Urban Innovation

How to Fail (Forward): Fostering Innovation in the Public Sector

August 7, 2020  • Urban Innovation

Local governments everywhere are showing resilience, speed, and innovative spirit in the face of an unprecedented crisis. They are taking risks, failing, and learning as they go. But this spirit of experimentation and learning from failure is all too rare in local government.  This expert panel of city leaders, technologists, and innovators discuss why it is usually so hard to learn from failure in government and what governments and their allies can do about it.

This panel coincides with the new release of How to Fail (Forward): A Framework for Fostering Innovation in the Public Sector, a report from the Centre for Public Impact and the Aspen Institute Center for Urban Innovation.

We are joined by:

  • Mayor Quinton Lucas, Kansas City, MO
  • Jessica Boccardo, Partner, Boston Consulting Group
  • Sarah Hunter, Director of Public Policy, X – The Moonshot Factory
  • Neil Kleiman, Director, Wagner Innovation Labs, NYU
  • Josh Sorin, Program Director, City Innovation, Centre for Public Impact
  • Tina Walha, Director of Innovation & Performance, Seattle, WA
  • Jennifer Bradley, Director, Aspen Institute Center for Urban Innovation


    Quinton Lucas, “Mayor Q,” was sworn in as the 55th mayor of Kansas City on August 1, 2019. Quinton created and chairs the City’s Special Committee on Housing Policy. Born and raised in Kansas City, Quinton has spent most of his life in the city’s urban core. As a child, he moved often and experienced homelessness, sometimes staying with family or friends, or residing in a motel. Despite these challenges, Quinton remained focused on his schoolwork, earning academic scholarships to high school, college and Cornell Law School before returning home to Kansas City. Since 2012, Quinton has been a member of the University of Kansas Law School faculty, where he served as one of the youngest tenure-track law professors in the country. He is active in the Kansas City community and volunteers extensively in area schools and organizations, including providing mentorship in local prisons. Mayor Quinton Lucas lives in the Historic 18th and Vine Jazz District, which he previously represented on the City Council.

    Jessica Boccardo is a core member of Boston Consulting Group’s Public Sector and People & Organization practices, and has supported strategic initiatives and large scale organization and agile transformations for a range of government, non-profit, and private sector clients in different geographies. Jessica focuses on clients in the public sector, and the education and health sectors, and works with them on issues related to strategy, change management, leadership development, agile and major transformation. Recently, Jessica led an agile transformation for a large health care federal agency covering process improvement and change management as well as HR strategy. She also led a strategic and organizational transformation of a global higher-education company and defined the strategy and action plan for disaster relief for a US local branch of government. Before joining the firm in 2013, Jessica worked at the World Bank and the Inter-American Development Bank on developing and implementing strategies for private sector development, growth, and export competitiveness.

    Sarah Hunter is the Director of Global Public Policy at X, the Moonshot Factory, part of Alphabet. X – formerly Google X – is a diverse group of inventors and entrepreneurs who build and launch technologies that aim to improve the lives of millions of people. X works across a wide range of technologies and sectors, from self driving cars to life sciences and drones. Sarah joined X in 2013 and lived in California for five years, running a team that translates between the engineers and scientists at X and the policy makers and regulators in Government. She now works globally, based in the UK, on policy and technology issues that affect X across the world. Prior to joining X, Sarah ran the UK Public Policy team for Google for four years, leading the company’s work around internet policy issues such as copyright and start-up innovation. From 2000-2005, Sarah worked in frontline British politics as a Senior Policy Adviser to Prime Minister Tony Blair on Culture, Media and Sport, working on the London2012 Olympic bid and the BBC’s Charter renewal. Prior to government Sarah held senior roles at both the BBC and C4, advising on broadcasting, media and technology policy. Sarah is a part time lecturer at Stanford Univerity and a Board member of doteveryone, the responsible technology think tank. In real life, Sarah loves making bread, running trails and hanging out with her three children, rabbits, cats and dogs at home in Bath.

    Neil Kleiman has a joint appointment at the Wagner School of Public Service and the Center for Urban Science + Progress. He is a Senior Fellow at The GovLab and an Affiliated Scholar at the Marron Institute of Urban Management. In 2017, he published a book with Stephen Goldsmith on urban governance reform entitled A New City O/S: The Power of Open, Collaborative and Distributed Governance on Brookings Institution press. Kleiman serves as the MS Program Director at CUSP and as Director of the NYU Wagner Innovation Labs. He is also Director of Policy and Evaluation for the National Resource Network. Kleiman holds a Ph.D. in Political Science from the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. In addition to teaching at NYU, he has also taught urban policy at Barnard College, John Jay College-CUNY, Tulane, Universidad de los Andes (Bogota) and has been a visiting fellow at Williams College. Kleiman is on the board of Next City and Civic Consulting USA.

    Josh Sorin leads CPI’s City Innovation work in North America, where the team incubates new ideas about how innovation can be used to create more effective and legitimate governments, and then puts those ideas into action by collaborating with cities and their partners to design, prototype, and implement solutions to their most pressing problems. Prior to joining CPI, Josh managed projects in KPMG’s Public Sector Advisory Practice, where he supported state and local governments in transforming programs, policies, and processes to improve outcomes for underserved communities. Josh also co-founded an education startup and a non-profit supporting the third-largest public health & hospital system in the U.S.

    Tina Walha serves as Director of Innovation & Performance, leading a talented and committed team of professionals that work closely with City departments to solve problems. Her past experience includes serving as a policy advisor to Mayor Mike Bloomberg in New York City and as a management consultant to government and nonprofit leaders at the city, county, state, Federal, and international levels to create actionable enterprise strategic plans and explore innovative financing mechanisms. She holds degrees in Economics and International Studies from UNC-Chapel Hill and a Master of Public Affairs degree from Princeton University.

    Jennifer Bradley is the founding director of the Center for Urban Innovation and the co-author, with Bruce Katz, of The Metropolitan Revolution (Brookings Press, 2013).  Prior to joining the Aspen Institute, Jennifer was a fellow at the Brookings Institution Metropolitan Policy Program, where she worked on the role of metropolitan areas in the nation’s economy and politics.  She has also spoken widely about urban issues, at the Aspen Ideas Festival, South by Southwest, the Code for America Summit, and Techonomy, and her essays have appeared in Newsweek, The New Republic, The Atlantic Monthly, and Next American City.  Jennifer has a J.D., magna cum laude, from Georgetown University Law Center, an MPhil from Oxford University, which she attended on a Rhodes Scholarship, and a B.A. from the University of Texas.