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Who We Are

After being selected for the City Accelerator, an initiative of Living Cities and the Citi Foundation to advance and promote innovation in cities, The City of Philadelphia set out to find more efficient and effective means of enrolling our most vulnerable residents in our utility and taxpayer assistance programs. We employed randomized control trials, developed partnerships and pilot programs with academics, and employed human-centered design, behavioral science, and a trauma-informed approach to customer service. Hundreds of individuals have been enrolled into these programs thanks to this effort.

To keep up the momentum and spread the benefits to an array of public policy challenges, we developed a strategy to educate others about the work, with the goal of embedding these practices into day-to-day operations, and empowering employees across government to explore innovative techniques to solve the problems they face. What started as a group of fewer than 10 people involved with the City Accelerator project, has turned into more than 100 people applying behavioral science, human-centered design, and trauma-informed service delivery methods to in an array of policy areas. 

The encouraging results from the City Accelerator, a project which started in the Nutter Administration and concluded during the beginning of the Kenney Administration, led to the creation of a broader citywide effort known as a the Philadelphia Behavioral Science Initiative in mid-2016 co-led by the Mayor’s Policy Office and local academics. 

In addition to piloting low-cost interventions, the Mayor’s Policy Office wants to further the use of evidence-based practices across city government, and provide more support for city agencies who do use data to drive decisions. By early 2017, the Mayor launched GovLabPHL, a a community of City employees and academic researchers dedicated to creating opportunities to learn and practice evidence-based methods. The initiative collaboratively explores ways in which government can best serve residents by supporting City agencies looking to address challenges through the practical use of data and research. GovLabPHL is a local, national and international leader in this space.