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Communities / COVID-19 / Funding / Innovation / Municipal government

City of Philadelphia awarded 6 innovation grants to help projects pivot during the pandemic

The City sought projects that focused on equitably delivering services that were altered by the pandemic to Philly residents. Funding went to efforts like multilingual voter guide UX and a customer support chat function.

Dilworth Park. (Photo by E. Frizzelle for Visit Philadelphia)

This editorial article is a part of Civic Tech Month of's editorial calendar.

Six government projects were awarded seed funding up to $7,500 by the Innovation Fund, a grant opportunity fast tracked by the City of Philadelphia’s Office of Innovation Management and the Mayor’s Fund for Philadelphia, which is backed by public and private donors.

Because of the pandemic, many City departments and agencies have had to adapt or create new projects to address problems created by the health crisis. Measures like social distancing, budget cuts and staffing changes have forced many departments to innovate and figure out how to deliver their services in a different way.

An internal callout went out to all departments, Eliza Pollack, director of innovation at the Office of Innovation and Technology, told Then, six projects were chosen by the Innovation Advisory Group, a multi-department team of City employees who are experienced in seed investment within government. The chosen projects are funded from the Mayor’s Fund for Philadelphia, and each received between $6,455 and $7,500.

“Awarding Innovation Fund grants is always exciting, but this year, it felt especially impactful and important to be able to help departments pivot in the COVID era,” Pollack said in a statement.

Here’s a look at the six departments and projects chosen to receive grants include, with info provided by the City:

  • The Department of Licenses and Inspections‘ online customer support integration, which allows additional functionality to its eCLIPSE system — This is a chat function that allows the ability to see a customer’s screen for troubleshooting.
  • The Department of Prisons‘ outdoor refrigeration unit for the Philadelphia Orchard Project — This project installed a self-contained refrigerated unit for safe storage of harvested produce from the department’s orchard until they can be delivered to communities again after the pandemic.
  • The Office of Immigrant Affairs‘ multilingual voter guides for November’s general election — This includes a partnership with local immigrant orgs on user experience design.
  • The Office of Domestic Violence Strategies‘ marketing and floor decals for its domestic violence hotline — This includes work with Mural Arts to create floor decals promoting the Philadelphia Domestic Violence Hotline in grocery stores and bodegas.
  • The Department of Behavioral Health & Intellectual Disability Services‘ youth resource bags — These provide trauma-exposed youth and families with bags full of arts-based coping strategies.
  • The Office of Emergency Management‘s pop-up “spraygrounds” and cooling stations — These mobile spraygrounds and water bottle refill stations are stationed throughout the city to provide relief from high temperatures while pools are closed this summer.

The grants were prioritized to projects that piloted a new approach for a department facing COVID-19 restraints, pushed the City to be the first to solve a problem related to the pandemic in a new way, leveraged partnerships and stakeholder collaboration, and focused on delivering services in an effective, equitable and efficient way to all residents.

“We were overwhelmed by, and proud of, all the submissions we received,” Pollack said. “It’s a heartening reminder of the dedication and investment of public servants and how much they really want to respond to the needs of residents.”

Companies: City of Philadelphia
Series: Civic Tech Month 2020

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