Picture taken at the Irma Freeman Center by Pulsus Digital, an MWBE company

Looking Back and Looking Forward

The Roadmap for Inclusive Innovation

In 2014 Pittsburgh was getting a lot of attention.

We were named a “Most Livable City” by The Economist and “Smartest” city by Movoto. Google was expanding their offices in Pittsburgh and the City’s growth was accelerating. Mayor Peduto saw the change that was happening, and not wanting it to accelerate economic divides, set forth a vision that Pittsburgh would be a city of equity, access and opportunity.

It was this vision that lead to the creation of The Roadmap for Inclusive Innovation, an implementation plan to provide new opportunities to connect everyone to the changing economy.

The plan was ambitious from the outset but it was rooted in the belief that it would be a catalyzing blueprint for innovation initiatives that would be driven by City leadership but owned by all.

To support this goal, the Mayor’s Office formed an Inclusive Innovation team. The team set about benchmarking other cities around the world, researching best practices and drawing inspiration from innovative efforts of other local governments. They set up round table discussions locally to understand the innovation that was happening in our own backyard. Listening to residents, local organizations, and government entities a list of goals started to take shape.

Based on these discussions, the Inclusive Innovation team championed six categories of focus, each representing a critical area under the City’s purview:

  1. Enhance City Operations
  2. Connect Citizens with City Government
  3. Foster Clean Technology
  4. Close The Digital Divide
  5. Champion Open Data
  6. Strengthen Local Business

A public prospectus was developed detailing each of the six areas and the 100 actions to be undertaken.

The team quickly set to work.

Some of the initiatives the Inclusive Innovation team led, launching programs such as:

  • PGH Lab a program for early stage companies to test products and services inside government. The program, which is now being duplicated by other cities, has worked with 15 companies will be launching the fourth cohort in September 2018.
  • LaunchPGH.com a digital hub for city-wide business resources and events to help residents start and growth their businesses. More than 1,000 visitors per month use the website.
  • ConnectHome Pittsburgh a chapter of a national program to close the digital divide in HUD-assisted housing. Through this national partnership, the City of Pittsburgh in collaboration with the Housing Authority of the City of Pittsburgh and the Allegheny County Housing Authority.

While others were launched with the leadership of organizational partners:

  • Steel City Codefest Jr. connected youth to coding and technology education through a partnership with the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh. Has reached hundreds of youth across the City.
  • Rec2Tech lead by Remake Learning and the City of Pittsburgh Recreation Centers, provided technology for youth to express their creativity and build job skills.
  • Connecting Urban Entrepreneurs (CUE) Connecting Urban Entrepreneurs is a program working to provide technical resources and training to small businesses owners. Spearheaded by the Center for Women’s Entrepreneurship at Chatham, CUE is working one-on-one with small business owners to ensure their businesses have the technical presence to thrive in the future of Pittsburgh.

Each year the team worked with more than 60 partners measuring progress, updating projects and adding new initiatives. Updates were captured for public consumption in the Western Pennsylvania Regional Data Center. Over the years, the Roadmap grew to encompass 127 initiatives across the six focus areas. There were occasional setbacks as some original initiatives were found to be infeasible or too costly but most of the initiatives gained traction and were ultimately completed.

Today, after executing and measuring more than 100 initiatives across the six focus areas over four years the Roadmap is coming to a close. All items are either completed, on-track, or underway.

The Roadmap set out to connect, encourage and measure inclusive innovation in the City of Pittsburgh. It accomplished that goal and so much more. It became a rallying point to bring organizations, government and the public together.

Through the execution of the Roadmap, Inclusive Innovation Week was launched in 2016, creating a platform to bring people together to discuss issues of inclusivity. By 2018, the Week had swelled to include over 186 partners hosting 63 events across 25 neighborhoods — all free to attend. Monthly Inclusive Innovation Meetups were then added to bring people together throughout the year. The group now has over 1,000 members.

All of this would not have been possible without the many people who worked on the Roadmap over the years, each lending their skills and expertise. The visionary idea that started with Mayor Peduto and Former Chief Debra Lam, grew to include Geoffrey Arnold, Tara Matthews, Lana Redmond, Todd Smith, Christine Marty, Ellen Bateman, Annia Aleman, Laura Meixell, Daren Ellerbee, Smyth Welton, Dee Jones, Brittany Schrenker, John Schifalacqua, Eric Martin, Sanjana Dayananda, Lainey Yockey, and Fatima Juma.

I was lucky enough to have been there from the beginning and to have worked alongside so many passionate, talented individuals.

The Roadmap may be complete, but the work is not done. Inclusive Innovation will continue through Inclusive Innovation Week and public events. It will live on through OnePGH, the City’s strategy for Pittsburgh to thrive in the 21st century. Mayor Peduto will continue to steer Pittsburgh towards the future keeping issues of inclusivity at the forefront. For as he often says, “If it not for all, it’s not for us.”