Dennis Herrera

Does government innovation need its own department?

In an interview with the San Francisco Chronicle, SF city attorney and mayoral candidate Dennis Herrera said, if elected, he would create an innovation department and appoint a Chief Digital Officer to lead the city’s web and social media strategy that embraces open engagement with citizens.

While Herrera is right on target with regards to appointing a CDO, I hope he re-evaluates his idea around creating a department focused specifically on innovation.

The problem with building a designated innovation department is that innovation in itself is relative, hard to measure and a separate division has high potential to succumb to the laws of the bureaucratic silos, never extending beyond the walls of its own members.

It’s inevitable SF will have a CDO when the next mayor is sworn into office. Herrera’s comments gel with conversations I had with him and a number of other candidates prior to SFOpen, many of whom support establishing a senior-level digital role that reports directly to the mayor. Candidates Phil Ting, Joanna Rees and David Chiu all made a point of emphasizing the importance of such a position.

While a CDO position is new to SF government, it’s not a novel concept, and may very well be part of a trend in big cities as innovative leaders realize the value of strategically leveraging the web to efficiently and proactively communicate with larger, tech-savvy populations.

In New York City, Mayor Michael Bloomberg did this, appointing Rachel Sterne as the city’s first CDO. Since Sterne’s appointment just 7 months ago, the NYC Digital department has released the city’s first Digital Road Map, held a Reinvent NYC.GOV hackathon, launched SMART, among other initiatives with more undoubtedly on the way.

It’s important to note, however, that Bloomberg doesn’t have a department dedicated specifically to innovation within his administration. I imagine he just expects it from everyone.

If government wants to innovate, it must emulate those that do.

Generally considered the epicenter of tech innovation, rarely will you see an innovation department in Silicon Valley. Start-up companies, most of whom have limited budgets, creatively leverage resources hoping to build the next new thing. Innovation poster child Apple consistently designs creative consumer products and, like Bloomberg, surely Steve Jobs just expected everyone to “think different.”

For them, the entire company is their innovation department. It’s in their DNA.

In his interview with the Chronicle, Herrera said, “In order to have a government that inspires people, you need two things. One is results, and No. 2 is transparency.”

I couldn’t agree more, but rather than partition innovation into one department that could become constrained by silos, government must build innovation into its cultural DNA. Leaders must create institutional opportunities for it to prosper. Establish roles with focused objectives and measurable returns, allow room for experimentation and failure and reward creative solutions with positive results. Do this daily.

Whoever is elected the next mayor of San Francisco, I hope he or she establishes an ‘SF Digital’ department with a chief digital officer to lead it.

As far as innovation is concerned, that department should be the entire SF government.

SFOpen 2011: Dennis Herrera

Dennis HerreraAs part of SFOpen 2011, we’re featuring the San Francisco mayoral candidates and their thoughts and ideas on open government and Government 2.0. We’re interviewing each of them and have asked them to commit to the Open Government Pledge for San Francisco.

Meet Dennis Herrera.


Committed to the Open Government Pledge for San Francisco?

Yes.

Open government statement

“Open Government – transparency, participation and collaboration – is essential to San Francisco’s success as a modern city. Transparency ensures honesty and trust in our system of governance; participation recognizes the essential nature of our democracy and incredible creative input of our residents; and collaboration means effective governance – sharing resources, ideas and best practices with federal, state and other local agencies and the private sector to ensure San Francisco is a city that works.”

GovFreshTV interview

Connect with Herrera

8 of 9 major SF mayor candidates commit to ‘Open Government Pledge for San Francisco’

Eight of the 9 major San Francisco mayoral candidates have committed to the Open Government Pledge for San Francisco.

The candidates include:

Candidate Tony Hall did not commit to the pledge, but offered this statement in place of:

“While I don’t sign others’ pledges (only my own), I absolutely agree with the spirit of the language and just wish it were tougher on corruption. I hope you will note my reasons for my decision.”

Full pledge:

San Francisco Mayoral Candidate Commitment to Open Government

Open government is the movement to improve government by making government more transparent, participatory, collaborative, accountable, efficient, and effective. Open government will help build the public’s trust and satisfaction in government, will improve government’s delivery of services, and will create new opportunities for innovation.

I, _______________________, commit to support the following principles of open government:

Transparency: To increase accountability, promote informed public participation, and create economic development opportunities, the city shall expand access to information
Participation: To create more informed and effective policies, the city shall enhance and expand opportunities for the public to participate throughout decision-making processes.
Collaboration: To more effectively fulfill its obligations to citizens, the city will enhance and expand its practices of cooperation among city departments, other governmental agencies, the public, and non-profit and private.

With the rise of new technologies and an increasingly connected population, a growing pressure has been placed on government leaders and government entities to adopt these open government principles. I will take steps to ensure San Francisco meets these demands and supports citizens’ needs.

By supporting open government efforts, San Francisco will build on and enhance opportunities for citizens to inform government; will further develop the city’s transparency and accountability; and develop a platform to support innovation.

Furthermore, I will support developing a legal framework to support open government, and I will ensure open government efforts are appropriately funded and managed, which will help build a culture of open government.

