Where design thinking meets building permitting

Name: Jayson D’Alessandro

Title: Senior Designer, innovation team

City: Mobile, Ala.

In an effort to streamline construction in the city, Mobile, Ala., recently consolidated several departments — including Permitting, Inspections, and Planning & Zoning — into one: Build Mobile. But just changing the org chart doesn’t make government more innovative. That’s where Jayson D’Alessandro comes in. Using principles of human-centered design, he facilitated a series of innovation workshops to help Build Mobile’s staff work directly with residents and other stakeholders. The aim was for staff to understand problems from the perspective of those who use their services, and also identify solutions. “We wanted to break the staff out of their habit of just seeing their own side of the process,” D’Alessandro said.

The approach is showing results. One glitch they identified was that residents often would not answer the door when housing inspectors showed up to certify new construction. D’Alessandro rode along with inspectors to figure out why. It turns out, inspectors were driving in unmarked cars and not wearing an identifiable uniform. Often, residents were simply unaware an inspector was coming because no one called ahead. Now, with new uniforms and a call-ahead policy, inspectors rarely get left at the curb. “It’s just one of the short-term wins along the way that have been part of our strategy to get the department to see how well this is going,” D’Allesandro said.

“Innovation is not about the hustle. It’s about patience and grinding toward your end goal.”

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

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