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 Rochester – Monroe Anti-Poverty Initiative (RMAPI) and other important community efforts.

Report- Wage Disparities In Monroe County

The Mayor's Office of Innovation and the Rochester-Monroe Anti-Poverty Initiative have released a new study on wage disparities in Monroe County, showing that minorities are over-represented in Monroe County’s lowest paying and largest industries. Mayor Warren is calling on business and community leaders to help find ways to bring equity to the workforce, starting with the health care industry. 

 Key findings: 

• 33% of the city’s part-time and seasonal workers live in poverty, 62% don’t make self-sufficient wages
• Minorities are over-represented in several key service industries.
• The industries with over-representation of minorities also tend to be the county’s lowest paying and largest sectors.
• Minorities earn less than their white counterparts in nearly every industry sector.
• Regardless of educational attainment, the wage gap between whites and minorities persists.
The report is available for download here: Wage Disparities in Monroe County 

Survey of Part-Time Workers

One recommendation coming out of the above report was the deployment of a survey of part-time workers. The purpose of the survey is to learn more about the barriers that these workers face in achieving full-time sustainable employment. The findings will help inform policy makers and employers on how we may be able to better support these employees in achieving full-time employment and upward mobility through things like training, education, or other more innovative initiatives.




RMAPI 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 

In late 2016 the City and community stakeholders launched the Marker Driven Community Corporation, a new local non-profit dedicated to launching, growing, and supporting neighborhood-based, worker-owned cooperative businesses. MDCC Corp. and its subsidiary businesses have a mission to create living wage jobs and wealth building opportunities for residents of high poverty neighborhoods in the city of Rochester. As coop businesses, employees have the opportunity to become owners, providing them with decision making power in company operations and a stake in any profits.  MDCC Corp partners closely with local ‘anchor institutions’ including UofR, RIT, Rochester Regional Health, and St. John Fisher to localize their spending and build businesses around their reliable source of demand. This project builds on the successful Evergreen Cooperatives model in Cleveland, OH which has created over 100 jobs in three profitable coop businesses.

MDCC Corp. launched its first business in February 2017, led by Business Manager Doug Caswell. ENEROC is designed to be a green energy construction subcontractor, completing portions of large solar installation and LED retrofitting projects. ENEROC brings value to prime contractors as a source of reliable, trained labor to help them take on larger projects. ENEROC's first contracts were completed in April 2017 at Rochester Regional Health's campuses doing LED lighting retrofitting. ENEROC will employs 3 individuals and projects to grow to up to 14 workers in its first year. ENEROC is currently hiring for entry level general construction jobs paying $12-$15 per hour with benefits. Please spread the word to neighborhood residents, and please email resumes to Doug Caswell if interested in applying:

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 of Innovation

Henry Fitts, Director
City Hall, 30 Church Street, Room 222B
Rochester, NY 14614