By Data-Smart City Solutions • December 15, 2014

Atlanta found housing for 1,022 formerly homeless individuals.

Chicago reduced the time it takes to open a restaurant from 66 to 44 days.

Louisville increased the number of animals successfully leaving shelters from 30% to 77%.  

Memphis reduced robberies, non-domestic violence aggravated assaults, and homicides by 50% in a focus area.

New Orleans reduced the number of murder victims by 37% in targeted neighborhoods.

The common element that made these dramatic results across so many areas possible? Innovation teams. Developed by Bloomberg Philanthropies, the innovation team (or i-team) model brings dedicated capacity to city halls to implement innovative and data-driven solutions to longstanding problems. The teams focus on moving the needle on mayoral priorities by following four steps: investigating the problem, generating new ideas, preparing to deliver, and delivering and adapting. Data plays a central role throughout the process, from deep investigation of problems to evaluation of the success of initiatives. Innovation teams report directly to the mayor and are focused on results. This position allows them the necessary perspective and authority to coordinate with partners to take on longstanding issues that cross department lines, ensuring effective implementation of programmatic solutions.

Today, Bloomberg Philanthropies announced a new, $45 million round of funding that will bring innovation teams to 14 additional cities: Albuquerque, NM; Boston, MA; Centennial, CO; Jersey City, NJ; Long Beach, CA; Los Angeles, CA; Mobile, AL; Minneapolis, MN; Peoria, IL; Rochester, NY; Seattle, WA; Syracuse, NY; and Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, Israel.

The new grants build on the successes of the pilot round of five innovation teams in cities that Bloomberg Philanthropies funded in 2011: Atlanta, Chicago, Louisville, Memphis, and New Orleans. All five teams were so successful in achieving results that the cities decided to continue funding them after the grants ended. The teams have focused on a wide range of issues over the past three years. Chicago’s i-team worked on reforms to support small businesses, including a microlending program and a new Chief Small Business Officer position, as well as placing youth into social support programs. The team in Memphis created a new multipronged program to address youth gun violence.  In Atlanta, the innovation strategy addressed the high homeless population and created a new 311 system to augment the city’s customer service capability. In addition to successfully reducing the murder rate, New Orleans’ innovation team is implementing a strategy to connect people with jobs. Louisville’s team has focused on rezoning, pet adoptions, and increasing international exports.   

A playbook released earlier this year details the model and the lessons learned from the five original cities as they developed these initiatives; it identifies committed mayoral support, a clear mandate and role for the team, and resource commitment and capacity as the three critical ingredients for success. The new i-teams will benefit from the depth of experience of the five pilot cities as they apply these lessons to their own teams and initiatives.

The value proposition is clear: i-teams are a proven way to bring innovation to city government. The new round of grants will enable the kind of significant results on issues including blight and affordable housing that the first cohort achieved with homelessness and crime.