Origins of data for this project

Since 2018, 147 cities in North America, Europe, Latin America, Asia, Oceania, and the Middle East responded to the OECD/Bloomberg Philanthropies Innovation Capacity Surveys completed in 2018 and 2020.

For the data use capacity component this project used Results4America's What Works Cities Certification Assessment dataset on data use focusing on eight foundational practices of city government data use: data governance, evaluation, general management, open data, performance analytics, repurposing, results driven contracting and stakeholder engagement.

Five components of innovation capacity in cities:

  1. 1Definition, Goals and Approaches: what innovation means to a city and their goals, strategies and approches to building capacity
  2. 2Organisational structure: how innovation is organised and staffed within the administration
  3. 3Funding and resources: distinct from programme funding, focuses on resources and funds directed at developing and maintaining cities' innovation capacity
  4. 4Data use for Innovation: how cities are generating, managing, sharing data for direct use for innovation work
  5. 5Outcomes monitoring and evaluation: whether and how cities are assessing outcomes related to their innovation strategy and goals

In addition, to understand the connections between innovation capacity and data use practices is cities, and how they relate to well-being outcomes, several well-being data sources were used:

  • American Community Survey
  • Gallup US
  • City Health Dashboard
  • Reflective Democracy Campaign
  • Ballotpedia
  • Who Votes for Mayor
  • Eurostat
  • European Quality of Life Survey (EQLS)

OECD Well-being Framework for Cities and Regions

Place characteristicsIndividual’s characteristicsPeople’s well-beingIncluding governance and policy tools,such as Public sector innovation and Date usePeople’s well-being is composed of many dimensionsAverage levels and distributions across groups of people within citiesHealthIncomeEnvironmentCommunityJobsEducationCivic EngagementAcces to servicesLife satisfactionHousingSafety
30 common indicators distributed across 11 well-being dimensions were reviewed including: housing, safety, health, jobs, environment and more

Five factors of innovation capacity explored:

50%73 cities

01. Innovation strategy

More than half of respondent cities (52%) have formal innovation goals, while around half (50%) have a formal innovation strategy.

A city’s innovation strategy is the course forward for how to achieve innovation goals. Cities with a formal innovation strategy reported to be more experienced with activities that foster innovation than those that do not have a formal strategy. In addition, top policy areas cities tend to prioritize in their innovation efforts are digital governance, transport/mobility, and economic development.

84%118 cities

02. Leadership and staffing

More than 80% of respondent cities reported that political and managerial leadership is an essential component for supporting innovation capacity.

Politicians and managers can send strong messages about the importance of innovation and the relevance of creating a culture that values, rewards and recognizes innovation. The emergence of innovation teams in city government is a relatively new approach that has been gaining traction, with 35% of them having existed for at least five years and above. Additionally, where the innovation capacity sits is strategically important and dependent on the administration’s approach, in particular, if the administration is aiming for a whole of government approach or a policy sector focus.

81%119 cities

03. Data use and capacity

More than 80% of surveyed cities indicate that data plays a significant or somewhat significant role in innovation decision- and policy-making.

Cities produce a large amount of data, and this data has the potential to improve the ways they operate. But, data availability by policy sector remains uneven and sometimes the data is inactionable. Cities collect more data on areas such as transport (77%), land use/zoning (70%), policing and law enforcement (67%), economic development (59%), and housing (55%). Data on areas such as health (48%), social inclusion and equity (43%), blight (37%), and culture (37%%) is less extensive. While 76% of cities publish data to an online, central location, only 37% proactively provides a clear how-to guidance to help residents access and use city data.

81%118 cities

04. Resources and funding

Survey results showed that 81% of respondent cities have specific funding to support innovation capacity.

Adequate financing of innovation work strongly determines the implementation of new ideas. Consistent sources of funding allow cities to conduct research, prototype or test new ideas, implement ideas in larger scale, and recruit highly qualified staff. The vast majority (98%) have ring-fenced resources from the municipal budget to fund part of their innovation work. Cities also rely on external sources (non-profit foundations and philanthropies), and, to a lesser extent, on private-sector investments. Most cities (66%) are committed to increasing their innovation budget plans for the next 2-3 years. City investment in innovation work is both relatively new and marginal in comparison to other investment areas (i.e. health, transport, urban infrastructure).

16%23 cities

05. Outcomes

Only 16% of cities systematically and comprehensively evaluate their innovation strategy and innovation program outcomes.

Cities that evaluate their innovation work are better positioned to scale up innovative projects that improve operations. They also are less likely to engage in practices or projects that offer little return on investment. Cities that consistently evaluate the results of their innovation work have, across the board, greater familiarity with innovation than cities that lack procedural assessments. However, the large majority of cities only assess some elements of their innovation strategy and consider it too early to tell. Factors that limit the evaluation of innovation strategies in cities include: lack of financial resources, technical capacity, methodological instruments, and strategy assessment. Proper evaluation and monitoring practices can help cities achieve their innovation goals by fostering accountability to citizens and donors and by determining the effectiveness and contribution of the projects to achieve the city’s socio-economic development goals. Monitoring and evaluation of innovation work remains a key area for development across local governments.

  • Housing icon
  • Environment icon
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  • Civic engagement icon
    Civic engagement
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  • Life satisfaction icon
    Life satisfaction
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OECD Well-being Dimensions for Cities and Regions

Well-being methodology


  • Households spending less than 25% of their income on rent