United States

Superpublic wants to supercharge municipal government innovation

City Innovate CEO Kamran Saddique

City Innovate CEO Kamran Saddique

Earlier this week, the City Innovate Foundation was joined by San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee, U.S. General Services Administration Administrator Denise Turner Roth and the U.S. Department of Commerce to announce a first-of-its-kind Innovation lab to solve urban problems and scale solutions at 50 United Nations Plaza — the birthplace of the U.N.

The 5,000 sq. ft. lab Superpublic unites under the same roof for the first time innovation teams from the private industry, federal, state and city government agencies and from universities. City Innovate Foundation staff will coordinate the activity of member organizations and put on programming that builds capacity among members to solve problems, prototype solutions and create innovative approaches to policies that accelerate change.

City Innovate CEO Kamran Saddique sat down with GovFresh to share how Superpublic will work and what’s next for the innovation lab down the hall from 18F.

Give us the 140-character elevator pitch.

Superpublic is a platform for public, private, and non-profit sectors to work together to address the most pressing challenges facing cities.

What problem(s) does Superpublic solve for government or residents/citizens?

To start, we expect to work on three main problems:

Digital services in government: More than ever before, residents now expect services to be available online. The development of new digital services is an opportunity to rethink how we deliver services to ensure every resident has the access they need. The City of SF is looking to replicate the success of 18F and U.S. Digital Service to create new teams within their respective organizations

Smart cities: How we move ourselves and goods around is rapidly changing. We can either embrace and shape these changes or be at the mercy of them. San Francisco has chosen to lead the way by putting people first in developing safer, more equitable and innovative solutions to transportation challenges. The City of SF is working with DOT, DOE, and DOC on advancing smart cities in San Francisco and nationally – specifically on mobility in the near term.

Performance-based procurement: How do we make sure that the money spent by the government delivers tangible results? How can we use procurement terms to cut cycle time and/or improve quality? We will work to advance innovative financing models to increase impact and accountability.

What’s the story behind starting Superpublic?

We were inspired by the example of the Superpublic lab in Paris, which was opened in November 2014 by the 27e Région and a group of innovation professionals (Plausible Possible, Care and Co, Counterpoint), with the City of Paris, the French National State (SGMAP), and a public bank called Caisse des Dépôts.

For us, Superpublic means providing a workspace where city, state, and federal agencies can come together and work on problems facing the Bay Area. San Francisco, Oakland and San Jose are all expected to benefit from the work of Superpublic as are agencies that operate at the county, state and federal level.

Superpublic provides space, curates programming, convenes summits, roundtables, and training programs to build capacity so that all parties to the lab (government, private companies, non profits, universities) can work together better.

Superpublic will open its doors July 2016.

What makes Superpublic different than other innovation labs?

Across the globe, cities look to San Francisco as the “innovation capital of the world” – to quote San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee. This is the first innovation lab set up by a city government to solve problems prioritized by the city.

The lab, managed by the San Francisco Mayor’s Office of Civic Innovation, GSA and City Innovate Foundation will break down silos between different layers of government. Superpublic will bring together multiple layers of government in the same location and act as a catalyst for product and service development to drive more responsive and efficient government. Solutions that come out of the Lab will get commercialized by City Innovate Foundation with the objective to be scaled to other cities in the City Innovate Foundation network.

What will a typical day will look like at Superpublic?

The day starts off with a morning coffee session in the community area where new members introduce themselves and open discussions can take place to ensure communication flows freely between representatives from different organizations.

The project teams have dedicated team work spaces which they can configure to their needs to execute their tasks within the overall milestone-based project management method based on Lean Startup for the process and Scrum for technical development work.

The Superpublic Steering Committee through city/state and federal agencies have sourced a list of problem sets through their constituents which get narrowed to a focused list of 3 or 4 problems. These are explored by a taskforce led by City Innovate for a screening process for approval by the Steering Committee. Upon approval, representatives from lead cities, academic, and industry prepare the proposed projects for financial feasibility and scalability to other cities in the U.S.

