We are creating a connected, dynamic ecosystem in DC where any resident, innovator, or entrepreneur has the support, access and networks to create and scale solutions to tough local challenges


We envision a DC where community leaders, artists, philanthropists, foundations, entrepreneurs, faith-based leaders, local government, and social business leaders feel agency to take collective action.

Historical inequity and silos across the city continue to dampen the effects of the collective work done by hard-working community leaders. At the same time, trust in civic institutions is at an all-time low with Americans becoming increasingly disconnected from civic life and out of practice from the habits of civic engagement that are key to building thriving communities and creating solutions to local challenges.

In order to find more innovative, creative, and resilient ideas, we will mobilize a more representational group of this city's greatest resource, its people, into the process of turning ideas into action to address our trickiest challenges.


To address the structural causes that have long made, DC a divided city, greater imagination, trust and systems-level thinking is required. We believe a clear path to greater civic agency lies within the diverse and collective knowledge, intellect, and networks of people that live and work here in DC— change makers who are not afraid to tackle tough local challenges and form community-sourced solutions. We know the best ideas emerge through iteration and by listening to the voices of all of those impacted. We also know that people are hungry to get involved in ways that truly make a difference for their community.

We believe that if we can build strong, representative networks of leaders focused on sourcing, prototyping, and incubating good ideas, we can dramatically increase the amount of civic innovation and social impact in Washington, DC. We believe it is mostly a question of coordination, trust, and authentic representation. We are working to build a different kind of civic organization with a vision of radically strengthening the civic innovation ecosystem in Washington DC - and hopefully becoming a model for other diverse communities that want to work together but are not sure where to start. Our guiding values form the foundation of the kind of organization we are working to build.



Full, equal representation forms the foundation of civic engagement and is the corner stone of the American experiment, even as it has never been fully implemented.. A Council that fully reflects our community (across, gender, race, ethnicity, sector, and socio-economic strata) will elevate new approaches and emerging leaders to create more effective solutions to local needs.



Every DC resident has a role to play to build a better community. By addressing common barriers – like access to capital, expertise or networks – we can unleash the potential within everyone to create solutions that improve our city and that leverage the awesome collective networks and intelligence of the city. We believe in the human spirit’s ability to create change and view government as a partner, not a savior. Civic problem solving cannot be fully outsourced to government, it must be internalized in the “habits of the heart,” and the conviction that we can be the change we seek in the world.



We’ll never see the bigger picture or solve shared challenges in isolation. An inclusive network that values trust and authentic relationships based on respect is key to creating better outcomes and helping to build a shared identity that can help optimize collaboration across resources, ideas, and people.



Our problems are too urgent — and fixable — to wait
for perfect solutions to crystallize. An agile, iterative, participatory approach ensures the best possible ideas can be surfaced, tested, refined and scaled. Good ideas that serve to build community and address social challenges deserve to be listened to and supported. Failure is to be embraced, as long as we are always learning and improving. The Council itself is a grand experiment and we don’t know exactly how it will develop.



Civic engagement is fundamentally changing. Old lodge-style structures are shifting. Instead of power structures that were top-down, centralized, often bureaucratic, and repeatable, a new civic engagement structure is emerging — one that is nimble and dynamic and designed in and for the 21rst century.

The DC Civic Innovation Council is building this dynamic platform that is crowd-sourced, distributed, lightweight, iterative, fun and designed to maximize civic agency.





Bringing the right human resources to a given problem is key for its success. We believe that diversity in all its forms makes for better solutions and can mobilize more cohesive action. We will to mobilize the city’s talent that is latent and help direct it into projects where it can make a difference.



At the heart of change is culture. Knowing that culture norms are hard to disrupt, we will work within DC wards to shape culture locally, meeting people where they are and starting with incremental hyper-local change. We will build a culture of civic agency.



