Program Day 1: Local Government and Innovation

“I had no idea San Jose was doing such cool things.”

This was perhaps the most frequently uttered comment by members of the LSJ Class of 2017 during their recent ‘Local Government and Innovation’ program day. The cohort dove right into the work of Mayor Liccardo’s Office of Innovation and Strategic Partnerships where they both heard and experienced how this crack team is working to transform the way the city does business and the way in which the public interacts with the city.

Mayor Liccardo welcomed the group and highlighted his ‘Smart City Vision’ for San Jose. He shared his office is recruiting top talent from the private sector and transforming the way government does its job to be more responsive and more effective for its constituents. Leading the charge on the Mayor’s ambitious policy directives is Deputy City Manager Kip Harkness, who together with his Innovation team, turn policy into reality.

Chief Innovation Officer Shireen Santosham explained that transforming the way the city does business starts with building trust and that begins with listening, both to the positive and negative experiences community members have with government. Class members shared personal experiences ranging from having their home accidentally raided by a SWAT team to another who praised their Congresswoman for helping their child get into college.

To demonstrate how they are thinking differently about key issues, Kip and Michelle Thong got the group out of their chairs and engaging in mini innovation exercises. Kip and Michelle’s essential message about government is that, ‘it should just work.’ How the city can become self-critical, self-aware, and intuitive so the things causing people the most annoyance can be transformed are their team’s top priorities.

Cohort members left saying, “I had no idea the city was thinking in this way.”

After lunch and a tour at the US Patent and Trademark Office, cohort members made their way to Prospect Silicon Valley where they gained an inside look at how data can be used to drive decision-making. Welcomed by Rafael Reyes, the Prospect SV Vice – President, he explained how his team creates urban tech solutions for cities by implementing community programs and supporting local entrepreneurs. Energized by the impressive show of innovative projects at Prospect SV the cohort was led into a panel discussion with experts from fields as diverse as public education, crime statistics, housing, and performance auditing.

Panelists explained how San Jose is behind the curve in many ways when it comes to optimizing the use of data, particularly when linking information across sectors together. However, whether it is making sure people who are chronically homelessness are targeted sooner or mapping crimes to determine where police should focus their attention, the message is that accurate data informs best practices. Following the panel, each expert stayed to participate in a small group discussion with class members who wanted to dive deeper into a particular sector.

Again, surprise and admiration was heard from class members: “I had no idea San Jose was dealing with these big issues, and the fact we are being efficient and data driven is heartening.”

The takeaways were that trust is possible, data is essential, and civic engagement is critical to moving our city forward.

More next month!

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