Scaling up innovation in Israel

Name: Sarah Auslander

Title: Design Expert

Organization: Hazira

In her four years with Tel Aviv’s innovation team, Sarah Auslander has been the chief instigator for a human-centered design approach to City Hall problem solving. Whether the team is working on finding ways to help families save money or reducing feelings of loneliness among the elderly, Auslander makes sure residents are at the center of the process. That means engaging them in the research, tapping their ideas for new solutions, and testing prototypes of those ideas with them to get feedback on what does and doesn’t work. Now, she’ll be spreading these methods to cities across Israel as part of a new national organization called Hazira — it’s launching today.

Along with several veterans of the Tel Aviv i-team, Auslander will mentor and coach staff in a dozen cities in how to use innovation tools to solve tough challenges. “The biggest opportunity is creating in-house innovation capacity in these cities,” Auslander said. “People in the cities will work with us part-time on key challenges, and then go back to their everyday jobs. So they’ll be bringing everything they learn back with them to their departments and spreading the knowledge.”

What’s particularly exciting is that Hazira — launched as a partnership between Bloomberg Philanthropies, the Israeli Ministry of the Interior, and the Peres Center for Peace and Innovation — will be working with cities that are a good bit smaller than Tel Aviv and the two other Israeli cities that already have i-teams, Jerusalem and Be’er Sheva. “There’s a good opportunity here,” Auslander said, “to deliver innovation to governments that don’t usually have the capacity or funds to do this kind of work.”

“As professionals in design or data or other disciplines, we have our own skills and tools and language, but we have to be inclusive about how we use them. Remember that residents and the municipal workers who serve them are the real experts.”

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

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