Mayor's Office of Innovation and Strategic Initiatives


The Office of Innovation envisions a City government that empowers its departments, agencies, businesses, and residents to continually improve. The Office of Innovation envisions a city where resources and communities are seamlessly connected and the government works to ensure an abundance of opportunities and a high quality of life are accessible for all.

Current Focus:

Mayor Warren has directed the Office of Innovation to focus on issues of poverty in Rochester.  More specifically, the Office of Innovation is working on understanding the drivers of poverty - concentrating on joblessness in distressed neighborhoods.  Data analysis , GIS mapping, historical research, and public engagement will help inform initiatives.  The Office of Innovation's poverty work is partnered with the United Way’s Rochester – Monroe Anti-Poverty Initiative (RMAPI) and other important community efforts.

Pilot District- Door to Door SurveyPathways to Prosperity Logo

Together, the City and RMAPI have selected a Pilot District catchment area in which stakeholders will launch and evaluate outcomes of new anti-poverty strategies. The goal is to replicate successful strategies and bring them to scale for the whole City.   

To support the design of new strategies, the Mayor's Office of Innovation developed and implemented a door to door survey in partnership with neighborhood stakeholders and the Flower City AmeriCorps program. The survey focused on resident's barriers to employment, and perceptions of services in the neighborhoods intended to help families achieve economic mobility. The team completed 444 surveys door to door and an additional 168 online and at neighborhood meetings. 

Special thanks to SIGMA Marketing Insights for their pro bono support in creating an interactive data dashboard tool to help the public and partners view and manipulate the data in their own way. 

The report is available for download here:  Door to Door Survey Report 

The interactive data dashboard is available for public use here: Interactive Data Dashboard 

IBM Smarter Cities Initiative:

The City of Rochester, New York, USA, was one of 16 cities selected to receive a Smarter Cities Challenge® grant from IBM in 2015 as part of IBM’s citizenship efforts to build a Smarter Planet®. During three weeks in October 2015, a team of five IBM experts worked to deliver recommendations on a key challenge identified by Mayor Lovely Warren and her senior leadership team: Design a unified, efficient strategy to establish a “stairway” out of poverty for families currently receiving assistance from several agencies, reviewing key areas that include employment, education, housing and safe neighborhoods.
The work resulted in a report with specific and actionable recommendations for the City and partners to undertake. The report is available for download here: IBM SSC Rochester Report 

Market Driven Community Cooperatives: 

The Office of Innovation has also been coordinating a project working to develop worker-owned cooperative businesses as part of a comprehensive wealth building strategy for Rochester. In 2015 the City engaged Democracy Collaborative, a group with extensive expertise from similar work in Cleveland Ohio in connection with the Evergreen Cooperatives and the Greater University Circle Initiative.
Democracy Collaborative completed an study in February 2016 that documented incredible potential for the project, a high degree of community support including local Anchor Institution buy-in, as well as several potential business niches future worker-owned businesses. The document also includes an implementation plan to move the project forward in two additional phases.
The report is available for download here: MDCC Feasibility Analysis & Implementation Plan 

Kiva Rochester Crowdfunded Microloan Program

The Office of Innovation also recently helped design and launch The Kiva Rochester program, which provides 0% interest crowdfunded loans to help small business owners and entrepreneurs launch or grow their businesses. Through the City of Rochester’s partnership with Kiva, borrowers can receive loans of up to $10,000 from online lenders through’s online crowdsourcing platform. Additionally, qualifying businesses are eligible to have online lenders matched dollar to dollar match by the Rochester Economic Development Corporation (REDCO) matching loan fund. Kiva's mission is to provide capital for entrepreneurs who may have difficulty securing loans from traditional lending institutions, and is an ideal partner for the City and REDCO in expanding their offerings for small businesses. For more information on the program click here.

Contact the Office:

Henry Fitts, Director of Innovation 

City Hall, 30 Church Street, Room 223B

Rochester, NY 14614