Philadelphia University graduated the second group of Philadelphia city employees from the Academy for Municipal Innovation (AMI), a unique educational program that gives the workers the knowledge and tools they need to innovate in their jobs.
“We think that innovation in all aspects of society is important,” said PhilaU President Stephen Spinelli Jr., who told the AMI graduates that they now are part of a revolution in municipal government. “You have to be leaders in this revolution.”
The Academy is a collaboration with the City of Philadelphia that incorporates PhilaU’s unique culture of innovation through a seven-week curriculum that includes classes in the creative process, discovering opportunities through design thinking, analyzing complexities through systems thinking and developing value propositions through business analytics.
The final weekly class focused on developing innovative solutions for the city of Philadelphia.
“We have so many day-to-day opportunities for innovation,” said AMI graduate Darryl Watson, research and information analyst for Philadelphia’s department of revenue. “I think one of the benefits of the Academy is being able to recognize those opportunities and then find a way to do things differently.”
One of Watson’s major takeaways is a systems-thinking technique he said would help him prepare revenue reports and forecasts from a more critical and insightful perspective.
Watson and 18 other city employees, representing such departments as commerce, emergency management, finance, health, parks and recreation, police, revenue and water, received AMI certificates at a Dec. 2 ceremony in the Lawrence N. Field DEC Center Forum.
“In today’s resource-constrained and increasingly competitive global environment, innovation offers a promising path for survival and growth,” said Philip Russel, associate dean of PhilaU’s School of Business Administration, who helped develop the Academy’s curriculum. “It is our hope that Academy graduates will plant seeds of innovation throughout their organizations and lead efforts to develop innovative solutions that will improve the quality of life for Philadelphia residents, businesses and visitors.”
Nathaniel Eddy, strategic initiatives librarian at the Free Library of Philadelphia, said he enjoyed learning different techniques to foster innovation in the workplace and plans “to share those learnings with my colleagues,” he said. Since attending the Academy, Eddy said he is interested in incorporating the concepts of white space and flexible workspaces into upcoming renovations of the city’s library facilities as a way to foster creativity.
The Academy for Municipal Innovation, likely the first such collaboration between a city and university to teach innovation principles, was named StateScoop 50’s Innovation of the Year this spring. Read more.
Andrew Buss, director of innovation management in Philadelphia’s office of innovation and technology, said the city partnered with PhilaU because the University’s transdisciplinary curriculum is designed to promote innovation.
Buss, who was in the first cohort of AMI graduates last spring, said the city already is reaping benefits from its investment in innovation education and infrastructure. “The first group of graduates still works together across departments because of the relationships they formed through the Academy,” Buss said.
In addition, many of them are involved in the city’s Innovation Lab, where new ideas and solutions are discussed and developed with support from the $100,000 Mayor’s Fund for Philadelphia.
Recent AMI graduate Moria Miller, internal communications manager for the department of parks and recreation, already is putting her newfound skills to use in the Innovation Lab. She’s working on a team that is developing a product from reused plant material that could provide a cost-effective way to green more of the city.
In a similar initiative last summer, PhilaU adapted the AMI curriculum to offer an industry-focused, innovation-based curriculum for Independence Blue Cross employees.
“It’s about teaching the PhilaU innovation process,” said D.R. Widder, the University’s vice president for innovation and Steve Blank Innovation Term Chair.
Read more about the Academy for Municipal Innovation here.