This week, we bring you another edition of the i-teams Lightning Round shared by the Innovation Teams (i-teams), a cohort of in-house innovation consultants in cities across the United States and Israel that are developing and deploying bold ideas to tackle the biggest issues facing city governments.

It’s hard to overstate the importance of meaningful community engagement as government innovators build and deliver solutions to the big problems cities face. City agencies often operate under a set of assumptions about how communities work, what they need, and how they think. The Innovation Teams are coming up with creative ways of engaging with residents, business owners, and others to better inform their efforts and improve the chances of success.

Creative, robust, and continued engagement–beyond checking the box next to “hold public forum”–is a core part of the Innovation Delivery approach. We’re excited to watch the Innovation Teams work closely with community members to gather information, generate novel ideas, and bring diverse voices into the fold. To understand more, we asked the i-teams:

“How has your team engaged with community members in your city, and what challenges have you faced along the way?”

Here is a selection of responses from i-team members:

  • “A big challenge for us in the Neve Shaanan neighborhood [of Tel Aviv] in terms of engagement is the high tension between the different sections of the community (veterans/immigrants). We therefore decided to engage people separately for now to establish a solid understanding of different and related issues they are all facing. Here are some photos from our visit to several migrant-run businesses this week; They told us their stories, why they opened this type of business, who are their clients and how it keeps them involved in their community. Next week we are talking to some of the veteran and newcomer Israelis about their take on the neighborhood and their vision for it.”
Members of the Tel Aviv i-team meet with local business owners. Members of the Tel Aviv i-team meet with local business owners. Members of the Tel Aviv i-team meet with local business owners.

The Tel Aviv, Israel i-team met with business owners in the Neve Shaanan neighborhood.

  • “We’ve done outreach in a variety of ways. Our priority area is infrastructure and our initial thought was that people don’t think about infrastructure much, and since the solutions are so technical, people might not have ideas for how to fix the problem. So when there was a water main break a couple weeks ago, we watched how the crew dealt with the problem, but also talked to people passing by to get their reaction. Following the break, we met with business owners who were affected to learn about how infrastructure failures hurt them. We’ve also held meetings with some of the different organizations in town (neighborhood meetings, business accelerators, economic development groups). Going forward, we’ll continue to meet with groups and also hold some events ourselves. We are also thinking about ways to get more of the public to come to our office to offer ideas. Finally, we’ve done some outreach digitally. We’ve responded to comments and posts on sites like Twitter and Reddit, and have gotten good feedback there. We’ll continue to expand on our digital efforts in the near future, too.”
Earth mover tearing up a street in Syracuse, NY due to a water main break.

The Syracuse, NY i-team investigated the aftermath of a water main break.

  • “We engage with the community all the time! Our most recent series of events were Co-Creation Workshops in 5 of our city’s commercial neighborhoods.”
The i-team in Jersey City, NJ hold a co-creation workshop with residents.

The Jersey City, NJ i-team met with residents and business owners to co-create solutions to issues facing the community.