According to a survey of 200 experts.

The report "Innovation and the City" [PDF] is an important addition to our knowledge of urban policy innovation. It summarizes the results of a six-month research effort by policy researchers at New York University's Wagner School of Public Service and the New York-based Center for an Urban Future. The research team interviewed over 200 experts (including our own Emily Badger) and surveyed more than 120 policy innovations. (I should disclose here that I am Global Research Professor for the NYU School of Continuing and Professional Studies).

These responses were vetted by a team of 40 business, policy, philanthropic and non-profit experts and ultimately pared down to 15 policy innovations. Their aim was to identify "rigorous policy experiments" and innovations that are "novel, proven and scalable." While the effort is oriented to New York City, the policy innovations identified provide broad lessons for cities across America and the world.

As Neil Kleiman, director of the NYU Wagner Innovation labs and one of the lead authors of the report, put it to me in an email:

We sought out the very best urban reform ideas around the world and what's truly fascinating is that none of them fit into neat categories of housing or education—they are all a mash-ups. The policies pair immigrant assistance with economic development or senior services with zoning and housing policy. What's plain to see is that innovation must happen across silos, it cannot be confined to traditional policy areas or approaches.

The 15 highlighted policy innovations include:

  • 311 systems like in Boston and Chicago, which provide real-time updates on the status of requests.
  • San Francisco's universal college savings plan for all kindergarten students, its Zero Waste initiative, and tax free commuter benefits program.
  • Chicago's seed fund for public agency innovation and its strategy of organizing private sector fiscal experts to generate mass budget savings.
  • Denver's Peak Academy which sends public sector staff to "innovation school."
  • London's Spacehive crowdsourcing initiative to fund community projects.
  • Philadelphia Digital Badging initiatives that enables students to gain credit for skills developed outside of school.
  • Affordable age in-place housing programs in  Seattle, Vancouver and Santa Cruz.
  • Michigan's Prize-Linked Savings program that creates cash incentives for underbanked individuals to save more.

As Kleiman puts it: "With fewer resources and more pressure to produce, cities are generating incredible innovations in every corner of the country. These ideas are concrete, have gone to scale and have begun to show real results."

About the Author

Most Popular

  1. photo: A lone tourist in Barcelona, one of several global cities that have seen a massive crash in Airbnb bookings.
    Coronavirus

    Can Airbnb Survive Coronavirus?

    The short-term rental market is reeling from the coronavirus-driven tourism collapse. Can the industry’s dominant player stage a comeback after lockdowns lift?

  2. Illustration: two roommates share a couch with a Covid-19 virus.
    Coronavirus

    For Roommates Under Coronavirus Lockdown, There Are a Lot of New Rules

    Renters in apartments and houses share more than just germs with their roommates: Life under coronavirus lockdown means negotiating new social rules.

  3. Equity

    The Problem With a Coronavirus Rent Strike

    Because of coronavirus, millions of tenants won’t be able to write rent checks. But calls for a rent holiday often ignore the longer-term economic effects.

  4. photo: a For Rent sign in a window in San Francisco.
    Coronavirus

    Do Landlords Deserve a Coronavirus Bailout, Too?

    Some renters and homeowners are getting financial assistance during the economic disruption from the coronavirus pandemic. What about landlords?

  5. A pedestrian wearing a protective face mask walks past a boarded up building in San Francisco, California, U.S., on Tuesday, March 24, 2020. Governors from coast to coast Friday told Americans not to leave home except for dire circumstances and ordered nonessential business to shut their doors.
    Equity

    The Geography of Coronavirus

    What do we know so far about the types of places that are more susceptible to the spread of Covid-19? In the U.S., density is just the beginning of the story.

×