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City names chief innovation officer

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anthony corso

Anthony Corso has been named chief innovation officer for the City of Peoria, the city announced Thursday.

Corso will spearhead Peoria’s Innovation Team, or “i-team,” made possible by a three-year, $1.5 million grant from Bloomberg Philanthropies. Peoria was one of 14 cities chosen in December 2014 for the Bloomberg Philanthropies’ Innovation Teams program.

The program aims to improve the capacity of cities to effectively design and implement new approaches that improve citizens’ lives. Grant funds allow cities to hire and fund i-teams for up to three years. These teams function as in-house innovation consultants, moving from one community priority to the next. “Using Bloomberg Philanthropies’ tested Innovation Delivery approach, i-teams will help community leaders and staff go through a data-driven process to assess problems, generate responsive new interventions, develop partnerships, and deliver measurable results,” said a news release from the city.

Corso and his team will work with city staff, elected officials, community groups and others to help solve some of Peoria’s most difficult and complex problems. As part of the grant process, the city identified an initial set of problems for the i-team. They include, the city said, the needs to address its “combined sewer” problem, a condition that periodically pollutes the Illinois River. 

“Correcting defects in the environmental infrastructure, though literally below the surface of the city, is one of the most imperative challenges we face.  This is a massive community undertaking with an equally large cost. Since the combined sewer area is also the oldest and poorest part of the community, the Peoria i-team will take a broad look at this issue, exploring and developing strategies that improve water quality while simultaneously improving community outcomes: more jobs, greater investment, lower crime,” the city release said.

Corso is an architect, urban designer, consultant and educator, “working to make communities more livable and resilient.” The Peoria native currently is a program director at Illinois Central College and represented Central Illinois on the board of the US Green Building Council Illinois chapter.  He also founded and hosts Green Drinks Peoria, a monthly conversation on sustainability topics. 

Corso will begin his new duties April 7. The city said the full team will include two project managers who will be in place by the end of April.

Bloomberg Philanthropies’ mission is to ensure better, longer lives for the greatest number of people. The organization focuses on five key areas for creating lasting change: Public Health, Environment, Education, Government Innovation and the Arts. In 2014, Bloomberg Philanthropies distributed $462 million.

About the Author
Paul Gordon is the editor of The Peorian after spending 29 years of indentured servitude at the Peoria Journal Star. He’s an award-winning writer, raconteur and song-and-dance man. He also went to a high school whose team name is the Alices (that’s Vincennes Lincoln High School in Indiana; you can look it up).