Fort Collins looks to the future to be more innovative today

A year-plus into a pandemic that turned everything about how we live and work upside down, the future holds many unknowns. For city leaders in Fort Collins, Colo., that's where the "Futures Committee" comes into play. It’s a monthly meeting chaired by Mayor Wade Troxell focused wholly on challenges and opportunities 20, 50, or even 100 years down the road—and a critical way busy city leaders hold space for expansive thinking and innovation.

Read more


Title: Innovation Analyst
City: Kingston (Ontario), Canada

There are two ways Lakshay Raheja is helping bring innovation methods to Kingston, a city of 130,000 on the shore of Lake Ontario. One is through process-improvement projects, which he leads in partnership with city departments who want to save time or money by streamlining operations. The other is by applying human-centered design to make sure city services respond closely to residents' needs.

It’s the second of those two hats Raheja wears that has him serving as project manager on a critical mission: Finding creative ways to help Kingston's economy rebound from the pandemic. Raheja works with a diverse team that includes everyone from department directors to managers to frontline employees. 

When this team asked community members their thoughts about the city's economic future, they heard the same thing over and over: Because most of Kingston's residents have lived there for a long time, the city can be a "hard nut to crack" for newcomers, Rahgeja said. "It's one of the oldest cities in Canada, and when you come to Kingston as a newcomer and don't have those social and professional connections, it's hard to get a job."

Working with residents, the team came up with 700 ideas for making Kingston more welcoming, including two they plan to test. One is a "concierge service" that would help orient new residents to Kingston's services and employers in the same way a hotel concierge might show you to your room or the pool. The other would aim to bring broadband to outlying parts of the city, where anyone new to town might feel isolated by a lack of good internet options.

The team is now prototyping parts of these ideas with residents to learn what works and build out solutions iteratively. This is where human-centered design gets really fun for city employees, Raheja said. "This is the phase where they start creating something tangible that we can touch and feel," he said, noting that public-sector employees aren't used to having the freedom to experiment in this way. "This phase kind of de-risks things for them."

Pro tip: "Innovation is not a technology or a tool. It's a mindset—the way you think."


FINANCIAL COUNSELING: The Cities for Financial Empowerment Fund announces the selection of five local governments, including Columbus, Ohio, Dallas, Jackson, Tenn., Louisville, Ky., and Pueblo, Colo., to replicate the proven Financial Empowerment Center (FEC) model. The municipalities will work to launch free, professional one-on-one financial counseling as a free public service for low-income residents. (The Cities for Financial Empowerment Fund)

INNOVATION: The COVID-19 Local Action Tracker developed by Bloomberg Philanthropies and the National League of Cities catalogues more than 2,800 actions in America’s 100 largest cities in response to the pandemic. While many key actions were necessary short-term emergency measures, others will have a lasting impact. (Bloomberg CityLab

CLIMATE: The city of Helsinki announces winners of its competition offering €1 million for innovative solutions to the problem of heating homes without using fossil fuels or burning wood. One winner envisions storing heat in floating offshore reservoirs. (Fast Company)

EQUITY: The city of Evanston, Ill., approves the first government reparations program for African Americans in the U.S., aimed at descendants of residents who experienced housing discrimination in the city. (Washington Post) A San Francisco pilot will give 150 Black and Pacific Islander new mothers $1,000 a month during their pregnancies and for the first six months of their children's lives. (Time)

ECONOMIC RECOVERY: Hoping to ride a tourism wave of “vaxications,” Houston, Nashville, Tenn., and other cities develop branded COVID-19 safety reassurance programs. (Forbes) Meanwhile, Redmond, Wash., offers visitors a $100 travel bonus to pay for meals, clothing or other items at local businesses. (Seattle Times)


JOB OPPORTUNITY: The city of Santa Monica, Calif., is seeking a high-level, respected, energetic professional with an understanding of local government to serve as its new City Manager.

GRANT AND LEARNING OPPORTUNITY: Bloomberg Philanthropies is hosting a virtual information session for cities interested in the Asphalt Art Initiative grant program, which is designed to fund visual art interventions on roadways, pedestrian spaces, and public infrastructure in U.S. cities. Applications are now open for the second round of grants and will provide as many as 20 U.S. cities up to $25,000 each for projects that use art and design to improve street safety, revitalize public spaces, and engage residents of their communities. Email here to register for the information session, which will be held April 6 at 4 p.m. ET. Apply here for the grant by April 30.

LEARNING OPPORTUNITY: Join What Works Cities and Opportunity Insights for a series of sessions focused on learning how to use a powerful data tool known as the Opportunity Atlas to answer questions related to residents' economic mobility. The first session is March 30 at 1 p.m. ET. Register here

LEARNING OPPORTUNITY: Join the Centre for Public Impact and the Aspen Institute for a conversation on public entrepreneurship, equity, and failure within the public sector. The webinar takes place April 8 at 1 p.m. ET. Register here.

Contact us to share events and job postings with the Bloomberg Cities network.

© 2021 All rights reserved.
Bloomberg Philanthropies

View this email in your browser
Want to change how you receive these emails?
You can
update your preferences or unsubscribe from this list.