THE CITY OF Durham Innovation Team

funded by Bloomberg Philanthropies


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DURHAM'S ‘Welcome home’ PILOT

Recipients of the first Welcome Home packages have just returned home. In this article from the 9th Street Journal, Julianna Rennie speaks with one of those recipients, Reginald Mumford, as well as Durham i-Team's Chuck Manning, the program’s Peer Support Specialist, who shares some of the promising benefits of the Innovation Team’s Welcome Home pilot and how the city hopes to expand its reach to individuals reentering Durham from prison. Read the article here.



The City of Durham is working to increase economic opportunities for residents who have been involved with the Justice System. In this new City Life episode, Host Beverly B. Thompson sits down with Bloomberg Philanthropies Innovation Team Project Manager Ryan Smith and the Durham i-Team’s Outreach Coordinator Chuck Manning, Sr. to talk about what the city is doing to expand driver license restoration and expungement for low-income residents.



Our prototypes

We prototype -- conduct small tests of big ideas -- to find out what works and refine the design of a service or program before making a large investment to roll it out to everyone.  We are currently prototyping ideas that aim to:

  • Expand Durham’s capacity to expunge criminal records and restore long-term suspended driver licenses.

  • Better leverage peers who have successfully reintegrated after incarceration to support better transitions back to the community and reduce recidivism.

  • Increase housing available to returning residents by incentivizing private landowners to build tiny homes.

  • Increase the number of transitional jobs available for residents with criminal records through a partnership between city government and local employers.


How long do people have to pay for their crimes?

“I can’t bury this dog and leave it dead. It keeps getting dug up.” - A Durham Justice Involved Resident

Consequences of criminal records follow people long after prison, jail or community supervision sentences have ended. A diverse set of legal and social barriers make it difficult for people to access the very resources needed for stability and upward mobility, from finding a job and home to getting a license or loan.

Each year, over 700 residents return home to Durham from state prison; over 7000 are detained  in our county jail. Close to 3000 residents are under community supervision. Many more suffer the collateral consequences of a criminal record, including those who have served their time, were arrested but had charges dismissed, or  received a not guilty verdict. In North Carolina, 1 in 5 residents on average has a criminal record. This means Durham’s justice-involved population could be close to 60,000. 

How can our justice-involved population share in Durham’s prosperity? Our work examines what we can do as a community to help provide a permanent path away from the criminal justice system and towards economic opportunity and mobility.


Our Research & IDEAS


Prototype Plans

Research Synthesis

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"We can not solve a problem by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created it."

Albert Einstein



Local government has the capacity to transform residents’ lives. Amidst the daily work of running a city, however, it is hard for individuals to find the time and space to experiment and innovate to create  new solutions for long-lasting problems. The departmental silos and risk-averse culture of many cities lessen opportunities for collaboration and creativity.

That’s where i-teams comes in.

Innovation teams have dedicated time and space to think, learn, fail, create, and test new ideas in collaboration with residents affected by problems we seek to solve. We’re proud to be one of over 20 i-teams across the world funded by the Bloomberg Philanthropies tasked with envisioning new ways of making local government better.


Our Vision

Seeking solutions for greater shared prosperity. Together.


We are committed to making Durham a place where all residents share in our city’s prosperity. Shared prosperity in Durham will only be possible when all of our neighbors have access to those most basic of needs: jobs that pay a decent wage and housing that is affordable and safe. This is a big challenge we face as a community, and for many the challenge is magnified by the collateral consequences that come with having a criminal record.


Mayor Steve Schewel
Mayor, City of Durham

Our innovation team pictured above with Mayor Schewel outside the innovation lab in City Hall.

Our innovation team pictured above with Mayor Schewel outside the innovation lab in City Hall.


Brené Brown


Innovation teams focus on one issue area at a time and follow a four step process emphasizing data-driven and human centered research. Our team uses qualitative and quantitative research to understand the causes and consequences of deeply rooted problems. This research serves as the foundation for collaboratively generating ideas, designing projects and testing results. 

We believe those most affected by problems are best positioned to propose workable solutions. The i-team seeks to generate ideas, projects and policies designed with people, not simply for them.


Our Structure

What's an Innovation Team?

Durham’s i-team is part of the Office of Performance and Innovation, located in the Budget and Management Services Department. We work collaboratively with local government, residents, academia, community organizations and the private sector to understand the root causes of long-lasting problems, identify innovative ideas, and co-create and test solutions that deliver meaningful results.

Our innovation team hard at work sifting through qualitative and quantitative data points collected from Durham residents and our stakeholders.

Our innovation team hard at work sifting through qualitative and quantitative data points collected from Durham residents and our stakeholders.

"Everyone designs who devises courses of action aimed at changing existing situations into preferred ones."

Herbert Simon

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Our Team

“What is often called exceptional ability is nothing more than persistent endeavor.”

 – Pauli Murray 


Josh edwards

Assistant Director of Strategy & Performance. Edwards leads the City’s Office of Performance and Innovation.


ryan smith

I-Team Director. Smith most recently served as special assistant to the dean and senior director of Innovation for the Sanford School of Public Policy at Duke University.


Darin johnson

Data Analyst. Johnson worked in the banking industry prior to joining the team, and also has experience with both multi-disciplinary research and an array of human centered problem solving strategies as a graduate of the Winston-Salem State University Department of Psychology.


Erin Parish

Design strategist. Parish is a cultural anthropologist with experience working with community organizations, development organizations and peace-building initiatives in the United States, Nicaragua, Gabon, Northern Ireland and Colombia.

Chuck M.jpeg

Chuck Manning SR.

Community Outreach Coordinator.  Manning is a lifelong resident of Durham, has been justice involved himself and experienced the effects of recidivism on his community.  Manning is also a Violence Interruptor/outreach worker for Bull City United and an advocate for A Non Violent Durham.



Design Strategist. Delaney comes to the team from Chicago, where she has been building her creative problem-solving toolbox in both private and public sectors.


Joseph sherlock

Behavioral Fellow in Residence.  Sherlock is an Applied Behavioral Researcher at Duke's Center for Advanced Hindsight where he works with governments and is generally interested in bringing innovation into civic society.



Data Science Fellow. Broman is a graduate student in political science and economics at Duke University, and is interested in using data to better understand local institutions.


Durham I-Team in the News


A Small Team inside Durham’s City Hall Is Tackling A Big Challenge 

"Overwhelming trips to Walmart are an experience a five-person team (plus an intern) at Durham City Hall has heard about repeatedly over the past few months as its members studied the challenges that confront people returning from prison..."

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How rethinking your workspace can spur innovation

"Disrupting “government as usual” can be tricky when you’re working from a standard-issue cubicle with stodgy white walls. That’s why a number of the more than 20 Bloomberg Philanthropies-funded innovation teams around the world are rethinking their workspaces..."

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durham, let's wipe the slate clean

"Make no mistake: driver’s licenses are crucial. Durham, despite its decent bus system, is still designed for cars. But the real impact of losing a license is employment..."

Read More →


What We're Up To

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