Cities around the country are facing challenges, from increasing service demands, to tight budgets, to aging infrastructure. But city leaders are increasingly finding new and innovative ways to tackle these challenges, in part by harnessing the inherent power of the citizens that live there.
Last week I was excited to join mayors in Orlando, Florida, for the 80th meeting of the United States Conference of Mayors (USCM). I joined San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee, former U.S. Chief Technology Officer Aneesh Chopra, and Jen Pahlka, executive director of Code for America, to launch the Open Government Innovation Partnership. The Partnership’s premise is simple: a founding group of city governments embrace a set of high-level open innovation principles, pledge city-specific commitments for implementing those principles, agree to share best practices, and invite a coalition of third-party organizations to assess progress. As more cities join the Partnership, we’ll see a nationwide network of innovative of cities creating shareable tools that will help government innovate like never before.
But what exactly is open government innovation? It is a rapidly growing movement, combining the principles of open government (i.e. transparency, participation, and collaboration) with open innovation (e.g. tapping citizen and government expertise) to create some of the most entrepreneurial solutions to problems cities face.
Already, we are seeing the power of open innovation in cities around America:
- In Boston, the Mayor created an Office of New Urban Mechanics to drive civic innovation by exploring and building new ways to engage constituents in the design and delivery of services.
- In San Francisco, the Mayor, along with the local community, created the San Francisco Citizens Initiative for Technology and Innovation, a 501(c)6 organization created to leverage the power of the technology community around civic action in San Francisco.
- In Louisville, the Mayor created The Asthma Data Innovation Project working with Asthmopolis and Walgreens to provide advanced inhalers to 500 residents to gather data and help city officials cut health care cost.
By tapping into the new Open Innovation Platform and the Innovation and Technology Task Force, cities around the country will have more opportunities to brainstorm with entrepreneurs and innovators in and out of government in order to scale successful solutions. That’s the power of innovation and the enduring ingenuity of the American spirit.
Chris Vein is Deputy Chief Technology Officer for Government Innovation