About the center

Director's welcome

Welcome to ASU's Center for Urban Innovation

Today’s governance environment in the United States and in many state legislatures is one that has created the opportunity for innovative and entrepreneurial local government officials to experiment with new ideas for meeting their public service obligations in novel ways. In this environment, the Center for Urban Innovation works with such thought leaders and jurisdictions across the country to identify or help develop new and emerging practices. The Center brings an extensive array of expertise to urban issues from faculty across the Watts College of Public Service and Community SolutionsArizona State University, as well as scholars at other academic institutions to examine these practices in order to understand the factors that make a practice successful in on jurisdiction and not successful in another in order to help leaders better understand options that fit their situations. We work with local government practitioners through our partnership with the Alliance for Innovation and the International City/County Management Association to test new practices and disseminate them to other jurisdictions based on empirical, evidence-based evaluation and research.

The commitment to advance innovation encompasses a wide range of topics related to governance.  Leadership, democracy and the reform of governance through new structures and processes are central concerns.  A unifying theme is examining ways that governments, nonprofits, businesses, and citizens from the neighborhood to the regional level come together to establish goals, mobilize resources to meet them, and carry out public policies and deliver services effectively and efficiently. 

  • Conduct basic and applied research on innovation in local governance, public policy, and management and creatively disseminate results to academic and practitioner audiences
  • Identify innovative practices and ideas in the United States and other countries and encourage their diffusion to other local governments
  • Promote active intellectual exchange and networking through linkages with scholars in the United States and abroad
  • Host national and international visitors interested in learning about innovation in local government
  • Develop seminars, workshops, and policy forums for public officials, citizen leaders, and scholars that address issues of innovative urban governance, policy and management
  • Initiate and manage activities associated with ASU’s partnership with the International City & County Management Association in the Alliance for Innovation.

The center will examine questions such as these: What are the major forces—technological, demographic, social and economic—that drive change in local government, and how do public organizations deal with and proactively anticipate change? How can public organizations do their work differently to achieve more positive results and make better use of resources, and how can good ideas in one city, county, or region be spread to others? What is the process of change within public organizations, and what are the characteristics of those organizations that sustain high levels of innovation? What are the personal aspects of creativity, problem solving and receptiveness to change? Finally, what are the ethical considerations associated with innovation—how is change an ethical responsibility and how do ethics guide the way that innovation is carried out?

If you are excited by the work we are doing and share our vision of local governments as a primary source of innovative policy, I would like to invite you to participate in the pursuit of these ambitious research goals of the Center. Also, I welcome your suggestions for projects that might enhance the research agenda of the Center and improve its outreach to the community.

Dr. David Swindell