Denver, CO

United States


Michael Hancock


716,492 (2018)

Lead Innovation Officer

Melissa Wiley

Innovation is helping to:
  • Save costs and improve efficiency within the public sector

  • Improve service delivery

  • Simplify administrative procedures for firms and residents

Critical success factors:
  • Dedicated funding

  • Focus on measurement

  • Dedicated innovation team

  • Culture of innovation in city

  • Leadership from Mayor

Spotlight on innovation in Denver, CO

Created in 2012, Denver’s Peak Academy system of training public sector employees in how to imagine and execute change has been embraced across the United States. As an early adopter of systems that reframe how local government can interact with and serve constituents, Denver has produced numerous breakthrough projects that improve service delivery while creating a return on investment. Its Peak Academy training system has helped the city institutionalize a culture of innovation.

Vision and approach to innovation capacity

Along with 50% of cities surveyed, Denver, CO has an explicit innovation strategy. Similar to more than half of cities surveyed, Denver, CO approaches innovation capacity both from a holistic/macro level, as well as in specific policy areas.

Policy areas that Denver, CO is focused on

Social welfare/social services

See more examples of the city's initiatives such as building more traffic signals, reducing time to certify a small business, reducing license wait time and time at the Motor Vehicle Division.

Policy areas by number of cities

Denver, CO utilizes 2 different innovation skills or roles

Project manager
Data scientist
Innovation roles by number of cities

Situated within the Finance Department, Denver’s dedicated innovation team consists of 8 staff.

Terms Denver, CO most associates with innovation

Data analytics

Denver, CO's most common innovation activities

Taking risks and testing new ideas
e.g. prototyping new programs or models to address a persistent city challenge
Facilitating organizational change within the municipality
e.g. silo-busting; new internal performance management; staff training and capacity building on innovation tools or techniques; reforms to contracting or procurement
  1. 1

    Taking risks or testing new ideas

  2. 2

    Data-driven analytics/public data management

  3. 3

    Engaging residents in new ways

  4. 4

    Developing new solutions based on digital technologies

  5. 5

    Organizational change within the municipality

  6. 6

    Human-centered design

  7. 7

    Rethinking your city’s approach to financing partnerships

How is innovation funded here?

Like 81% of cities surveyed, Denver, CO has dedicated funding to support innovation capacity.

Top sources of funding

Municipal budget
City council approved funds/operating budget
Municipal budget
This could include, for instance, City Council approved funds; operating budget; a special funding process (bond, Mayoral special initiative funding, etc.); and participatory budgeting / citizen-selected budgeting.

Activities being funded

Investing in digital systems
47 cities
Launching or sustaining a project
79 cities
Idea generation & brainstorming
51 cities
Investing in digital systems
36 cities
Investing in physical infrastructure
30 cities
Paying for services

Similar to 61% of participating cities in the 2020 survey, Denver's funding for innovation capacity is also directed towards training staff and building capacity*.

*"Training staff and building capacity" is not an option in the 2018 survey, while "Launching or sustaining a project" is not an option in the 2020 survey.

How is innovation measured?

Denver has not yet developed partnerships to promote innovation capacity or improve data use with other entities outside the city administration.

Data availability by policy area


Sufficient data


Economic Development

Policing and law enforcement


Waste and sewage

Labour market and skills


Digital governance

Government finance

Public works



Social welfare/social services

Insufficient data

Environment and climate change

Social inclusion and equity

Digital governance

Land use

Built environment