Panel Paper: Govlabphl: Leveraging Partnerships for Government Innovation

Friday, November 9, 2018
Lincoln 3 - Exhibit Level (Marriott Wardman Park)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Anjali Chainani, City of Philadelphia

GovLabPHL is a multi-agency team led by Philadelphia’s Mayor’s Policy Office focused on developing innovative and evidence-based practice in city government.

The development of GovLabPHL stemmed from City Accelerator, an initiative of the Citi Foundation and Living Cities to promote innovation in local government. Philadelphia received the Living Cities grant in September 2014 to increase access to our public assistance programs. The City piloted the application of behavioral economics, human-centered design, and a trauma-informed approach to simplify complex processes and increase access to government programs and services.

A multi-agency team worked with the Department of Revenue to conduct workshops with senior citizens to understand their barriers to enrolling in the City’s senior citizen water bill discount program. They also surveyed homeowners to uncover ideas on how paying one’s Real Estate Taxes could be made easier. With that information, the team prototyped several “nudge interventions” with the public to test what approach would work best and within what context. The low cost nature of the interventions ensured that the City didn’t invest significant upfront resources into untested service changes.

As a result of these pilot projects, the Department of Revenue increased enrollment in the Senior Water Discount program by 15 percent, made the enrollment forms easier to access and fill out, and conducted trauma-informed customer service training with front-line staff so they were more equipped to manage public interactions.

Through this experience, the City Accelerator team realized the power and potential of human-centered design and behavioral economics to improve service delivery. Despite a change in administration, the cross-agency team persisted and adopted a new moniker, GovLabPHL. It is now housed in the Mayor’s Policy Office. Currently, GovLabPHL is comprised of City employees from the Department of Revenue, the Office of Transportation and Infrastructure Systems, Office of Open Data and Digital Transformation, the Managing Director's Office, and the Mayor’s Office of Community Empowerment and Opportunity.

To date, the GovLabPHL team has partnered with field experts from five universities to pilot several service improvement projects via a behavioral economics lens from decreasing litter to increasing utilization of bike share. In 2017, GovLabPHL, in collaboration with the Office of Open Data and Digital Transformation and the University of the Arts Design for Social Impact Program, hosted a 10-month speaker series that explores the role human-centered design can play in transforming services. Last May, GovLabPHL hosted the City’s second Behavioral Economics Workshop where departments and academic researchers shared how they have used behavioral insights to inform programs and service delivery. In 2018, the team published a piece in the Behavioral Scientist entitled "Lessons from Building a Behavioral Science Initiative In City Government" and is currently planning a form redesign event to co-design changes to key city forms with residents, and content experts.

Our presentation will discuss these and other accomplishments, but will also provide our perspective on spurring innovation with a multi-agency partnership instead of a dedicated office.