Walnut Creek

United States


Justin Wedel


69,773 (2017)

Lead Innovation Officer

Jessica Cole

Innovation is helping to:
  • Improve service delivery

  • Improve internal government operations

  • Anticipate and manage future challenges

Critical success factors:
  • Dedicated innovation team

  • Culture of innovation in city

Spotlight on innovation in Walnut Creek

Walnut Creek innovation team has been using SMART goals as an innovation tool following several steps:

  1. Identification of an area or process to be improved with the department directors
  2. Data searches for both qualitative data that involves user interviews and journey mapping, and quantitative data that involves going back through many metrics and records
  3. Idea sourcing with staff at all levels to develop SMART goals and consult a final one with senior staff.
  4. Identification of individual SMART goal for every single staff member of the involved department or division to support the broader department-wide goal.
  5. Tracking progress over the months-long implementation process while coaching staff through each step.

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, Walnut Creek does not have an explicit innovation strategy. Similar to more than half of cities surveyed, Walnut Creek approaches innovation capacity both from a holistic/macro level, as well as in specific policy areas.

Policy areas that Walnut Creek is focused on

Economic Development
Digital governance
Policy areas by number of cities

Walnut Creek utilizes 3 different innovation skills or roles

Project manager
Community engagement staff
Innovation roles by number of cities

Situated in the City Manager’s office, Walnut Creek’s innovation work is led by the Head of Innovation and Economic Development who is leading informal, cross-functional teams based on challenge at hand.

Terms Walnut Creek most associates with innovation

Human-centered design

Walnut Creek's most common innovation activities

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
  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, Walnut Creek 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.

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

How is innovation measured?

Walnut Creek 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, in partnership with the City Innovate Foundation, the city hosts an annual Start-up in Residence Program to solve city challenges. There are also public-private pilot programs for the community such as a dock-less bike share and semi-autonomous sidewalk delivery robots.

To improve data use, the city has also developed data partnerships with the private sector for qualitative data from outside the city. The city also helps to host an Open Data Day civic hackathon to find good data sets.

Data availability by policy area


Sufficient data


Economic Development

Housing and built environment

Environment and climate change

Insufficient data



Social inclusion and equity


Digital governance

No Response

Policing and law enforcement


Waste and sewage

Labour market and skills


Public works