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California City Solutions: West Hollywood Launches First Comprehensive Innovations Program

January 20, 2017
This story is part of an ongoing series featuring Helen Putnam Award entries.
 
The 2016 entries are available on the League’s website as a resource for cities in a searchable database called California City Solutions. WeHoX Innovations Annual Report was submitted in 2016 for the League Partners Award for Excellence in City-Business Relations award category.

Cities with vibrant innovative industries benefit from economic opportunity, civic inclusion, and public engagement. The city of West Hollywood’s economy and its local businesses are essential to its health and ability to provide excellent services. As the Southern California economy evolves, the city’s core principles direct its operations to support sustainable, high-quality jobs and businesses. In 2014 the city launched WeHoX, the city’s first comprehensive civic innovations program, to explore the merging of technology and the innovation economy with civic purposes for government and business conversion.
 
While there were many technology networking and community events across the Los Angeles region, its promising civic technology movement was just developing. The surrounding cities of Santa Monica, Los Angeles and Long Beach had begun to make progress, however West Hollywood still had the opportunity to establish itself as the center of the innovation economy in the Los Angeles region. The city’s unique characteristics — size, density, walkability, population, demographics — make it an ideal laboratory to explore new civic technology innovations and public-private partnerships.
 
The West Hollywood City Council and staff recognized that planning for a strong innovation and technology component to the city’s economy was a smart long-term investment for the economic well-being of community. WeHoX is an initiative designed to engage diverse and talented members of the West Hollywood business community with city staff to improve the city’s capacity for innovation.
 
The city’s Innovation and Strategic Initiatives Division engaged New Economy Campaigns to assemble the city’s first-ever WeHoX Innovation and Technology Task Force: an external team of local businesses and tech leaders. The 31-member task force comprises private sector and nonprofit advisors to the city of West Hollywood and several city staff members.
 
The city held four innovation salons with the WeHoX Task Force, which included small group discussions, exercises, and brainstorming sessions. The success of the Innovation Salons have attracted other tech companies in the city to participate in the program and have offered their time to sit on innovation advisory boards and/or decision making process on technology, information, architecture, and urban design.
 
The first, held during Los Angeles County’s first ever Innovation Week in October 2014, launched the WeHoX program with the newly assembled team. Just a month later, the second salon brought a panel of industry leaders and community activists together around “Civic Engagement Strategies — Lessons Learned from Private and Public Sectors.”  The task force discussed voting, volunteering, and participating in the civic life of West Hollywood. 
 
The third salon, in December, focused on the theme of “Supporting the Innovation Economy,” an interactive salon discussing innovative strategies to attract, support, and retain innovative and technology businesses. Bringing together diverse industry leaders, this WeHoX salon kicked off with an exercise in business building in West Hollywood, identifying the unique challenges and advantages of the local economic landscape. Panelists provided a thought-provoking discussion on potential city innovations that could make West Hollywood more business and technology friendly. The fourth salon, centered on “Efficiency and Transparency in Local Government” in February 2015 and served as a participatory planning session on the future of civic and tech innovation initiatives in the city.
 
These salons allowed West Hollywood a means to engage the private sector economy to influence the direction of innovation and technology initiatives for years to come.
 
The Innovations Salons culminated in the inaugural City of West Hollywood Innovations Annual Report. The report proposes a broad range of programs and projects and sets goals for the city’s innovation initiatives. It is collaboration between city staff, local agencies, private sector technology and innovation businesses, consultants, and residents who want to enhance West Hollywood’s creative approach to delivering city services.
 
This report examines the city’s recent civic innovation programs and introduces new initiatives to enhance citizen satisfaction and engagement, increase government efficiency and transparency, and promote the city’s innovation economy. The solutions propose a series of innovative recommendations inspired by best practices from other cities, the private sector, and the WeHoX brain trust, including infrastructure upgrades and new technologies that will help to attract digital, media, and technology businesses to the city.
 
With more than 40 proposed initiatives and nearly 100 ideas in five key areas (Transportation, Pedestrian Safety, and Parking; Recreation, Health and Wellness; Civic Engagement and Public Participation; Partnerships, Efficiency and Transparency in Government; and Supporting the Innovation Economy), the recommendations offer a multi-year roadmap for civic innovation. The initiatives have been incorporated into departmental work plans in conjunction with the city’s two-year budget cycle.
 
The following recommendations, many already in implementation stage, are moving the city towards improving outcomes on these important goals:
  • Build a West Hollywood Fiber utility to attract and retain tech and media companies;
  • Create a “Launched in West Hollywood” initiative to celebrate our small businesses;
  • Develop a “Start up in A Day” online toolkit for new West Hollywood businesses;
  • Introduce a “Business Concierge” service at City Hall to assist with planning and development processes; and
  • Promote and celebrate West Hollywood’s innovation economy through events and awards. 
The innovation process is a continuous cycle of investigation, discovery, implementation, and adaptation. Therefore, as the emergence and adoption of new technologies and changes in citywide priorities occurs, the innovation plan can evolve to best support our local innovation economy.


 
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