This now includes formulating the city problem to be solved, developing a user narrative, mapping out the relevant ecosystem, and key skills needed in a project team as well as an estimation of project timeline, cost and possible funding of the effort.

The afternoon will have delegations visiting from other cities to exchange on city problems and discussions how the Superpublic model could be applied to their cities. The approved projects are kicked off by the team taking over their dedicated working space, being celebrated by everybody from the other teams, partners and City Innovate Foundation.

I’m part of an organization that wants to become a member of the Lab, what should I do?

Send an email to concierge@cityinnovate.org stating your name, your organization’s name, and the nature of your interest. A phone number is helpful.

How can those interested connect with you (website, Twitter, Facebook, email, etc.)?

You can learn more about Superpublic at www.cityinnovate.org/superpublic and on Facebook and Twitter.

California seeks chief data officer

California State Capitol Building (Photo: Jeff Turner)

California State Capitol Building (Photo: Jeff Turner)

The state of California is looking for a chief data officer to “promote the availability and use of data in state government.”

The position resides within California Government Operations Agency and will report directly to GovOps Secretary Marybel Batjer.

From GovOps:

This is a Governor’s appointment and review and assessment of applicants will be handled by the Governor’s appointments office. All questions should be referred to the appointments office.

How to apply:

The actual process of applying involves going to the appointments page at gov.ca.gov, and at the bottom of the window, clicking on the “Begin Application” button. At Question #3, “Positions Sought,” scroll to the Gov Ops Agency section, where the position is listed at Gov Ops Agency, Chief Data Officer.

Position description:

Reporting to the Agency Secretary, the Chief Data Officer will have statewide responsibility for three key initiatives based on data collected in the normal course of state business to improve transparency, efficiency and accountability in state operations.

These initiatives are:

  • Developing the statewide open data portal and related governance and policy on standards, storage and privacy, as well as a statewide open data strategic plan and programs to promote civic engagement and innovation.
  • Fostering and promoting a culture of data use by enabling and encouraging departments to share data to collaborate on common issues and related programs.
  • Employing and analyzing operational data to improve program performance.

The Chief Data Officer is the primary steward of the data portal for the state’s public data, which enables public access to data in a variety of formats. The CDO also is responsible for working with state boards, departments and offices to ensure that state data is accessible through the portal. The CDO oversees development of the standards and structure to support these efforts, as well as incorporation of the state’s geo-portal, in consultation with the Department of Technology, into the statewide open data portal. The Chief Data Officer will maintain and expand the state’s data inventory and establish procedures for adding new data sets and regularly updating existing data sets.

The Chief Data Officer will promote opportunities to demonstrate the value of data in decision making; support and encourage events to encourage public use of open data for innovation, and support and encourage activities to enhance collaboration among departments and agencies through shared data.

Desired Skills and Experience:

  • Well-versed in the principles of open data, open government and Government 2.0.
  • Understanding of state government processes and practices (legislative process, budget process, etc.).
  • Technically knowledgeable, with some familiarity with using and building software applications that employ open data.
  • Strong communicator with internal and external stakeholders on deeper technical issues.
  • Understanding of different of open data formats and the pros & cons of different data formats.
  • Understanding of APIs, GIS systems and mapping concepts.
  • Familiarity with different options for open data portals (both commercial & open source).
  • Understanding of process reengineering.
  • Understanding and experience in change management, organizational performance measurement and organizational performance management.
  • Understanding of big data analysis techniques and their application in government setting.
  • Experience in quantitative analysis.

Ideal qualities:

  • Awareness of and experience with open data tools, such as those available through GitHub, and a variety of different data storage technologies.
  • Understanding of specific areas of state activity that are data intensive – such as energy and water regulation, health, public safety, etc.
  • Excellent writing and public speaking skills.

California seeks CIOs


California Chief Information Officer Carlos Ramos, San Jose CIO Vijay Sammeta and Los Angeles County CIO Richard Sanchez have recently announced they are stepping down from their positions.

Oakland announced it was seeking a CIO in October, but has yet to fill the vacancy left by Bryan M. Sastokas, who now services as Long Beach CIO and head of technology and innovation.

