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CivStart-NLC City Innovation Program


about innovation


with peers


a pilot solution

This 9-month peer-learning program powered by CivStart, the National League of Cities (NLC) supports local government participants to advance their innovation needs and meet top challenges with affordable and innovative startup solutions through wraparound support — providing everyone peace of mind and de-risking innovative ideas.This program has been made free for local government participants thanks to the Kauffman Foundation.

SEEKING: Innovation-focused city leaders from the heartland of the US

No technical knowledge required. Participants only need a preliminary idea of some of their challenges or priorities and the willingness to consider at least a pilot project meeting one of their top challenges.

Unsure if this is you? Reach out to us directly.


The project allowed Raleigh to create a highly engaging process with the community and entrepreneurs to tackle a critical issue facing local government.

Heather McDougall, PhD, Sr. Manager Strategy & Innovation, City of Raleigh, NC

NYC Skyline BW

Our Program

Through a series of workshops with your cohort of fellow government leaders, CivStart will equip you with an understanding, and necessary resources, to embark on challenge-based procurement. In addition to presentations by expert guest speakers, your cohort will collaborate by sharing best practices, lessons learned, and current needs, to ultimately publish a group Challenge Statement. You will then have the opportunity to attend a Pitchfest of entrepreneurs with solutions that meet the challenge. 

We know every government has its own unique needs, so the final phase of the program will allow you to customize the group Challenge Statement for your specific needs and interview selected entrepreneurs for a potential pilot. 

Over the course of this nine-month cohort, participants will:

  1. Learn about innovation, challenge-based procurement, and the latest in cutting-edge technology;

  2. Understand your technology challenges in a detailed manner through facilitated, collaborative listening sessions;

  3. Engage with other local government peers to see how they are handling similar challenges;

  4. Discover affordable and innovative solutions to one or more of the challenges identified; and

  5. Deploy a pilot program to meet your challenges. By the end of the program, a government staff will be able to apply this method to other problems facing their communities.

This program is free to local government leaders.

Step 1:
Innovation Education

Educate and support government leaders on cutting-edge technology, innovation processes, and each-other's challenges.

Step 2:
Collaborative Challenge

Identify core challenges across the cohort of local government participants toward a published Challenge Statement.

Step 3:

Collect responses, evaluate and vet potential innovative, cost-effective startups solutions to meet those challenges

Step 4:
Pilot Launch

Conduct interviews with finalist startups based on your specific needs and begin to address those challenges.

Program Commitment

This cohort will take place over nine months, from November 2023 - July 2024, with at least two monthly peer-learning sessions facilitated by CivStart experts. The final months will be focused on ad-hoc expert and peer support for beginning your pilot programs. The entire program will run from November 2022 to August 2023. 


Local Government participants can expect to dedicate an average of 1-2 hours a week to the program for the first 3-6 months*. Time requirements for the remaining months will vary considerably depending on the scope of the pilot program.


All local government participants will be expected to complete four quarterly status surveys.


*CivStart’s experts will be available for additional one-on-one support for local government leaders as needed.

Program Timeline

Phase 1: Innovation Education

November - December 2023: Program Kickoff & Education

Education Session: The What, Why, and How of Challenge-based Procurement

In the first two months of the program, government leaders will meet their fellow cohort members and review the program details, outcomes, and goals. Government leaders will begin facilitated discussions to hone in on shared challenges. We will learn how to set up listening sessions and/or send short challenge surveys to key decision-makers and staff while the program experts review city strategic documents. In addition, we will learn about challenge-based procurement and its advantages for finding innovative technology.

Phase 2: Collaborative Challenge

January - February 2024: Publishing a Group Challenge

Peer-learning Session: Challenge Worksheets & Templates + Technology Education + Challenge Refinement Workshop

At the beginning of 2024, participants will learn from experts on their chosen challenge focus areas. We will also refine our first-draft Challenge Statement -- drafted using the information gained in the previous months along with templates provided by the program experts. 

Phase 3: Pitchfest

March - April: Pitchfest

Educational Session: Evaluating Vendors Workshop


At the beginning of March, we will have published our Shared Challenge Statement. 

While CivStart is soliciting responses from startups across the country, participants will learn about the unique considerations that local governments must keep in mind when evaluating a startup for a specific Challenge and the important things to look for in a vendor application.

In April, after participants select "finalists", we will hear diverse responses to the Challenge Statement.

Phase 4: Pilot Launch

May - June: Startup Demos

Peer-Learning Session: Smart Pilot Program Planning: Metrics & Evaluation


During this month, government leaders will demo one or more "finalists" from the Pitchfest based on a more specific revision of the group Challenge for your specific needs. These demos may be used to revise the how you think about your challenge. The education session will provide important information for setting up a successful pilot program with a govtech startup, focusing on metrics and evaluation.

July: Pilot Selection, Outcomes, & Goals

Education Session: Smart Pilot Program Planning: Metrics & Evaluation

If you find a startup meeting your needs, together with the program experts and the selected startup, you will utilize resources and templates to set up a ~3-month pilot program outline that identifies clear goals, timeline, and outcomes for a successful pilot, as well as clear intentions for partnership following a successful pilot.

A key part of the program is learning together with other local government leaders. In the final cohort session of the program, you will share your pilot program choices and the lessons learned through your participation in the program, as well as any remaining questions you may have about continuing to use the innovation practices you learned in the program.

Optional Post-Program: Pilot Program Evaluation & Case Study

Following the completion of the pilot program, program experts work with the local government leaders and the selected startup to draft and publish a case study to highlight the city’s innovative approach to their challenges, their successes, and their lessons learned from the program.


The timeline for the post-program will depend on the length of the selected pilot and participation in this part of the program is optional.

The State & Local Government Innovation program is run in conjunction with our partners at NLC & the foundational support of the Kauffman Foundation.


Our Other Innovation Programs

Our program with NLC isn't the only way cities can access the many benefits of CivStart's innovation programming. Other programs offer different and unique benefits for government leaders and their communities.

State & Local Gov
Innovation Program

A shorter program, oriented around the collective challenges of a group of local governments who select a winning cohort of startups eligible for a pilot project.

Direct Support

CivStart partners with individual local governments on specific initiatives that align with our mission

Case Studies in Innovation

Learn about the many cities that have approached meeting their challenges with the innovation, affordability, and opportunity provided by govtech startups.

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