Ash Center Announces Finalists and Top 25 Programs for Innovations in American Government Award

May 2, 2017

Cambridge, MA – 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 Awards competition, including the seven finalists who will compete for the $100,000 grand prize on May 17 in Cambridge.

Selected by a team of policy experts, researchers, and practitioners, these initiatives represent the dedicated efforts of city, state, and federal governments, and address such policy issues as economic development, environmental and community revitalization, public health, equal access to education, criminal justice, and health care. A full list of the Top 25 programs is available below.

Those programs named as finalists will be making presentations to the National Selection Committee of the Innovations in American Government Awards on Wednesday, May 17, with the winner to be announced this summer. The presentations will be livestreamed on the Ash Center website at

Stephen Goldsmith, director of the Innovations in Government program at the Ash Center, called these programs “the vanguard of creative, solution-oriented governing, demonstrating that the drive to make government work better and do more comes from all levels and jurisdictions of every size. These programs are focused on an impressive range of areas and some of the country’s most pressing social concerns, including the opioid epidemic, government efficiency and efficacy, environmental conservation, homelessness, and the school and workforce readiness of our citizens.”

The Innovations in American Government Awards was created by the Ford Foundation in 1985 in response to widespread pessimism and distrust in government’s effectiveness. Since its inception, over 500 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 around key policy areas both at Harvard Kennedy School and academic institutions worldwide. Past winners have served as the basis of case studies taught in more than 450 Harvard courses and over 2,250 courses worldwide.

For more information, contact:

Daniel Harsha
Associate Director for Communications, Ash Center 

About the Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation
The Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation advances excellence in governance and strengthens democratic institutions worldwide. Through its research, education, international programs, and government innovations awards, the Center fosters creative and effective government problem solving and serves as a catalyst for addressing many of the most pressing needs of the world’s citizens. For more information, visit


The 2017 Top 25 Innovations in American Government Award Programs

Arkansas Payment Improvement Initiative

State of Arkansas

Confronted with a ballooning budget and potential shortfall in 2011, Arkansas Medicaid formed a unique public-private collaborative to design new financial incentives to reward effective stewardship by health-care providers in concert with patients, policymakers, and payers. They designed a mandatory, retrospective reconciliation payment process that offered shared savings or cost sharing with a principal accountable provider (PAP), either a physician or hospital, based on risk-adjusted average cost per case. The design and implementation process involved broad outreach to facilitate stakeholder input and engagement. Extensive data mining of administrative data created innovative report cards posted on a new internet portal that gave providers meaningful data about the patient journey and resource consumption during their acute episode. The program launched its first five episodes in July 2012; several episodes of care have completed payment and rewards cycles, which have shown costs decreasing or maintaining. In 2013, Arkansas Medicaid designed a patient-centered medical home program to reinvigorate primary care and promote preventive and chronic disease management, which would in turn reward effective total cost of care and quality performance. It also invested in a risk-adjusted $5 per member per month to the practices with the expectation of achievement of specific practice transformation goals such as 24/7 live voice access and care plans for high-risk patients. The program offered substantial savings for achievement in managing total cost of care. In addition, it provided practice coaches to assist clinical sites in transformation planning. In January 2014, the program launched with 100 practice sites and over 600 physicians. In its third year, there are now have 180 practice sites, nearly 900 physicians, and enrollment of 85 percent of eligible Medicaid beneficiaries. It has become a popular and highly accepted facet of Arkansas health care with replication by private payers. Since the start of the program, Arkansas Medicaid has analyzed nearly 1.5 billion claims to create 35,000 quarterly reports for 2,500 PAPs.

BiblioTech Digital Library

County of Bexar, TX

Bexar County's BiblioTech is the first all-digital library in the United States. BiblioTech was established in September 2013 and built on the Southside of San Antonio to bridge the digital divide in Bexar County. The county is almost 1,200-square-miles and one of the fastest growing counties in the United States. The library allows access to a digital collection of books, periodicals, and additional assets 24 hours a day. This model represents significant savings for the county. For instance, the Southside location of the library total cost was $2.3 million; by comparison, the city of Austin opened a new library at a cost of $120 million, plus the operating cost of maintaining paper books.

