Public sector leaders, planners and creative thinkers go to the Alliance for Innovation (AFI) Transforming Local Government conference each year to discover the best new practices, all in one place.
“It’s worth it to be exposed to something that could be so far from where people are standing right now,” said AFI West Regional Director Nijah Fudge, recognizing that innovation comes with a level of risk. “It will challenge leaders to say, ‘Maybe I can meet somewhere in the middle. Maybe I can get there eventually.’”
Tulsa, OK’s convention center became an open forum of idea generation. Presenters and attendees discussed new ways to engage the public, enliven the workplace, use new technologies and more. With so much to consider, National Research Center, Inc. (NRC) spoke to several participants to determine the top local government innovations of 2017.
“I sat in a session on collaborative service delivery. I thought that was really valuable because it gave some ideas on things that we can do in local government to share cost and be more efficient.” - Jeff Calentine, La Vista, Nebraska Deputy Director of Public Works
“There was a presentation [by Athens-Clark County Police Department] about being involved with the youth in the community. That’s always a challenge, across the country, and this program was very well done. It’s a program that I think could be used anywhere, so I’ll definitely try to bring it to La Vista.” - Bryan Waugh, La Vista, Nebraska Police Captain
“The City of Boulder’s presentation on BLDG 61 (Build, Learn, Design, Grow) showed how bringing passions together, providing tools and allowing for shared learning opens a world of possibilities. Using the library to bring maker technologies to residents has led to more young folks engaged with the library through the maker space and beyond. This space has built community (with young and old, expert and novice collaborating), created economic opportunities (12 products patented) , empowered residents (in a monthly fix-your stuff open session) and helped homeless youth through the remarkable TreeOpp program that has connected City departments (Parks&Rec, Forestry and Libraries) and a community group (Bridge House) to ‘transform an environmental challenge into art and social change.’” - Sonya Wytinck, NRC Director of Research
“I focused on the concept that employees can be used as mechanisms for creating training programs based off employee feedback, employee-led training design and employee-involved training practices. That seems so right to me, in terms of promoting leadership development and innovation, and actually getting the best training for your employees.” - Katie Johnston, Tacoma, Washington Principal Management Analyst
“I was impressed with the City of Decatur's E5 Academy program, designed to revolutionize the workplace for local government employees. The program develops and prepares employee leaders, motivates staff and improves professional relationships interdepartmentally. Decatur goes beyond conducting the employee survey and uses those results to create strategies and take actions that will upgrade work-life for everyone.” – Angelica Wedell, NRC Marketing Manager
“One outstanding innovation is the asset evaluation the City of Las Vegas has won an award for. They are using the activated personal assistant, Alexa from Amazon, to help answer routine questions. We were talking earlier about how we might be able to use the same platform back at the City of Phoenix for commonly asked questions of our landlord/tenant programs and others that people are calling in for.” - Chris Hallett, Phoenix, Arizona Director of Neighborhood Services
“I really enjoyed the Creative City-Making presentation about incorporating art into service delivery. Immediately after the session, I texted our commissioner to bring this information back to her. She was so excited to hear about it. It’s been a great conference; I’m glad I came!” - Gwen Schuler, Tacoma, Washington Media and Communications Director
“We heard from Adams County, Colorado about their program structure for training employees. What I thought was innovative was the idea of utilizing your employee-base, that has all this talent, to train other employees and get people engaged. It’s not about having to go to H.R. each time, but it’s instead using the resources you have available through employees to actually make a difference.” - Gwen Kennedy, Loudoun County, Virginia Project Manager
“Ontario, California has put home life in front of work life. Their video was amazing, and they’ve really made change. I understand from talking to them that their productivity is up about 15 percent and everybody is happy. If everyone is coming to work happy, it’s endless what they can accomplish.” - Lisa Loniello, NEXT Generation Consulting Logician and Generator of Fun
It can be said that swapping program ideas and burgeoning practices between municipalities is itself an innovation. This requires transparency among peers to admit what has not worked along with what’s gone well. It supports the idea of communities benchmarking performance with each other in a collaborative way that leads to greater success for them all.