Mayor's Office of New Urban Mechanics (MONUM)

Mayor's Office of New Urban Mechanics (MONUM)
Case Study

“Creating a context in which risks can be taken to enable and sustain a culture of innovation.”

Nigel Jacob, Co-chair, MONUM

  • Methods
  • Partnersh- ips
  • Resources
Location in government

City government

Where it is based

Boston, USA

Mission statement

“The Mayor’s Office of New Urban Mechanics is Boston’s civic innovation group. We partner with entrepreneurs inside and outside of City Hall to explore better ways to serve and collaborate with people. We do this by running discrete experiments, understanding their impact, scaling what works and learning from what doesn’t.”

Annual spend

£0.5m (£0.3m from government and £0.2m from external sources)1

Size of team

5

Example of impact

MONUM’s Citizen Connect mobile app is used by residents to report problems such as graffiti to City Hall, with 2.5 million issues being reported. (or around 300 cases across Boston reported each week).2 The app has been replicated by other cities across the nation.

 

The Mayor’s Office of New Urban Mechanics (MONUM) aims to accelerate the pace of innovation in Boston City Government. The small team facilitates and strengthens connections between entrepreneurs and government, acting as the ‘front door’ for city innovators. Using a rapid prototyping methodology, they work with innovators to pilot quickly and cheaply, developing solutions for city challenges in a matter of weeks.

What it does

The Mayor’s Office of New Urban Mechanics has been described as the ‘Office of Research and Development’ for the City of Boston. Its team of five staff focuses exclusively on new experimental approaches to delivering services with and for residents. Its work is divided across four ‘labs’:

  • The Streetscape Lab focuses on making Boston’s streets greener, smarter, and more multi-modal.
  • The Transparency & Engagement Lab focuses on deepening trust and collaboration between city residents and city staff by increasing engagement and transparency.
  • The Education Lab explores new tools for parents, educators and students.
  • The New Economy Lab experiments with new ways to improve the business climate of Boston.

Since its creation, MONUM has run around 50 experiments across its four 'labs' and focuses on using technology as a means of engaging the public and improving residents’ experience.

One MONUM project is Street Bump an app that detects and maps rough patches of roadway. Street Bump is providing Boston City Hall with new intelligence on the state of the roads, with over 1,250 problems identified and fixed through a new partnership with utility companies. Early results show that Street Bump could lower the cost of road inspection.3

Interesting features
  • Resources: Rather than thinking about the resources just available within Boston’s government, such as budgets and human capital, MONUM look to the city at large and taps into the capabilities of entrepreneurs, researchers, non-profits, government officials, and others, to enable a very different set of resources and perspectives to be brought into their work.
  • Methods: The key successes behind the MONUM method are the dedicated staff, its position in the Mayor’s office, and its lean, partner-driven approach. The first allows the internal capacity to take on experimental projects; the second allows for those projects to have some degree of risk; the third allows that risk to be well managed.
  • Partnerships: MONUM’s position in the Mayor’s Office helps to ensure that it is aligned with both executive priorities and the needs and issues across city departments.

Footnotes

  1. Total budget over two years: $1,800,000 ($1,000,000 from government, and $800,000 from external sources), average taken for one year. MONUM’s budget is a mixture of foundation, city and other public funding. In addition to staff salaries, the office has drawn on foundation and public grants totalling over $800,000 over the last two years, which have gone to either the city or to partners. In addi-tion, the office has used just under $1 million in capital funding over that time period for work on specific projects. Budget confirmed via email with Chris Osgood, Co-chair, MONUM, 19 May 2014
  2. Nesta interview with Nigel Jacob & Chris Os-good, Co-chairs, Mayor’s Office of New Urban Mechanics, 9 October 2014
  3. Information provided in Nesta’s i-team Impact Survey, 12 May 2014

Photo Credit: ‘Adopt A Hydrant’ – residents claim responsibility for clearing hydrants out of snowstorm. 'Day Fifty Three’ by Jason Napolitano is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

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Friday, June 27, 2014 - 16:15