Innovation Academy

Enrollment for the Alliance's fourth class of the Innovation Academy, the class of 2017, is now open for enrollment! Email Toni Shope at to register before all the spaces are filled!

Spring 2017 Class Information

Over the past nine years, the Alliance for Innovation and Arizona State University have collaborated to promote innovation in local government.  In 2013 we created and piloted a unique curriculum with six teams of participants from local governments across North America.  We have since graduated 36 organizations from the Innovation Academy. This tested framework provides support for developing an innovative project in your community and encourages participants to recommend ways to strengthen the culture of innovation in your organization.

Learning Objectives:

Understand the innovation process and how to integrate it into your organization.

  1. Build cross functional teams which have the capacity to address organizational and community issues.
  2. Expand organizational capacity for ongoing innovation.
  3. Learn more about your organizational culture and how to cultivate leadership.
  4. Undertake a new project which will make a contribution to the organization and/or address a community issue along with action plan development for increasing internal capacity to build an innovative culture.
  5. Build a network of Innovation Academy Alumni for networking and sharing of lessons learned.  

Course Overview: The Innovation Academy is conducted virtually with the exception of the “Innovation Advance” session (see below).  The virtual sessions are interactive, consisting of team discussions and guest faculty sharing practical examples. Teams will be provided a toolkit, homework assignments, suggested readings, and stimulating tools and exercises for team development.  Also two surveys are conducted during the course of the academy: Organization Innovation Assessment, and an Individual Assessment Survey.  Teams will be provided a summary and analysis of the survey results.  While participating in the curriculum, teams will undertake a new project that is meaningful to the team and have lasting impact on the organization.  Teams will also develop an action plan to present to their leadership of qualities needed and specific measures to expand the innovation capacity of their government.

About the Innovation Advance:  It starts at the top.  Organizations which cultivate and demonstrate an Innovation Leadership Culture are most effective in implementing and sustaining innovative solutions over time.  The Innovation Advance is a customized onsite 3-hour workshop for up to 20 leaders of Academy participant governments to support and encourage their organizations’ capacity for innovation.    The Innovation Advance is led by Innovation Academy Faculty.

Limited Capacity: The Innovation Academy is limited to twelve (12) organizations to allow the Alliance to provide more hands on advice to each of the organizations in both their team and project development.  Teams generally are approximately 8 -12 members in size.

  • Cost: $6000 Alliance for Innovation Member/$7500 Non Member.  This price includes the cost of the onsite Innovation Advance (travel costs for Academy Faculty, will be additional).  Team members’ registration and travel to the Transforming Local Government Conference are also an optional additional cost at the participants’ discretion. Academy participants will receive the discounted presenter rate for the conference.

Time Commitment:  This is a nine-month program with eight virtual sessions, team assignments, a team project and action planning.  Participants can expect to commit an average of 1-2 hours per week.

Course Outline and Dates: Below is the course outline dates (TBD).  Teams are expected to meet between virtual sessions.  All times are 3-4pm ET unless otherwise noted.

  • August 3rd: Team Leader Meeting
  • Early Fall through February:  Innovation Advance (On-Site)
  • September 21st:  Orientation and What is Innovation
  • October 19th : Setting the Stage to Build Culture of Innovation:  Leadership, Building the Team, and Key Roles and Responsibilities  
  • November 9th:  Problem/Opportunity Clarification
  • December 14th: Idea Generating
  • January 18th: Prototyping and Experimentation
  • February 15th:  Implementation, Evaluation and Scaling
  • March 15th  & 22nd:  Team Project Presentations 3:00 – 5:00 pm ET
  • April 19-21st:  Transforming Local Government Conference – Tulsa, Oklahoma

Innovation Academy Faculty:

  • Katy Simon Holland, President, Simon & Associates (Serving as Mentor to Teams) and former Board Member of the Alliance for Innovation
  • Karen Thoreson, President of the Alliance for Innovation
  • Guest Faculty to Include: Alliance for Innovation Board Members and other Local Government Professionals

Team Mentor: Katy Simon Holland, President, Simon & Associates Consulting and retired Washoe County, Nevada Manager will conduct the “Innovation Advance” and be available to mentor all twelve teams. Innovation Academy Alumni will also be available for additional guidance. Teams are strongly encouraged to meet with the Team Mentor virtually at least once during the Academy.  Teams that meet with the Mentor report better results from their Academy participation.

