The Local Innovation Unit: Achieving National Goals Through Local Experimentation
Authors: Josh Sorin and Lindsay Zimmerman
The Biden-Harris Administration should create the Local Innovation Unit (LIU) to catalyze and coordinate decentralized, city and county-based experiments focused on the most urgent and complex challenges facing the United States. Traditional “top-down” methods of policy design and problem solving are no longer effective in addressing our nation’s most pressing issues, such as pandemics, climate change, and decreasing economic mobility. The nature of these problems, coupled with an absence of tested solutions or “best practices” and ongoing partisan gridlock, demands a more agile and experimental “bottom-up” approach. Such an approach focuses on empowering coalitions of social innovators at the local level—including local governments, private-sector businesses, community-based organizations, philanthropists, and universities—to design and test solutions that work for their communities. Promising solutions can then be scaled horizontally (e.g., to other cities and counties) and vertically (e.g., to inform federal policy and action).
The LIU will be a place-based policy initiative consisting of two primary components: (1) multi-city and county experimentation cohorts organized around common problems, via which local coalitions design and test solutions within their communities, and (2) a digital platform, housed in the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), that will help LIU participants connect, exchange materials and resources, help participants collect and visualize data, evaluate solutions, and publish lessons learned.
About the Authors
Josh Sorin leads the Government Innovation Program at the Centre for Public Impact (CPI), a global nonprofit founded by the Boston Consulting Group. The Government Innovation team works to incubate new ideas about how innovation can be used to create more effective and legitimate governments, and then puts those ideas into action by collaborating with local governments and their partners to design, prototype, and implement solutions to their most pressing problems. Under Josh’s leadership, the Government Innovation team has worked with over 80 local governments across the country and has published multiple reports on public-sector innovation. Prior to joining CPI, Josh managed projects in KPMG’s Public Sector Advisory practice, where he supported state and local governments in transforming programs, policies, and processes to improve outcomes for underserved communities. He also served as a Fellow with the Civic Consulting Alliance, a nonprofit that leverages pro bono, private-sector resources to solve public-sector problems in the City of Chicago and Cook County. Josh currently lives in Washington, DC where he is a member of the DC Advisory Neighborhood Commission 2F’s Public Safety & Transportation committee. He holds a B.S. degree in Finance from the Kelley School of Business at Indiana University.
Lindsay Zimmerman is a Ph.D. Candidate at Northwestern University working at the intersection of research, public health, and informatics. Her research focuses on understanding the relationships between social determinants of health and cardiovascular health using novel machine-learning methods. She has also collaborated on various projects at Northwestern, the American College of Surgeons, Outcome Health, Socium Health, and the Parkland Center for Clinical Innovation to develop informatics strategies to improve health equity, including engaging patients to become partners in their healthcare, building informatics tools for more efficient research and data visualization, and designing new methods for understanding the relationships between social determinants and health outcomes. Prior to arriving at Northwestern, Lindsay served as the Director of Research for the Department of OB/GYN and Division of Family Planning at Cook County Health. Lindsay currently lives in Chicago where she is a member of Cook County Health Foundation Associate Board and The Night Ministry’s Associate Board. Lindsay holds an M.P.H. degree from the University of Illinois at Chicago and B.S. degree in Biological Sciences from DePaul University.