South Bend, Ind. Fresh out of college with new ideas and skills, a group of Notre Dame graduate students called enFocus is working with area organizations, putting new technology and ideas to the test.
“Let’s face it, Midwestern Municipal Governments are not always known for being super innovative and cutting edge,” says Mayor Pete Buttigieg.
But that might be changing thanks to enFocus.
“The idea is to maintain and keep intellectually talented individuals in the South Bend region,” explains Daniel Lewis a senior fellow with enFocus.
People like, Daniel Lewis, originally from New Jersey he stayed in South Bend and is returning to the enFocus group for a second year.
“Our goal originally was to have seven fellows come in and we wanted to see four stay, and we actually had five stay, so we surpassed our goal,” says Lewis.
One of the five is Santiago Garces, but he isn't returning to the group, instead, he was hired by the City of South Bend.
“With the city, what I am doing is building the operational improvement systems across all of the departments and hopefully in the same process instill a culture of innovation,” says Santiago Garces with the City of South Bend.
A job very similar to what he did in enFocus, where he worked on a plan to use the cities fire trucks, smarter, not harder.
“We looked at these large fire trucks and fire suppression equipment that is very costly to operate,” says Garces.
That is true especially when responding to medical calls, where a large truck isn't always needed.
“So what we did was look at, how could you supplement the fleet, not get rid of the fire suppression equipment but instead magnify the fleet and get some SUV that would supplement those emergency calls,” explains Garces.
The group crunched the numbers and put a pilot program into action to see if it would work in South Bend, and the results are dramatic.
“The total projected savings are about $1.4 million in the next 7 years,” says Garces.
If implemented this project is going to save the city a lot of money, but there is another benefit that you can't put a dollar amount on.
“The first benefit that we got was the brain gain, the chance to retain some superb people in our community, a second benefit is, that I think it injects the spirit of innovation into our culture,” explains Mayor Buttigieg. “The enFocus program allowed us to draw seven people into the community, that probably otherwise would have gone anywhere in the world for some very attractive job offers, but chose to spend their time and talent here in innovation.”
In one year's time, they are generating change that can't be measured.
“I was looking at jobs in the west coast in the east coast with some pretty large and well known tech companies and there is something definitely captivating about being able to have a lot of impact in the community,” says Garces.
“Some of these people I think have been hooked on civic innovation and South Bend wins when that happens,” explains Mayor Buttigieg.
The group estimates they contributed over $3 million in value to their clients this past year. They also racked up more than 1,200 hours of community involvement.
This year's class of enFocus fellows has been expanded to nine Notre Dame graduates.