Adapting an intelligence-sharing tool to local government

Name: Brian Lowe

Title: Chief Innovation Officer

City: Burlington, Vt.

When Brian Lowe worked in Afghanistan as a civilian 10 years ago, he often collaborated with others in “fusion cells” meant to efficiently share intelligence across organizations. Now, he’s brought the idea back to Burlington for the fight against Covid-19.

It seemed like a good model when the city’s mayor asked for rapid updates on what interventions were showing promise across the U.S. and around the world, Lowe said. “We needed some kind of centralized effort for gathering information about what was happening and using that information to quickly inform necessary decisions.”

Lowe tapped a local epidemiologist, a research librarian, a police data analyst, and staff from the planning, innovation and technology, and economic development departments to form a new “Analytics Team.” They’ve been devouring the literature on municipal interventions and best practices, studying early responses from China, Singapore, and South Korea, and researching what city actions helped most during the 1918 pandemic.

Lowe credits the team’s work with supporting the mayor’s leadership to move quickly on shutting down in mid-March before there was a clear consensus about what cities should do.

Now, a subgroup of that team led by Principal Planner Meagan Tuttle is working on establishing a set of clear metrics that can guide choices about when and how to re-open the community and rebuild the local economy.

“I’ve been so impressed by my colleagues,” Lowe said. “These are great people willing to take on a new domain, risk being wrong, adapt as need be, and have good judgement about getting into the details of a problem or getting out of the way.”

Pro tip: “Local actions matter. You work with some great people — empower them to help your community.”

Celebrating public sector progress and innovation in cities around the world. Run by @BloombergDotOrg’s Government Innovation program.

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