Cell-ED Pilot Program

State of New York

Cell-ED is a pilot program to provide free English-language training via mobile phones to hundreds of immigrants in New York State who may lack regular access to a classroom, a computer, or the internet. Learners will gain access to self-paced audio and text lessons through their personal cell phones. Despite record state investments in English language education, there are more than 900,000 limited English proficient immigrants in New York State. A lack of transportation, fear of being deported when outside of their work or home environments, or a demanding day of work serve as barriers to attending an English-language class. To address this issue, the New York State Office for New Americans partnered with social impact venture Cell-ED to provide free English-language training via mobile phones to hundreds of immigrant in the state. Participants call the program from a cell phone and listen to lessons, and once the lesson is complete, they are asked questions they answer via text messages to demonstrate comprehension. If the learner answers the questions correctly, they will move on to the next unit. If the learner is having difficulty, a coach calls to clarify the lesson. The program is free (excluding minutes and texts billed at the rate of the user’s cell phone plan). Though it was initially difficult to reach the target population through the state agency staff and outreach, office staff increased the program’s reach by working with community-based partners, faith-based groups, immigrant advocates, and the farming community to open access to the program to immigrant farm workers and low-wage Latino workers. Since its inception, more than 220 have completed the 45 units, with 730 currently in the learning pipeline.

Center for Distance Health

State of Arkansas

In a primarily rural and largely medically underserved state, increasing access to health care is an enormous, ongoing challenge. Arkansas represents just one of 15 states in the United States where the population is more than 50 percent rural. In rural communities, there are many daunting realities, like poverty and lack of access to specialty health care. Sadly, these deficiencies contribute to poor health outcomes, with the state ranking 48th in overall health in 2015. Leaders at the state’s only academic medical center, the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS), responded to this crisis by launching a program that leveraged creative community partnerships to bring medical care directly to the rural population through real-time video technologies known as telemedicine. Initially formed through an alliance with the state’s Medicaid program and UAMS, the Center for Distance Health has partnered with health-care competitors, insurance companies, prison systems, and federal- and state-supported community clinics to bring health care closer to the people of Arkansas. In 2003, UAMS and Arkansas Medicaid established ANGELS, an interactive video consultation service for Arkansas’ rural, high-risk pregnant women and their providers. ANGELS’ success helped establish the UAMS Center for Distance Health (CDH) in 2007, which delivers specialty clinical expertise through interactive video to address Arkansans’ health disparities. The CDH now manages ANGELS and other medical consultation programs that leverage real-time technologies to connect UAMS specialists to patients, hospitals, and clinics to rural locations throughout Arkansas where no such expertise exists. The CDH has brought 21 telemedicine and 10 distance education programs to rural Arkansans, collectively conducting over 77,000 clinical consultations and educating over 3,238 patients and students in 2015 alone. Moreover, the CDH led to the creation of a statewide telemedicine network through federal grant support, which currently provides telemedical connectivity to more than 400 health care entities.

Computer Vision for Conservation

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

There are only around 500 North Atlantic right whales alive today, making them one of the most endangered animals on the planet. Individuals can be identified by photographs taken from vessels and airplanes, and then compared to the North Atlantic Right Whale Catalog run by the New England Aquarium. Knowing the individual identity of a whale opens up many possible avenues of research and conservation management including demographics, social structure, and informed disentanglement operations. The process of matching a photograph to the catalog can be time-consuming, and finding a way to automate this process using the latest in image-recognition technology would free up valuable time and resources so that scientists have more time and energy to devote towards the conservation of these endangered whales. In November 2014, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) contracted with Kaggle, a platform for predictive modelling and analytics competitions, to crowdsource a technology solution. The competition ran from August 2015 through January 2016 with a $10,000 prize pool sponsored by MathWorks, and NOAA Fisheries provided the right whale aerial photographs and associated data set. Data scientists competed to create an algorithm to match a photograph of a right whale to its unique individual identity. The winning solution by software company relied heavily on convolutional neural networks in their solution to achieve 87% accuracy. This is very different than other approaches to image recognition that typically seek to count the number of individuals in the photograph and classify them to species. This solution actually classifies the whales to their unique individual identity. NOAA plans to use this algorithm to create software to automate the process of identifying whales, thereby freeing up valuable time and resources.

