Bold ideas to create jobs and solve real city challenges

NYCx will open urban spaces as test beds for new technologies.

Through NYCx, the City of New York engages the tech industry to solve real-world problems and call on the tech vanguard to make NYC the most fair, equitable, and sustainable city in the world.

  • Co-Lab Challenges invite startups and entrepreneurs to work directly with community residents to solve neighborhood challenges while aiming to scale solutions for common issues for all New Yorkers.
  • Moonshot Challenges encourage global entrepreneurs to think big about NYC’s most ambitious problems, propose bold solutions, and deliver groundbreaking business models that transform and improve the lives of city dwellers globally.

Thanks to a partnership with The Boston Consulting Group, Bain & Company, and a team of skilled volunteers, Civic Consulting USA is a key part of of this new program.

A diverse group of technology and community luminaries are guiding NYCx, including:

“NYCx will transform the relationship between city government, community and the tech industry to be more collaborative and inclusive,” says Miguel Gamiño, Jr., New York City Chief Technology Officer.  “If we can test and solve critical challenges together in NYC and achieve our City’s goals, we can offer these solutions for other cities facing similar issues.”

Building a better bond court

Guest writer Asheley Van Ness, Associate Principal, Civic Consulting Alliance, Chicago

For two years, Civic Consulting Alliance and our partners have been helping to address issues in the criminal justice system, including revamping Cook County Central Bond Court.

We have been working with Cook County’s criminal justice stakeholders—the Cook County Board President, Sheriff, Chief Judge, State’s Attorney, Public Defender, Clerk, the Administrative Office of the Illinois Courts, and the Illinois Supreme Court—to reduce the detainment of non-violent individuals.

As a result of this collaboration, 2,400 fewer people are detained every day in Cook County Jail and nearly half of all individuals are released from Bond Court without having to post a money bail, compared to Bond Court proceedings two years ago.

This collaboration has included seven projects and eight pro bono partners since its start. As one example, CannonDesign worked with the stakeholders and former detainees to understand the challenges created by the current physical design of the courtroom.  The team identified several factors that prevent judges from receiving the information needed to make well-informed, fair decisions and that limit the public’s understanding of court proceedings. CannonDesign then created designs to address the physical problems and transform the courtroom into an environment that commands dignity and decorum and facilitates better decision-making.

The stakeholders all agreed to the proposed changes, and construction of the new courtroom is scheduled to begin.

By changing the physical courtroom design, we hope to improve trust and mutual respect between everyone in the courtroom, ensure judges receive the information they need to make fair bond decisions, and ultimately improve outcomes for detainees.

“The redesign of the Central Bond Court presented us with a compelling, challenging design problem, which affects many of our fellow citizens on a daily basis,” said Delia Conache, a project architect at CannonDesign. “Our team greatly enjoyed the close partnership with Civic Consulting Alliance over the course of the project, as well as the close collaboration with the stakeholder agencies involved.”

Unlocking the potential: A case study of affordable housing and cross-sector partnership

Nearly one in fourteen New Yorkers live in apartments managed or subsidized by the New York City Housing Authority.

But with disinvestment from all levels of government, NYCHA has been unable to keep homes in good shape and to connect residents to community resources and economic opportunities.

“Aggressive action is necessary to deliver to NYCHA’s residents the resources and services they have long deserved, and to sustain the Authority for the long term,” according to NYCHA Chair Shola Olatoye. Therefore, NYCHA developed a long-term plan to change fundamentally how they operate in order to create safe, clean, connected communities.

In the midst of planning, the non-partisan nonprofit Civic Consulting offered pro bono assistance. And the first area of collaboration has been to develop a ground-floor leasing strategy.

courtesy LEVENBETTS 2015

With 328 developments around the city, NYCHA has tremendous space on the ground floor, in fact, 2.5 million square feet that’s non-residential. Roughly a tenth is zoned commercial, and those storefronts enjoy very low vacancy. The other spaces are often under-utilized or off line altogether: former laundry rooms, management offices, community centers, storage, and more.

As NYCHA leadership – including the Chair and the Vice President of Real Estate Services – discussed these assets with Civic Consulting, it became clear that NYCHA alone did not have the resources to repair and reprogram these spaces. New partnerships would be needed.

The question is, who has both the interest and the resources to unlock the potential of these spaces?

Read the case study (PDF).

Mayor turns to Civic Consulting Minnesota to rethink snow plowing

Civic Consulting Minnesota is just getting started, and already they’re making news.

