photo of a group of students and others with SF Mayor London Breed

Innovation in Public Service: A Visit with San Francisco Mayor London Breed 

The Think. Do. Discover. program connects UC Davis students with innovative leaders in diverse fields.

In February 2023, a group of undergraduates, grad students and postdocs in our fellowship programs had the opportunity to learn how innovation is applied in public service when they met with UC Davis alumna London Breed, mayor of San Francisco.

Joe DiNunzio, executive director of the Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, shares how the experience expanded their understanding of innovation in action.

How did visiting Mayor Breed and discussing the case study fit in our fellows programs curricula and experiences?

I believe a key part of our job as educators is to support each of our students on their “hero’s journey”—the path they need to take to have the impact they want to have on the world. With generous funding from Mike and Renee Child, we have developed a series of case studies on Aggie Innovators. These stories of exceptional UC Davis alumni/ae, faculty and staff who are living their personal hero’s journey are inspirational real-life exemplars for our fellows on what can be done with vision, passion and motivation. We are grateful for the time and focus that Mayor Breed and her staff provided in the development of the case study and the visit to City Hall.

What is the role and need for innovation in public service?

Here at the institute we are committed to providing access to all UC Davis students, staff and faculty, with a particular focus on traditionally underserved communities. We are also committed to viewing opportunities for innovation and entrepreneurship across myriad disciplines, as the challenges we face as a society know no bounds. Many of our students see public service as their path to being a change agent, and it is important that we provide them with the tools, skills and opportunities they need to take the next step.

What actions and aspects of Mayor Breed's leadership do you find most important for our time and place? 

I believe that the guiding values that Mayor Breed has carried from her youth under very difficult circumstances to her ascendancy as the leader of one of the world’s most iconic cities are at the core of her success as a public servant. Moreover, her ability to build a powerful and ever-evolving network of advisors, colleagues and supporters—“a network growth mindset”—has been pivotal to her ability to deliver change.

During our visit to City Hall what resonated most with our students was the mayor’s aspirational and inclusive vision for San Francisco and her commitment to the day-in and day-out hard work needed to deliver on it through policy and bold actions, often in the face of fierce opposition.

The students were also moved by Mayor Breed’s deep roots in the community, her dedication to residents who are struggling with poverty, homelessness and lack of opportunities, and the balance of compassion and strength in her approach to governance.

Students Share Their Experiences