Environmental Collaboration and Conflict Resolution   

Environmental Protection Agency

The EPA’s Conflict Prevention and Resolution Center has strengthened public engagement on environmental issues by successfully institutionalizing the promotion and provision of high quality, easily accessible mediation and facilitation services. Through these services, the Center builds relationships among regulators, communities, and industry to achieve important environmental and social outcomes. Since 2009, the Center has completed an average of 85 environmental collaboration and conflict resolution cases per year. The vast majority of participants in the Center’s agreement-seeking processes say that they would recommend the process to others. The innovations pioneered by the Center include the nation’s first federal contract vehicle to provide access to highly qualified facilitators, mediators, and trainers. The Center developed landmark training in negotiation, dispute resolution, and public participation which is now offered to all of EPA’s staff and management nationwide. Other federal agencies, including the Department of Interior and the Army Corps of Engineers have emulated the Center’s approach and expanded the use of alternative dispute resolution and related services across the entire Federal government. This approach has resulted in improved environmental and social outcomes for otherwise intractable disputes. For example, in 2015 and 2016, the Center supported a facilitated public discussion in Minden, Louisiana, that identified alternative methods to destroy 80,000 pounds of munitions per day, other than the open burning method that was initially agreed to by the state and federal governments but opposed by the local community.

Equity & Environment Initiative              

City of Seattle, WA

The Equity & Environment Initiative (EEI) is transforming the environmental movement by putting communities of color at its center through robust, leadership-building engagement. Across the US, race is the most significant predictor of a person living near contaminated air, water, or soil. Research shows that people of color, immigrants, refugees, and low income individuals (EEI communities) experience greater health impacts from environmental hazards than white, upper income individuals (even within same geographies) due to the cumulative impacts of stress, racism, pollutant exposure, disparate health care access, and lack of affordable healthy food. Despite increasing racial diversity in the US, people of color make up only 12% to 16% of those working at organizations, foundations, and government agencies focused on environmental issues. By 2040, people of color will comprise 54% of the Seattle metro area. To maintain its renowned environmental progress, Seattle must embrace policies focused on mitigating burdens for those most-affected and support all residents having greater ownership of and direct benefits from these policies. Seattle’s innovation was a new approach to simultaneously address environmental and social justice while enhancing civic leadership. The Equity & Environment Initiative, conceived in the spring of 2014, builds off Seattle’s Climate Action Plan and the Race and Social Justice Initiative and resulted in the nation’s first Equity & Environment Agenda. The Agenda, co-owned by EEI communities and the City, is a blueprint for advancing race and social justice in the environmental movement. It broadens the analysis of environment beyond natural and built environments to incorporate a greater complexity of issues, ranging from youth pathways for environmental careers to addressing cumulative impacts of environmental hazards and socio-economic conditions to using art and cultural strategies to develop environmental leadership. Considering issues of economic growth, decision-making power, community capacity, cultural assets, and environmental narrative while planning for transit, food access, hazard mitigation, or open space, is a new approach to understanding problems and creating holistic, interdisciplinary solutions.