Team Leader:  Each Innovation Academy team must identify a Team Leader.  The Team Leader will meet with faculty in August to discuss ideas on forming your team and hear from Innovation Academy Alumni on their experiences, challenges and successes.  The Team Leader facilitates the activities of the Team and also serves as the primary point of contact with the Alliance for Innovation throughout the process. 

Team Selection:  The Innovation Academy Mentor, Katy Simon Holland, will be available to provide guidance in team selection.  Below are some suggestions on selecting your team:

  • Team of participants endorsed by the city/county manager or department head. 
  • An identified team leader may select team members.
  • Participants who are committed to the team experience and are able to participate in the virtual sessions and team assignments (average of one-two hours weekly).
  • Cross functional participants - consider a mix of complementary skills.  Look for people with varying technical and functional expertise who bring different approaches to problem-solving and decision-making.
  • Individuals with knowledge of the organization who promote a strategic view and vision consistent with the organization’s mission.
  • Individuals who value professionalism, ethics and integrity, accountability, open communication, innovation, inclusiveness, and continuous learning.  
  • Your discretion to size of the team, but ideal is no more than 12 max.  
  • May be an established team.

Team Project Guidelines and Action Planning: Teams will design an innovation project and develop an action plan for their leadership of qualities needed and specific measures to expand the innovation capacity of their government.  Projects should be meaningful to the team and the organization and have the potential for lasting effects.  The project can be identified by the city/county manager, the team itself, or by soliciting ideas from within the organization.  Some examples:

  • Internal projects: Development of an innovation team, wellness initiatives, or an employee suggestion program.
  • External projects: Establish a locally grown program or connect with groups to develop an effective citizen engagement program or a strategy to address homelessness.
  • Current city practice that needs new thinking:  a different approach for the strategic planning or staff evaluation proces

Executive Sponsor:  Each team will have an Executive Sponsor within the organization to support their efforts internally and to provide advice on project selection and development. 

Graduation and Alumni Program:  Participating organizations will be recognized in front of their peers at the 2017 Transforming Local Government Conference to be held in Tulsa, Oklahoma April 19-21st.  In addition, participants can continue their learning and networking experience through participation in the Alumni program with over 400 other individuals from graduating organizations. 

Technology Requirements:  For the virtual sessions, we ask that the teams participate in a conference room with internet, speaker phone or VOIP and webcam capability. 

Impact of the Innovation Academy:  Dr. Jeffrey Chapman, Foundation Professor Emeritus at Arizona State University conducted an evaluation of the Innovation Academy in 2015.  The below summarizes the impact the Innovation Academy has had on the participating organizations:

  • All of the respondents believed that the capacity for innovation in their jurisdiction increased with several experiencing ancillary learning:  how to build and work with teams, how to work with risk, and how to share tools.
  • The Innovation Academy stimulated thinking and searching for opportunities to impact innovation in nearly 70% of participating organizations.
  • Nearly all of the organizations thought that the benefits exceeded the costs.

For More Information Contact, Toni Shope, Strategic Initiatives Director, 704.453.7080 or


Innovation Academy Graduates

Adams County, CO

Federation of Canadian Municipalities

Milton, GA

Airdrie, AB

Fort Collins, CO

Modest, CA

Aspen, CO

Ft. Lauderdale, FL

Navajo County, AZ

Austin, TX

Gainesville, FL

Nevada County, CA

Bellevue, WA

Glenview, IL

Palo Alto, CA

Boulder, CO

Goodyear, AZ

Park City, UT

Brooklyn Park, MN

Hickory, NC

Pinellas County, FL

Campbell, CA

Knoxville, TN

Rancho Cordova, CA

Catawba County, NC

Lethbridge, AB

Rancho Cucamonga, CA

Charlottesville, VA

Littleton, CO

Sparks, NV

Decatur, GA

Manatee County, FL


Downers Grove, IL

Mankato, MN


Durham, NC

Maricopa County, AZ





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