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San Francisco Announces "Innovation Fellowship"

BY Nick Judd | Wednesday, April 24 2013

The San Francisco Mayor's Office of Civic Innovation is seeking applicants for a new fellowship, the Mayor's Innovation Fellowship.

The program is inspired by the White House Presidential Innovation Fellowship program, the city announced in a blog post. In that program, launched last year, technologists worked with federal officials for a period of months on technology projects like a unified homepage for access to federal services or another project to make it easier for small businesses to compete for select government business.

Fellowship programs have been growing in appeal for city governments in recent years, bringing graduate students and professionals — along with their outside experience — into bureaucracies that might not otherwise have access to the same sort of expertise. Technology fellowships in particular have become more widely used since 2010, when Code for America began partnering with cities around the country on its own fellowship program. The White House program was, in part, a federal adaptation of the Code for America idea.

It's a valuable idea, in part, because its one of several strategies for cities to try out high-reward experiments with low risk. Fellowships apply outside talent and a fixed time period to ambitious goals — a formula that might not guarantee a big success, but can serve to provide proof of concept for a new idea at a low likelihood of suffering from inflated budgets.

San Francisco has three fellowship slots for a twelve-month term beginning Aug. 1, and is now accepting applications.