Anjali Chainani

Director of Policy and GovLabPHL at Mayor's Office, City of Philadelphia
February 13, 2018
Smartly Resourced

As an unpaid summer intern in the city of Philadelphia’s Mayor’s Internship Program, Anjali Chainani didn’t know that one day she would become the Director of Policy and GovLabPHL for the Mayor. The 10-week program exposed her to the diverse functions and operations of one of the country’s largest cities. Through her internship, she began to imagine ways to improve the quality of the experience each person has in his or her interactions with the city. As she put it, “I want[ed] people to feel understood by their local government.”

A few years after her internship, Chainani would go on to serve as a City Council staffer before joining Mayor Jim Kenney’s administration. She made an immediate impact and was instrumental in the passage of the Philadelphia Beverage Tax, a new revenue source to fund the city’s education programs, including pre-kindergarten, which was part of Mayor Kenney’s first budget proposal.

One of the many accomplishments Chainani is known for is effectively leveraging the city’s academic resources. Through her work with GovLabPHL, a multi-agency team focused on developing innovative and evidence-based practice in city government, she has been strengthening the city’s partnerships with the academic community so her colleagues can use data and research to increase the impact of their programs and services. GovLabPHL’s Philly Behavioral Science Initiative (PBSI) is bringing together partners, including the University of Pennsylvania, Temple, Swarthmore, Saint Joe’s and Princeton, to increase participation in city programs developed to help their residents, such as the Senior Water Bill Discount. Cities oftentimes don’t hit the utilization targets for their programs, which can cost money, time and resources, but most importantly, it means residents aren’t receiving the full assistance or money allowed.  

“If we can better connect policy improvements [through behavioral science] to on-the-ground service delivery processes and tools, then we can be more effective in holistically enhancing the public’s experiences with city services,” said Chainani. 

Chainani is no stranger to the academic life herself. She pursued her joint master’s in public health and social work from Temple University while working for Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell. When asked how her training enhances her role in government, she said, “As a social worker who focuses on policy, I am charged with understanding how policy impacts communities, and particular sub-populations, and … ensuring that we as a city implement programs and practices that work to improve access to resources in our city’s poorest areas to improve the quality of life for all Philadelphians.” She expects to get her PhD from the University of the Sciences’ Mayes College for Healthcare Business and Policy in 2019.

Whether partnering with researchers, studying the issues herself or participating in Results for America as a fellow, Chainani is committed to optimizing Philadelphia’s resources so service provision remains a priority.

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