The Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation today announced the launch of the Innovation Field Lab New York, a new two-year program comprising data-driven experimentation and real-time policy innovation to improve neighborhoods in 10 cities in the state of New York.

The program supports city leaders through data-analytic support, applied research, and executive education aimed at strengthening performance leadership in the fight against blight and distressed properties. Community engagement and a focus on equitable impact are integral parts of the work.

The program builds upon the successful work of the center’s existing Innovation Field Lab in Massachusetts, launched in 2014, which has embedded over 150 graduate students to collaborate with local governments from across eastern Massachusetts to develop more holistic, preventative, and strategic interventions to resolve the prevalence of problem properties.

Jorrit de Jong, lecturer in public policy and management and academic director of the center’s Innovation in Government Program, said “Our mission is to help governments become more effective, efficient, equitable, and responsive to social needs. We are very excited to work with 10 new cities that are all highly motivated to develop and implement innovative ideas that improve the quality of life for residents.”

The Innovation Field Lab works with a unique collaborative of cities and organizations named Cities for Responsible Investment and Strategic Enforcement Program (Cities RISE) established by the New York State Office of Attorney General in 2017 that provides cities with an opportunity to pilot creative and forward-thinking local initiatives in the fight against blight and distressed properties. Participating cities include Albany, Binghamton, Buffalo, Elmira, Mount Vernon, Newburgh, Niagara Falls, Rochester, Syracuse, and White Plains.

As part of the program, mayors and senior city leaders involved in blight reduction will participate in an executive education retreat at Harvard Kennedy School to learn from each other and from state-of-the-art research, build new skills and relationships, and develop an actionable innovation strategy for their cities. Innovation Field Lab New York will also help cities evaluate the effectiveness of interventions and measure impact through a variety of research methods. The lessons will be shared among the 10 participating cities, creating a community of practice focused on peer-to-peer learning.

The Ash Center will be partnering with Tolemi, a civic technology company focused on data integration and spatial analytics, and Hester Street, an urban planning, design, and development nonprofit that works to ensure neighborhoods are shaped by the people who live in them.

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