San Francisco is already a leader in supporting innovation through sharing government data and is a leader in the open government movement.

I will ensure the city and all of its departments continue in this direction to create the model of local open government.

I commit to working with city officials and the public to ensure open government and innovation continue to grow in San Francisco.

San Francisco mayoral candidates to share their open government ideas at SFOpen 2011

SFOpen 2011

Today is a big day for open government everywhere, especially San Francisco.

I’m pleased to announce that eight major San Francisco mayoral candidates will participate in SFOpen 2011, a townhall forum focused specifically on open government, citizen engagement and leveraging technology to build better government. The event will be held June 16 at Automattic (home of WordPress) and will be moderated by tech legend Mitch Kapor.

Participating candidates include Michela Alioto-Pier, David Chiu, Bevan Dufty, Tony Hall, Dennis Herrera, Joanna Rees, Phil Ting and Leland Yee.

As part of this announcement:

  • Candidates will begin blogging their ideas on the newly-launched sf.govfresh, where fellow candidates and citizens will have the opportunity to engage with them openly and directly.
  • We’ve started an idea platform, SFIdeas, so that citizens can share their ideas for San Francisco.

At a time when government needs to leverage the power of collaboration, this is an excellent opportunity for candidates to show their commitment to the principles of open government. It’s an opportunity for open government to be a major discussion topic right at the beginning of the political process. Hopefully it will serve as a model for candidates and open government advocates everywhere.

This wouldn’t have happened without the great work of Brian Purchia and the support of Change.org, Automattic, Third Thursdays SF, Gov 2.0 Radio and CityCampSF.

So, learn more about SFOpen 2011, the candidates, start sharing your ideas for new San Francisco and stay tuned for a great discussion on the future of one of the world’s leading open cities.

Integrated, Open, Inspiring – Let’s Do It SF!

Let's Do It SF!

The San Francisco’s City Attorney’s Office (where I work) has launched an anti-blight initiative that wraps consumer tech, city services and a local-global approach to volunteerism in a multi-channel social media package. The “Let’s Do It SF” campaign aims to provide people who live and work in San Francisco with City Attorney-sponsored hands-on training in using the free SeeClickFix mobile app to report graffiti vandalism and illegal dumping, while highlighting core city services and volunteer opportunities.

“What we are doing in San Francisco with the Let’s Do It SF! initiative, along with the use of smart phone technology, will enhance neighborhood beautification and show the power of collective civic action,” said City Attorney Dennis Herrera.

San Francisco is one of three cities – with DC and Boston – to fully embrace Open311, a standardized application programing interface (API) developed in cooperation with the NY non-profit OpenPlans. SeeClickFix has also been a core participant in the standardization effort (see the development wiki). Open311 allows consumer-focused apps like SeeClickFix to interface directly with the City’s issue ticketing system, creating both efficiencies and new resources from the developer community. The City’s 311 department highlights several apps developed using Open311, and the Let’s Do It SF site features an interactive citywide map of blight issues reported to the non-emergency call center.

Let’s Do It SF also uses SeeClickFix’s “watch area” feature to highlight individual supervisor districts in synch with Department of Public Works-sponsored Clean Team volunteer events in those districts. SCF customized their map widgets for the initiative to highlight issue reporting categories that map to Open311.

“The civic tech initiatives in SF are starting to get some real use through apps connecting with 311,” said SeeClickFix CEO Ben Berkowitz. “We’re excited about Let’s Do It SF! because it enables citizens to fix some of the concerns they are voicing through these apps on their own. It’s time for citizens to use online tools to improve communities offline … we’re sure your Farmville crops will still be there when you return.”

The anti-waste campaign “Let’s Do It” began in 2008 when a small group of Estonians organized volunteers to geo-map all of the illegal dumping in their country – and, in one amazing day of action with 50,000 participants, cleaned it all. The San Francisco Let’s Do It initiative urges local volunteers to also sign up for the North American portion of World Cleanup 2012, in which the original Estonian organizers aim to clean up 100 countries with similar massive mapping campaign and single-day actions.

The City Attorney’s Office teamed up with 311, DPW and SF Environment to bring together a host of City and partner services and public awareness resources in Let’s Do It SF. These include:

311 services on the Web, Facebook and a range of mobile apps;

DPW’s “Don’t Leave It On the Sidewalk” campaign;

SF Environment’s EcoFinder and SFRecycles;

Recology’s RecycleMyJunk; and

DPW’s Clean Team volunteer program.

“Public Works encourages the public to learn more about free and low cost resources for the collection of unwanted items and to also get involved through our community service volunteer programs,” said DPW Director Ed Reiskin.

Let’s Do It SF emphasizes true Gov 2.0 spirit in its development and collaborative multi-agency approach to taking on issues of blight in San Francisco neighborhoods. It includes a robust social media element, including:

Let’s Do It SF on Facebook;

Streaming tweets from Let’s Do It SF and from DPW Deputy Director Mohammed “Mr. Clean SF” Nuru;

Open-source Web development and Creative Commons licensing; and

Flickr photos from the Let’s Do It World pool.