You see it again and again in cities that are struggling to meet big challenges: Local governments often lack two of the essential ingredients for innovation. The first is manpower -- resource-strapped city employees can hardly find the time to keep the trains running and react to emergencies, much less to creatively rethink processes. The second is organizational structure -- local governments are traditionally siloed, leaving little support for the cross-agency collaboration required to tackle the most ingrained urban problems.
This week, Bloomberg Philanthropies doubled down on its commitment to an ambitious model for helping cities overcome these two thorny obstacles to innovation. The foundation announced the 14 latest cities that will receive funding for up to three years to adopt its "innovation team" approach. Under the model, each city will hire a team of in-house consultants dedicated to helping city workers and leaders tackle problems ranging from affordable housing to public safety to customer service. The innovation teams, or "i-teams" for short, will provide the missing manpower and organizational structure that many cities sorely need. They'll help city leaders and staff leverage data to understand challenges, come up with effective new ways to solve them, and follow through on results.