Harvard Kennedy School's Ash Institute Announces Top 50 Innovations in Government

Contact: Kate Hoagland
Phone: (617) 495-4347
Date: March 31, 2009

Cambridge, MA – The Ash Institute for Democratic Governance and Innovation at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University today announced the 2009 Top 50 Government Innovations competing for the Innovations in American Government Awards. Representing the work of city, county, state, federal, and tribal government agencies, the Top 50 were selected from over 600 applicants. Six Innovations in American Government Award winners will be announced in September.

The Top 50 programs underwent rigorous rounds of evaluation by policy experts and practitioners from across the country. The Top 50 programs include 21 cities and towns, seven counties, one school district, 11 states, eight federal agencies, one tribal government, and one regional authority.

Of this year’s six Innovations in American Government Awards, two government programs will be honored with policy-specific awards. Established in 2006, the Annie E. Casey Innovations Award in Children and Family System Reform honors public system reforms that benefit disadvantaged children and families. The newly created Innovations Award in Urban Policy acknowledges local community and urban center endeavors that improve quality of life by fostering citizen empowerment and engagement.

The Innovations in American Government Awards was created by the Ford Foundation in 1985 in response to widespread pessimism and distrust in government’s effectiveness. The awards program acts as a significant force in restoring public trust in government by promoting public sector creativity and excellence. Competing programs demonstrate innovative solutions within a host of policy areas including health and social services; management and governance; community and economic development; education and training; criminal justice; transportation and infrastructure; and the environment. Since its inception, over 400 government programs across all jurisdiction levels have been recognized and have collectively received more than $20 million in grants to support dissemination efforts.

In addition to encouraging the adaptation of innovative practices worldwide, award winners provide models of good governance taught in government school curricula worldwide. Such programs inform research and academic study around issues of democratic governance at Harvard Kennedy School and serve as the basis for case studies for present and future public practitioners. To date, more than 450 Harvard courses and over 2,250 courses worldwide have incorporated Innovations in American Government case studies.

“In this climate of economic uncertainty, these Top 50 innovative government programs demonstrate that creativity and innovation can still survive and flourish,” said Stephen Goldsmith, director of the Innovations in American Government Program at Harvard Kennedy School. “Despite strained budgets and diminishing resources, these programs prove that government continues to find solutions to pressing societal challenges.”

“Twenty-two years after its creation, the Innovations in American Government Program remains central to identifying and encouraging the spread of the country’s most novel practices,” said Anthony Saich, director of the Ash Institute for Democratic Governance and Innovation. “This year’s Top 50 Government Innovations promise to enhance the study of government innovation and influence new legislation and reform strategies.”

Finalists of the 2009 Innovations Awards will be announced on May 18 and will present before the National Selection Committee, chaired by HKS Professor of Public Service David Gergen, on May 27. This event is free and open to the public. The 2009 Innovations winners will be announced in September. Applicants for the 2010 Innovations in American Government Awards are encouraged to apply at www.innovationsaward.harvard.edu.

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