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The power and necessity- of social innovation in our cities, Gigi Georges at six and the city


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The power and necessity- of social innovation in our cities, Gigi Georges at six and the city

  1. 1. The Power - and Necessity - of Social Innovation in our Cities Gigi Georges September 2010
  2. 2. Imagine that you’re a mayor. Or local agency head or city manager or high level appointee charged with delivering concrete services to local citizens. You know there are real consequences at stake: a child’s education, a father’s livelihood, a mother’s health...a home. You’re struggling every day to stay one step ahead...but you feel buried buried...
  3. 3. Then one day, someone comes to you and says: here’s what were going to do... -We’ll allot serious funds to new efforts, knowing that more than 50% of them will fail. We ll -We’ll encourage a public fight with local nonprofit and foundation leaders. -We’ll open ourselves up to more scrutiny at every step from every quarter: and demand to be held to the highest standards -We’ll actively seek out client feedback at every turn, even from clients who aren’t wrapped into the system voluntarily. You listen, and you think, Thanks but I think this is a ride I’d rather not take. You can literally see your political career going off the rails... But then, you think about where you are, and what you’ve got going. And why you got into government in the first place.
  4. 4. And it hits you, that for the most part, in government you’re pretty much stuck on an enormous slowly sinking ship enormous, ship. Sure, there are some bright moments here or there. But it’s not a pretty picture. Because the reality is that too often, we’re held back by the very systems that were designed to address our society’s g g y greatest p problems. Meaningful change is g g frequently impeded by government’s adherence to old ideas, precedents and practices. And lack of transparency and accountability keeps us from being able to identify and quantify failure.
  5. 5. So, even though you have the best intentions, you -- or more to the point, the machinery of government -- are the y g obstacle, not the facilitator of people’s lives. Think about it: wherever you hail from, government dominates funding in every important area of social policy. With rare exception, it spends citizens’ t d ll ti d iti ’ tax-dollars on one-size fits all services, It is averse to risk and innovation. It’s mired in bureaucratic red-tape, bound by impenetrable regulations, and dominated by a culture of compliance over results. An Iron Triangle of results incumbent interests rules. These a aren’t bad people, they just don’t want to lose their jobs and funds. It rarely asks citizens what works for them. All these things keep good innovators -- and good innovations -- out.
  6. 6. There is a program for every problem, with lots of money funding lots of activity by lots of well-intentioned people -- often accomplishing little. Ask a program worker what they’re accomplishing and, more often than not, they will answer with a process or a program: “We filled 37 new job training slots today.” “We moved 200 people into homeless shelters this week.” “We filed 14,392 claims this month.” But with all this activity, as you sit there, good intentions and all, how often can you honestly say: Here’s how have I’ve helped change a citizen’s life today -- for Here s I ve citizen s the good and for the long term. Here’s how I’ve worked WITH them, not simply for or at them, to bring about measurable change.
  7. 7. Back in America, these problems share the same root causes: a governing mentality driven by compliance and status quo inertia and a political discourse too often driven by ideological partisanship. We need to replace both of these with a new approach: that of innovative pragmatism. And, if we take that approach, we can do much better. Or at the very minimum, we can’t do worse than we are today.
  8. 8. So of course, the easy thing to do, is, , y g , , well... But the proverbial head in the sand never got anyone anywhere but deeper into the hole. hole And the real question is not whether government should participate in serving its citizens, but how. So I’m here this afternoon to start the discussion a bit about why it’s imperative to innovate in our cities -- and that it can be done with some promising results... p g
  9. 9. But also to acknowledge that the route to success can be long and winding winding. Working with and talking to more than 100 local government, non-profit and foundation innovators back in the states over the past two years, my colleagues and I at Harvard have seen how it can be done in pockets across the country. We put our findings into a book, under the lead authorship of Stephen Goldsmith, called “the Power of Social Innovation.” Innovation What we saw and have written about gave us hope that with the right strategies, and some strong passionate folks leading the way, pockets of promise can build and grow.
