The Innovations in American Government Awards was the nation's preeminent program devoted to recognizing and promoting excellence and creativity in the public sector. The program highlighted exemplary models of government innovation and advances efforts to address the nation's most pressing public concerns. Starting in 1985 with funding from the Ford Foundation and ending in 2020, the Program received over 27,000 applications and recognized nearly 500 government initiatives.
The Awards served as a catalyst for bringing creative and effective solutions to some of government's most urgent and seemingly intractable challenges. After a rigorous process of identification and evaluation, a national selection committee of distinguished scholars and practitioners, chaired by Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, selected the top programs. Such programs received grant funding and significant press coverage. The Innovations Awards Program worked vigorously to disseminate the valuable lessons offered by these initiatives.
In order to shine a light on additional noteworthy government programs and practices, in 2010 the Innovations Program also launched a recognition initiative called Bright Ideas that served to further highlight and promote creative government initiatives and partnerships so that government leaders, public servants, and other individuals can learn about noteworthy ideas and can adopt those initiatives that can work in their own communities.
About the Innovations in Government Program
The Innovations in American Government Awards was a marquee initiative of the Ash Center's Innovations in Government Program, which was one of the world's premier academic entities for recognizing and promoting excellence in the public sector and fostering innovative policy solutions to the 21st century challenges of governing. Work advancing public-sector innovation continues throughout the Ash Center's other programs and within Harvard Kennedy School. Examples of research and teaching around government innovation abound throughout the Kennedy School's programs, projects, and initiatives on cities and communities; science, technology and data; social innovation and philanthropy; public leadership and management; and much more.
Though the Innovation in American Government Awards and Bright Ideas are no longer offered, the lessons of its winners remain relevant to today's government leaders and public-sector innovators. We encourage you to explore the Awards' previous winners, finalists, and Bright Ideas.