March 23, 2010
John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University

This paper is a Policy Analysis Exercise by students at the John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University. This research was supported, in part, by the Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation at the Kennedy School.

Few municipal governments can claim a reputation for creativity and innovation. City governments are most often presumed to be large, bureaucratic, slow-moving machines that churn out services with little regard for ingenuity or efficiency. But in Boston, Mayor Thomas Menino is challenging these assumptions, and asking questions like, “what if municipal government were able to innovate, adapt, and improve with the same capacity and determination as its private sector counterparts? How would that impact the cost and quality of city services?” In his fifth inaugural address in January 2010, the Mayor named innovation as one of his key priorities for the next four years. Staff in the Mayor’s office have responded with a concept for an Urban Innovation Center focused on two primary goals:

  • GOAL 1: To capture talent and creativity from external partners
  • GOAL 2: To encourage innovation within the municipal workforce

This study is focused on the latter goal. It considers the current culture for innovation within the City of Boston and suggests methods to encourage city workers to share and develop ideas on how to improve services and proactively address the needs of a complex and demanding constituency.

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