A lack of financial resources is often the reason good ideas stagnate and remain ideas as opposed to solutions. Mobilizing financial capital to promising community initiatives - so that leaders can focus on solving problem, not just raising money, is key. This often starts with connecting and building trust between well resourced networks with under-resourced ones



We fully believe that that public sector and local government plays a big role in lasting change. Working together with key local leaders to think through policy and regulatory aspects will be fundamental for helping to scale efforts. The Council seeks to provide input and partnerships to government and local foundations to support effective policy making. The Council is intentionally designed to be independent of government or any political party.



Council Membership. A representative 100-person council will be formed from residents and leaders from across DC’s eight wards. This council will be responsible for identifying and accelerating initiatives. Each council member provides access to the networks and communities required to validate, test and scale possible solutions to local challenges.

Initiative Process. Each surfaced initiative will undergo five phases:

  1. Ideation + Concept Refinement

    This process will involve refining the concepts that are surfaced and vetting them them to ensure that the core problems are identified, solutions are directed toward those core underlying problems, and that there is a clear prototype that can be developed and tested

  2. Prototype Development + Testing

    Prototype definition will involve working with the core initiative owner and stakeholders to test the feasibility and viability of the idea being specific about what components and assumptions are being tested. This will likely be an iterative process and must involve the core residents and beneficiaries of the given initiative

  3. Mentorship + Tracking

    Once a prototype is proven to be viable, the solution can be further developed. The initiative owner will be paired with a suite of mentors and other advisors across relevant fields and functions to better increase the likelihood of its success. Given that this process will likely take time, periodic tracking will take place to follow the success of the solution development, at times providing more intense support if needed

  4. Refinement + Packaging

    Once the solution seems like it ready for prime-time, the Council will help to refine and package the solution together with the initiative owner, helping to package the story or “pitch” appropriately to the right stakeholders. This may mean helping to tell the testing journey or showcasing initial successes

  5. Funding + Scaling

    As needed, the Council will also help to connect these solutions with the right networks that can help further fund or mobilize resources (social, human, and financial capital) toward the solution. Over time, the Council’s goal is to help scale or connect solutions from different wards and quadrants, tailoring where appropriate.

Each initiatives will map to each city quadrant, each core value, and each ecosystem element outlined above


Proposed outcomes over time include:

  • A space for organizations working closely and on different sides of a problem to coordinate efforts, enabling them to proactively create new proposals and partnerships instead of responding to the RFPs from donors

  • Helping local school principals and parent teacher organizations to more effectively leverage volunteers and the local community to address school needs like mentoring, after school programming, and grant writing to help improve schools

  • A visualization of D.C.’s civic innovation ecosystem, to map current participants, gaps and opportunities to build trust

  • Salons and retreats that bring different players from different industries and backgrounds to explore cross sector collaborations.

  • Intentional efforts among the city’s universities to better connect students and researchers with civic innovators

  • Creating space to incubate new ideas on broad, long-term issues that impact every resident of Washington D.C. such as statehood and full civil rights


Our Steering Committee spans diverse networks within Washington DC from business and government to non-profits, foundations, and the arts, representing most DC Wards with a singular commitment to advocate and strengthen DC’s civic innovation ecosystem.

  • Amy Hartzler | Do Good Better

  • Ben Powell | Agora Partnerships

  • Carla Perlo | Dance Place

  • Chris Fowler | USO

  • Chuck Redmond | Venture Philanthropy Partners

  • Gloria Nauden | City First Bank of Washington DC

  • Harold Pettigrew | WACIF

  • Hosan Lee | Tabletribes

  • John Settles | Capital Sustainability 

  • Jim Epstein | EFO Capital Management

  • Kenny Marable | Enterprise Community Partners

  • Laura Tomasko | Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation 

  • Maurice Cook | Serve Your City

  • Nate Wong | Boston Consulting Group’s Centre for Public Impact

  • Raj Aggarwal | Think Local First

  • Rosario Londono | League of Intrapreneurs

  • Sharon Carney | Office of the Deputy Mayor, Washington DC

  • Shelley Whelpton | Arabella Advisors





D.C.’s Civic Innovation Council will be a neutral container for citywide efforts working to identify and engage local civic and economic innovators


We look forward to hearing from you!