You’ve always been goal oriented in your career; it’s brought you to where you are now. What’s next? How can things be different?
The City of Gainesville, Florida, is suggesting a whole new way of working for planners and all of city government. The city is reimagining a new structure, process, language, and roles for city employees.
It all began in 2015 when the mayor and city commission asked “The Gainesville Question”: “How can the City of Gainesville, Florida, become more competitive?” The city formed a Blue-Ribbon task force on economic competitiveness to answer the question.
Using design thinking — a process that identifies potential solutions based upon user experiences and experimentation — and through a coalition of many organizations from builders to neighborhoods, they examined different ways of looking at competiveness that went all the way to the individual level. Born from this is a new vision for the city, a “citizen-centered Gainesville,” with the idea that to be attractive to innovation, you need a government to match.
Implementation of the overhaul began in December 2015. From the newly created initiative of Citizen Centered Gainesville Director Carrie Bush is rolling out the communications to current city employees. “It’s a cultural shift," said Bush. "How we do what we do and getting the right mindset is a key piece to the transformation process.”
Not only is there a change in the naming of the departments to reflect the customer focused activities of each area, but forms will be simplified and purged of jargon.
Through very intense community-driven research, a Department of Doing has been outlined to focus on planning, permitting, and business development, stretching the idea of a development services center. A lot of time was spent thinking about whether to have the initiative embedded in departments, stand alone as its own department, or operate as a consultancy to departments. No more specialization of function and fixed rules, this is about a modular structure with citizens at the center.
Gainesville is evaluating the role of Department of Doing Director.
The ideal person will have a good grounding in technical skills, a creative side and above all share the vision of a citizen-centered city; moving from policy oriented to services oriented. The mission is to serve as a navigator; ease the permitting, zoning and compliance approvals to make the process of starting or growing a business in the city painless.
At the end of the day, every citizen and staff member is part of Citizen Centered Gainesville. As City Manager Anthony Lyons confidently stated, “People are thirsty for local government innovation and what we’re putting out there makes sense. It’s appropriate, mission driven for the people that we serve and allows citizens to co-design their government and work with each other not only on the policy side but on implementation side. It makes sense in the private sector with the best companies; our bet is that this is the future of government.
About the Author
Bobbie Albrecht is APA's career services manager.
Top image: Detail from the Blue Ribbon report. Courtesy City of Gainesville, Florida.