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Long Beach, Calif., Innovation Team Strikes Up Data-Gathering Internship Program

The city's i-team program will use interns to help speed up its economic development efforts.

by / April 19, 2016
Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia (center) leads the city's innovation team along with City Manager Pat West (not pictured). Flickr/Code for America

Less than a year into its existence, the innovation team (i-team) looking for new ways to do government work in Long Beach, Calif., has hit a point where it needs to grow. And so it’s turning to a resource abundant nearby: college students.

The i-team, which is heavily focused on economic development projects this year, is looking to hire six paid interns to help it with a data-driven approach to its efforts.

“As we’ve gotten into the work, we’ve now found the need to do some additional on-the-ground data collection,” said John Keisler, the i-team’s director.

The process has been aided by close proximity to a cluster of higher education institutions such as California State University, Long Beach; CSU Dominguez Hills and the University of Southern California. According to Keisler, the i-team has received about 40 applications so far.

Though the team is involved in many kinds of projects — it has five core initiatives, including the creation of an innovation center and a high-tech infrastructure plan, which other departments have taken over — Keisler said one immediate focus for the interns will be to help gather data for economic development work, and starting and growing a business in Long Beach.

“Because [our process takes] time and time with people, we need … civic innovation interns who will help us to now dig into more specific topics that we want to understand better,” Keisler said. “So experiences that either inhibit small business owners from succeeding or growing. To do that will require more horsepower.”

The internships are classified as “non-career” positions, meaning they aren’t full-time, but Keisler said he does want to try to push the interns toward government work. During their time in the program, they’ll get lots of exposure to the various things City Hall does, he said, and advertising for the internship positions was targeted toward students in study areas that reflect the i-team's full-time members — including design, software development and anthropology.

“We really have a broad sort of interest," Keisler said, "and we would love to get some interns that would reflect those different skill sets."

The idea of the i-team comes from Bloomberg Philanthropies, which launched Long Beach’s program along with similar teams in cities across the U.S. such as Albuquerque, N.M.; Minneapolis, Minn.; and Jersey City, N.J. The idea is to come up with new approaches to solve problems and make government work more efficient.

The Long Beach i-team has been busy striking up partnerships with local universities for its economic development projects, and in April won a $300,000 prize from the Knight Cities Challenge to help transform a park into an “outdoor office.”

The application process closes April 22. Keisler said the i-team hopes to interview candidates in May and will likely ask them to start sometime in June.

Ben Miller Staff Writer

Ben Miller is the business beat staff writer for Government Technology. His reporting experience includes breaking news, business, community features and technical subjects. He holds a Bachelor’s degree in journalism from the Reynolds School of Journalism at the University of Nevada, Reno, and lives in Sacramento, Calif.