In this interview, South Bend, Indiana Chief Innovation Officer Santiago Garces discusses the creation of the innovation and technology unit within South Bend’s city government. Garces recounts the path that took him from Bogota, Colombia to Indiana. He discusses early projects to identify areas in which government could operate more efficiently and effectively, as well as the evolution of a small innovation office into a full-fledged department. Garces talks about creating a business analytics team, consolidating the city’s information technology (IT) services into one office, and making IT more efficient by outsourcing some services and moving to the cloud. He also explains how his team managed resistance to change and shares some lessons learned for other municipalities interested in creating innovation units.
Santiago “Santi” Garces was born and raised in Colombia. In 2006, he came to the United States to attend at the University of Notre Dame, where he studied electrical engineering and political science. He earned his undergraduate degree in 2011 and stayed at Notre Dame for a one-year master’s program in entrepreneurship in science, engineering, and technology. After graduating, he and a group of classmates worked with civic and business leaders in South Bend to start a nonprofit organization called EnFocus, which funded fellowships allowing young graduates to work on innovation projects in South Bend. Garces spent part of his fellowship working with city government. In August 2013, South Bend mayor Pete Buttigieg offered him a job as innovation and performance manager. In January 2015, he became the city’s first chief innovation officer.