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Kansas City's New Chief Innovation Officer Seeks to Connect Government and Community

Ashley Z. Hand looks to engage citizens with the Challenge Cabinet and connecting schools to resources.

Ashley Z. Hand was tapped in January by Kansas City, Mo., Mayor Sly James to be the city’s chief innovation officer. Before taking that role, she was an associate at AECOM where she focused on private- and public-sector clients to adopt best management practices. Hand told Government Technology her plans for gearing up for the new role as chief innovation officer.

What will be your role as Kansas City’s new chief innovation officer?

There has actually been quite a bit of progress and innovation to start within the city. What I can do is help tie it together, create cross-departmental opportunities for collaboration, but also communicate what we are doing. I’m trying to help identify those places that we would like to improve how to serve our community and help leverage that by coming up with strategies and implementing projects that will help us do that.

What are some of your priorities right now for Kansas City?

I think looking at how we can engage our community and what innovation and city government really means will be helpful. We have a rapidly evolving community that is very entrepreneurial in its spirit. And if we can have the city reflect what the community is doing, we’ll be in a really good position to meet the needs of our citizens.

What types of technologies do you hope to use in social engagement with the community?

Technology is a very important tool in a tool kit of resources that we can bring to push innovation, but I don’t think innovation is necessarily limited to technology. I think it will be a suite of tools where technology will be an important part, and we’ll leverage things like the Code for America partnership, the Challenge Cabinet [a group of young professionals that will serve as a creative advisory panel to the city], which the mayor is pulling together right now, among other resources to make that happen.

How will the Google fiber project impact Kansas City?

There are lots of creative thinkers out there who are really looking forward to leveraging it on a small scale and a large scale. I think there are great ways of connecting our schools to resources that they may not otherwise have through technology. I think we’re going to see new business ideas and connections from Kansas City to the rest of the world as a result of this technology coming here.

Photo by Paul Williams

Miriam Jones is a former chief copy editor of Government Technology, Governing, Public CIO and Emergency Management magazines.
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