Los Angeles Joins Google’s Government Innovation Lab

Read the story here.

The Google Government Innovation Lab opened with intrigue last year as the program, touting a curriculum for moonshot ideas and free technology, delivered more than a dozen projects in three California counties. Now the city of Los Angeles, and its roughly 4 million residents, are jump-starting the program to launch innovations of their own.

L.A.’s recently appointed Senior Technology Advisor Jeanne Holm confirmed the city’s participation, saying the program, re-branded as “Angels Lab,” is an attempt to answer five pressing citywide challenges. The ambitious goals — or as Google has coined them, “moonshots” — will be developed by five teams as Google guides the city with problem-solving strategies like quick prototyping and “failing fast.” Los Angeles has already selected its five impact areas. These include civic engagement, homelessness, city hiring, emergency management and economic development.

The Google projects are driven by 50-plus staffers divided into five startup-like teams, an approach that has worked in Kern, Alameda and San Joaquin counties. The Angels Lab will use people from various departments, ages, seniority and other demographics. Their work is funded through the city’s $1 Million Innovation Fund established in 2014. The money will help scale successful ideas from the lab after the six-week program ends in August with a presentation of ideas on Aug. 25.

“We ended up getting representation from about half the city departments, which was good,” Holm said. “Some of our youngest participants are 22 years old and maybe one is close to 80.”

Of all the obstacles L.A. is confronting, homelessness is one of the most pressing. In May, the Los Angeles Times reported that city and county homelessness increased to 47,000 people — with 28,000 of those city residents. The rising tally signified an 11 percent jump for the city compared to January the year before, and for L.A. County, the figure translated into a 5.7 percent increase.

“I think the most intractable issue we’ve faced is homelessness and the city has made a huge commitment of $138 million this year, pledged to help house people and move them into permanent housing.” Holm said.

The lab will enhance this work by pioneering a predictive analytics platform to identify early signs of homelessness so social services can assist.

“We’re hoping to be able to crack some of the code,” Holm said. We’ll ask what are the indicators three months, six months, nine months ahead, before a person or family falls into homelessness.”

The other impact areas have yet to finalize specific projects, but if San Joaquin County’s experience is any indication, the work is likely to be ongoing.

San Joaquin Administrator Monica Nino said her county’s five 2015 Google projects are in various stages of completion.

Its new website, now revamped and easily searchable, replaced its predecessor in a beta launch. Economic development Web pages to connect business to resources are still being added. A project to reduce the average entry-level hiring times from 40 days to seven — an impressive feat — has been realized in more than a few departments, with other departments awaiting online testing software to achieve similar results.


The last two projects — a tool for foster care placement and a mentorship platform for youth on probation — have been delayed. The mentorship platform did not receive bids in its RFP, and the county is waiting to see if state funding will arrive to turn the foster care tool into a statewide solution.

Whatever happens, Nino said the county is committed to seeing all of these projects through and is leveraging instruction from the lab for further initiatives.

“We don’t want to allow the waters to calm,” Nino said. “We want to continue to enhance our work and provide better services.”

Evidence of this can be found in the board of supervisors’ approval of 2016-2017 expenditures. Following Nino’s recommendation, the board allocated $500,000 to continue countywide innovation projects, including the expansion of credit and debit card use for online transactions.

Representatives from Kern and Alameda counties were not immediately available for comment.

Los Angeles has high yet realistic expectations for its “moonshot” projects. Holm, who worked for 17 years as the digital strategy manager at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, compared the city’s civic tech aspirations to NASA’s intended Mars landing — a grand objective that must be broken down using scientific processes “to turn it into small, doable problems.”

“The thing about a moonshot is that the end goal is extreme and inspirational,” Holm said. “Yet, in the meantime, there’s a whole lot of hard work to get from step, to step, to step, to get you there … I think that’s really where we’re at with this.”

Los Angeles CIO Ted Ross said the lab builds on much of the work the city has done in the past with regard to open data, civic tech, and making tech more accessible to residents.

“We’re excited about the Google Innovation Lab because it’s not only an opportunity to sit down and tackle five major challenges and continue the work we’re trying to do around innovation for the city of L.A., but we’re excited because it helps us bloom and grow,” Ross said. “We want to use both technology and good process of operations to make life better for every Angelino.”

Correction: An earlier version of this article listed Ted Ross as the former L.A. CTO when Ross is L.A.’s current CIO.

Jason Shueh

Jason Shueh Staff Writer

Jason Shueh is a staff writer for Government Technology magazine. His articles and writing have covered numerous subjects, from minute happenings to massive trends. A San Francisco Bay Area native, Shueh grew up in the east bay and Napa Valley, where his family is based. His writing has been published previously in the Tahoe Daily Tribune, Amazon Publishing, Bike Magazine, Diablo Magazine, The Sierra Sun, Nevada Appeal, The Union and theNorth Lake Tahoe Bonanza.

Click here for more about iConstituent’s flagship product

“Building Better City Websites Faster and Cheaper,” Luke Fretwell

As residents increasingly rely on the Web to interact with government, cities need ultimate flexibility when managing their digital offerings. Learn how WordPress — a platform that powers 25% of the world’s websites — allows cities to stand up government online services quicker and more cost-effective than ever before.

