Mayor Jenny Durkan’s Innovation Advisory Council Announces Priorities and Projects for 2021


SEATTLE (January 13, 2021) – Following a year focused on helping the City of Seattle respond to the COVID-19 crisis, Mayor Jenny A. Durkan’s Innovation Advisory Council announced the first round of projects for 2021, bringing innovation and data expertise to the City’s priorities of supporting Black, Indigenous, and People of Color communities, homelessness, affordability, and the COVID-19 pandemic.

“This partnership is more important than ever as we work to recover from the economic impacts of COVID-19 on our communities.” said Mayor Durkan. “Early on in the COVID-19 pandemic, IAC partners were a critical part of the City’s response as we stood up testing and encouraged workers to shift to teleworking. As we move into the next phase of this pandemic, I am grateful to the Innovation Advisory Council members for their continued partnership and commitment to supporting underrepresented communities and helping our City as we begin focusing on vaccinating our communities in 2021.”

From 2018-2020, the IAC has helped the City of Seattle launch a number of new, innovative projects, including the Affordable Seattle portal, where residents can check their eligibility for over 20 City programs in less than five minutes; an updated, data-driven app for outreach to Seattle’s unsheltered population and help them more quickly and easily access shelter and services; and a brand-new, first of its kind affordable housing search app, built natively on the Zillow housing search platform.

The Innovation Advisory Council has identified the following projects to work on in the first quarter of 2021:

Supporting our community’s COVID-19 vaccine distribution plan

IAC members are supporting the City’s COVID-19 vaccine distribution plan, helping to shape our operational response, including opportunities to ensure equitable access and outreach, as well as transparent and clear communications.

Making data-driven investment recommendations to support Black and Indigenous communities

IAC partner Microsoft has offered to support the Equitable Communities Initiative Task Force (ECITF) by applying advanced data analytics to focus on areas of greatest potential impact for investments in areas where Black, Indigenous and other communities of color are experiencing disparate impacts. This support will culminate in investment recommendations that the ECITF will make to the Mayor by April.

Providing real-time data capabilities for new homelessness outreach team

This project is a partnership between Seattle IT, the City of Seattle HOPE team and Tableau. It will strengthen real-time data for outreach providers to make shelter referrals and build the path towards better service matching for individuals experiencing homelessness. In Q1, the focus will be on designing a thoughtful approach, taking into account privacy considerations and existing data infrastructure (e.g., HMIS).

Streamlining program application experience for residents

The City provides a series of important resources to residents from utility discounts to food assistance to child care and more. Building off of the first and second phases of the Affordable Seattle portal, this project will be focusing on streamlining the application process to make it easier for residents to apply to multiple City of Seattle assistance programs without needing to re-qualify for each. The City of Seattle Innovation and Performance Team is partnering with new IAC member Google to design, build, and test a solution to enable those enrolling in programs to submit their information to City of Seattle once and have the option to reuse their information to enroll in multiple programs.

The IAC is also welcoming Google to the Innovation Advisory Council, the council’s first new addition since 2018. Through a Google.org Fellowship, the City of Seattle is welcoming 13 full-time Fellows to work pro-bono on the third phase of the City’s Affordability Portal. The Google.org team will be supporting the City for 9 months. Google.org’s mission is to bring the best of Google to help solve some of humanity’s biggest challenges — combining funding, innovation, and technical expertise to support underserved communities and provide opportunity for everyone.

"Google is excited to collaborate with Mayor Durkan and the city's Office of Innovation to design a comprehensive portal for individuals seeking services from the city,” said Ian Goodhew, Head of Government Affairs for Google Washington. “The team of Google.org Fellows who are dedicating their time to help the city build this important tool are eager to contribute to our community with their time, innovation and technical expertise. By working together we can help ensure that people who need assistance get it in an efficient and effective manner."

Established by Mayor Durkan via executive order in August 2018, the Innovation Advisory Council acts as an advisor on issues and policies affecting the City, where data and technology solutions could be of benefit. Specifically, the IAC focuses on issue identification, policy recommendations, and project implementation of technology solutions including new data analytics, dashboards, applications, and software for the City. Members and their businesses have committed to helping deliver these technology solutions.