"Sandbox" - a testing environment for new tools, changes and outright experimentation with new ideas. 

The Innovation Sandbox Challenge initiative began in 2018 as a response to several different needs in the region. TJCOG identified a need for more innovative, flexible, and responsive projects on behalf of our member governments on issues that arose suddenly or became too challenging for individual localities to address on their own. Additionally, the region was experiencing unprecedented growth in its innovation sector with organizations such as HQ Raleigh, American Underground and InnovateNC providing more capital and opportunity for public sector firms to think differently about their challenges. The public sector was missing out on a big chunk of this innovation work.


The Innovation Sandbox Challenge - named after the technological sandbox environment where changes can be tested and experimented with - became a new initiative aimed at addressing these needs, focusing on public sector challenges, and providing a safe space outside of any single local government for experimentation. Every other year, TJCOG staff will lead research, facilitate conversations, and manage workstreams to identify and implement unique approaches and solutions on a regional scale for challenges selected by stakeholders of the COG.


Thank you to our financial partner - Civic - for your commitment to innovation in government. 

  • Want to receive information about the #SandboxChallenge efforts around Recruitment and Retention of Law Enforcement Professionals in 2019? Sign up here
  • Interested in being a financial partner for The Sandbox? Contact Alana Keegan, akeegan@tjcog.org


Learn about the 2019 #SandboxChallenge Winner

Recruitment and Retention of Law Enforcement Professionals

Submitted by the Town of Garner Police Department

Police departments across the region are struggling with unprecedented difficulty to recruit and retain qualified candidates and sworn staff. Most specifically, there is a struggle to attract a diverse staff comprised of minorities and females to better reflect the communities the departments serve. 

  • Recruitment has been difficult for years, but finding qualified candidates became even more prevalent after the Ferguson, Missouri riots in 2014. 
  • Social media and its impacts have raised renewed questions about police-community relations and the use of force white officers, particularly involving young black males. 
  • Perception of the profession has attributed to fewer applicants and many local communities completing their hiring process without identifying a single qualified candidate.

Why the Challenge Must be Solved

  1. Position vacancies result in delayed response times, reduced proactive enforcement efforts and limited police-community engagement efforts.
  2. Vacancies are not just a law enforcement issue. They are a community issue that impacts crime rates, traffic safety and overall quality of life for citizens.

The Obstacles

  • A lack of competitive salary and benefits compared to the private sector.
  • The "risk vs. reward" aspect regarding police officer safety in the field.
  • An existing bias against law enforcement in many communities. 
  • An inability from the profession to demonstrate the benefits that come from a law enforcement career.


The Sandbox Institute

The Sandbox Institute aims to leverage limited public funding resources to provide local government staff and partners across diverse agency types more opportunity to learn the skills necessary to think and act innovatively and strategically about their day-to-day work and community vision.