St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman asked the newly formed public-private pro bono partnership for help getting ready for the snow season.

The city is already implementing Civic Consulting’s recommendations and aims to clear snow on 90% of major streets within 20 hours of a major storm.  Tracking social media will help identify areas that need extra attention.

Read the full story at MPR News.

Less is more: How Chicago grew tourism

Be seen with the Bean! Chicago’s growing tourism with a unified message. Image: By Tony Webster (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons.

With the help of pro bono partners, Chicago created a single, unified voice for all the great things you can do and see in the city, and tourism is growing. 

 

Like many cities, Chicago used to have separate entities focused on attracting different types of tourists.  This appeared to make sense: leisure tourists and business tourists were different animals (so the thinking went), and you needed different strategies and messages to attract each.  But Chicago was not competing well in comparison to other cities like New York, and the City leaders wanted to know why.

They reached out to the Civic Consulting Alliance to help them estimate Chicago’s performance against other cities, and better understand the best practices in bringing tourists (and tourist dollars) into Chicago.

With support from the Civic Consulting Alliance and pro bono partners Griffin Strategic Advisors LLC and Jones Day, the City of Chicago looked at ten comparable cities (including Philadelphia and New York), and what they found surprised them.  It appeared that cities with unified marketing strategies were more successful at attracting all kinds of tourists.

With this in mind, in the summer of 2012 the City of Chicago merged two separate marketing entities creating a single organization, Choose Chicago, charged with promoting both leisure and business tourism to the city. Since Choose was created, tourism has risen significantly, with record hotel occupancy of more than 75 percent and record visitation of more than 46 million visitors in 2013.

Indeed, Chicago’s efforts have been so successful that now they are getting noticed.   The Philadelphia Inquirer recently highlighted Choose Chicago as a model that Philadelphia (one of the ten cities Chicago initially used to compare itself) might want to emulate.

They say imitation is the highest form of flattery, and why wouldn’t another city want to copy a success like this?  Bringing together public and private partners to seek new and practical solutions that help cities grow is at the heart of the Civic Consulting model.  Kudos to the Civic Consulting Alliance, and to Philadelphia for knowing a good thing when they see it.

Imagine no more waiting in line

Imagine government without waiting lines.  Government where you were never put on hold when you called.  Government where you got a permit or license in a few days instead of a few months.   Well, it’s beginning to happen – and one of the tools governments increasingly use is a process called “Lean.“

Michael HickeyLean was developed on automotive assembly lines as a strategy for building cars faster with fewer defects, but Lean has applications for any process.  Going step-by-step through systems, programs and regulations, Lean seeks to improve or eliminate parts that are prone to waits, rejections and resubmissions, bottlenecks, or doing more than what the customer really wants.

Here’s an example from the private sector, where Lean grew up:

Western Union had a problem.  In order to add a new sales agent to their network, applications went through a labyrinthine 19-day process.  Applications passed through the hands of dozen staff who sorted, recorded, reviewed and batched the paperwork before sending it to the next person.  Surely it could be sped up a bit?

So Western Union decided to bring the team together – everyone from bosses to the sorting clerk – and take a hard look at all the steps.  Was there a better way to conduct the handful of required background checks and schedule training with the new sales agent?

Using Lean, the team spent two days reviewing the entire process, asking, “Does every step help us deliver exactly what our new sales agents need, while complying with federal agencies and our own business requirements?”  If not, they took that step out.

They found that by calling the new sales agent first (instead of at the end of the process), they could verify most of the information over the phone.  Better still, one person could do the entire process, eliminating all that waiting as the application passed from hand to hand.  In the end, the new process went from 19 days to… 22 minutes

As you can imagine, Lean is common in a variety of industries including manufacturing, finance, and health care.  Wouldn’t it be great if we could use Lean to help government do its job more effectively as well?

It turns out that a number of cities and states are doing just this:

These may seem like small wins, but the effects are cumulative.  For instance, Fort Wayne has been rigorous in implementing Lean, applying it to over 100 projects and saving they city some $30 million, or nearly 16% of their total expense budget!

What’s incredible about many of these public sector efforts is that private corporations in manufacturing, finance and health care are donating the expertise to teach Lean to state workers, coaching them to use the same process the private sector folks use routinely.

If you’re reading this and you have expertise that you’d like to offer, then contact us and we’ll work with your firm to make a difference right in your home town.