Of significant importance is the state CIO opening, and its convergence with evolving talk of establishing a government digital service team, much like what has been done in the United Kingdom and here in the United States with the U.S. Digital Service and 18F. It’s an ideal time for California to bring in someone more focused on open technologies, open data and a broader vision for non-private, cloud-based solutions.

California commission wants the state to design a better government

California State Capitol Building (Photo: <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/respres/21320615374/in/photolist-yu2J9N-8WjmsP-rQeDMM-gtpDe-dZaEky-dF4k1C-am5etR-yX23o-8HJ7gd-8PMgxJ-fC99vC-KzdeJ-8PMjUu-8PJbNv-dZ4Xvp-9bUoUQ-9gnHon-8kUQ9M-9aD1Mx-7eHJLs-8PMf99-dW163B-8mABLX-odjz6G-gBDwYL-am5frB-ecb8Xj-h3HTyK-aafpR-y6K8U5-9WShWo-7NcR3N-xBHeS-5TSqfQ-aafrL-wpUKst-8j77TS-9gqH8d-5wFQhS-zrVnjp-5mxMzR-9WShz9-8mDHow-5wBDY4-5wBDZH-3YTVFD-3YXSSE-5rJT2v-pXe5J-7bXbpV">Jeff Turner</a>)

California State Capitol Building (Photo: Jeff Turner)

A California bipartisan oversight committee, the Little Hoover Commission, has issued recommendations on how the state can bring a more customer-centric government to residents and visitors.

The report, “A Customer-Centric Upgrade For California Government,” calls for the governor and legislature to designate a chief customer officer, which would be assumed by the Secretary of the Government Operations Agency, and an internal digital services team “to help departments deliver services that work for Californians” that would reside within GovOps.

Specific solutions recommended include single sign-on to a personalized resident account, customized text and email communications and a focus on open data and human-centered design.

From the report:

“Like the federal government has done, California too should invite the very best engineers, technologists and designers from the private sector to apply their creativity and ingenuity to help tackle some of the most challenging problems facing the state. And the Governor and Legislature must create a home within the administration to welcome them in. Teaming with the new chief customer officers and their program colleagues, who in many cases already know what’s needed to solve some of the state’s most painful organizational and customer service problems, they could champion a new path for the state to tackle problems through small, incremental, but meaningful improvements. And in doing so, begin to reinvigorate California’s pioneer spirit in the 21st century, using 21st century technology.”

While the report provides high-level recommendations, here are a few tactical areas that must be addressed in order for any of this to be effectively implemented:

Create an open source policy. The role open source has played on in-house government innovation shops, especially Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, 18F and the U.S. Digital Service, has been critical to their success. While there have been rumblings of support, California’s technical operations is severely lacking in its willingness to truly embrace open source. Failing to do this will deeply impact the next two recommendations.

Fix IT procurement. There has also been an effort to open up the procurement process beyond legacy vendors at the federal level, but California fails to a large degree to do this. While an in-house digital team is critical, the only way impact will scale is to bring in vendors that are less about legacy business models and more about agile, open innovation. Every state IT discussion or event I’ve been privy to favors entrenched, large-scale sales operations. While the UK was able to bring most, if not all of its digital operations in-house, the scale at which California needs support is much larger, and it’ll be a long time before the state can lure top-tier talent from Silicon Valley and other tech-centered areas to work for government, so it must rely on like-minded vendors.

Distribute the talent pool. If the state is serious about hiring the “best engineers, technologists and designers,” it must open distributed offices in other California cities, particularly San Francisco, Oakland, Los Angeles and San Diego. While 18F and USDS have lured some to Washington, D.C., Sacramento is not the nation’s capital and working for GovOps, or even the governor directly, is a far cry from the prestige of walking the halls of the Executive Office Building or White House.

Embrace the cloud. I’m not sure what the status of CalCloud is, but at one point there appeared to be an unwillingness to allow for non-government managed cloud-based services. While security considerations that must be taken into account, there needs to be more flexibility around allowing the use of third-party cloud offerings, especially those that don’t involve personal information.

