This opinion piece was written by Amanda Daflos, Director — Mayor Eric Garcetti’s Innovation Team, and Alex Pudlin, Senior Data Scientist — Mayor Eric Garcetti’s Innovation Team. For more like this, see our government innovation newsfeed.
The Los Angeles Innovation Team (i-team) was established in 2015 with a grant from Bloomberg Philanthropies in service to Mayor Eric Garcetti and the City of Los Angeles. Now — three and a half years in — the team has delivered nearly 30 projects with departments, organisations and residents across Los Angeles, the second largest city in the US comprised of more than four million residents.
At the direction of Mayor Garcetti, the i-team works on his top priority issues and aims to provide insights to him and to design and deliver data-informed solutions. The team has worked on many issues, including housing, business, police recruiting and hiring, sexual harassment procedures and reporting.
Importantly, now that our grant is sunsetting, in July of 2018 the team was retained by the Mayor through the City budget.
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Not every project has been easy or unfolded quite as planned. Nevertheless, below are some key ingredients to how the LA i-team works that have helped to establish it as a central player in transforming the way the City of Los Angeles delivers services to Angelenos.
Innovation team ingredients
First and foremost, the Los Angeles i-team works as partners. We believe being good people who are prepared and thoughtful makes all the difference. When it comes to our work, we do what we say and say what we’re going to do and we’ve learned that that is a differentiator.
We aim to deeply understand an issue from a qualitative and quantitative point of view and to do it quickly with curiosity and obsessive attention to detail.
We are deliberate and inclusive about who we engage — residents, academics, community leaders, city officials — so that we hear from the most important, and often most underrepresented, voices and can ensure that the outcomes they generate are informed by residents with lived experience who are ultimately the users of the products, systems and programs they design and put in place.
We are a cross-functional team that can deliver a solution in response to the precise issues we identify. We are researchers, designers, data scientists and project managers who work collaboratively to tackle a problem with all disciplines at the table. At times, that takes longer and is harder but the outcomes are well worth it.
We aim to be appropriately impatient when it comes to transformation and patient in helping people transform
We tightly manage and measure our projects at every step. We measure outcomes to ensure that our work works. If it doesn’t, we fine tune.
We acknowledge how hard change can be and work with partners to address discomfort and the need for training — particularly when new tools and technologies are introduced — something that can be difficult in the public sector. We aim to be appropriately impatient when it comes to transformation and patient in helping people transform.
We still think of ourselves as a start-up in government. We think of ourselves as a “think and do tank” and an internal consulting team. Culturally, these ways of thinking and acting make a difference.
We have established a model where we do 80% of the work to get a project established and our partners do 20%. With our partners on the team and at the table, they help drive the decisions and program design, while the i-team structures and delivers the program or initiative.
In Los Angeles, this has worked well because it is hard for government officials — our partners — to take on more work, particularly new programming, when they are already doing their jobs and often are constrained by resources.
At the right time, we slowly and methodically switch roles and transition activities so our partners are running 80% of the program and we are at the table helping where needed. This is strategic — it’s working, and it lays the foundation for sustainability.
What have we accomplished?
Like a consulting firm, we are pulled into projects at the direction of Mayor Garcetti and senior staff who have been incredible champions of our work. In our first year, we worked to reduce residential and business displacement. In our second year, we focused on bolstering recruiting and hiring practices for the LAPD and encouraging a more diverse, representative police force.
Now, we are focused on the future of work in Los Angeles
Now, we are focused on the future of work in Los Angeles and creating more equitable opportunities in light of the many changes coming to the landscape of work. We’ve touched housing, sexual harassment, homelessness, street quality, gender equity and many other topics that the Mayor has identified as critical.
We’re also introducing new tools, practices and technologies to the City — things like behavioural science, texting as a public service and general design practices.
Pledge to patrol
Our projects are designed to address a series of issues, chosen based on what the data and residents and stakeholders tell us. A great example that illustrates this is the “Pledge to Patrol” program with the police department.
Early in our research about LAPD, we learned that despite having several different youth preparation programs that do a great job growing talent — including six police magnet schools and 100 students enrolled in an associate’s degree — students graduate before they are old enough to apply to be a sworn officer. Thus, they often leave law enforcement or join competing police agencies with lower age requirements.
To help bridge this gap, and address the Mayor’s goals of increasing trust in the LAPD, increasing diversity and planning for an anticipated wave of retirements, the i-team, Personnel Department and LAPD created an apprenticeship program for youth program alumni age 19 to 21, called Pledge to Patrol. The program allows them to work as civilian Associate Community Officers for the LAPD as they learn, train and prepare to apply when they become age-eligible.
Since Pledge to Patrol launched in November 2017, the program has paid substantial dividends. Of the 63 people admitted to the program, four have already been hired as sworn LAPD officers, including one woman. Another 16 have begun the hiring process.
Pledge to Patrol has a 100% acceptance for alumni applying to join the full force — compared to a 4-6% acceptance rate for applicants overall. The program is also helping improve gender diversity: while the sworn force is currently about 18.5% female, more than half of all Associate Community Officers are female.
What began as an i-team led effort is now almost entirely run by the LAPD and the Personnel Department
One reason why the program has already seen tangible success is our adherence to the 80/20-20/80 model and our focus on facilitating a smooth transition from the i-team to the department. What began as an i-team led effort is now almost entirely run by the LAPD and the Personnel Department.
The departments articulated the need, provided the staff to operate the program and participated in human-centred design sessions to ensure the initiative reflected broader department goals and the nuance of policing.
The i-team was responsible for securing the political will and funding in the City budget, project managing the creation process, developing a governance structure, creating and tracking program metrics and acting as liaisons and integrators for the Personnel Department and the LAPD.
From the moment we engage with our departmental partners, they are our clients and co-creators, and ultimate owners of the project. For Pledge to Patrol, Personnel established the hiring procedures while LAPD created the curriculum, assignments and experience.
The i-team worked hands-on with both departments, creating data-tracking standards and mechanisms to enable near real-time insights about the program and launched a bi-monthly COMPSTAT meeting to closely manage program performance. By the third COMPSTAT meeting, LAPD began to run the meetings with input and support from the i-team.
Even after the program itself fully transitioned to the Departments, we still collected, cleaned and integrated disparate data sources into a central business intelligence tool to create quarterly dashboards that measure the programs health and performance. The reason this persists as a major activity is because there is limited data expertise within the LAPD and so the i-team skillset is needed.
Each member of the i-team is equally a thoughtful student of government, an empathetic teacher and a government transformer
To address this in the long term, the i-team is developing an automated tool. Once the tool is complete, the i-team will remain key stakeholders, but will have little day-to-day involvement. We may ease into a 10% role but we’ll never be 0%.
As the program expands we will lend our perspective and guidance, and continue to advocate for its rightful place in the City budget.
Students and transformers
We think these things have helped us to be successful. They have been important to our identity and our team culture. They have also been important to the value we create and how we are perceived — particularly in a City as large, dynamic and innovative as Los Angeles.
Each member of the i-team is equally a thoughtful student of government, an empathetic teacher and a government transformer. These are three of the most important things one can be in the 21st century public sector, where the challenges before us are great but the opportunities even greater when we work together to make government the very best it can be. — Amanda Daflos & Alex Pudlin
(Picture credit: Flickr/Chris Goldberg)