Fostering Innovation In Government

How might government leaders use design thinking to drive innovation on pressing civic issues?


The Challenge
Nashville’s government innovation program, Ideas to Reality (I2R), was designed to provide a space for government leaders to work on key challenges facing the city. The program’s third year, though, was launching just as a new mayor would take office. I2R organizers knew that if they were going to leverage the momentum of the new administration, the program had to examine ways to create and sustain systems and ideas that could increase Metro government’s impact.


The Approach
We used design thinking to frame I2R, which would not only help government employees think beyond the usual lines of authority, but could integrate creativity and community voice into the work. Teams needed time to process, share ideas and discuss – but we also needed to push teams forward, challenge their thinking and drive their ideas into new, potentially uncomfortable spacesRead the full case study.


The Details
Over the course of three months, we led four interdepartmental teams through eight full-day sessions. Our work included:

  • Developing 6 weeks of curriculum that combined design thinking methodologies with civic change initiatives
  • Facilitating hands-on workshops
  • Measuring outcomes based on participants’ professional capacity building


The Impact

Nashville leaders not only learned new techniques for addressing citywide issues, they worked across departments to improve processes around Neighborhood and Community Engagement, Budget, Transportation and Infrastructure, and Economic Empowerment.


Metropolitan Government of Nashville and Davidson County
Living Cities
Nashville Entrepreneur Center
Lipscomb University



Organizational Change



Curriculum Development
Capacity Building
Divergent Idea Generation
Network Building
Program Facilitation
Team Building



2015 – 2016

We are not going back to the way it used to be. We have been able to engage the public, we have changed hearts and minds, and people are going ‘Wow, I can’t believe that’…We are starting to shift government and citizens’ expectations.


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