5 Fantastic Examples of Government Innovation

The number of government programs and initiatives operating today is probably incalculable. From national security to early childhood education, government programs address a vast landscape of policy issues. Amongst the crowd, a number of initiatives are tackling complex public challenges through engineering smart opportunities of collaboration and cross-issue policy integration.

In May, the Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government announced the Top 25 programs in this year’s Innovations in American Government Award competition. The final winner and runner-up programs will be announced in the fall, but for now, here are my top 5 picks. The full list of the Top 25 programs is available here.

1) Tapping the Power of the People

NYC Service – City of New York, NY

Mayor Bloomberg initiated NYC Service to harness citizen service as a core strategy to respond to local needs. It introduces “impact volunteerism”—targeting local need, using best practices, and measuring impact. The program’s two overarching goals are to make New York the easiest place in the world to volunteer, and to set a new standard for how other local governments can tap into their citizens to face public challenges.

2) Reaching Out for Recovery

Citywide Post-Disaster Resilience and Recovery Initiative – City and County of San Francisco, CA
We’ve all witnessed the incredibly collaborative and fast response of government, private and civil entities to save lives after an emergency event. But this cooperation shouldn’t emerge just as crisis emerges. The Citywide Post-Disaster Resilience and Recovery Initiative runs over 75 projects to improve the city’s resilience before and after a catastrophic event. The program often partners with organizations not normally involved in emergency planning and response, such as major utility companies.

3) Financially Supporting Community Development

New Markets Tax Credit Program – U.S. Department of Treasury
The NMTC program provides competitive-basis tax incentives to induce private-sector, market-driven investment in businesses and real estate developments located in distressed communities. Implemented by the Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFI) Fund under the Treasury, the program generates over $8 in private investment from every $1 invested by the federal government.

4) Multi-State Cooperation on the Environment

Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative – Ten Northeastern States
The RGGI is a cooperative effort among ten states to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The states working together to cap and reduce CO2 emissions are Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, and Vermont. States auction emission allowances, invest proceeds to benefit consumers, stimulate the clean energy economy, and create green jobs.

5) Connectivity for Local Businesses

City Net – City of Santa Monica, CA
Silicon Valley isn’t the only place for tech in California. Santa Monica’s 10 Gigabit Fiber optic network is attracting technology companies that demand a high tech infrastructure in Southern California. The network’s model provides affordable and advanced broadband to businesses, and the opportunity to integrate and efficiently manage data exchanges between business partnerships.

Do you have any examples of innovation in government?

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Terrence (Terry) Hill

I like the NYC Service website! Most cities have a similar volunteer service office. In DC it’s Serve-DC. Serve.govis also a great service offered by our friends at CNCS. We need a similar clearinghouse for Federal volunteer opportunities. Maybe the President’s new initiative will come up with one.