The Little Hoover Commission report is an important resource for governments everywhere in understanding a new approach to addressing digital public services, and it’s great to see a state-sanctioned effort advocating this.

Let’s hope the governor and legislature move quickly to enact their recommendations and the ones above.

Download the report

‘No ugly, old IT.’

"No ugly, old IT."

“No ugly, old IT” jumped out at me when I first reviewed DataSF’s strategic plan, “Data in San Francisco: Meeting supply, spurring demand,” and it still sticks, mostly because someone inside government was so bold as to make this a priority and openly communicate it, and also because this should be a mantra for everyone building civic technology.

Whether the end-user is the resident, citizen or bureaucrat, let’s build more civic technology that, as Google Product Lead Sandra Nam says, is “something someone would want to do instead of just another stressful part of their day.” (HT Alex Schmoe)

Here’s the full DataSF mission, vision, approach:

  1. Say no to perfection. We don’t have enough time for perfect. Something is better than nothing and you can always improve it as you learn more.
  2. Fail early and often. Failing is ok – not learning from a failure is not ok. Small experiments, failed or successful inform our next steps.
  3. Plan for the future. Create infrastructure and systems for future growth – but solve immediate problems and pain points along the way
  4. Use long division. If a problem seems too big, break it into manageable bits. There’s always a hook or a starting point to move something forward.
  5. No ugly, old IT. We leverage existing, modern, and light-weight tools and we want our designs to be beautiful, inviting but also a little fun.
  6. Use storytelling and data. We must work to find the people in the data and tell their story. Data without people is just academic.
  7. Seek institutional homes. Distribute, share and foster excellence. While we may incubate programs, ideas or projects, we ultimately need to find a full-time home.
  8. Learn to infinity and listen with humility. Continuously learn from ourselves and others and build on existing frameworks. “Not invented here” attitudes are strictly prohibited.
  9. Start with problems, move to opportunities. We start with people’s needs and problems but also use the chance to show them some cool, new stuff for the future.
  10. If we don’t start now, we’ll never get there. We don’t want to look back in five years and think “if we had just…”. Every shady street started with a row of saplings.

Read the full DataSF strategic plan.

Oakland seeks chief information officer

Oakland (Photo: Luke Fretwell)

Oakland (Photo: Luke Fretwell)

Oakland is looking for its next chief information officer to help position the city “at the forefront of American cities in its use of technology.”

This is an extremely incredible opportunity for anyone who wants to get in on the ground floor in helping to transform the best city in the Bay Area (sorry San Francisco) and help foster a different kind of tech community both inside and outside government. For the government innovator who recognizes potential and is willing to invest in the long game, this is the job of a lifetime.

From the announcement:

The City of Oakland, California is conducting a national search for the position of Chief Information Officer (CIO). The CIO will join a newly formulated Executive Team committed to innovation and the transformation of local government through leading ideas and practices. Individuals wanting to contribute and position Oakland at the forefront of American cities in its use of technology to support daily operations, the business of delivering services to the community, and engagement with citizens, are strongly encouraged to submit.

The position of CIO will oversee over 70 staff members and be responsible for Customer and Enterprise Services, Information Systems – General and Public Safety, Infrastructure Support including applications development, central computer operations, hardware, software, and peripheral support and maintenance, and telecommunications.

Salary is $125,186.00 to $187,779.00. Application deadline is November 8.

Details here.

California launches innovation contests to improve government operations

Photo: Architect of the Capitol

Photo: Architect of the Capitol

The state of California has launched a $25K Find a New Way innovation contest that gives residents a chance “to identify areas of improvement within the state government and share their untapped expertise to create solutions.”

Participating agencies include the Departments of General Services, Transportation and Alcoholic Beverage Control, and each will award up to $25,000 in prizes.

The impetus for the initiative is Assemblyman Mike Gatto’s Assembly Bill 2138 that created three innovation contests aimed at “eliminating or reducing state expenditures or improving operations, or for making exceptional contributions to the efficiency, economy, or other improvement in the operations of state government.”

