It is a widely held belief that innovation tends to increase when people of diverse interests and different backgrounds interact with one another. This is why many cities are creating and promoting innovation centers and sometimes even focusing increased resources and attention on larger, multi-block geographic zones. They hope to promote a more fertile environment for creativity by providing new opportunities for human contact.
In much the same fashion -- although on a somewhat different scale -- this is the idea behind the upcoming Governing Summit on Performance and Innovation. More than "just another meeting," the Feb. 11-12 gathering in Louisville will be a convening of the minds on the most important subject of the day: Getting more out of less through synergy and innovation. Details such as the setup of the room, the pace of the meeting and the overall environment will be intentionally interactive and challenging.
The day will begin with a welcome from Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer -- an entrepreneur who is leading his beautiful river city to find new ways to make an already progressive community even more creative and productive. The opening keynote will feature Aaron Renn, a senior fellow with the Manhattan Institute and long-time observer of urban trends, as well as a frequent contributor to Governing and other publications. He promises to raise our sights and expand our horizons -- setting the stage for an energetic and idea-filled conference.
The first panel session will feature leaders of four major cities -- the mayors of Nashville, Minneapolis, Atlanta and Louisville -- comparing and contrasting how these unique and vital urban centers are meeting the demands of today while effectively planning for the special opportunities of the future. As noted in the program: "The global urban boom is propelled by the understanding that cities are the way of the future. As they evolve, cities are emerging as change makers, they are themselves the building blocks and the agents for sustainable growth and development."
The roster of speakers and the pace of the program is different from that of most current-day conferences and will demand special attention from those in attendance. There will be "meat and potatoes" sessions on such subjects as engaging and improving the governmental workforce and increasing productivity in an age of rapid change. Mark Funkhouser, publisher of Governing and former mayor of Kansas City, Mo., will bring his financial background as an auditor to moderate one session and another will be facilitated by Theresa Reno-Weber, chief of performance & technology in the Office of the Mayor of Louisville.
A second keynote on Feb. 12 will feature a presentation on "The Responsive City" by Stephen Goldsmith, former mayor of Indianapolis and currently the Daniel Paul professor of the practice of government and director of the Innovations in Government Program at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. He will address new ways to obtain community input, build trust, preempt and predict problems, and save taxpayer money using the new tools made available by the digital age.
In keeping with the theme of the event, the new trend for cities to develop special creative environments or "innovation districts" (tracking along the ideas of author and futurist Richard Florida) will engage participants from those well-known and well-established centers for new ideas: Seattle and Davis, Calif.
Of course, the age-old question, "How do we pay for all this?" will be addressed as well. A session titled “Funding the Way” will explore new tactics, including innovations such as social impact bonds and performance partnerships. Rick Cole, deputy mayor for budget, innovation & excellence for the city of Los Angeles; Rick Little, director of performance measures for the state of Utah; and John Pouland, vice president of government affairs and solutions at Philips will provide additional perspectives. Daniel Frockt, interim CFO of Louisville’s Office of Management & Budget, will share a close-up, hometown view of the host city.
It's only a day and a half, but attendees should resist the temptation to cut things short and leave at the end of the first day or early afternoon on the second. The last item on the agenda will be a face- off between representatives of the first three cohort communities of the City Accelerator competition -- Louisville, Nashville and Philadelphia -- and their counterparts from three major supporting agencies or foundations. It should be an interesting and informative exchange.
While this event is sold out because of the unique set up of the accommodations and the "everyone participates" format, those who are interested should make a note and watch Governing for similar opportunities in the future. It's not "just another meeting" -- it’s a new way to interact and communicate and learn. It's an innovation in itself.
Updated February 6, 2015 to add Aaron Renn's affiliation with the Manhattan Institute.