An innovative idea to capture innovative ideas from City of Edmonton Community Services staff is already paying off after less than a year.

Called the Innovation Station, it’s a simple web-based app, created entirely in Google apps and designed by lifeguard Cam Sylvester and Jorn Starko, supervisor of Northwest Neighbourhoods and Parks.

“Staff are encouraged to to go to the site and use a simple form with drop-down menus and text boxes to tell us what their bright idea is. They submit it, and the information is compiled in a spreadsheet,” says Jorn.

“Other team leads, foremen and supervisors are able to view the suggestions, so if a good idea comes from an employee at one work area, other work areas will have the advantage of the idea as well.”

Cam Sylvester and Jorn Starko created a ‘good idea magnet’

Cam Sylvester and Jorn Starko created a ‘good idea magnet’

People submitting suggestions do so in the open. Submissions are attached to their name and City email address; contributors must agree to a code of conduct relating to the content they submit.

Since the project began its pilot phase in February 2015, more than 100 submissions have been received from the approximately 500 users who currently have access to the website.

“So far, the Innovation Station has been shared with employees in our Community and Recreation Facilities and Neighbourhood & Parks branches,” says Jorn. “We need to discuss the various implications and logistics involved in rolling it out to all Community Services staff. Our ultimate goal is for the Innovation Station to be available to all City of Edmonton employees.”

Feedback from the Innovation Station is entirely positive,” says Jorn. “People are thankful that there’s a way to make good suggestions.”

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Here are a few ideas that have been received:

  • From a vegetation management team leader:  Suggests issuing iPads to vegetation management staff primarily so pre-set calculation functions would reduce the risk of over- or under-applications of chemicals. They would also provide map sharing for notifications, inspections and routes, as well as facilitating communication using tools such as Google Hangouts, camera tools and the aforementioned mapping.
  • From a play space team leader: Brass plaques for park commemorative benches often arrive a couple of months after the heavy bench is installed in the park. When winter is approaching, the suggestion is to carve out an indentation for the future plaque, and temporarily fill it with a piece of wood. Thus, the only work required in winter conditions will be unscrewing the wood and affixing the plaque.
  • From a community recreation coordinator: Why not pilot a program that enables people to rent skates and helmets from the City for a whole season?
  • From a staff member at the Edmonton Valley Zoo: Record some zoo animal sounds/ calls and use them to sell at the gift shop/website or online as ringtones or text message notifications. Money raised can go to conservation fund, or enrichment fund.
  • From a Lifeguard: During swim lessons there are often multiple kids in a family that are taking lessons at slightly different times. The suggestion is to create a structured activity to help entertain kids while their siblings are swimming.

The Innovation Station has been nominated for a 2015 City Manager’s Award of Excellence.

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