Sparking Innovation in the City by the Bay
A team of four volunteers from Adobe Design — Allison Doyle, Ty Lim, Jenna Melnyk, and Lynn Sandberg — recently collaborated with the City of San Francisco’s Civic Bridge program to improve communications, information sharing, and scaling of best practices across city departments that are introducing innovations to make processes more efficient and services more accessible for residents.
“Over the past five years, Civic Bridge has completed dozens of projects across a variety of pain points and issue areas. We were interested in finding a way to share not only the specific project outcomes, but also the methods, tools, and approaches that made each project a success,” said Natalie Meyers, innovation strategist with Civic Bridge, a city and county of San Francisco Office of Civic Innovation (OCI) program that recruits private-sector professionals to volunteer their time to work alongside government employees on critical city issues. “Adobe helped us explore ways to scale the impact of our programs to departments that are unable to participate directly in Civic Bridge.”
Civic Bridge programs lead to innovative solutions and approaches to civic challenges for the departments OCI serves. These are often problems that are experienced by more than one department — such as how to increase access to government services and benefits.
“By sharing the solutions and insights we generate to nonparticipating departments, we’re replicating our successes throughout the government and helping departments improve their services to San Franciscans,” Natalie said.
Adobe and seven other Bay Area companies participated in the most recent cohort of volunteers in this public-private venture, which tackled nine challenges. Each cohort works part-time over the course of 16 weeks.
Since the program began in 2015, volunteers have clocked nearly 24,000 hours. Recent groups have helped design a legal referral system for those facing eviction and helped improve access to services for the transgender community.
Lending Adobe Design expertise
The four Adobe employees hadn’t all worked together before, but they coalesced right away into an effective team. They began by conducting interviews and other research to learn about the current experience of city staff coming to Civic Bridge to get extra help to work on city challenges — and how lessons from their experience could be shared more broadly.
“Our biggest contribution was to conduct a comprehensive gaps analysis and retrospective of the program to date, in order to develop a strategy and set of recommendations that will help them scale the program further and extend their reach and impact,” Ty said.
They led a workshop to present their findings and walk through a service-design journey mapping exercise. With the help of whiteboarding and creating affinity diagrams, the team worked with Civic Bridge staff to come up with a solid picture of key value points, current challenges, and ideas to increase the program’s impact.
Finally, the Adobe team drafted their proposal, which included recommendations for a website and an event series that included “Project Spotlights” to highlight the most effective projects coming out of the program, “How-To” workshops to teach transferable skills, and “Civic Insights” through which department staff could share with colleagues anything new they learned about key city policy issues.
“It was important to not just deliver a place to put all the information,” Jenna said. “We know from experience that people often push information off into a repository and forget about it. That’s why our proposal also included events to showcase the information to a clear audience and motivate the creation of repository material.”
The Adobe team used a service-oriented approach in developing their proposal.
“We considered all the layers of a program participant’s experience — taking a holistic approach,” said Jenna. “That meant considering all possible touchpoints among departments — from the website and email to in-person meetings, presentations, and follow-up afterward.”
“We didn’t take the description of the problem at face value,” said Lynn. “We investigated — asking past users about pain points, for example.”
Success all around
“The Adobe team was a delight to work with — and were thoughtful and valuable partners for the OCI team,” Natalie said. “They each played a critical role in scoping, designing, researching, and ultimately delivering a road map for how our team can begin to expand the successes from the Civic Bridge program beyond the participants.”
Civic Bridge has already begun implementing some of Adobe’s recommendations—including a messaging strategy, the “How-To” event series, website updates, and KPI evaluation metrics.
Beyond taking on an interesting challenge and improving Civic Bridge, the Adobe team members enjoyed the opportunity to develop relationships with new colleagues from across the company and to expand their knowledge.
“The best experience for me was working alongside my Adobe colleagues in support of scaling this amazing program,” Ty said.
“I learned a lot about the field of service design, which was both very exciting and really applicable to my role as a technical consultant for the Experience Cloud. It was really interesting to learn about Civic Bridge and help develop opportunities to scale its impact, too,” Allison said. “The experience has inspired me to take a course on human-centered service design later this year.”
The engagement also enabled participants to achieve personal goals.
Lynn had wanted to be part of a challenge related to her local community. The experience has given her a better understanding of how the mayor’s office works — and an expanded perspective on city government and how companies work with it.
Having previously volunteered through Adobe with Team for Tech, helping underserved communities abroad, Jenna had wanted to do something in her local area.
“I wanted to participate in something where I could see the results of my efforts on a longer-term basis,” she said.
The Adobe team appreciates working for a company that allows them to have opportunities like this one.
“Some of the time I put into this project was my own, outside of work, but a good chunk was during work hours,” said Jenna. “I really appreciate that Adobe values that we have multiple dimensions we want to explore — including giving back to the community.”