PHILADELPHIA—The City of Philadelphia announced its most recent slate of Innovation Fund grantees, six projects from across government meant to impact and improve services and seed innovation across Philadelphia. The Innovation Management group within the Office of Innovation and Technology manages this initiative and the Mayor’s Fund for Philadelphia supports it. This year, the Fund received its first private donation from Verizon, and had a total of $70,000 to award to applicants.

Despite challenges that surfaced during the COVID-19 pandemic, the City remains dedicated to increasing government efficiency, empowering residents, and exploring creativity. Departments are recognizing that innovation is now more important than ever. Budgets, priorities, and goals have all been impacted—many employees are embracing this opportunity to reimagine their work.

“Awarding Innovation Fund grants this year feels especially impactful, not just because we know how much this opportunity means to the departments receiving funding, but because it’s really uplifting to see that so many employees are still deeply invested in and excited about their work,” said Eliza Pollack, Director of Innovation. “Government has been pulled in a lot of directions over the course of the pandemic but the people who applied for Innovation Fund grants never stopped believing in the power of the public sector, and that’s an important story to tell right now.”

“The team here at Verizon is thrilled to support the deeply meaningful work of the Office of Innovation and Technology as we all look to solve important issues across the city,” said Eric Fitzgerald Reed, Director of Public Policy and Community Engagement at Verizon. “The Innovation Fund takes a creative approach to identify addressable issues and funding solutions that will promote better outcomes. It also serves as the original inspiration for the Philadelphia Fund for Leadership, Innovation, and Entrepreneurship (Philadelphia FLIE) which we announced earlier this year to help support innovation and opportunity in the city.”

“The Mayor’s Fund is dedicated to supporting innovative ideas and practice to better government services,” said Richard Levins, the Mayor’s Fund Board Chair and Vice President and Deputy General Counsel for Independence Blue Cross. “Innovative thinking will continue to aid the city’s recovery from the pandemic and help Philadelphia progress toward a stronger future.”

The Innovation Fund selected the below projects presented by the relevant City departments:

Philadelphia Parks & Recreation (PPR): “Urban Wood Design Competition” ($10,000) 
PPR and Rebuild will host a design competition for prototyping and piloting furniture and furnishings made from salvaged park wood. Participants will work with local youth organizations to collaborate on the design and fabrication process and will display prototypes at a Rebuild site.

Philadelphia Department of Prisons (PDP): “Orchard Produce & Meal Delivery Kits” ($10,000) 
PDP will pilot a food distribution program in which the food grown in their orchard is distributed through produce boxes and prepared meals to formerly incarcerated individuals participating in reentry programs. The goal of this pilot is to remove some of the initial hurdles to healthy food access faced by those who have been recently released from PDP and provide education on incorporating fresh produce into the diet.

Philadelphia Department of Commerce—Office of Workforce Development (OWD): “The Achievers Initiative” ($10,000) 
OWD will pilot The Achievers Initiative, an educational strategy designed to financially incentivize and support Philadelphia job seekers, primarily those that lost their jobs due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Initiative is a free educational program that prepares individuals to take the HiSet® exam to attain their high school equivalency credential, and will provide a financial award after credential attainment.

Philadelphia Fire Department (PFD): “Fire Academy Remote Training” ($10,000) 
PFD will purchase webcams, microphones, video equipment, and computer equipment to fully equip the Fire Academy with the ability to support remote training and continuous education, enabling participants to safely resume training initiatives during the pandemic.

Mayor’s Office of Civic Engagement & Volunteer Service (MOCEVS): “Community Engagement Toolkit” ($9,450) 
MOCEVS and the Chief Administration Office’s Service Design Studio (SDS) are creating an open-source Equitable Community Engagement Toolkit. The toolkit will include shared resources that provide best practices, strategies, tools and training to support practitioners in their engagement with historically under-invested communities.

Philadelphia Parks and Recreation (PPR): “Rec Radio” ($8,400) 
Rec Radio will provide a free-to-listen radio station for PPR sites, staff, and the wider community.  The family-friendly radio station will be available for recreation centers and communities across Philadelphia to enjoy at home or in the office and will offer scheduled shows of music and content to enrich recreation center enjoyment and efficiency.