Bloomberg Harvard City Leadership Initiative

Tackling Persistent, Boundary-Spanning Problems Through Collaborative Innovation: Lessons From the Clean Sweep Initiative in Buffalo, NY

Administration & Society

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  • Kate Robb staff headshot Jorrit de Jong, Center director and faculty co-chair, headshot
    Katharine Robb, Ashley Marcoux, Eleanor Dickens, Jorrit de Jong
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Research summary

To tackle persistent boundary-spanning problems with limited resources, some cities engage in collaborative innovation, combining expertise, effort, and creativity within and outside city hall to overcome limitations of conventional practices and siloed work. This article illustrates how collaborative innovation works in practice by examining specifics of how the Buffalo Clean Sweep Initiative, unique in longevity, scope, and scale, overcame common challenges and managed typical trade-offs. We describe, based on analyses of interviews and focus groups with city staff, community partners, and residents, how problem-solving, making an impact, and learning together helped Buffalo, New York, improve quality-of-life in its poorest neighborhoods.

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