Power of Government Innovation Drives America Forward: Five programs win coveted national award

Contact: Leanne Jerome
Phone: 202.530.3265
Date: December 13, 2001

(WASHINGTON) – The Institute for Government Innovation at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government announced today that five initiatives have won 2001 Innovations in American Government Awards for their outstanding creative problem solving. All the winning programs also received $100,000 to help communicate their efforts to citizens and other governments nationwide.

“This year’s winners demonstrate the power of innovation that drives our nation forward. They offer solutions to long-standing challenges in education, health care, economic development, and public safety,” said Gail Christopher, Executive Director of the Institute for Government Innovation.

Chosen from 15 finalists were the following five initiatives:

· The National Center for Patient Safety (NCPS), established by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), created guidelines that empower staff at 163 VA medical centers to report adverse events and close calls involving patients, which are traditionally underreported for fear of punishment. With this change in medical culture, VA health care professionals have made systemic improvements that have prevented mistakes from recurring, thereby saving lives.

· The OK-First Program uses state-of-the-art computer technology to provide local public safety workers in Oklahoma with up-to-the-minute information about severe weather. This enables police, firefighters, and emergency management personnel to make life-saving decisions quickly and effectively, and to broadcast timely emergency warnings to citizens about tornados, high winds, wild fires and other weather-related hazards.

· Ho-Chunk, Inc., chartered by the Winnebago Tribe, has diversified the economic platform for Native Americans in Nebraska. By reinvesting profits from its gaming enterprises, Ho-Chunk developed many new businesses, including hotels, shopping centers, gas stations, manufacturers and a Native news Web site. This initiative has increased employment, decreased poverty, and sent the Tribe’s annual revenues from $150,000 in 1990 to more than $50 million today.

· Mathematics, Engineering, Science Achievement (MESA) helps educationally disadvantaged students in California to excel in math and science. Teachers, parents, industry leaders, and higher education staff team up to provide the academic support and positive reinforcement that students need to pursue these subjects in post-secondary institutions, including community colleges and universities.
Eighty-five percent of high school graduates who participate in MESA attend college – much higher than the state average of 50 percent.

· The Toledo Plan is a unique teacher peer review method that mentors and evaluates teachers in Toledo public schools. Before this initiative began, the assessment process often sparked conflict between teacher unions and administrators. The new teacher-to-teacher approach is less confrontational, and fosters better teaching.

“These initiatives demonstrate that, with innovation and diligence, governments can meet even the greatest challenges,” said Stephen Goldsmith, Faculty Director of the Innovations in American Government Program at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government. “And it’s vital that we capitalize on this type of public-sector creativity in order to strengthen our nation, especially during these difficult times.”

About the Innovations Awards

Celebrating its 15th anniversary, the Innovations in American Government Awards recognize high-quality, problem-solving government programs at the federal, state, local and Tribal levels. The goal of the Awards program is to foster replication of the best ideas to meet the challenges facing governments.

The awards – a program of the Institute for Government Innovation at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government – are administered in partnership with the Council for Excellence in Government. The Program was founded by the Ford Foundation to identify and promote excellence and creativity in the public sector.

About the Innovations Partners

The Institute for Government Innovation at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government, established through an endowment from the Ford Foundation, strives to foster excellence in governments throughout the world. It houses the Innovations in American Government Awards Program and serves as a global hub for public-sector innovators through networks, conferences and research.

The Council for Excellence in Government is a national, nonprofit and nonpartisan organization whose members have served as senior public sector officials. Its mission is to improve the performance of government by strengthening results-oriented management and creative leadership in the public sector, and build understanding in government by focusing public discussion on its role and responsibilities.

For more information on the Innovations in American Government program and this year’s winners, please visit www.innovations.harvard.edu

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