United States


Victoria Woodards


213,418 (2013)

Innovation Website
Lead Innovation Officer

Benjamin Thurgood

Innovation is helping to:
  • Improve internal government operations

  • Improve service delivery

  • Simplify administrative procedures for firms and residents

Critical success factors:
  • Focus on measurement

  • Dedicated innovation team

  • Leadership from Mayor

  • Culture of innovation in city

  • Human resource support

Spotlight on innovation in Tacoma

Tacoma’s innovation efforts aim to help departments identify problems and implement solutions while developing citywide capacity for problem solving and continuous improvement. Focusing on improving internal and external service delivery, continuous improvement uses data, process improvement frameworks, training, and other tools to maximize the value provided to both customers and the public.

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

Policy areas that Tacoma is focused on

Social inclusion and equity
Social welfare/social services
Policy areas by number of cities

Tacoma utilizes 6 different innovation skills or roles

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

Tacoma’s innovation work is sprinkled throughout the municipality. There are 4 staff for innovation team as well as 1 Organizational Development staff mainly dedicated to innovation at HR department. In addition, at the Office of Budget, there are staff dedicated to performance measures and open data while the Media and Communication Department has a strategic plan manager. In this way, the city’s approach to innovation is largely decentralized with a few staff located in a variety of departments.

Terms Tacoma most associates with innovation

Continuous improvement

Tacoma's most common innovation activities

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

Its innovation activities also include taking risks and testing new ideas, and promoting data-driven analytics.

How is innovation funded here?

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

Top sources of funding

Municipal budget
city council/approved funds/operating budget/participatory budgeting
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

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

Tacoma also invests in digital systems and physical infrastructure as well as hosting a variety of workshops using design thinking, lean, user experience design, and strategic foresight.

How is innovation measured?

Tacoma has developed partnerships to promote its innovation capacity with other public agencies, private firms, not-for-profit organizations, and city residents/resident associations.

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

Data availability by policy area


Sufficient data


Policing and law enforcement


Waste and sewage

Environment and climate change

Social inclusion and equity

Public works

Insufficient data

Economic Development

Housing and built environment


Labour market and skills




Digital governance