  10. 10. But before you say I know where she’s going: the innovators say, she s will ride in on a white horse in and rescue government from itself. And happily ever after and such. Not so. Because if we do anything as we gather, we ought to be honest about the limits - and potential p p pitfalls - of innovation. To start, we need to acknowledge that no single sector can - or should- corner the market on innovation. Public, private and non profit officials can all be the problem, but it takes more than one of them to be the solution. in our research and experience, we h have seen t ifi id terrific ideas well executed i one sector th t can ll t d in t that cause changes in the others. We’ve also seen the incredibly important lesson that you don’t have to be an “expert” to be a great innovator who contributes something meaningful to public service In fact many of the service. fact, most inspiring and successful innovations we came across came from ordinary citizens who were frustrated with how government was failing to get results, and took action. Often they brought the p y g power of new technology -- digital and gy g social media, web-based services and cutting edge data incorporation -- to problem solving in their own communities. Sometimes, their innovations were as simple as taking a political or financial risk, and challenging local government leadership to do the same. 10 10
  11. 11. In our journey through cities and towns, we also recognized that all innovation is not good. So even as we celebrate shaking up government with waves of innovation, some words of caution are in order. Good social innovators constantly ask themselves: what is our mission and is it the right one? In this searching, searching the old adage comes to mind of asking : “have we given this family a fish today or have we mind, have today– taught them how to fish”? Are we simply serving the homeless – or are we ending homelessness? [Example of Linda Gibbs in New York City] Because, even among innovators, too often, efforts to match needs and services are no better than a child’s game of telephone. An innovator has a solution but it’s not connected to demand. They tell citizens “take it s take this. It’s good for you.” Citizens have too few mechanisms to talk back – to say “no, this is what I really need.” And when they do try to talk, it somehow ends up garbled along the way. We need to build a two way system between supply and demand that works – where we give voice to those who lack power on the demand side so that providers can create and modify approaches that work for and with more people.
  12. 12. Good social innovators also acknowledge the risk of being too certain that because you are innovative, your ideas will automatically work in the public sphere. Or that because they’re your ideas, and you’re smarter than everyone else, they you’ve got the y , yy g winning playbook -These are the risks of replacing the arrogance of government with the arrogance of the innovator. And they’re big. th ’ bi So what are the marks of good innovation? We found some sharp consistencies among those that achieved successes not just in one place or one year, but with scale and sustainability over time. With real results for real people.
  13. 13. The success stories were dominated by individuals -- and organizational cultures -- that prized constant learning. [Example: Teach for America, move from placing teachers to developing a cadre of alumni leadership who are now taking on key roles in government and education, pushing a school reform agenda.] This means being willing - eager - to learn as you go, to adapt quickly when things aren’t working, to admit mistakes and seek to correct them. To prize data at the same time as you incorporate the human element, the stories, the voices of those on the other end of the desk, phone line or computer.
  14. 14. The need to constantly improve; to be always focused on becoming better and being humble enough to know that in order to be a great innovator and contributor you must be willing to learn from others: Mentors, peers, subordinates and competitors as well as through a willingness to take on jobs or tasks, not because of th h illi t t k j b t k tb f the prestige or compensation, but by determining if it will make you and others better.
  15. 15. What else dominated? Hard work and Perseverance Perseverance.
  16. 16. True passion
  17. 17. And the courage to take risks in order to achieve your goals – even when the odds are against you. Especially in these times, when governments -- and the people they are there to serve -- are facing significant economic and social challenges. [Example: Blair Taylor, Los Angeles Urban League. Put the credibility of his trusted organization, plus his own reputation. on the line to pursue a bold and risky effort to p y holistically address the needs of a troubled community in California. Convinced community, local government, civic leaders to work with him when all others had given up. Goal: to cut violent crime rates in half, using th l i the local hi h school as an anchor l high h l h for neighborhood and civic realignment. In 2 years, a 17 percent reduction in violent crimes, and an 80 percent decrease in homicides.]
