Researchers at the Center for an Urban Future and NYU Wagner interviewed nearly 200 policy experts in cities around the world, looking for reforms that have proven effective in other cities, and that the next mayor of New York City could implement.

The “Innovation and the City” report highlights 15 promising reforms. While the report focuses on implementing reforms in New York City, other communities could implement these ideas as well.Excerpts for six of the ideas from the report are highlighted below.

1) A More Transparent, Inclusive & Collaborative Government – Seattle and San Francisco have used open data to spur inter-agency information sharing and encourage participation from parties outside of the public sector.

»» All agencies, including the police, release data on a tight timeline
»» Data is routinely updated and accessible via affordable and widely available software
»» Open data offerings and formatting are harmonized with other cities

»» A more transparent and inclusive government
»» Improved coordination and information sharing between City agencies
»» Spur economic development in the civic-tech sector

2) A Comprehensive Approach to Increasing Recycling & Improving Waste Management – San Francisco introduced its Zero Waste program in 2002. Progress has been swift. From 1990 to 2010, recycling rates rose from 20 percent to 77 percent. Recent waste management reforms have targeted retail, packaging, consumption, public events, government procurement and construction and debris.

»» The 2002 Zero Waste Resolution sets explicit goals: 75 percent landfill diversion by 2010 and zero waste by 2020
»» SF Environment drafts an annual zero waste strategic plan
»» Relentless policy experimentation and incremental reform
»» Permanent no-bid, no-franchise-fee contract with Recology, a private garbage collection and resource recovery company

»» Dramatic increase in recycling rates
»» Dramatic reduction in methane emissions from landfills
»» Each category of waste is directed to its economically optimal disposal route, increasing recycling revenue for government, business and developers

3) Crowdsourcing Capital Projects – Using a new crowdsourcing website, the funding of capital projects—bridges, gardens, community centers—is being transformed throughout the United Kingdom as communities develop and jointly fund major new projects with local government.

»» An easy-to-use internet platform with government matching funds is available for community-generated capital ideas

»» Cities fund capital projects without additional debt
»» The process generates community interest and a sense of public ownership
»» Some projects may garner enough community support to be achieved without any government investment

4) Measuring Impact in Human Services – A mayoral-led consortium of foundations and universities in London is moving all nonprofit youth organizations toward consistent, academically rigorous evaluation measures, a revolutionary turn away from the norm in performance monitoring of social service providers. The new system will for the first time enable the city to gauge and compare the relative progress made by publicly funded entities who work with disadvantaged teens and families.

»» Rather than forcing evaluation on nonprofits, the mayor introduced a uniform and easy-to-use evaluation system within a supportive environment
»» Every participating nonprofit receives subsidized training and is matched with university professors and college students. Successes are celebrated through inter-agency competitions and cash prizes

»» A common framework for assessment allows the public and philanthropic sectors to determine which social service programs are working, while allowing nonprofits to analyze what’s making a real difference and what needs to be addressed operationally

5) Sending Agency Staff to Innovation School – Based on the belief that true innovation must be embraced by line-level staff as much as by mayors and agency heads, Denver has launched Peak Academy, an innovation school where city employees can get training, develop new ideas and gain support for new approaches.

»» Agency managers nominate staff to undergo a fiveday training, where they learn performance measurement skills and tools for continuous improvement
»» Incentives for supervisors and agency heads are in place to support the work of Academy graduates

»» Innovations developed by the Mayor and department heads are more likely to receive support than resistance at the agency level
»» Agency workers themselves are developing new ideas that are being implemented throughout the city

6) Loan Fund Seeds New Ideas at the Agency Level – Chicago’s multi-million dollar, revolving loan fund surfaces the most promising new ideas generated within city agencies—ideas intended to pay for themselves within five years through marked improvements in service delivery.

»» The City budget office works with a committee of mayoral aides to vet agencies’ loan applications
»» Agencies must prove major savings or revenue increases are in the offing; otherwise, the funds will be sliced from their budget
»» Cross-agency proposals are strongly encouraged and eligible for larger awards

»» Loans cultivate, support and advance reforms that germinate at the agency level
»» The Mayor’s Loan Committee lets City Hall scope out ideas with potential applicability and impact citywide

What do you think about these ideas? Which one do you like best?