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Welcome, everyone, thanks for coming out this afternoon for our first City of Bloomington Innovation Fair!  Thanks to the many departments who are displaying innovation within their departments at this event, and special thanks to our Innovation Director, Devta Kidd, for all the work you are doing and for creating this showcase today.  

Devta, I’ll credit you with the description of today’s event--a “sort of science fair for adults.”  While I realize we don’t all have wonderful memories of high school science fairs, it’s the spirit of playful exploration that I like about that analogy.  

That spirit is maybe not something you might immediately associate with the government!  But, lately, progressive cities like Bloomington have been saying -- yes you should! In Bloomington, we’re rethinking how we deliver services, how we achieve our goals and measure success, and how we can prepare ourselves for future needs, opportunities, and challenges, in order to thrive in this 21st century and beyond.

Innovation, as we see displayed all around us today, can be - -

  • Homespun ingenuity--finding simple, elegant solutions to longstanding challenges. (pencil versus pen for astronauts)  
  • Rethinking “the way we’ve always done it” in keeping with changing social, environmental, and technological conditions.   
  • Using new tools to make our jobs easier and enhance our ability to serve the community.  
  • Partnering with new allies to remove the friction that hinders progress.  
  • And measuring that progress, in order to quantify it and implement the changes in a broad way.  

Innovation is certainly no stranger in the corporate world -- just think about how radically the way we buy things, share information, and get from one place to the other has changed in the last ten years alone. Disruptions happen all over the place. The largest hotel company owns no hotel rooms. The largest ride-service / taxi company owns no cars. The largest retailer owns no stores. The government needs to change too.

And innovation is taking hold in government.  Back in 2012, only five cities around the country had innovation offices--Boston, Mass, for example, and Austin, Texas.  Over the last eight years, more than 100 cities worldwide have adopted the innovation model, Including us in 2017 and we appreciate Devta Kidd’s leadership in this position since late 2018.  

Today’s event showcases and salutes the innovation we already have at work across City departments -- from the Fire Department to Public Works, to Utilities, Economic and Sustainable Development, Information Technology, and the Office of the Mayor.  I am so appreciative of the creative, dedicated employees who make this change happen.

It’s a chance to learn how these departments are using emerging technology and revamping processes better, more efficiently, and more sustainably to serve the public, with tools like-- 

  • The TransMap system that scans our streets to identify places that need attention most urgently.  
  • The smart water meters currently being installed, that will allow CBU and its customers more easily to track water usage and identify leaks.
  • CDFI Friendly Bloomington that brings new financing options to affordable housing and daycare center, entrepreneurs and workers 
  • Or what about uReport--a direct way for residents to get their concerns addressed.  

At the City, we’ve identified three goals on our innovation journey - improve our current processes, create a culture of innovation, and prepare our organization for future opportunities and threats. Understanding all the different ways that innovation is already showing up in our departments is a key factor in knowing how to help it grow and spread. 

I invite all of you to visit the Innovation Roadmap over near Council Chambers to see the other steps we have identified toward each of our three goals, and where we are currently on this journey.

Before jumping into the science fair, let me announce one new activity: “We are beginning an intensive project-based innovation training, with significant support from an outside entity. The focus of the training will engage residents and staff in reviewing better and more innovative ways to address the leaf collection process in our beloved Tree City. That process currently costs a lot, has a major carbon impact, and leaves much to be desired. More detailed information will be released in a few weeks, so stay tuned.”

THANK YOU to all those departments participating today and to the many more whose stories you can read about on the Innovation Success Stories page of our website.


 

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