutions together. To do this they conducted ethnographic research with residents’ in their homes and gathered ideas from community members, housing advocates and policy experts. To develop solutions, the i-team had 300 meetings, participated in 25 community engagements, and discussed best practices with over 15 cities.

‘Lowering the Cost to Build

Lowering the Cost to Buy

Lowering the Cost to Own’

The concepts proposed which would become reality are as follows —

A density bonus program: Build higher than current zoning allows

Compact living: Reducing the city’s minimum square-footage requirements

Community land trusts: Helping neighborhood-based groups assemble land to preserve or develop affordable housing

A home buying portal: A city-run website to help first-time homebuyers navigate the process

The Progress:

The i-team is testing different solutions with the aim of increasing resident enthusiasm for higher-density living. The highest impact and most feasible ideas prototype in the three core areas would provide the City with a better understanding of the levers best pulled to create and maintain a solid middle income housing stock.

If successful, the i-team’s initiatives will be brought to scale, making Boston-a place where everyone can have a home by 2018 according to Mayor’s ambitious plan.


Bloomberg Philanthropies. Transforming Your City through Innovation: The innovation delivery model for making it happen. 2014.

Illustration by Alex Lukas