The fourth class of the Academy for Municipal Innovation (AMI), a unique collaboration between Philadelphia University and the city of Philadelphia designed to help city workers innovate in their jobs, graduated Nov. 14.
“Innovation is now a core competency for any leader in any organization,” PhilaU President Stephen Spinelli Jr. said at a graduation ceremony in the Lawrence N. Field DEC Center. “This may be the perfect time for people like you.”
For the past seven weeks, 18 city employees have been taking classes at PhilaU to help them foster an environment of innovation in city government, implement time- and money-saving ideas, and create positive outcomes to improve the lives of residents. The latest group of employees in the program came from a wide range of departments, including disease control, commerce, civic engagement and volunteer service, water, public health, immigrant affairs and education.
“The Academy has been very useful in demonstrating new techniques for brainstorming and problem-solving,” said recent graduate Aviva Tevah, coordinator of the Philadelphia Reentry Coalition. “I anticipate using many of them going forward. I will be trying to bring together reentry stakeholders and facilitate communication and, ultimately, coordinate a more aligned and effective reentry support ecosystem.”
In all, about 75 city employees have graduated from the program, which has resulted in concrete benefits. For example, the city’s Innovation Management office over the past year has created a program called Innovation Consulting, with AMI graduates serving as in-house consultants to help city departments and teams meet their goals and spread the culture of innovation throughout city government, said Ellen Hwang, program manager for innovation management in Philadelphia’s Office of Innovation and Technology. The consultants run workshops to teach innovation strategies to think through challenges and help them realize new and actionable solutions to pressing issues.
Another previous AMI graduate from the Office of Adult Education developed a program to increase the number of safe and healthy bike riders on Philly streets in low-income neighborhoods, while simultaneously increasing participants’ digital literacy skills.
“In government, you can be stuck in a box,” said Nandi O’Connor, a new AMI graduate who works in the Mayor’s Office of Policy and Legislation. “The focal point of the new [city] administration is to develop innovative solutions to Philadelphia’s problems. The Academy has provided me with the tools to take back to my office and apply to the things we’re working on.”
AMI is an important piece of the city’s innovation infrastructure, Hwang said. “Through AMI we are able to invest in and empower individuals in city government to further the good work they are doing as public servants in an intentional way.”
The Academy is based on PhilaU’s award-winning curriculum designed to promote innovation and a culture of interdisciplinary collaboration—an important foundation for driving innovation.
Each class focused on a specific innovation-centric topic, including discovering opportunities through design-thinking; analyzing complexities through systems thinking; developing value propositions through business analytics; and storytelling and communicating innovative solutions. All courses are taught by PhilaU faculty members from a range of disciplines, including engineering, industrial design, business and strategic leadership.
Read more about the Academy for Municipal Innovation here.