Connecting Through the HUD Switchboard


Switchboard’s mission is to provide HUD’s citizens, stakeholders, and staff with the tools and channels necessary to interact meaningfully with their government in the following ways:

  1. By welcoming and encouraging creative ideation to improve HUD’s programs, policies, and operations, and engaging those interested in the process of putting those ideas into action;
  2. By creating avenues of feedback for individuals or organizations on matters that directly or indirectly affect them;
  3. By making decisions through open, transparent, and democratic crowdsourcing; and
  4. By providing timely, friendly, and helpful support in HUD’s customer care functions

You (yes, you!) can access the Switchboard at What makes this concept even more beneficial is that stakeholders, like our industry groups, can add ideas. Users can post new ideas, and all ideas that reach the 100-vote threshold make it straight to the desk of the Deputy Secretary. The Switchboard Team provides updates on the status (such as “we’re looking into it,” “we’re working on it,” and “off to the Deputy Secretary for consideration”), and there is an option for users to enter comments. Users can also vote for other ideas. Each user has a set number of votes (typically 20) per forum and can give any idea 1, 2, or 3 votes. Users can reallocate votes at any time. When an idea is implemented (or otherwise closed out), votes for that idea are automatically returned to each user’s vote budget.

I decided to take the plunge this summer, and I submitted my idea to the Switchboard. When I checked the status of my idea on Thursday, I realized I had 92 votes and I was close to the 100-vote threshold for the Deputy Secretary review. I quickly campaigned by emailing a few co-workers a link to my Switchboard idea, and my vote tally hit the triple-digits. My new idea:

HUD Should Establish a Cross-Program Monitoring Team: So many reviews and reports are done by different offices such as the Office of Inspector General, the Departmental Enforcement Center, the Quality Assurance Division, and programmatic offices (including Field Offices and Headquarters). However, there is no “gatekeeper” to monitor the resolution of any issues or findings. Often times the findings are not adequately addressed, resulting in more work (usually another review, another report, and repeat findings). A cross-program monitoring team could track the status of all reports, coordinate conference calls and meetings between various offices and stakeholders, and ensure the prompt resolution of findings. The team could also create a database that could be accessible to all HUD employees. This would improve efficiency and communication at HUD and would help ensure accountability both internally (among HUD offices) and externally (among our stakeholders).

Hopefully I didn’t put you to sleep. Here are a few other ideas that you may find more exciting:

  • 3 hours per week to exercise (368 votes)
  • Use a true flex schedule to cover core hours but not require an 8-hour work day (354 votes)
  • Allow HUD employees to use their personal smartphones to check HUD email (276 votes)

70 ideas have been implemented, including bringing Capital Bikeshare memberships to DC staff and providing more time off and spot awards to Field Office employees.

The Switchboard offers some other great resources. The HUD rotation policy allows staff to develop professionally through temporary assignments of up to four months and the home office continues to pay the employee’s salary. The Switchboard offers a list of presently available rotations and the point of contact for each. HUD staff can also join the Switchboard team and help investigate or implement ideas or complete a rotation (even a virtual rotation) with the Switchboard team.

What types of strategies does your agency use to connect citizens, stakeholders, and staff, interact meaningfully, and implement new ideas?

Nicole Willingham is part of the GovLoop Featured Blogger program, where we feature blog posts by government voices from all across the country (and world!). To see more Featured Blogger posts, click here.

Leave a Comment

One Comment

Leave a Reply

Eva Fulton

I submitted an idea that was sent off the the Dep Secretary too….Make HUD Notices searchable (like boolean search) or tagging. All it takes is someone willing to make the suggestion, at least we know our voices are being heard on some level. Great article Nicole and I hope your suggestion continues to progress!