Los Angeles Commits $1 Million to Fund Employee Innovation

The city’s new innovation fund will support employee-inspired projects to save the government money and improve quality of life for residents.

The city of Los Angeles has put a price tag on good ideas.

Last week, Mayor Eric Garcetti announced a $1 million City of Los Angeles Innovation Fund to finance and implement the best ideas from city employees for achieving greater efficiencies in government and improving residents’ quality of life.

"We've all had that moment at work — we do the job the way we’re told, but we’re thinking, 'I know how to do this better,'” Garcetti said. “Now I’m saying to the city’s workforce: 'Tell us.' Have an idea how to fill a pothole better? Know how to get a permit done faster? Know a piece of equipment that can do more at a lower cost? Tell us, and we’ll tap our new Innovation Fund to put your idea into practice to make government work better.”

This isn’t the only city with a program designed to reward employees for innovative ideas. In June, San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer announced an initiative to “challenge employees, labor organizations and management to collaborate and submit cost-saving and operational streamlining ideas in time for next year’s budget.” Atlanta also has an ideas competition for city workers.

Similar to the programs in San Diego and Atlanta, the one in Los Angeles invites all city employees, including managers, to participate.

“We don’t think innovation should live in just one office,” Abhi Nemani, the city’s first chief data officer, told Government Technology. “It should be democratized across the organization, across the city, and we should empower everybody to be able to say, ‘This doesn’t make sense, let me change this.’ And this is our big push in making that happen.”

In a series of tweets announcing the new fund, Nemani called it “an in house venture capital fund for city staff.”

By early 2015 the city plans to announce projects that will receive funding and then begin to implement them. The City Council created the fund in the fiscal 2014-15 city budget, based on a recommendation from the mayor.

City employees and commissioners can submit their ideas electronically. The Innovation and Performance Commission will review them, with the assistance of the city administrative officer and city staff. The commission will recommend to the City Council which projects it should fund.

Ideas submitted to the city should:

Be innovative and original: Does the idea demonstrate how it keeps Los Angeles ahead of the curve and the creativity that is the hallmark of our City?

Support greater efficiencies: Does the idea improve a process, save time, increase collaboration among departments, provide the potential for long-term benefits, or generate revenue and/or cost savings?

Emphasize priority outcomes and quality of life: Does the idea help create a prosperous city, a livable and sustainable city, a safe city, and/or a well-run government?

Be feasible and measurable: Can the idea be executed and measured within six to 12 months of being funded? Does the idea need funding year after year or only one time? A onetime award from the Innovation Fund should be sufficient to implement your great idea. Prior to award, each project should have clear metrics for evaluating the impact of the idea, and the commission and staff can help develop those metrics.

Nov 11 2014