Innovation can be a somewhat nebulous concept, but there’s no questioning its importance in driving the public service forward. It can also help government prepare for tomorrow today, as Sacramento’s first Chief Innovation Officer (CINO) Louis Stewart is well aware.
Stewart gave the opening keynote at GovLoop’s Government Innovator’s Virtual Summit – How to Solve Your Agency’s Biggest Challenges, discussing the ways in which prioritizing innovation helped prepare Sacramento for the COVID-19 pandemic, and the lessons he learned in the role of CINO.
Across government, there are many chief innovation officers, said Stewart, and for the most part, everyone’s doing things differently: Some are focused on data, others are focused on efficiency, and so on. But what binds them all together is their belief in creative problem-solving and forward-thinking solutions.
Stewart has focused on bringing different partnerships and opportunities to Sacramento — finding ways to cooperate with internal and external partners to address the needs of the city and prepare for the future.
As Stewart explained, his innovation team had already started laying the foundation for what’s next in government when the pandemic hit, positioning the city to take advantage of what was already being worked on.
One example he gave was “economic gardening,” which involved working with small businesses to help them figure out how to solve challenges and grow in a way that would benefit the city. This effort was launched in 2019, meaning that the first cohort of businesses was able to take advantage of already-secured grant funding as the pandemic developed, and were able to invest to meet new challenges.
The city also built an innovation portal for COVID-19 issues, which now has about 160 solutions from organizations all over the world, ready to be deployed. Public-private partnerships like this have been a major part of Stewart’s strategy, and a big reason for his team’s success.
“How can government play a role as enabler without necessarily being able to spend money?” asked Stewart. “What can you bring to the table, if not dollars?”
He believes it’s more crucial than ever for government to look at itself as an enabler, and to partner with organizations to deliver solutions for citizens.
“Listen to your citizens — they’ll give you the roadmap to what they want to see, what they need, and what will help them,” Stewart said.
Don’t miss out on other virtual learning opportunities. Pre-register for GovLoop’s remaining 2020 virtual summits today.