Plugging into community know-how in America’s innovation capital

Name: Shireen Santosham

Title: Chief Innovation Officer

City: San José, Calif.

Serving as Chief Innovation Officer in a city that calls itself the “Capital of Silicon Valley” comes with a little added pressure. Shireen Santosham is up to the task. “My job is to help San José be as innovative as the community that we are serving,” she said. One way she helps meet the city’s and residents’ needs is by tapping the surrounding tech community for ideas. For example, through a recent “Unleash Your Geek” competition, the city asked residents for new ideas for removing graffiti; a husband-and-wife team won with their drone solution, which allowed for paint jobs in high-up places. Another big focus for Santosham is around autonomous vehicles. She organized a pair of roundtables for Mayor Sam Liccardo to meet with car companies and make the public’s interest in AV experiments, such as reducing traffic-related injuries and deaths and making sure low-income and vulnerable residents are served, clear. The city is now starting a pilot with Mercedes aligned with those goals. San José also received a grant from the Knight Foundation to work with the residents in prototyping different ways autonomous vehicles might benefit them. “We don’t want the prototyping we do with the community to just be a box check,” she said. “We want them to really participate and engage in the process to help envision the streets of the future.”

“Get out there, communicate, and tell your story, because the more you communicate the easier it will be to build support for the work that you are doing.”

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

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