The Office of Civic Innovation Blog

Read about Office of Civic Innovation updates, what we're excited about, and more on our Medium blog.

The Office of Civic Innovation in the News


February 05, 2020

SF Weekly

Maybe no one expects interacting with city government to be simple. But why shouldn’t it be?

October 28, 2019

Cities of Service

San Francisco, Plymouth, UK, and Flint, Mich. received Engaged Cities Award in recognition of groundbreaking co-creation projects with residents

March 01, 2018

San Francisco Internet Challenges Feds, Major ISPs

SF Weekly

With municipal broadband, the city launches a fight for net neutrality and robust privacy protections. 

February 22, 2018

San Francisco prioritizes net neutrality in latest citywide fiber report

State Scoop

Panel leading development of citywide high-speed internet makes new calls for citizen privacy.

February 09, 2018

Joe Rinzel of Americans for a Modern Economy argues that state and local governments should look to California as a model for a more diverse contracting talent pool.

January 30, 2018

SF takes a another step toward building a high-speed Internet network

San Francisco Chronicle

City officials begin selecting private sector partners to build the network.

December 22, 2017

The program has spread across the US and inspired ones in Canada and Holland too.

December 23, 2017

Recently, we had a chance to interview Jay Nath, Chief Innovation Officer of San Francisco, to talk about STIR and entrepreneurship in the U.S.  Jay described how STIR is mutually beneficial for startups and local government by providing startups with a low risk foray into the world of government technology and allowing government agencies to take advantage of new technologies quickly to accelerate better outcomes for residents.

November 14, 2017

The San Francisco-born program now includes Boulder, Colo., Houston and Washington, D.C, among others. A fresh set of challenges to lure startups to participate will go live Nov. 15.

October 25, 2017

San Francisco Just Took a Huge Step Towards Internet Utopia


San Francisco pledges to connect all of its homes and businesses to a fiber optic network.

Startup entrepreneurs and public servants from several cities in Northern California presented tech projects at the Startup in Residence Demo Day 2017 on Sept. 29, all of which were aimed at making government more efficient and better able to serve constituents.

August 09, 2017

In a national expansion slated for 2018, San Francisco's Startup in Residence program (STiR) is attempting to diversify its lineup of civic tech solutions while providing startups a national network for research and development insights.

March 09, 2017

Applications are now open for Startup in Residence 2017, a 16-week program that connects municipal governments in Northern California with startups that want to create new technologies that tackle housing, transportation, the environment, public safety and other community challenges. The application is available on Startup in Residence’s website, where it will remain open until Monday, April 10. This program began in 2014 with a similar effort in San Francisco. In 2016, it expanded to Oakland, San Leandro and West Sacramento, all of which are participating again this year. 

March 02, 2017

While many public libraries could benefit from business counsel from a team of experts, professional consulting services are not always in the budget, even for larger systems. But recently San Francisco Public Library (SFPL) had the opportunity to do just that, after it was selected to receive pro bono consultation from a team of Harvard Business School alumni. 

November 17, 2016

In 2008, the city of San Jose, Calif., started tinkering with the idea of partnering with clean tech companies to get their ideas off the ground. In 2014, San Francisco launched its Startup in Residence program where tech firms got the chance to work on civic issues from inside the municipal government. The idea was to spread — and it has, to three other cities in Northern California.

September 27, 2016

Both cities realized they could tap into their startup communities to help make government services run better. And both cities provide lessons in the benefits—and pitfalls—of doing so.

September 27, 2016

It’s tough for startups – with shorter capital runways and track records – to work with the long sales cycles, aging systems and bureaucratic requirements of cities. And governments often find themselves frustrated, working with legacy systems that need the support of new technology to keep up with the increases in urbanization and use of services. But these startups have amazing solutions for cities, and in San Francisco, the Mayor’s Office of Civic Innovation implemented their new Startup in Residence (STIR) Program.

September 24, 2016

Mayor Edwin M. Lee along with the mayors from Oakland, San Leandro, and West Sacramento announced the results of the 2016 Startup in Residence program, according to a press release from the mayor’s office. The STIR program is a 16-week program with the goal of addressing regional civic challenges, and the announcement highlighted new technology products that were developed from the program.

September 19, 2016

Tech entrepreneurs partnering with San Francisco, Oakland, San Leandro and West Sacramento reveal how they are reinventing city services in California and beyond.

September 19, 2016

As advancements in technology revolutionize customer experiences in every aspect of our residents’ lives, local governments are under evolutionary pressure to adapt or risk losing the support and trust of the communities they serve. However, by design, governmental entities are organized to be risk-averse and slow to change – exactly the opposite of the nimble qualities that drive the rapid technological advancements shaping the world around us. How can local governments bridge this gap?

August 01, 2016

Investor interest is helping to point a lot of startup energy at government. Does this mean there's a place for innovation at city hall?

July 15, 2016

San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee and GSA Administrator Denise Turner Roth opened the lab intended to create solutions for cities by harnessing academic, private-sector and government partnerships.

June 24, 2016

The city partners with the White House to recognize initiatives from grassroots manufacturers in the makers movement.

May 12, 2016

The new innovation lab, dubbed Superpublic, will bring together different levels of government, private technology firms, nonprofits and universities.

May 11, 2016

The San Francisco-based Superpublic will bring together different levels of government, private technology firms, nonprofits and universities.

May 10, 2016

San Francisco's new lab brings partners from academia, state and federal government, and the private sector to tackle such challenges as performance-based procurement and transportation.

