United States


Jim Kenney


1,580,000 (2017)

Innovation Website
Lead Innovation Officers

Anjali Chainani, Andrew Buss

Innovation is helping to:
  • Improve service delivery

  • Improve resident outcomes

  • Improve internal government operations

Critical success factors:
  • Dedicated funding

  • Focus on measurement

  • Support from outside city administration

Spotlight on innovation in Philadelphia

GovLabPHL, an innovative initiative stationed within the Mayor's Office, is a multi-agency team centered on embedding evidence-based and data-driven methods into City programs and services through cross-sector collaboration. It is currently one of two municipal-based policy labs in the country, and it is the only policy lab in the country that operates using a partnership model, with little to no routine funding. Over the past 3 years, GovLabPHL has hosted 3 annual conferences on behavioral economics; has piloted over 12 randomized control trial projects within city government; hosted a 10-month speaker series on human-centered design in partnership with the Office of Open Data and Digital Transformation; and organizes a data-driven book club for city employees.

Note: The City Innovation Snapshot (PDF version) was produced in 2019 and some aggregate findings have been updated with the latest survey results below.

Vision and approach to innovation capacity

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

Policy areas that Philadelphia is focused on

Homeless Services
Waste and Litter
Policy areas by number of cities

Philadelphia utilizes 6 different innovation skills or roles

Project manager
Data scientist
Communication officer
Community engagement staff
Innovation roles by number of cities

Philadelphia has four teams for innovation with 30 staff. The Office of Innovation Management oversees the City's innovation efforts. Specific evidence-based methods are led by GovLabPHL at the Mayor’s Office. The Department of Revenue has also been experimenting with evidence-based methods to test and improve access to tax assistance programs. The Office of Open Data and Digital Transformation helps departments publish open data.

Terms Philadelphia most associates with innovation

Evidenced-based research

Philadelphia's most common innovation activities

Taking risks and testing new ideas
e.g. prototyping new programs or models to address a persistent city challenge
Promoting data-driven analytics / public data management
e.g. data storage/analytics; open data; big data
Engaging residents in new ways
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
Human-centered design
e.g. prioritizing the end-user at each stage of the design process
Rethinking approaches to financing and partnerships
e.g. new public-private-partnerships; collaboration with neighboring jurisdictions
  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, Philadelphia has dedicated funding to support innovation capacity.

Top sources of funding

Municipal 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.
External funding
External funding
This could include private, philanthropic/non-profit and/or academic/think tank resources.
Non-financial resources
Non-financial resources
This could include staff on loan and/or other in-kind contributions (e.g. materials, infrastructure…)

Activities being funded

Launching or sustaining a project
Idea generation & brainstorming
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

Philadelphia also invests in digital systems and physical infrastructure.

How is innovation measured?

Philadelphia has developed partnerships to promote its innovation capacity with other public agencies, private firms, not-for-profit organizations, and city residents/resident associations. In particular, Philadelphia, through over 20 external research partnerships, has created numerous learning opportunities. In addition, the Office of Innovation Management, in partnership with Jefferson University, launched the Municipal Innovation Academy, an eight-week intensive program offered to City employees.

To improve data use, the city has also developed data partnerships with the private sector, academia, think tanks, and private philanthropy to collect and analyze data, as well as with other cities.

Data availability by policy area


Sufficient data


Economic Development

Housing and built environment

Policing and law enforcement



Waste and sewage

Labour market and skills

Environment and climate change



Social inclusion and equity

Public works


Digital governance