United States


Jenny Durkan


730,400 (2018)

Lead Innovation Officer

Tina Walha

Innovation is helping to:
  • Improve resident outcomes

  • Improve internal government operations

  • Simplify administrative procedures for firms and residents

Critical success factors:
  • Focus on measurement

  • Dedicated innovation team

  • Dedicated funding

Spotlight on innovation in Seattle

The City of Seattle is championing the widespread use of innovation approaches such as design thinking, human-centred design, and data-driven management beyond the innovation team, and promoting them as tools for general use throughout departments within the city.

Vision and approach to innovation capacity

Along with 56% of cities surveyed, Seattle does not have an explicit innovation strategy. Similar to over one-third of cities surveyed, Seattle approaches innovation capacity in specific policy areas/domains.

Policy areas that Seattle is focused on

Policy areas by number of cities

Seattle utilizes 5 different innovation skills or roles

Project manager
Data scientist
Computer scientist
Innovation roles by number of cities

Situated in the Mayor’s office, Seattle’s dedicated team for innovation was created by a grant from Bloomberg Philanthropies, and consists of 8 staff.

Terms Seattle most associates with innovation

Technological innovation
Big picture re-thinking

Seattle's most common innovation activities

Promoting data-driven analytics / public data management
e.g. data storage/analytics; open data; big data
Engaging residents in new ways
Taking risks and testing new ideas
e.g. prototyping new programs or models to address a persistent city challenge
Human-centered design
e.g. prioritizing the end-user at each stage of the design process
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 77% of cities surveyed, Seattle 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.

Activities being funded

Launching or sustaining a project
Idea generation & brainstorming
55 cities
Launching or sustaining a project
53 cities
Idea generation & brainstorming
3 cities
Investing in digital systems
2 cities
Investing in physical infrastructure
2 cities
Paying for services

Seattle is also investing in physical infrastructure and paying for services.

How is innovation measured?

Seattle has developed partnerships to promote innovation capacity with departments throughout the city’s administration, other levels of government, private firms, non-profit and philanthropic sector, academia/think tanks, city residents/resident associations and other cities.

Members of Seattle’s Innovation & Performance unit attend Stanford’s Design School’s Designing for Social Systems training program focused on social impact.

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



Insufficient data

Social inclusion and equity

Public works

No Response



Digital governance

Social inclusion and equity