Bloomberg Philanthopies: Using Data and Innovation in Los Angeles
Innovation teams (i-teams) are in-house innovation consultants who use the tested Innovation Delivery approach to help mayors and other partners solve cities’ biggest challenges. We have invested in more than a dozen i-teams around the world, and recently caught up with the Los Angeles i-team to share their story. They are rethinking neighborhood revitalization and testing ways to make neighborhoods inclusive even as they change.
L.A.’s i-team director Amanda Daflos reflects on this challenge below. She discusses how the i-team is learning from successes and failures, and how they are contributing to a renaissance in the city, harnessing data, innovation, and collaboration to benefit city residents.
Why did your city apply to the i-team program?
We have a very special opportunity before us in the City of Los Angeles. In many senses, we are in the midst of a renaissance. There are opportunities to advance the way that residents interact with the city and each other, through improving neighborhood spaces and the way city services are delivered systemically.
At the same time, there is leadership throughout the city and county who envision these types of changes and have the excitement, skills and experience to make these ideas a reality, in partnership with each other and our communities. This grant aligns with the city’s desire to innovate and use data to inform decisions and drive results.
How do you think about innovation – what does the word mean to you?
I think of innovation as a moment in time where we get to be creative, where we get to collaborate, where we get to draw upon the smartest people to develop and advance small ideas into big ideas that deliver results and change the way we think about a problem. I think of innovation as taking the idea you get in the shower to the next level; to a group of smart people to design it, mature it, test it, break it down and develop it into something that can be a real, live thing that drives outcomes and changes perceptions.
What are some specific challenges your city is currently facing?
The first area we are focused on in L.A. is inclusive neighborhood revitalization. We are focused on this issue because, like many cities, we are constantly changing and rich with talent and opportunity. With four million people in 468 square miles, we are also big and vast, both in terms of geography and diversity of culture and thought. We are seeking new ways to be inclusive as we change and, as we make investments in our city, create avenues to engage communities to further inform our plans and choices.
What are some specific opportunities you see to improve your city?
There is a lot to be excited about in L.A.! I’m excited about the opportunity our team has to use data to inform decisions and shape service delivery. I’m also excited to use creative tools to reach Angelenos and share important information and get feedback about the things we’re doing to improve the lives of people who live here.
What has been the biggest surprise so far during the process?
We’ve enjoyed the process here in L.A. We are a big city, so it has been incredibly meaningful for us to engage with partners across departments as well as the many incredible non-governmental organizations and residents who live and work here in Los Angeles, giving us a 360 degree point of view on inclusive neighborhood revitalization.
I think I’ve been most surprised by the evolution of our topic which is a reflection of the detailed research we’ve done and deep stakeholder engagement we’ve prioritized. When I look back to the beginning of our work, we’ve progressed our thinking significantly on the topic. And when I pause to think about it, I’m surprised and pleased at how we’ve been able to break a very big question down into a few parts and examine those parts deeply, offering an advanced vocabulary and way of talking about a topic that can be complex and difficult to navigate.