Hennepin County Innovation and Tech Fair
In October, Hennepin County’s Center of Innovation and Excellence and IT departments partnered for an Innovation and Technology Fair (lovingly referred to by Mike Sable as “Innotechxpo”). The event was an opportunity to grow a culture of innovation—to showcase innovation happening across Hennepin County, to bring in inspiring speakers and presenters, and to provide hands-on opportunities to practice innovation tools and techniques.
While there were rooms reserved for break-out training sessions speakers/presenters, most of the event was held right on the public service level, offering an opportunity not only for employees but for Hennepin County residents visiting the government center and anyone roaming the skyway during their lunch hour to join in the fun, too.
What problem or challenge does the innovation and tech fair address?
Innovation can be hard to define, and some of our employees believe that innovation is something that must be happening only in the Center of Innovation and Excellence. The Innovation and Technology Fair showed something quite different–innovation is happening all over Hennpin County–in how we deliver programs and services in health, public works, justice, human services, and in our internal operations.
Why was the Innovation and Tech Fair innovative?
This was a great way for our units, divisions, and departments to share with each other–across lines of business–the great work they are doing and new and exciting innovations that are taking place. Connections were made that will result in new relationships and partnerships, idea sharing, and innovative ways to use our resources. Hennepin County kicked off a Futurists group in 2016, and the County had a table/booth to promote and recruit more members at the fair. The County also invited Greg Stopka, our regional director from the Alliance for Innovation to join us, allowing us to make sure each new member of the Futurists was also aware of our new membership in the Alliance and the resources available to them.
What lessons would you suggest for local government interested in adapting this idea?
Start planning early and engage many people in the ideation and planning. Think about who your intended audience is: your staff, your constituents, or both?! Showcasing innovation that is happening is a great way to reward innovation, and promote a culture of innovation–it illustrates that everyone in the organization can be innovative.