Government in the 21st Century: An Innovation Launch Pad

By Lauren Sinreich

Lauren Sinreich is a writer and qualitative researcher focusing on sustainable development, community engagement, urbanism, and civic innovation. She works to better understand, communicate, and act on how we can improve our communities and environments. Lauren is also Co-founder of ArtHERE.org, a platform for crowdsourced revitalization through the matching of spaces and art.

Apr 24, 2013 | Smart Cities | 0 comments

Innovation. Strategic risk. Efficiency. Opportunity. These aren’t typically words associated with government offices. They’re words used in the technology and start-up worlds. Yet, the San Francisco Mayor’s Office of Civic Innovation just released A Start-up Called Government, a retrospective of the innovations and partnerships it catalyzed in its first year in office, showing those words can and do apply to government.

The first office of its kind, the Office of Civic Innovation established itself as a leader in the nation, driving landmark open data initiatives and driving impact through citizen engagement. Chief Innovation Officer, Jay Nath, explained, “Historically persistent challenges in San Francisco could only be addressed with participation of our citizens and help from across the public, private and nonprofit sectors. That’s why we focus on creating a culture of sharing, collaboration, and co-creation to work with partners to improve the way government serves its constituents.”

Leveraging their collective experiences in the private sector, the Office of Civic Innovation engaged thousands of San Franciscans and launched game-changing platforms in their first year of operation for less than one percent of the total San Francisco City and County budget. The platforms they created acted as a launch pad for partners and companies that capitalized on the opening up of public datasets. Companies like Appalicious and Motionloft, who used public open data to launch new services, are now creating new business models with these resources, showing how public-private partnerships can result in innovation and new opportunities.

The open data and citizen engagement initiatives of the Office of Civic Innovation detailed in the retrospective were built on principles much like those of a new tech start-up:

  • The Platform Play: Invest in innovations that serve as platforms from which other innovations can launch.
  • Leverage and learn from their network: Strengthen existing relationships and cultivate partnerships to support initiatives and expand capacity.
  • Iterate forward: Make small bets, take calculated risks, and create minimum viable products.


These fundamental principles will continue to drive further innovation in 2013 and set the tone for government in the 21st century. The successes of their first year in operation have won credibility in their innovative approach, which has, in turn, created new opportunities to expand their efforts to help companies and individuals stay competitive and have access to the resources they need to live and work in San Francisco. As Peter Hirschberg, Chairman of GAFFTA, said, “The Mayor’s Office of Civic Innovation truly serves as the connective tissue between San Francisco’s ecosystem of innovation and its government, bringing the most current and innovative thinking and new approaches to urban communities.”

Most importantly, they showed that this old dog we call government can learn new tricks – and according to the retrospective, it’s ready for more. In 2013, in addition to building on existing engagement and open data initiatives, the Office of Civic Innovation will focus on:

  • Real-world demonstration of innovation in designated geographic zones and City assets, like the new clean tech and smart city solutions piloting this year.
  • Improving entrepreneurs’ path to deployment and scale through Business One-Stop and the Civic Marketplace.
  • Driving a culture of innovation to streamline the work being done and stake strategic risks throughout government departments.

In 2013, the Mayor’s Office of Civic Innovation is growing its innovation portfolio built on the underlying principles of open government, economic development, continued engagement, urban revitalization, and smart city technologies. And it wants your help. A Start-Up Called Government is not only an account of its first year in office, it’s a glimpse at the future of government and an open invitation to companies, communities, and individuals to work with them to create “government  that thinks and acts like a startup: scrappy, hungry, lean, and full of world-changing ideas.”

Can your business help the Mayor’s Office of Civic Innovation disrupt the status-quo? It just might help you do the same.

Discussion

Leave your comment below, or reply to others.

0 Comments

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Read more from the Meeting of the Minds Blog

Spotlighting innovations in urban sustainability and connected technology

IoT and Cities: Enhancing Parking, Traffic and More

IoT solutions allow drivers to make smart parking decisions based on facts rather than luck, ensuring less congestion – in regard to both the amount of cars backed up in a certain area and the emissions released into the air. It is essential for drivers to be able to rely on accurate real-time information about where to go, and more importantly, where not to go when all spaces are occupied.

Resilience Calls for Smart Planning and Great Leadership

Fear can spurn action but it can often be paralyzing. When it comes to “acts of God,” leaders can take a fatalistic or resigned approach. We can’t prevent earthquakes or hurricanes, so if the big one hits, what really can we do about it? The fallacy in this approach is an all or nothing perspective. The belief that if I cannot solve the entire problem, then why bother?