“Innovation is 90 percent theft.”
So said former Albuquerque Mayor Richard J. Berry in a conversation with Quorum about the way his city works with other mayors across the country to develop best practices for solving the problems facing communities.
Berry and the Albuquerque city government have received numerous awards and recognitions for their work. The city has been recognized by Harvard’s Ash Center which named Berry’s Running Start for Careers program one of the top-25 innovations in government. Governing Magazine and Living Cities recognized Albuquerque as the number one citizen connected city in America. But they aren’t looking to keep these ideas to themselves.
Berry has partnered with other mayors to share his initiatives nationwide, and he has similarly sought out assistance from cities making advancements in urban issues.
“You just get mayors together, you start talking, and we find out very quickly that we all have beautiful unique places where we love, but our front pages often are the same,” Berry said. “We all have people who are underemployed, we all have issues with homelessness, we all have issues with marginalized citizens and the broken mental health care system in this country, we are all working on police community relations.”
One program that Berry kickstarted in Albuquerque that has been imitated in other major cities in recent years is the There’s a Better Way initiative. This program—which Berry has featured on the TED stage—works to provide jobs to panhandlers and homeless residents of Albuquerque while simultaneously connecting them to city services. Since its kickoff in 2015, There’s a Better Way has been replicated in major cities such as Chicago, Seattle, and Dallas.
While many cities face similar issues that can benefit from collaborating on best practices, Berry notes that mayors are also unique because they are typically nonpartisan. Without the strong ties to a party that representatives and senators may have, Berry can be more open with his view of who is the best to get a job done.
“We bring people in who are passionate and dedicated and good at what they do, whose resume matches the job description, and miraculous things happen,” Berry told Quorum. “Versus populating government with whoever wrote the biggest check.”
Mayors don’t work in a vacuum, but are collaborative in their methods to tackle problems facing American cities. If your issue is prevalent in other parts of the country, find a way to bring mayors together to provide resources in tackling an issue.