Of particular interest is the DGS Green Gov Challenge, where participants will leverage open data to help improve government sustainability practices. The contest includes a Sacramento-based hackathon October 24-25 and coincides with a pilot launch of the state’s open data portal, led by California Government Operations Agency.

Learn more about the Green Gov Challenge and pre-register for the event.

Tennessee’s new logo

Tennessee State Government

There is a lot of shortsighted chatter around the state of Tennessee’s new branding efforts and, while I don’t have a strong opinion on the logo aesthetics, which has received criticism for its $46,000 price tag, it’s important to commend the holistic approach to uniformity and why this will benefit residents (and taxpayers) in the future.

Unified branding addresses two major efficiency issues (there’s a reason why businesses do this and why more governments are beginning to):

  • streamlines future collateral design processes
  • unifies the customer experience

When there’s brand consistency, the need to reinvent the design wheel is eliminated, as are major costs around creative and production. Of course, there are short-term costs around brand transition, the long-term benefits outweigh the short.

Most importantly, what the new branding does for Tennessee residents is create a sense of customer experience consistency. Rather than experiencing what looks to be a bad set of kid stickers, Tennessee residents now enjoy a unified, professional offering of government services.

“Because each agency had developed their own identities individually there was no shared vision across the agencies, which created confusion for citizens and potential business partnerships as well as within the government,” writes Nashville-based GS&F in describing the reasoning for the new visual identity. GS&F led the re-brand process for the state.

Gov. Bill Haslam echoed these sentiments announcing the new branding:

“TN.gov is an important resource for Tennesseans and, for a lot of people, the main way they interact with state government. We are always working to serve Tennessee taxpayers more efficiently and effectively by making that experience as customer-focused as possible.”

It would be unfortunate if the state didn’t enforce usage throughout all agencies, as some have requested an exemption. It’s important that all agencies unite under the same aesthetic, as teams do, and show they want to serve Tennessee proudly, in uniformity.

Sometimes it takes money to save money (Note: The $46,000 price tag pales in comparison to what other firms charge for similar work.), and what Tennessee has done is invested in the future of government service experience. Isn’t that what we want our government leaders to do?

Congratulations to Governor Haslam for implementing modern customer experience practices into government and being willing to bring a vision of unity to resident services.

San Francisco publishes year two plan, continues to lead on open data

San Francisco City Hall

San Francisco’s DataSF team continues to quietly and effectively demonstrate what an efficient, holistic and personable approach to open data looks like with the announcement of its year two plan and retrospective of the past year.

SF Chief Data Officer Joy Bonaguro and Open Data Program Manager Jason Lally are a dynamic duo building the blueprint for government open data offices and initiatives. According to the city, DataSF has 264 published datasets and 740 inventoried datasets, but the number isn’t as important as the approach they’ve taken since Bonaguro was appointed a little over a year ago.

Key to their success is having a long-game plan, building internal community, education and awareness and bringing a sense of aesthetic and uniformity to SF’s open data initiative.

Also, I love the “love” messaging throughout the collateral (“Written with LOVE in San Francisco.”, “Made with <3 in San Francisco”), as it humanizes the efforts more, making data less about the technical and more about the people.

Key links for those who should be watching:

The changing relationship between tech and government

Washington, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser (Photo: <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/teammuriel/19565355230/">DC Mayor's Office</a>)

Washington, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser (Photo: DC Mayor’s Office)

Silicon Valley venture capital firm a16z hosts an excellent discussion with current Washington, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser and former mayor Adrian Fenty on its a16z Podcast series.

The episode, “The Changing Relationship Between Tech and Government,” touches on how the sharing economy has pushed government to let go of top-down innovation and find ways to collaborate with these new ventures, as well as get proactive in cultivating an environment that supports local startup ecosystems.

Bowser shares her thoughts on how mayors can work with these new firms to better gauge the pulse of the residents and advises tech entrepreneurs to focus on the largely untapped market market of human services, such as affordable housing, health and wellbeing and homelessness.

The discussion also underscores the importance tech firms must give to the third of Steve Case’s “3 P’s“: policy.