Introduction to the Civic Innovation Spotlight
Who will you meet?
Cities are innovating, companies are pivoting, and start-ups are growing. Like you, every urban practitioner has a remarkable story of insight and challenge from the past year.
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As the world’s leading center of innovation, San Francisco has a significant impact on international economic activity and culture creation. As the Bay Area Council Economic Institute reports, “the region’s ability to play a role in the creation of entirely new business paradigms and spaces of social activity is unrivaled, producing world-leading companies and jobs in the Bay Area, nationally and around the world on a large scale.” As home to the top technology and creative leaders in the world, San Francisco also sees an increasingly talented workforce being drawn to the Bay Area.
San Francisco’s technological ecosystem provides the ideal components for civic innovation to flourish: investors; research institutions; startup accelerators, incubators and coworking spaces; as well as legal and professional services to support the innovation sector. This rich network and exploratory landscape creates a unique opportunity to improve the lives of San Francisco residents by thinking outside the box and bringing innovative ideas and resources into government.
“The key to how the region innovates is a culture that encourages risk-taking and accepts failure—an environment that supports entrepreneurial activity. Perhaps the most important binding factor, however, is the region’s openness to new ideas and new participants. Multiple disciplines collide and interact, creating novel ideas and unanticipated applications. This is enabled by a culture that is highly permeable, with few institutional barriers to the movement and combining of people and ideas.” – The Bay Area Innovation System, 2012
San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee’s Office of Civic Innovation (MOCI) cultivates a space for creativity and entrepreneurship within government and creates paths for collaboration and new ideas. This expanding civic innovation in government space can have a transformative effect on communities which is why MOCI was launched in 2012 to make San Francisco more innovative, accessible, responsive, nimble, and efficient. MOCI’s projects cover areas including supporting an entrepreneurial workforce, data-oriented decision making tools, and streamlining permitting for projects in public spaces. Chief Innovation Officer, Jay Nath, explains MOCI’s guiding principles:
“We believe in making the walls of government more permeable and inviting citizens to become a part of the ecosystem that will transform how we run City Hall. We need a government that is willing to take smart risks and celebrate both successes and failures. Most importantly, we need a government that not only serves the public but invites them to co-create new solutions.”
Meeting of the Minds is working with MOCI to illustrate how the City is providing cutting-edge and innovative services. We will share a handful of these stories through a new, monthly feature called the Civic Innovation Spotlight. The Civic Innovation Spotlight series will go deeper into the untold stories of government innovation and inspiration in San Francisco. Stay tuned for civic projects that address accessibility, education, health, energy, and public services in San Francisco.
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Spotlighting innovations in urban sustainability and connected technology
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As extreme weather conditions become the new normal—from floods in Baton Rouge and Venice to wildfires in California, we need to clean and save stormwater for future use while protecting communities from flooding and exposure to contaminated water. Changing how we manage stormwater has the potential to preserve access to water for future generations; prevent unnecessary illnesses, injuries, and damage to communities; and increase investments in green, climate-resilient infrastructure, with a focus on communities where these kinds of investments are most needed.
A few years ago, I worked with some ARISE-US members to carry out a survey of small businesses in post-Katrina New Orleans of disaster risk reduction (DRR) awareness. One theme stood out to me more than any other. The businesses that had lived through Katrina and survived well understood the need to be prepared and to have continuity plans. Those that were new since Katrina all tended to have the view that, to paraphrase, “well, government (city, state, federal…) will take care of things”.
While the experience after Katrina, of all disasters, should be enough to show anyone in the US that there are limits on what government can do, it does raise the question, of what could and should public and private sectors expect of one another?