  18. 18. It also takes a little bit of luck
  19. 19. That also sounds great, but really: How do you do it? ? Start by being willing to make the long climb out of the status quo.
  20. 20. And by opening space for innovation so that it can feed and grow: •Be willing to throw out incumbent providers - legacy non profits that aren’t making the grade but get funded y year after year j y just because it’s “always been so”. y •Make legal and regulatory changes that break down structural barriers to innovation •Bring in new people and organizations that are hungry, creative, passionate AND not just willing, but eager to be held to high standards and measurable results. [Example: Washington DC Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee] And give them room to test their wings, and hopefully, fly... And remember, some of these new entrants WILL fail. But that’s at the core of innovation. And the key is to give them the room to try the support to adapt and improve and the notice that if they can’t show value in a try, improve, can t reasonable time frame, they won’t be invited back. [Example: Under NYC Mayor Bloomberg, Center for Economic Opportunity Innovation Fund/conditional cash transfers experiment].
  21. 21. Trust in citizens: Ask f f db k A k for feedback on services. D i Devolve access t i f l to information. L ti Leverage social media. i l di Replace patronizing systems. develop new volunteer and donor goodwill pipelines [Example: Maurice Miller’s Family Independence Initiative in San Francisco shifts responsibility for change to those who experience poverty. Through FII low-income poverty FII, low income families are encouraged to create and rely on their own networks for success, and are challenged to set high expectations for themselves. Participating households in FII’s pilot increased their income by 20% while 70% of children improved their grades. Now expanding to Boston.]
  22. 22. What you need Open Space Trust in Drive Results for Innovation Citizens And always drive toward results. Hold yourself, your agencies, your political and civil appointees -- and the people you are there to serve -- to higher standards. It s standards It’s hard, but we have seen that it can be done. [Examples: Indianapolis Mind Trust; Massachusetts-based New Profit, Inc.]
  23. 23. Ten Steps to Drive Social Innovation in Cities What’s Next? Engage the Community Be willing to take political risk Create Innovation Capital/Venture Fund p Initiate Performance Measurement Trust Those in Need Consider a ‘Sunset’ Clause in Funding Stop Incumbent Protectionism Identify New Intermediary Models Identify and Import Best National (and international) Models ) Encourage Business Leader Initiative We took what we learned and came up with ten steps any local government leader can look to if they really want to embark on this journey...
  24. 24. And finally, think systemically and act finally catalytically. Looking at the inner circle: A host of forces operate on a community’s social service delivery structure—few of which argue for change. The g g tendency to resist disruptive change doesn’t result from a nefarious political conspiracy. Rather, it is the natural result of a system in which one closely tied group of individuals— philanthropic and government funders—makes decisions f another group—citizens i need. d i i for th iti in d Yet an impassioned person with an appealing vision can act as a catalyst. The center circle in the figure represents the civic reaction—the disruption and eventual transformation of the existing system triggered by civic entrepreneurship that produces more social good. In all this, a key piece is to know that while the actor as catalyst, working across traditional lines, y g is crucial, they cannot make change in any meaningful, scalable way if they try do it alone. And they certainly can’t do it without engaging government. This goes back to understanding that the best innovation crosses sectors, brings players t l together t b i d th to bring down b i barriers and b ild d build up successes, block by block.
  25. 25. It goes without saying that there is no shortcut.
  26. 26. But stick with it, and we can figure out how to create the exceptional model, the one that stands out and gets people talking talking. So that before you know it...
  27. 27. The exceptional...becomes the rule. 27
  28. 28. And before you know it, we can all have a lot more to celebrate. Even if it seems today like a long shot...or a miracle. [1980 US HOCKEY VICTORY] There is a path, it starts with the people we met and talked to working in cities across America. With innovative leaders like you, helping lead the way.
  29. 29. Thank Th k you…