ELGL19 Innovation Summit: Taking the Next Steps

Posted on February 12, 2019

innovation summit

Time: 1:00 pm Wednesday, May 15 (Lunch starts at Noon)

Location: The Rickhouse, 609 Foster St, Durham, NC 27701

Innovation Unplugged: A Summit on Getting the Work Done

This half day, pre-conference summit on Wednesday, May 15, 2019 will explore the messy work of innovation in local government. This half day of sharing and learning is for anyone working on innovation or who wants to bring new ideas into their organization.

“When government works the way it should, we are all better off. We hope that this report has provided others with a sense of community and a way forward. As with everything else in this field, we know it is a small, slow step. But we see it as a meaningful, important one nonetheless.”
Hana Schank

In local government innovation, it’s easy to feel alone and misunderstood, and left wondering if you are the crazy one. The idealism and “rise & grind mentality” can change quickly to cynicism or a career change.

Hana Schank, Public Interest Technology Fellow for New America, co-authored a recent report that spoke to many in the field in a way that nothing before has.  Her report met us where we were, helped affirm that we aren’t crazy, and helped us see the immense opportunity we have to set a path forward at #ELGL19.

Join us for an afternoon where we aim to take the next step from Hana’s report, to continue building a sense of community and a path forward! Our two goals:

  • Build Relationships across the country and across different roles in local government
  • Build action plans we can implement together for solving the three challenges in Hana’s report
    • What Do We Call This Thing: A better way to talk about the work
    • Redefine How We Share Work: A way to share resources and solutions
    • Keeping Innovators Idealistic and Engaged: A better way to allow people to develop and stay in government

“These are the early days of the field. Many of the essential structures that exist in other fields are missing.Career paths are muddled or missing. Professional development is spotty. Jobs tend to be clustered around fellowships or senior to middle management, excluding spots for entry level workers or executives. Practitioners don’t have obvious ways to meet and swap lessons learned. We don’t even really have a name.

-Hana Schank


Josh Edwards Hana Schank
Josh Edwards
Assistant Director
Strategy & Performance
Durham, NC
LinkedIn & Twitter
Hana Schank
Public Interest Technology Fellow
New America


Adria Finch Brent Stockwell Paula Kwan
Adria Finch
Director of Innovation
Syracuse, NY
LinkedIn & Twitter
Brent Stockwell
Assistant City Manager
Scottsdale, AZ
LinkedIn & Twitter
Paula Kwan
Director of Civic Innovation
Toronto, ON
LinkedIn & Twitter

Study Up for the Summit:

The afternoon will center around discussing three challenges.

1) What Do We Call This Thing: A better way to talk about the work

Hana’s Challenge: We need a better way to talk about the work.

You say “tomahto” I say “tomayto,” but often times it feels like we are talking about different fruit when discussing local government innovation. What happens if I want to share about my work, but you don’t know what UX, R, or Journey Mapping is and I lose you when I say qualitative research? What if we could break this down to common language that no matter the location and size of the local government, we can meet where you are? When we simplify the language we might find that there are other people in different roles around the country that are tackling similar challenges and could utilize strategies that we are using if only they were more approachable. In addition, with a shared language it could be easier to identify who is doing this work in an organization and build the network.

2) Redefine How We Share Work: A way to share resources and solutions

Hana’s Challenge: We need a way to share resources and solutions.

How can we become real time test sites for our fellow local governments? Envision an opportunity for Anchorage to test their newest idea in your city while they are iterating in AK. Let’s spend time not only defining shared challenges, but let’s commit to solving them together at the same time. Why are we doing this all on our own when we are NOT competing against each other? We need to lead by example and “Open Source Innovation,” acting as one laboratory.

3) Keeping Innovators Idealistic and Engaged: A better way to allow people to develop and stay in government

  • Hana’s Challenges:
    • We need a better understanding of why people are leaving and how to make the work sustainable.
    • We need help shaping career trajectories and pipeline issues that abound, including entry points and ways to move up.

Stay scrappy, stay idealistic, keep dreaming? Wait, local government’s retirement benefits aren’t enough to keep you happy? Well maybe this is impossible…but it is worth a try. Let’s work through these challenges. Innovators need to know they are not alone, there are career paths, and there are opportunities to advance in your organization. What if you are a Director of a department or an Assistant City Administrator someday? How do we solve local government hiring issues, when so many of us don’t even have position titles that speak to the work, no wonder there are short term band aids used to get people in the door, but no sustainability.

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