Up To Speed

Cities should engage outside help to develop new solutions for old problems

Cities should engage outside help to develop new solutions for old problems.

On the campaign trail last year, we were repeatedly told about all the problems facing Cincinnati. Much of it was hyperbole, but some of it was in fact true. Our pension system needs to be reformed, our budget structurally balanced, infant mortality rates and childhood poverty improved, we need more diverse transportation options for everyone, fix our combined sewer overflow disaster and reduce blight in our neighborhoods. And yes, there are certainly other issues needing to be addressed, but how does the new mayor and council intend on tackling all of these issues? It might be a good idea to bring in some outside help from sharp young minds from around the country. More from Governing Magazine:

With low turnover and few new workers, cities are in a quandary when it comes to stoking the innovation process. To address this challenge, cities are increasingly using fellowships to import talent from outside the public sector to support particular projects and initiatives. We’re beginning to see the results.

The infusion of outside talent into a city provides an important addition to under-resourced teams and initiatives. Local governments are eager for these opportunities. But as Anastasoff notes, fellowships like Fuse Corps are not just simply expanding capacity; they seek to interrupt the existing modes of work and provide the energy and ideas needed to redirect projects for better outcomes. “This isn’t just a question of more hands — the champions within city government who are working with our fellows recognize and value that they are here to help change culture,” she says.

But city governments wouldn’t be signing up in significant numbers for opportunities like this if the results were limited to intangible culture shifts; public sector culture can be resistant to change, and without seeing real tangible impact, the “interruption” provided by a fellow would likely remain just that.

By Randy A. Simes

Randy is an award-winning urban planner who founded UrbanCincy in May 2007. He grew up on Cincinnati’s west side in Covedale, and graduated from the University of Cincinnati’s nationally acclaimed School of Planning in June 2009. In addition to maintaining ownership and serving as the managing editor for UrbanCincy, Randy has worked professionally as a planning consultant throughout the United States, Korea and the Middle East. After brief stints in Atlanta and Chicago, he currently lives in the Daechi neighborhood of Seoul’s Gangnam district.