Because they’re frustrated with their jobs, cities’ employees are brimming with ideas. And as more cities are embracing civic innovation, Los Angeles is creating an in-house venture capital fund to do something about it.
Mayor Eric Garcetti recently announced the creation of a $1 million Innovation Fund for the city to invest in ideas hatched by city workers. The fund, backed by City Administrative Officer (CAO) Miguel Santana and the Innovation and Performance Commission (IPC), will be open throughout the year to city employees, who can submit ideas through the website innovate.lacity.org.
“We don’t think innovation should live in just one office,” says Abhi Nemani, the city’s chief data officer. “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.”
The idea stems from several ongoing city projects that Mayor Garcetti liked, including an initiative to update paper maps to tablets in the sanitation department as well as a recreation and parks employee who designed a red button to turn off air conditioning systems at the end of the day, according to Nemani.
The city council, general managers, CAO and IPC will all be involved in reviewing submitted ideas, and criteria will be based on originality, potential for execution and enhancing efficiency and improving quality of life, Government Technology reports. The website will also feature selected projects and the status of each. There is no deadline and no maximum amount of projects the Innovation Fund will invest in, which leaves the door open to incredible opportunity.
Los Angeles’ fund follows the launch of GovTech Fund, a $23 million venture capital fund aimed at investing in companies that improve government technology, as well as the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ recent “Shark Tank” model competition to spark ideas among its employees.