May 09, 2016

Nimble, creative, collaborative, tech-savvy: Few people use those adjectives to describe government. But a new “innovation lab” called Superpublic coming to San Francisco next month aims to upend the stereotypes of stodgy bureaucracy with a workspace where policymakers, academics, entrepreneurs, industry experts, nonprofit leaders and others can jointly tackle urban problems and devise futuristic solutions.

April 19, 2016

The California cities of San Francisco, Oakland, West Sacramento and San Leandro partner to embed startup solutions in city departments.

March 15, 2016

San Francisco’s longstanding effort to provide Internet access to all residents and businesses was once again pushed to the forefront of political discourse with the release Tuesday of a new report analyzing different business and financial models. City officials will use the report’s findings as a springboard to reignite the debate on either creating a publicly-run Internet service or partnering with the private sector. 

February 26, 2016

San Francisco needs a mobile app to monitor coyote sightings, a way to text public health information to residents and an online lottery for reserving sports fields. Oakland needs an app for Head Start outreach, a solution to streamline landlord-tenant disputes, and software to guide residents in bringing their homes up to code. The two cities, along with West Sacramento and San Leandro, are now seeking technology entrepreneurs to tackle these and other challenges during a 16-week Startup in Residence (Stir) program that will launch in April.

February 16, 2016

The core mission of San Francisco’s Startup in Residence program (STIR) is “To bring together government and startups to explore ways to use technology to make government more accountable, efficient and responsive.” It’s the usual excruciatingly boring description of a government program that we have all come to expect. The reality, however, is much different, and in fact, this program has become ground zero for how smart cities and smart startups are going to be coming together in the future. 

February 03, 2016

Last week, we announced the launch of the second Startup in Residence (STIR)program for entrepreneurs to work with San Francisco, Oakland, San Leandro and West Sacramento to develop technology-based solutions that address challenges facing local government. We need entrepreneurs and technologists to help build a 21st century government — one that’s efficient, effective and responsive.

January 29, 2016

Mayor Ed Lee's office announced a spate of tech initiatives to bolster the city's public Wi-Fi offering, reignite a startup program and share traffic data.

January 28, 2016

A regional Startup in Residence program with West Sacramento, Oakland and San Leandro expands on San Francisco's 2014 effort and builds toward an international program.

December 28, 2015

Walking down Market Street, you may have seen a few of the city's new Living Innovation Zones (LIZ), which are intended to transform San Francisco's streets into live forums for the expression of art, technology and science. The interactive artworks, many of which double as seating, have popped up all along Market Street, from the kinetic blocks outside The Hall to the Exploratorium-created "whispering dishes" at Yerba Buena Lane to the mobile "Studio 1" art studio that popped up at 10th and Market this summer. 

October 06, 2015

Getting rid of accidental emergency calls could save San Francisco more than $2 million yearly, says an official.

September 30, 2015

San Francisco’s Market Street will be lit up Wednesday evening with new art installations aimed at sparking imagination and public interaction in the Central Market neighborhood.

June 10, 2015

Americans often consider local city governments to be lethargic and generally averse to change. In recent years, however, several cities, including Boston, Philadelphia and San Francisco, have established groundbreaking new offices, focused specifically on innovation and risk-taking, that are dispelling this long-held stereotype.

November 05, 2013

The city is partnering with private techie groups to fund these science-themed transformations of public space.

October 29, 2013

It ain’t “The Conversation,” and apparently it’s not a bad way to get a date, either. We’re talking about a new sample of interactive science exhibits from the folks at the Exploratorium that took root along a busy section of Market Street over the weekend and opened Tuesday, with most expected to stay for two years.

October 29, 2013

San Francisco announced Tuesday that it will be rolling out science and technology innovations along Market Street that the public will be able to interact with. The initial Living Innovation Zone -- a first-in-the-nation initiative, according to Mayor Ed Lee -- is a partnership between the Exploratorium and Yerba Buena Community Benefit District and will focus on Market Street from Octavia Boulevard to The Embarcadero. 

October 08, 2013

On October 29th, the Exploratorium, a San Francisco science museum known for its creative exhibits, will debut a new project out on the street. The exhibit, which will contain two "whispering dishes" where passersby can sit down and whisper to each other across a fairly large space, won't actually be near the Exploratorium at all. It'll be on Market Street, a busy thoroughfare in the heart of the city.

October 02, 2013

Last month, San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee announced an entrepreneurship-in-residence program for startups solving public sector problems. Now there’s an actual application deadline and that deadline (this Sunday, October 6) is coming up.

October 02, 2013

The trend towards injecting fresh perspectives into the business of government via innovation fellowships, civic startup incubators and accelerators continues to grow with San Francisco’s recent announcement of a city entrepreneurship-in-residence program.

September 26, 2013

OpenGov launched a site on Thursday designed to “decode” the often byzantine and confusing laws, rules and regulations of San FranciscoSan Francisco Decoded will try to provide a digital tool for people to employ city laws and codes in their own digital formats.

September 16, 2013

Every year, around 13 million tons of clothes, shoes, sheets, and other textiles end up in U.S. landfills. Your old t-shirt isn't just taking up space at the dump, it's also releasing methane—a greenhouse gas 25 times as potent as carbon dioxide. In San Francisco, where the city is on a mission to achieve zero waste by 2020, textile waste is still a problem. But the City of San Francisco hopes that citizens can help solve it—while creating new local jobs at the same time. 

September 06, 2013

San Francisco’s public sector is interested in becoming much more efficient, productive, and helpful to its constituents. City officials announced today the creation of an Entrepreneur-in-Residence program to support those entrepreneurs and startups who feel their technology can actually do some good for the public and help the city overcome its bottleneck of inefficiency.

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