First Things First Arizona             

State of Arizona

First Things First (FTF) is a voter-created, citizen-led public body overseeing $132 million annually for programs to help children arrive at kindergarten prepared to succeed. Community volunteers in 28 regions recommend to a statewide board the early childhood programs needed to improve outcomes for children from birth to age five in their communities. FTF’s statewide board and 28 regional partnership councils (regional councils) — all volunteers — share the responsibility for these early childhood funds. By law, the board must be representative of Arizona’s diversity; it includes Republicans, Democrats, and Independents, and rural and metropolitan residents. The board sets FTF’s vision, determines priorities within Arizona’s broader early childhood system, and — through approval of local funding plans and contracts — ensures that FTF-funded programs improve outcomes for children from birth to age five. Recognizing not all children have the same needs, regional councils ensure FTF-funded services reflect unique priorities in their communities. Each member of the regional councils represents a specific segment of the community that has a stake in school readiness: parents, tribal representatives, educators, health professionals, and leaders in business, philanthropy, and faith. Regional councils study children’s challenges in their communities and the resources that exist to help them; their recommendations to the state board reflect those local nuances. To date, the board and regional partnership council members have volunteered more than 288,000 hours of service to Arizona. In addition to overseeing early childhood programs and funds, the board and regional councils are charged with building public awareness of the importance of early childhood. This also has been done by engaging Arizonans from all walks of life. Since 2010, through strategies funded by the board and regional councils (including presentations, visits to early childhood programs, media stories and community events), FTF has recruited almost 27,000 Arizonans to help spread the word about early childhood’s importance — from sharing information with personal and professional networks to engaging with policymakers to ensure early childhood remains a state priority. FTF’s regional councils have emerged as a national model that allows citizens to participate in their government in a way that is genuine and directly impacts their communities.

Fiscal Stress Monitoring System

State of New York

New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli's Fiscal Stress Monitoring System (FSMS) provides an objective and transparent fiscal stress assessment annually for 2,300 local governments in the state, using self-reported financial data. Scores and reports published annually give local stakeholders robust tools for decision-making on budgets and service delivery. Interest in this project grew out of the numerous municipal fiscal crises across the country in the late 2000s and concern from New Yorkers that a similar crisis could happen in their municipality or school district. Given their role in overseeing the fiscal affairs of local governments, the Comptroller’s office convened an internal workgroup, with the charge to develop a statewide, objective process to examine local government financial condition without new reporting requirements. After months of research, consulting with experts and constituents, statistical testing and public comment, FSMS was introduced. Prior to implementation, some local officials voiced concerns that rating agency downgrades might result, along with public discord and political grandstanding, leading the FSMS team to work to ease concerns and emphasize the benefits of the program through regular stakeholder meetings, informational webinars, a dedicated webpage, and a self-assessment tool. To date the office has conducted 11 webinars for 1,300 local officials and 36 in-person FSMS trainings for 2,800 local officials. Internally, FSMS has led to more efficient and time-sensitive reviews of municipal reporting, and more robust verification. The communication process evolved, enhancing the way the Comptroller’s office communicates with all local officials (even for non-FSMS purposes) to reduce costs and provide more timely information.

I Value: Community budget input           

City of Hampton, VA


Hit by the housing decline that crippled revenues in 2010, the city of Hampton, Virginia, faced a 5-percent cut for fiscal year 2011. Seeking both public input and buy-in to the plan to manage the budget without a significant cut in value services, the city manager’s office flipped the process of deliberation and began seeking public input at the beginning of its budgeting process, and dramatically expanded programs to engage the community. The “I Value” effort sought to determine and build on residents’ values, aggressively campaigning via social media, e-newsletters, neighborhood organizations, cable interviews, ads, and fliers for public contribution. Input was gathered through community meetings held on weekends and evenings in different sectors, informal chats with neighborhood and civic associations, online chats and social media engagement, traditional drop boxes with comment cards at public hearings, and 311 calls from residents. Because of this engagement, the proposed budget cut 5 percent on the city’s bottom line, yet drew little opposition. As the financial crisis continued, the I Value effort expanded, and each year the polling questions went deeper. Fiscal year 2011 focused on needs versus wants; fiscal year 2012 focused on broad service levels and whether they should be maintained, reduced, or eliminated; and in fiscal year 2013, specific cuts were put on the table, and residents rated whether individual cuts were acceptable or unacceptable during community meetings. Despite significant cuts, the proposed budgets once again met little opposition. Finally, in fiscal year 2014, the city faced another decline in home values and revenue, but data from previous I Value cycles showed further cuts were not acceptable. There was a clear choice: increase revenues or continue to cut programs and services that residents valued. Overall, participation in the input process increased by another 60 percent, and at the meetings, more than 90 percent supported some sort of tax-rate increase. The city manager and council scaled down the top proposal but maintained some money for investment, and ultimately the budget passed with a 20-cent rate increase. Since then, the city manager’s team has added the capital budget planning to input. Residents voiced preferences for fire stations, flooding controls, and prioritized parks. When a large contingent asked for a 50-meter swimming pool, the city commissioned feasibility and cost studies.

