Keeping residents connected during the pandemic

Name: Anne-Marie Croce

Title: Chief Innovator, Customer Experience Transformation and Innovation

City: Toronto

Anne-Marie Croce’s first job in public service came at the age of 16, when she worked as a ski instructor in the city of Toronto’s recreation programs. Many jobs later, she’s now working on bringing principles of human-centered design into City Hall.

Since COVID-19 hit, that’s meant a lot of work around helping residents avoid eviction. Unlike many U.S. cities, Toronto doesn’t have any jurisdiction over eviction — that’s handled by Ontario’s provincial government. So Croce pointed her team toward an area where they could still make an impact: Making information and resources for tenants as easy as possible to find. “We can’t stop an eviction,” she said, “but what we can do is give people the tools to self-advocate and self-educate. There’s no jurisdiction around sharing information.”

To start, Croce’s team built a tenant portal that brings together information on rental housing and how to fight an eviction that previously had been scattered across many different agencies. Now, they’re working on another way of getting the word out: SMS messaging. The idea, currently undergoing user testing, is that renters will be able to send the city a text message and get most of their housing-related questions answered. “We know that most Torontonians have access to a smartphone and are comfortable with sending and receiving messages,” Croce said. “We’re testing it out to see if people want this kind of content on their phones.”

Pro Tip: “Don’t be afraid to go big. As long as you back up what you’re doing with data, and you’re co-creating with residents, you’ll have support for bold decisions.”

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

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