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Jeff Fielding: Finding best practices while embracing innovative culture

With a 20-plus-year career working in local government, including his current role as City of Toronto Chief of Staff, Jeff Fielding has gained numerous insights into what innovation means in a municipal context.

Fielding shared some of those insights with delegates at the 2019 Municipal Innovators Community Conference, as well as in a one-on-one interview with Municipal World CEO Susan Gardner. In their conversation, the two talked about using best practices to address local government challenges and why it is essential to create an innovative culture within municipal systems.

Identifying Best Practices

One key piece of advice Fielding has for municipal employees, he explains in the video, is to be hyper-focused on finding not just common practices, but rather the best ones currently being circulated in the local government sector.

When it comes to identifying best practices, Fielding said it all comes down to breakthrough. In the private sector, people are always looking for the breakthrough technology or product. In terms of municipal government, or government in general, he explained, the vision needs to be about things that will advance the organization more quickly.

Essential Need for Public Engagement

Achieving this kind of innovative change requires the engagement of the general public, Fielding said.

“People aren’t shy anymore; they are prepared to tell you what’s on their mind and what they want and how they want it,” he said. “So, working through that engagement process so you get meaningful results from involving people; I think that’s critical.”

Creating Innovative Municipal Cultures

That said, Fielding emphasized it is also essential engage the people within the municipal organization in order to create an innovative culture.

The municipal sector, he added, has always been blamed for being risk adverse. After all, when mistakes are made by public servants, they quite often end up on the front page of a newspaper. And so, he said, there is a reluctance to try something different.

Unfortunately, that is the antithesis of an innovative culture.

“When you are using public money and something isn’t successful, therein lies the rub,” Fielding said. “We have to be ale to figure our way through that process so that we can challenge ourselves to do things differently, potentially not succeed, learn from that, and advance.”  MW

✯ Municipal World Insider and Executive Members: You might also be interested in Ashleigh Weeden’s article: Innovation is a four-letter word. Note that you can now access the complete collection of past articles (and more) from your membership dashboard.

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