Local governments’ inability to innovate often comes not from a lack of knowledge about better solutions to pressing problems, but in limited capacity to put knowledge into practice effectively and efficiently. There are three causes for this gap: 1) local government staff and leadership lack access to the latest examples of best practice; 2) administrative silos prevent creative approaches to fixing pressing social issues that span departments; and 3) cultures of risk aversion internally and externally prevent creative problem solving and implementation.
Universities generally have the exact opposite qualities: 1) faculty have access to and are often the creators of the latest evidence from their field of expertise; 2) through applied coursework, students can translate and apply that knowledge to community-identified quality of life issues; and 3) students are both capable of and encouraged to be riskier and more innovative in their thinking than local government staff or local consultants typically can be.
To date, there are over 30+ active programs in the United States, Mexico, Brazil, Israel, and Africa. In May 2017, EPIC held a conference in Bonn, Germany to help bring the model overseas, hosting representatives from 15 countries spanning Southeast Asia, Sub-Saharan Africa, and Central and South America, along with representatives from the United Nations (UN), U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF), the International City Managers Association (ICMA) and ICLEI-Local Governments for Sustainability.
For more information on the EPIC Network, visit the organization website.