Why Are We Having an Innovation Summit at #ELGL19?

Posted on April 3, 2019

for morning buzz


Today’s Morning Buzz is by Josh Edwards, so be kind or not– either way connect with him on LinkedIn and Twitter!!!

What I’m Listening To:   Weezer Radio on Spotify (still..)

What I’m Reading:  The Song of Achilles, by Madeline Miller

 What I’m Watching: Last Few Weeks of English Premier League

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.

After reading Hana’s report, a few of us were inspired  to take the next step and get more involved in building a sense of community and a path forward! ELGL’s support of local government innovation made #ELGL19 a perfect venue to achieve 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

I am excited to be joined by a few of my awesome friends in leading the summit, thanks to Adria Finch, Brent Stockwell, Paula Kwan, Shannon Delaney, and David Jibodu you don’t want to miss the summit on May 15th kicking off #ELGL19 in style! Wait, did I mention that Hana Schank is kicking it off? Enough already, just go sign up.

“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

So if you come, what will you be helping us solve?  Let’s dig in a little bit and continue to wet your appetite:

1) What Do We Call This Thing: 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

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.  We are all planning on working on the same five things over the next two years anyway!

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

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.

So What’s Next

This is not a one-time meeting where we talk and get inspired and then go our separate ways.  We intend to take what we learn and set up action plans that we can implement together.  Following the conference we will report out on what was discussed and thanks to ELGL, we will do the work together. Buckle up!

Josh Edwards is the City of Durham’s Assistant Budget Director of Strategy & Performance and leads the Office of Performance and Innovation (OPI). The OPI team helps all 26 departments accomplish Durham’s “One Vision and Five Goals,” by advancing the City’s Strategic Plan, providing a framework for data driven decision making, fostering a culture of innovation, and leading process improvements.  OPI is home to the City’s i-team, funded by Bloomberg Philanthropies (@Durham_iteam), which is using both qualitative and quantitative data to better connect justice involved residents to economic opportunities.  Josh enjoys camping with his family, coaching u6 soccer, and convincing his kids that Wake Forest is better than Duke and Carolina.

All views and opinions expressed in this post are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views and opinions of his employer.

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