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Accelerating Civic Innovation Ten Key 2015 Considerations GK VanPatter Co-Founder, Humantific

Why is innovation in city governments necessary? What kind of innovation is needed? Can civic innovation capacity building be accelerated?

“After realization of need for innovation comes the heavy lift of operationalizing civic innovation and this is where HumanCities Collaborative works. Our focus is on SkillShift, CultureShift & CapacityShift.”

© 2015 HumanCities Collaborative. All Rights Reserved.


Today in 2015 savvy civic leaders are already recognizing that innovation is key not only to success, but to survival in a continuously changing world. Constituent expectations are changing and city governments are often expected to do more with less. It is no secret that historically most government systems, structures and skill-sets have been focused on preforming efficiently and reliably rather than on adaptability and driving change. That picture is not just changing, it has already changed. Today more than 40 cities in the United States and 100 + cities globally have begun working on turning the corner towards what is often framed as adaptability, resilience, flexibility, and ambidexterity. These terms have become key objectives in the civic innovation arena. Realization of need for change is a great first step. We call that MindShift. After realization of need for innovation comes the heavy lifting of operationalizing civic innovation and this is where HumanCities Collaborative works. Our focus is on SkillShift, CultureShift & CapacityShift. We are here to help civic leaders operationalize human-centered civic innovation in tangible, understandable and scalable ways. With more than a decade of experience working with organizations we know that it is important to recognize the complexities that civic leaders face and the dualities of what they are seeking to undertake today! Regardless of the mainstream media perspective it is often not as simple as rushing towards “breakthrough innovation.� Practicality is the starting point in all of our conversations with civic innovation leaders.

Š 2015 HumanCities Collaborative. All Rights Reserved.

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Ten Key Civic Innovation Considerations:

1. Leaders Seek Dual Engine Strategies Today savvy civic innovation leaders recognize that the mail must be delivered while the future is being invented, that one activity does not supersede the other. To balance the two requires a different mindset and skillset that is quite different from traditional government approaches as well as from many mainstream innovation approaches. In a very real practical sense, today savvy civic leaders are most often seeking to operationalize a balance between exploration of new possibilities and exploitation of existing systems. For many leaders this combined dual engine picture (often referred to as ambidexterity) now represents their practical quest for civic innovation today. This need and awareness can be formally incorporated into civic innovation strategies. The entire initiative can be interconnected to such objectives.

2. Innovation Skill-to-Scale A good rule of thumb when facing complex societal challenges is to recognize that one-off ideation techniques such as brainstorming are no match for the wicked problems of today. Key to being able to tackle significant civic challenges is the onboarding of robust strategic innovation skills. Without deep expertise within a core team, a lot of round-table chit-chat tends to occur without any real problems being framed and addressed. Methods have to work in the context of the scale being addressed. Enlightened civic innovation leaders are onboarding much more robust and advanced cocreation methods today.

“The availability of public data combined with new forms of sensemaking is changing the nature and role of datadriven insight in the innovation process.�

3. Datafication Opportunity Knocks The availability of public data combined with new forms of sensemaking is changing the nature and role of data-driven insight in the innovation process. New data-driven social sensemaking technologies are becoming available, not only for leaders to access, but for the public to make use of as well. Data analysis combined with visual sensemaking has become an important combine informing challenge framing, idea-making as well as decision-making; all key dynamics in the innovation cycle. Today, forward thinking cities are already at work building internally directed data-driven management dashboards as well as externally directed mobile public participation platforms. Š 2015 HumanCities Collaborative. All Rights Reserved.

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4. How the Economy is Doing is No Longer Enough Traditional approaches of asking how the economy is doing have given way to the realization that creating more livable cities involves asking how the people are doing. Shifting the questions being asked is changing the nature of how we understand our cities. To undertake this shift effectively, civic leaders are making use of proven human centered analysis lenses such as the multi-dimensional Human Development Index now being applied to North American cities, often with surprising results.

5. Supercharging Community Engagement Key to community engagement is gaining a better understanding of constituents and communities. Forget about sitting around a boardroom table pondering what the facts are. Today savvy civic leaders are learning how to engage human-centered design research methodologies that require getting up and out into the community for close encounter interactions and observations. In addition, social media technologies are enabling new forms of direct participation by city residents. At the heart of today’s civic engagement is not just casual chit-chat but rather the collaborative surfacing of what the challenges really are from the communities perspective. New forms of community engagement today are inclusive in nature and involve the community in problem finding, challenge framing, solution generation and implementation.

“All forms of civic innovation require open framing methodology that contains no preconceived notions of what the challenges and solutions are.”

