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A conversation with Joel Carnes: Bringing Disney innovation to local government

Today, Joel Carnes is the CEO and President of the Alliance for Innovation, but not long ago he was a Disney imagineer, a role that offered him a perspective of changing culture and innovation he is excited to bring to local government.

Carnes said down with Municipal World CEO Susan Gardner at the 2019 Transforming Local Government Conference, in Reno, Nevada, to discuss local government transformation and the work of the alliance to support that process.

The Alliance for Innovation is a 40-year-old organization driving innovation in local government. Carnes explains the organization has created a platform for its members to collaboratively drive innovation with and for each other.

“We identify the very best things going on in local government and then we shine a light on that and bring it to the rest of our members,” he said. “We build specific connections from member to member so they can learn from each other and grow together and level up together.”

Now in his role at the Alliance for almost nine months, Carnes previously worked at Disney Imagineering, which he describes as “Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory for people who like to build stuff.”

In his role as a senior strategist in the R&D section of Imagineering, he worked to break down the barriers between the physical and digital worlds. At the Alliance, he is working help local government organizations to empower the people on the front lines, working with constituents, to make the decisions that they need to do in order to make their organizations work in the most efficient way.

There are tens of thousands of local government organizations across North America and Carnes said the Alliance’s aspiration isn’t to work with all of them. Instead, the plan is to create a place that attracts a certain type of person, the do-it-yourselfers, who are open and are looking to do things with other people in an authentic way.

“There is a real opportunity for us at the beginning of the 21st century to do things differently; to challenge assumptions,” Carnes said. “In gaming, we talk about levelling up. Taking wherever you’re at and do better. Anyone who wants to level up their community is welcome at TLG. We’re looking to find all those like-minded folks . . . people who want to be part of this movement are welcome.”  MW


✯ Municipal World Insider and Executive Members: You might also be interested in the article: Wrestling with wicked problems: Five strategies for adapting in a changing world. Note that you can now access the complete collection of past articles (and more) from your membership dashboard.

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