photo of what do you do with an idea bookOur story

Innovation labs are common among technology and private sector organizations, but they are rare within government organizations, especially in the area of human services. Furthermore, the intentional focus on racial justice within a government institution underscores the unique nature of the MIL.  

Innovation results from linking ideas into complex systems with people at the core of the process. The MIL specifically focuses on the human experience at the intersection of poverty and race to develop work that influences local, regional, and state government.

The cornerstones to the MIL’s approach are a Human Centered Collaborative Design (HCCD) practice; Critical Thinking, engaging with others using a dynamic, systemic lens; and then using Applied Research to test ideas in the community.

The MIL has employed HCCD in numerous projects, including the County’s Trans and Gender Diverse Workgroup, the City of Portland’s Bureau of Transportation (PBOT), and the Cities for Financial Empowerment (CFE) CityStart grant.

A large part of the MIL’s Critical Thinking examines the long range impacts of asset building through unconditional cash transfer as strategies such as the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and Universal Basic Income+ (UBI+) to help individuals and families break intergenerational poverty cycles. By examining poverty with an intergenerational racial justice lens, policy and programs can build the potential to create financial stability and future asset wealth for working families.

A critical component of the MIL is the ability to use Applied Research to test ideas - testing it to understand the qualitative, in addition to the quantitative, outcomes. The goal is for the research to add value County-wide, and potentially inform and shape innovation and policy in governmental agencies elsewhere.

The MIL has received several grant awards and most recently was named as one of the 2018 Top 25 Innovations in American Government by the Harvard Kennedy School Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation.

Team Members

Julie Latimer

Executive Specialist

Julie Latimer brings with her many years of government experience.  Throughout her career with Multnomah County, she’s worked in a variety of capacities within the Department of Social Services, the Chair’s Office, the Health Department, and back to what is now called County Human Services!  Happy to be a part of the MIL team!

Outside of the office, Julie most treasures time with her family (including the pup), friends, home, and the outdoors.

Mary Li


Mary has worked for the County since 1990, and describes herself as a proud bureaucrat!  She believes that it's an absolute responsibility for government to address the role that policies, practices, and investments have played in creating the inequities experienced by our communities today.  By intentionally centering race in our work, we can take action that makes a difference in the journey towards justice.

Jooyoung Oh

Research & Evaluation Analyst, Sr.

Jooyoung is one of the newest members of the MIL. Before MIL, she worked as a design research and strategy consultant helping companies come up with innovative products and services that are centered around the user experience. She is happy to bring her expertise in Design Thinking to support systemic changes and racial justice. 

Outside her work at the MIL, she teaches Design Research Approaches at the Collaborative Design program at PNCA and works as a Process Work therapist for the API community. She is a recent graduate of the Process-oriented Conflict Facilitation program at the Process Work Institute. 

Steve van Eck

Research & Evaluation Analyst, Sr.

Steve van Eck was a co-founder of the MIL.  


Twitter: @MultCoMIL