6. Open Framing Not Just Product & Service Creation All forms of civic innovation require open framing methodology that contain no preconceived notions of what the challenges and solutions are. In the context of wicked societal challenges, it makes no sense to assume that outcomes will always be products or services. Many traditional design thinking methods are geared to business contexts and have such assumptions built-in. Those downstream methods are not ideal in the context of societal and civic innovation where many types of wicked problems exist. Enlightened civic innovation leaders are onboarding the ability to work upstream from such assumptions in open framing mode; in order to be able to ask broad questions regarding what the real challenges actually are.

© 2015 HumanCities Collaborative. All Rights Reserved.

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7.1 Horizontal Not Just Vertical One significant benefit of creating a civic innovation capacity is that this core team can begin working across and bridging the various silos inside the city government. Beginning to introduce a common innovation language that can be used by all departments and disciplines adds significant muscle to the government’s ability to become more adaptive, more resilient and more able to address complex challenges when they arrive.

7.2 Outreach Not Just Internal While many civic innovation initiatives begin phase 1, with some form of internal team skill-building transformation, ultimately that team will need to engage externally in the community to be effective. Operating externally in the context of hands-on changemaking is an orientation not typically found in governmental contexts. Now within their civic innovation team, civic leaders are acknowledging the need to onboard in phase 2, externally directed innovation leadership skills.

8. Visual Systemic Thinking

“One significant benefit of creating a civic innovation capacity is that this core team can begin working across and bridging the various silos inside the city government.”

Many challenges that exist in our communities are interconnected with other challenges, which makes it important to consider each of them from a systems thinking perspective. This often involves a different mode of thinking that is typically not found in governmental contexts. Savvy leaders are integrating systems thinking and visualization to make the connections between diverse challenges more visual and understandable to multiple constituents.

© 2015 HumanCities Collaborative. All Rights Reserved.

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9. Mastering Facilitative Leadership Key to leading complex civic innovation initiatives is the ability to facilitate multiple constituents from diverse backgrounds through a robust changemaking process. This requires a different mindset and skillset from traditional government approaches and from many consulting approaches. Civic leaders migrate from the content expert tell, tell, tell mode of espousing their own perspectives to a more orchestrative cocreation role in the context of collective participation by diverse experts as well as the public. Scaling this next generation leadership skill is an important aspect of civic innovation capacity building today. A next generation of cocreation leaders is being created.

10. Connection To Senior Leaders Since civic innovation initiatives result in internal culture change, it is vital that such initiatives have sponsors and supporters among senior leadership. Ideally the civic innovation strategy can be interconnected with a broader strategy or vision in the organization being generated by senior leaders. Rather than a stand alone entity, the civic innovation lab becomes part of what senior leaders are seeking to operationalize. This linkage strengthens civic innovation initiatives. Understanding these 10 considerations can help to accelerate civic innovation capacity building. The next step is to start building!

Š 2015 HumanCities Collaborative. All Rights Reserved.

“Since civic innovation initiatives result in internal culture change it is vital that such initiatives have sponsors and supporters among senior leadership.�

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Our Mission & Approach The HumanCities Collaborative is an international team of leading multidisciplinary practitioners dedicated to helping city governments power their civic innovation initiatives. We bring a diversity of strategic skills to the table including: innovation strategy cocreation, design thinking, change-making, custom data analytics, design research, visual sense-making, custom city-data analytics platforms, custom mobile applications, community engagement design, civic innovation team skill-building and civic innovation lab building. Our hybrid approach is human-centered in orientation and focused to assist both the internal staff within city agencies as well as the people that governments ultimately serve.

10 Things We Can Help Civic Leaders With Today We can help you:

1. Create a tangible civic innovation strategy for your city. 2. Tackle fuzzy complex challenges in real time. 3. Bridge across horizontal and vertical silos within government. 4. Undertake custom societal data analytics. 5. Supercharge community engagement capabilities. 6. Design & build customized digital data analytics platforms. 7. Design & build mobile data-driven applications. 8. Build next generation civic innovation leadership capacity. 9. Operationalize your civic innovation intentions. 10. Become a civic innovation leader.

Š 2015 HumanCities Collaborative. All Rights Reserved.

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HumanCities Collaborative Team: Humantific SenseMaking for ChangeMaking www.humantific.com Insitum Innovation Through Research www.insitum.com Measure of America Creating Societal Understanding www.measureofamerica.org OpenCrowd Custom Technology Solutions www.opencrowd.com

To Start a Conversation Contact: Maki Kawaguchi HumanCities Collaborative 6 West 18th Street, 9th Floor New York City, NY 10011 T: 212-660-2577 inquire@humancitiescollaborative.org

Š 2015 HumanCities Collaborative. All Rights Reserved.

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Accelerating Civic Innovation: Ten Key 2015 Considerations  

“After realization of need for innovation comes the heavy lift of operationalizing civic innovation and this is where HumanCities Collaborat...

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