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Mobile Innovation Team Named Semifinalist in Harvard's 2017 Innovations in American Government Awards Competition

January 18, 2017

Mobile, Ala. - The Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation at the John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University, recognized today the Mobile Innovation Team's Blight Index as part of the 100 programs named as Semifinalists in this year's Innovations in American Government Awards competition. The Mobile Innovation Team will compete to be named a Finalist in the competition and have the chance to be awarded the $100,000 grand prize in Cambridge this spring.

They advanced from a pool of more than 500 applications from all 50 states and were selected by the Innovations Award evaluators as examples of novel and effective action whose work has had significant impact, and who they believe can be replicated across the country and the world.

"I am very proud of what the Innovation Team has accomplished in such a short period of time," said Mayor Stimpson. "They have worked closely with other City Departments to identify the scope of our blight problem and near-term solutions. Because of their hard work and collaboration, we are well on our way to revitalizing neighborhoods every single Mobilian can be proud of."

Through funding from Bloomberg Philanthropies, the Mobile Innovation Team is the first in America to develop a comprehensive, digitally-mapped inventory of every blighted residential structure. To conduct the city-wide survey, the team utilized Instagram to geo-locate blighted properties while documenting the impact to residents of more than $83 million in lost market value. Capitalizing on the capabilities of Instagram, the City created a brand new mobile app that allows rapid cataloging and city-wide assessment. With new data on the exact scope of the problem, the City can ensure the right resources are being deployed at the right time to the right property.

"These programs demonstrate that there are no prerequisites for doing the good work of governing" said Stephen Goldsmith, director of the Innovations in American Government Program at the Ash Center, "small towns and massive cities, huge federal agencies and local school districts, large budgets or no budgets at all what makes government work best is the drive to do better, and this group proves that drive can be found anywhere."

The Semifinalist programs represent a cross-section of jurisdictions and policy areas, and embody one of the most diverse and sophisticated groups that have advanced to this stage in the competition's 30-year history. They were invited to complete a supplementary application last fall, answering in-depth questions about their work, the process of creating and sustaining their programs, and how they believe they can teach others to do what they do. The Ash Center expects to announce 10 programs that will be named Finalists and be invited to Cambridge to present to the Innovation Awards Program's National Selection Committee in March, with the grand prize winners to be named in June.

Please visit the Government Innovators Network at for the full list of Semifinalists, and for more information regarding the Innovations in American Government Awards.

About the Bloomberg Philanthropy Innovation Teams program:

The Bloomberg Philanthropy Innovation Teams program allow mayors to build and implement in-house innovation teams - or "i-teams" - which conduct deep qualitative and quantitative research to understand root causes of local challenges, design and implement responsive solutions, and relentlessly measure progress against clear goals to improve citizen life. The Innovation Team Program is one of several Government Innovation offerings at Bloomberg Philanthropies.