The Civic Innovation Fellowship

 
Image credit: Slices of Light

Image credit: Slices of Light

There’s a famous saying we like to use here at verynice. It goes something like, “I don't know who discovered water, but I know it wasn't the fish.” In other words, those closest to the issue do not often have the necessary perspective to find a solution for it. It’s this idea that has driven verynice’s involvement in multiple Los Angeles civic initiatives over the past several years. Rather than relying on our local government to innovate from within, we use human centered, design thinking principles to help unlock new solutions and approaches to its civic innovation efforts.

verynice has been involved in multiple Los Angeles civic initiatives, including the Great Streets Initiative and the Sustainable City Plan, as well as national initiatives such as the Code for America Accelerator program. Our increasing focus on civic innovation eventually feuled our idea to carve out a position solely dedicated to furthering local civic initiatives— a Civic Innovation Fellowship—  a natural extension of our Entrepreneur in Residence program, which has played a significant role in incubating and launching businesses with young entrepreneurs in Los Angeles. We would still provide the mentorship and support to our participating entrepreneurs, but their projects would focus on civic intitatives and collaboration with local govenment.

We approached several different sectors with our idea, but the City of Los Angeles' Controllers Office was the first to jump on board. The idea behind this partnership is that the Controller’s Office would provide a background in public sector innovation and a knowledge of city issues, processes, and needs. In turn, verynice would contribute perspective from the private sector, using strategic innovation and design-thinking principals. Each of us would support the fellowship by providing training and mentorship and by facilitating the actual creation of the project. Together, we would create an entirely new role for design in government.

We’re proud to publicly announce that our very first Civic Innovation Fellow is David Flores, who brings a background in Urban Planning and experience with the Slate Z Promise Zone to the Fellowship. David will be working with the city's Open Data platform in order to map out unique hybrid data sets. In other words, he aims to tell stories using data— and inspire local entrepreneurs to make change in their community.

We recently asked David to tell us a little more about his background, his work with the Fellowship, and why he feels civic innovation and design thinking are a good match. Check out his interview below: 


Hello, David! What attracted you to apply for the Fellowship? Did any of your previous experience pique your interest in civic innovation or is this a new endeavor for you? 
The Office of the Controller’s ability to reach a broad audience provides the right setting to help the people of the city of Los Angeles. It has always been a passion of mine to bring awareness to problems that affect the city. Through my previous studies abroad in Urban Planning, and my recent work with the Slate Z Promise Zone grant proposal, this endeavor is both challenging and exciting as it provides a great opportunity to help our community.  

Can you tell us about the work you're doing to make the city's data more accessible? 
Over the past few years, the Controller´s Office and the City of Los Angeles have worked on transparency, which includes providing a clear portal to all city records and making them accessible to the public. Through maps, our work will consist of creating a more accessible way to view and understand data. When we analyze data, sometimes all we see is the numbers. Similar to story telling, maps provide the vehicle to produce a graphic representation of data.  

What is your ultimate goal for the type of impact this project will have?  
Our goal is to motivate and attract the involvement of our community to solve the problems that affect our city. By giving the public access to our work, we can create a compromise between our government and the community to produce new opportunities, ventures and solutions for the future. 

How does a design-thinking vocabulary influence or enhance your approach to civic innovation?  
My background in architecture and music allows me to view the process form a different perspective. Working with a design thinking approach challenges me present data on a visual spectrum that will be both informative and appealing.   

Your position has a pretty unique structure because you work with both the Controller's office and the leadership team here at verynice. What are some of the benefits of this set-up?  
The opportunity to work in this environment is both exciting and motivating. Having the expertise of both the Controller´s Office and the leadership team at verynice provides support and valuable advice on a project of such magnitude.  

Thanks, David!

We're looking forward to growing the Civic Innovation Fellowship program and continuing our work with the City of Los Angeles.   Find more about verynice's civic initiatives, both locally and nationally, and our work in general right here.