NEW YORK and WASHINGTON, Sept. 4, 2014 /PRNewswire/ -- The Citi Foundation and Living Cities today announced the selection of Louisville, KY, Nashville, TN and Philadelphia, PA as the first three participants in the City Accelerator, a $3 million program to help nine cities pilot leading innovations in local government.
Over the next 18 months, city administrations in Louisville, Nashville and Philadelphia will receive a package of resources and technical assistance to help them adopt cutting-edge approaches to innovation and apply these new tools to tackle specific challenges facing low-income residents in their cities.
Louisville will employ its current innovation toolkit, alongside new approaches supported by the City Accelerator, to address issues such as enhancing its fire response system and better serving people suffering from both mental illness and substance abuse, as part of the city's broader effort to build a comprehensive "R&D system" for civic innovation.
"Our goal with the City Accelerator Program is to build upon our many performance improvement and innovation efforts to create a world-leading and sustainable practice of innovation, on par with the R&D branches of a world-class company," said Mayor Greg Fischer of the City of Louisville. "We want to push beyond the status quo in all things touched by city government, and empower employees and citizens alike to participate in the work of innovation. We are both energized by and grateful for the support of the Citi Foundation and Living Cities, which will aid us greatly in this broader effort."
Nashville will engage multiple city agencies and local nonprofits to develop more integrated and innovative approaches to increase economic opportunity for its residents, including combating urban homelessness and addressing the need for safe and affordable housing.
"Both the public and private sectors in Nashville are filled with dedicated individuals who work hard every day to help more citizens share in our city's economic success," said Mayor Karl Dean of Nashville. "Our Office of Innovation is working to bring all of those entities to the same table, because we know separate efforts can be much more impactful when our strategies are unified and everyone is willing to consider new approaches. We are excited for the tools and support the City Accelerator will bring to Nashville to aid us in this vital work."
Philadelphia will bring its innovation team and city departments together to test new methods to increase enrollment in City programs that provide eligible low-income residents with tax relief and payment assistance, such as engaging with city residents to innovate new solutions to reach these taxpayers or making the application process more user-friendly.
"Our Administration is committed to building a culture of innovation across City government to benefit Philadelphians. As a result, Philadelphia has built a strong infrastructure that supports our forward-thinking goal of finding creative solutions to long-standing challenges," said Mayor Michael A. Nutter. "One challenge has been devising ways to help vulnerable Philadelphians access benefits to which they are entitled. Being selected for the City Accelerator program will help us create tax relief pathways for these citizens, using our existing innovation infrastructure, new tools and targeted resources."
"As cities continue to grow in both size and share of global GDP, they are faced with similar challenges that make collaboration imperative," said Ed Skyler, Citi's Executive Vice President for Global Public Affairs and Chairman of the Citi Foundation. "The City Accelerator is a great opportunity to work with mayors and other urban leaders by fueling the exchange of ideas and contributing to the success of cities around the country."
"The level of interest, and the quality of the proposals we received during the first round of the City Accelerator, are a testament to the appetite and creativity of cities across the country in disrupting the status quo in local government," said Ben Hecht, President and CEO of Living Cities. "Louisville, Nashville and Philadelphia ultimately showed the strongest proposals to embed innovation in their administrations and to put their ideas into practice to address issues affecting low-income people."
The idea that cities need to be able to innovate faster, more fully and more consistently is one of the core organizing ideas for the City Accelerator. The cohort cities will receive support including coaching and technical assistance from leading municipal innovators, targeted implementation resources and opportunities to engage with their peers in the other cohort cities.
Nigel Jacob, co-founder of the Mayor's Office of New Urban Mechanics for the City of Boston and Urban Technologist-in-Residence at Living Cities, will lead the first cohort. "Cities are getting better at making incremental improvements to the way they deliver services," said Jacob. "This is important, but it is not enough to solve our greatest challenges. Cities need to be able to find breakthrough ways of solving problems on an ongoing basis."
Nine other cities applied for the cohort, and six: Albuquerque, Denver, and San Jose in addition to Louisville, Nashville and Philadelphia, were selected as finalists. The six finalists recorded video pitches that were posted online at Governing.com for public review, comment and rating. The strength of their proposals, the alignment of their thinking with the framework for this first cohort, and public input on the finalists' video pitches were all considered in the final selection.
Two additional City Accelerator cohorts will launch in spring and fall of 2015.
Living Cities will release and update an implementation guide on innovation in local government that will serve as a roadmap for other cities. The Governing Institute will provide ongoing coverage of the learnings coming out of the cohort cities and related innovation efforts happening in other places in a dedicated section on Governing.com.
The City Accelerator builds on the Project on Municipal Innovation (PMI), a collaboration between Living Cities and the Harvard Kennedy School's Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation. PMI brings together mayoral chiefs-of-staff and policy directors from 35 cities across the US to discuss challenges facing their municipalities, including inefficiency in city government and inequality. The City Accelerator helps translate dialogue into action by giving cities seed funding to adopt many of the ideas discussed during the PMI sessions.
With a focus on municipal innovation, the City Accelerator reinforces Citi and the Citi Foundation's commitment to help cities become more efficient and empower citizens by providing access to services that enhance livability and prosperity. For more information about how Citi is enabling progress in cities, please visit www.citiforcities.com.
Citi, the leading global bank, has approximately 200 million customer accounts and does business in more than 160 countries and jurisdictions. Citi provides consumers, corporations, governments and institutions with a broad range of financial products and services, including consumer banking and credit, corporate and investment banking, securities brokerage, transaction services, and wealth management.
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About the Citi Foundation
The Citi Foundation works to promote economic progress in communities around the world and focuses on initiatives that expand financial inclusion. We collaborate with best-in-class partners to create measurable economic improvements that strengthen low-income families and communities. Through a "More than Philanthropy" approach, Citi's business resources and human capital enhance our philanthropic investments and impact. For more information, visit www.citifoundation.com.
About Living Cities
Living Cities harnesses the collective power of 22 of the world's largest foundations and financial institutions to develop and scale new approaches for creating opportunities for low-income people and improving the cities where they live. Its investments, research, networks, and convenings catalyze fresh thinking and combine support for innovative, local approaches with real-time sharing of learning to accelerate adoption in more places. Additional information can be found at www.livingcities.org.
About the Project on Municipal Innovation
The Project on Municipal Innovation is a unique forum that enables city halls from across the country to learn about and act on integrative and transformative policy ideas. More than 35 cities have designated their chief-of-staff or policy director to participate in a highly engaged set of activity that includes online policy forums and biannual in-person meetings at the Harvard Kennedy School's Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation.
SOURCE Citi Foundation; Living Cities