On July 12 at 12:00 p.m. CDT, I’ll present a webinar on WordPress and Government: Building better city websites faster and cheaper for National Association of Government Web Professionals members.

Learn more at the NAGWP website.

Luke Fretwell is co-founder and CEO of ProudCity, named by Government Technology as one of “5 to Watch” in 2016. He is also the founder of the government and civic technology blog, GovFresh. Connect with him on LinkedIn,Twitter and email at luke@proudcity.com.
For more information on iConstituent’s core product, click here.

“Changing the Civic Conversation”, Seamus Kraft

“Changing the Civic Conversation”
A Civic Engagement Transcontinental Train Journey
August 1-7, 2016
The Toxic Problem to be Tackled on the Train
You do not need to be a pollster or a pundit to know our public discourse has become poisonous, and that growing distrust and disengagement by members of the Millennial Generation are fast becoming mortal threats to the future of our democracy, our economy and the American Dream itself.
  • Just 17% of 18-29 year olds believe the United States is heading in the right direction, according to the Harvard Institute of Politics.
  • And a mere 16% of Millennials believe that government can actually solve the problems facing our country.

If that doesn’t immediately change, Americans of all ages will be in deep trouble.

What We’re Doing About It: Sparking a Millennial Movement for Smart Civic Engagement
Our aim is to bring democracy back to young Americans, and bring young Americans back into our democracy. And based off the incredible success of Chicago’s recent Envision Chicago hands-on civics initiative, when you engage rising leaders on their terms, amazing things follow.
That is why we are leading an August 1-7 transcontinental journey called “Changing the Civic Conversation.” In partnership with theMillennial Trains ProjectThe OpenGov Foundation–represented by yours truly and our chief of staff Meag Doherty–will travel from Pittsburgh, PA, to Chicago, IL, Kansas City, MO and Albuquerque, NM before pulling to a stop in Los Angeles, CA.
Riding along with The OpenGov Foundation will be these tremendously talented, diverse and bold young thinkers, doers and leaders.  We will have the support of NBC-Universal, The U.S. State Department, McKinsey, the U.S. Small Business Administration, Norfolk Southern, City Year, National Geographic Magazine, Comcast, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, in addition to a bevy of other generous sponsors.
*How You Can Help Change the Civic Conversation*
In each city, we plan to convene a lunchtime discussion with the best and brightest local elected officials, millennial leaders and entrepreneurs, academics, journalists and job creators. As outsiders, we need your help to design productive discussions on the most pressing topics with the rising stars in each location. Would you please considering helping us to identify and invite:
  • 3-5 rising stars in each city’s local government, and help connect us? Mayors, council members, management-level officials are perfect.
  • 10-15 Millennial entrepreneurs, community activists, educators and journalists who bring thoughtful, diverse and inclusive perspectives to the table?
  • 1 perfect spot that would host the discussion?  Ideally, the location would be a public building or local business in a setting that screams “Innovation, Improvement, progress!”
  • 2-3 potential sponsors who would jump at the chance to get in front of their city’s rockstar Millennials, while receiving the positive, can’t-miss press coverage the trip will generate in both their city and across America? Sponsors would help defray the costs associated with each visit, from food and drinks to renting event space and equipment. A trip-and-sponsor flyer is attached.
NOTE: As a 501(c)3, all donations, whether in-kind or direct, are fully tax deductible. Click here for The OpenGov Foundation’s IRS non-profit determination letter. 
Defining Success
“Changing the Civic Conversation” will be a smashing success if we can, through our community-based discussions, capture and share the following critical civic insights:
1. Uncover the real issues America’s next generation of leaders care about most, and what they think should be done about them;
2. Identify, quantify and understand the barriers they see preventing them from raising a family or building a business in their hometown;
3. Discover what role they see civic engagement playing in their lives and livelihoods;
4. Learn what shape government must take in order to earn back millennial trust and confidence in our elected officials and most important institutions; and finally
5. Build bridges between these seemingly disparate communities and young local leaders, empowering them with the most effective collaborative digital government tools, while inspiring them to become public-minded problem solvers dedicated to creating more informed, engaged and equitable cities.
Upon returning from the trip, we will produce two powerful and permanent records of the changing civic conversation:
1. A professionally-produced video telling each city’s untold stories of civic progress and positive change, while sharing the powerful perspectives of the emerging Millennial leaders we encounter; and
2. A singular body of research and set of recommendations to help today’s leaders better understand, better engage with, and better serve the Millennials who will soon take over the reins of each city.
You are a busy person, I know, and may not be able to help change the civic conversation with us.  But your support, advice and assistance will be critical to a killer cross-country journey, wonderful local events, and a long-overdue reengagement with young Americans who right now are not active members of our democracy’s Great Conversation.
Thank you, and I will follow up next week.  Have an excellent weekend.
– Seamus
Seamus Kraft
Executive Director & Co-Founder


More information on iConstituent CRM here