As housing leadership broadens collaborations to solve for current and future issues, such as affordability, so too are the cities they are working with. And, creating specific positions to take on this collaborative role and responsibility, that focuses on both technology and the partnerships needed for success.

Bend, Ore., recently decided to add a chief innovation officer to its governance structure.

The move comes after tech companies began to relocating to town from the Bay Area, along with a new wave of residents looking to shed the complications of city life while still expecting the same level of governmental service. Meanwhile, many of the departments that make up the local government had already started using technology and data-driven governance practices on their own, creating an evolving culture for an innovation guru to hone and focus, said City Manager Eric King.

Adding the position just seemed to make sense.

The prevalence of chief innovation officers in city halls — as well as within state houses and at the county level — has certainly risen of late, with the position being basically unheard of just a few years ago. What chief innovation officers do varies between agencies, with a fairly wide range separating some from others. In general, though, a chief innovation officer is someone focused on keeping pace with the uses and capabilities of technology, harnessing it in a way that allows government to solve problems and become more efficient.

In Bend, for example, the chief innovation officer is actually an existing assistant city manager position that was recast, King said. Bend is a city with a little over 100,000 residents and roughly 700 total public employees, so responsibilities and specifics of the work there will look different from larger jurisdictions like San Francisco or Boston.

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