Rich Harwood in Voices of the Governing Institute about Public Innovation

The Kind of Innovation that Can Move a Community Forward
APRIL 10, 2014

Recently I was on the public-radio program "Innovation Trail" in Rochester, N.Y., to talk about "public innovation." Afterward, the station wrote on its website that such interviews serve "as reminders of how often the 'innovation conversation' is framed in terms of technology and economics." But as we discussed on-air, there's another way to define it.

Rochester is home to Eastman Kodak, the venerable, now-suffering company best known for making camera film that is feverishly trying to transform itself into a digital-technology company. To Kodak, innovation is about developing new product lines that generate high profits. But Rochester also is trying to transform itself from a town once dependent upon Kodak to a community with a more diverse economic base, a revitalized downtown and stronger public schools, among other goals.

Even when talk turns to innovation regarding community goals, as it has in Rochester, the tendency among community leaders, funders, activists and others is to focus on specific education reforms, local tax policy or perhaps infrastructure plans. Other conversations about innovation often center on the use of mobile devices, development of new online platforms or the launch of new citizen-participation processes.

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