Jump to:Page Content
Today the Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation at the John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University announced the Top 25 programs in this year’s Innovations in American Government Award competition. These government initiatives represent the dedicated efforts of city, state, federal, and tribal governments and address a host of policy issues including crime prevention, economic development, environmental and community revitalization, employment, education, and health care. Selected by a cohort of policy experts, researchers, and practitioners, four finalists and one winner of the Innovations in American Government Award will be announced in the fall. A full list of the Top 25 programs is available here.
“These Top 25 innovations in government offer real, tangible ways to protect our most disadvantaged citizens, educate the next-generation workforce, and utilize data analytics to enhance government performance,” said Stephen Goldsmith, director of the Innovations in Government program at the Ash Center. “Despite diminishing resources, these government programs have developed model innovations that other struggling agencies should be inspired to replicate and adapt to their own communities.”
A Culture of Innovation
A number of this year’s Top 25 programs foster a new culture of innovation through online collaboration and crowdsourcing. Signaling a new trend in government, these programs encourage the generation of smart solutions to existing and seemingly intractable public policy problems. LAUNCH—a partnership among NASA, USAID, the State Department, and NIKE—identifies and scales up promising global sustainability innovations created by individual citizens and organizations. The General Services Administration’s Challenge.gov uses crowdsourcing contests to solve government issues: government agencies post challenges, and the broader American public is awarded for submitting winning ideas. The Department of Transportation’s IdeaHub also uses an online platform to encourage its employees to communicate new ideas for making the department more adaptable and enterprising.
Helping Troubled Neighborhoods
Helping our nation’s most disadvantaged citizens and residents was also a common characteristic among this year’s Top 25. New York City’s Office of Financial Empowerment connects low-income New Yorkers with financial education counseling and asset-building services. Also in New York City, Homebase offers families at imminent risk of homelessness with customized services and support, so that they avoid losing their homes. The Department of Housing and Urban Development follows a similar model to Homebase; its targeted interventions through the Sustainable Communities Initiative are making a notable impact on crime, failing schools, poor infrastructure, and other interconnected causes of poverty.
Often hand-in-hand with struggling communities is the distressed land on which they reside. As a collaboration among the Yukon River Tribes and Nations—made up of 70 sovereign indigenous governments primarily based in Alaska—its Watershed Council follows an international governance model to protect the Yukon River and ensure its water is drinkable for generations to come. The Environmental Protection Agency’s Re-Powering America’s Land Initiative revitalizes degraded land, preserves existing green spaces, and encourages the development of environmentally-friendly, energy solutions.
The Next Generation Workforce
Several government initiatives tackle challenges to our education system and prepare students for employment opportunities. Metropolitan College in Louisville, Kentucky, collaborates with the private sector to equip students with the education skills and training necessary to become attractive workforce candidates upon graduation. Also targeting America’s next generation workforce, Alaska’s Native Science and Engineering Program (ANSEP) trains Indigenous Americans for future careers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. Much like ANSEP, Rocketship Education of Santa Clara County, California, and Today’s Students Tomorrow’s Teachers of New York’s Westchester County Public Schools leverage mentors, tutors, and special training programs to reduce the achievement gap in underperforming schools and improve career opportunities.
The Innovations in American Government Awards was created by the Ford Foundation in 1985 to shine a light on effective government programs. Since its inception, over 400 government innovations across all jurisdiction levels have been recognized and have collectively received more than $22 million in grants to support dissemination efforts. Such models of good governance also inform research and academic study. The Center also recently announced 13 programs as Bright Ideas, an initiative of the broader Innovations in American Government Awards program.