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NLC-CivStart City Inclusive Ecosystem Program

This year-long peer-learning program powered by CivStart, the National League of Cities (NLC), and the Kauffman Foundation works closely with both government participants and startup solutions to meet top challenges with affordable and innovative solutions through wraparound support — providing everyone peace of mind and ensuring success.


about innovation


with peers


a pilot solution

SEEKING: Innovation-focused city leaders

  • 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.

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We came to the CivStart team with several challenges and we wouldn't have found such affordable and innovative solutions to those challenges without them.

Brandon Johnson, Vice Mayor of Wichita

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Our Program

This program includes three months of understanding your challenges and 3-months of pilot program selection, while providing innovative government leaders with capacity, education, and support to engage with an innovative process for meeting your top technology challenges. Over the course of this six-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 listening sessions;

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

  4. Pilot an affordable and innovative solution to one or more of the challenges identified; and

  5. Deploy new ways to procure innovative solutions. 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 to create a challenge for maximum impact

Step 2:
Listening Sessions

Identify core challenges within internal government processes and/or facing your local communities

Step 3:
Solution Research & Vetting

Get expert help to find and vet potential innovative, cost-effective startups solutions to meet those challenges

Step 4:
Pilot Program MAnagement

Begin to address those challenges immediately with  project management support for free or low-cost pilot programs as low-risk proof-of-concepts toward fuller-scale procurement.

Cohort Dates

This cohort will take place over six to nine months, with once-monthly educational and peer-learning sessions and bi-weekly one-on-one consulting with 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 Outline

Phase 1: Listening Sessions & Education

November: Program Kickoff & Challenge-based Procurement

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

In the first session of the program, government leaders will meet their fellow cohort members and review the program details, outcomes, and goals. In addition, we will learn about challenge-based procurement and its advantages for finding innovative technology.

December: Listening to Your Challenges

Peer-learning Session: Challenge Worksheets & Templates + Challenge Groupings

During this second month, participants will have begun to work one-on-one with the program experts and will come together with any peers that are considering similar challenges. They 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 your strategic documents and current technology usage. Together, we will start to identify a range of Challenges.

January: Narrowing Down the Options

Educational Session: Challenge Refinement Workshop

In the first month of 2023, cohort members will start by learning about how to refine their first-draft Challenge Statements -- drafted using the information gained in the previous months along with templates provided by the program experts. Participants will share their progress so far with each other. Government leaders will continue to work one-on-one with the program experts to narrow down your challenges, find gaps in knowledge, bring in other key stakeholders, and add detail to your challenges.

February: Public Challenge Statement

Peer-learning Session: Sharing Challenges

Congratulations! In February, local government leaders will have publicly shared one or more of their challenge statements. 

At the end of these two weeks, local government leaders will have revised and finalized their challenge statement(s) and shared it publicly through local government channels or utilizing platforms provided by the program experts.

Phase 2: Startup Vetting & Support

March: Startup Vetting & Recruitment

Educational Session: Evaluating Vendors Workshop


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. Participants will be soliciting or reviewing vendor submissions during this month.

April: Startup Demos

*No Education Session this Month*


During this month, government leaders will host one or more "Demo Days" oriented around your specific challenge(s) and ask and respond to questions from the startups providing the potential solutions to your challenges. These demos can be used to revise the challenge statement if needed.

Phase 3: Pilot Project

May: Pilot Selection, Outcomes, & Goals

Education Session: Smart Pilot Program Planning: Metrics & Evaluation

After the Demos and receiving answers to questions between startups and local governments, government leaders will identify their selected startups to participate in their pilot program(s). The May education session will provide important information for setting up a successful pilot program with a govtech startup, focusing on metrics and evaluation.

June & July: Pilot Outline, Outcomes, & Goals

*No Education Sessions these Months*

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.

August: Pilot Project Execution

Final Peer-learning Session: Celebration of the Past Year

A key part of the program is learning together with other local government leaders. In this 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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