Investing in Innovation (i3)        

Department of Education

The Investing in Innovation (i3) program is the flagship "tiered-evidence" grant program within the federal government, linking grant funding in core education reform areas to rigorous evidence of effectiveness. Its core innovation — smaller grants for projects that are innovative but have less evidence and larger grants to scale up proven approaches — is a model for other federal departments and could significantly improve the results produced by the federal government. The central component of i3, and how it addresses the twin challenges of too few proven effective interventions in education and multiple barriers for even effective interventions to spread substantially, is its three-tier, evidence-based structure. That structure links the funding amount that an applicant can receive to the rigor of the evidence that an applicant provides to support the proposed practice or strategy. Applicants that present only a little evidence can receive small grants (up to $3 million) that support the development and initial evaluation of promising practices, while applicants that present the most rigorous evidence, often large randomized controlled trials, can receive large grants (up to $20 million) that support nation-wide expansion. Since 2010, the program has received over 4,000 applications, and has awarded 157 grants and over $1.3 billion, matched by more than $200 million in private-sector matching funds, to schools and nonprofit partners working in all 50 states. The focus on rigorous evaluation, and the incentives for generating such evidence, has had an impact in education and beyond. Some grantees are already using the evidence generated from their i3 evaluations to move up the tiers and apply for larger grants, and other federal programs are using i3's evidence framework, including the Social Innovation Fund and a major community college grant program at the Department of Labor.

Juvenile Community Accountability Board         

County of Albany, NY

The Albany County Juvenile Community Accountability Board (JCAB) provides the Probation Department a diversion option for juveniles charged with misdemeanor or low-level felony offenses. JCAB provides the victims, the community, and the juvenile a reparative experience without needlessly expending correctional resources that can used more effectively for serious juvenile offenders. Historically, juveniles arrested for crimes in Albany County were afforded little in the way of graduated sanctions at the diversion level, and as a result, young people, many of whom were being charged with relatively minor offenses, were often referred to court based primarily on the number of times they had been arrested. This resulted in the needless permeation of juveniles into the Family Court System and subsequently reduced the likelihood of a positive outcome for them. As a solution to the growing need for graduated sanctions within the Juvenile Delinquency Diversion process, JCAB was initiated as a pilot program at the Albany County Probation Department in 2006. Modeled after the district attorney’s Adult Community Accountability Board (CAB), JCAB was intended to provide an alternative to traditional responses to juvenile crime and focuses on repairing the harm caused to victims of crime while simultaneously enabling juveniles to learn about the impact of their offenses and ways to avoid re-offending. JCAB is comprised of citizen volunteers from the community who attend an all-day training that covers topics like the juvenile justice system, restorative justice principles, and motivational interviewing. Upon completing training, board members are charged with the task of having meaningful dialogue with the juvenile and their parent in a non-accusatory fashion, and are also asked to assist victims in expressing themselves and conveying to the juvenile the harm they have caused. All of this is done in manner that makes the victim, the juvenile, and the family feel safe and free from judgment. After meeting with the board, the youth and parent will enter into a reparative agreement contract that will include accountability to the victims and to the community and skill-building to help the youth avoid reoffending. Once all activities listed in the agreement have been successfully completed, an exit interview is held with the board members that the youth initially met with, and the case will then be considered successfully closed at the diversion level. The youth’s records will be sealed and the juvenile has avoided the necessity for Family Court involvement.


City of New York, NY

LinkNYC is a first-of-its-kind program that is transforming payphones into Wi-Fi kiosks to create the world’s largest and fastest free Wi-Fi network. Links provide fast and secure gigabit Wi-Fi, free domestic calling, USB charging ports, tablets to access wayfinding and city services, and access to contact emergency services. The five-borough network is funded entirely through advertising revenues and is being built at no cost to taxpayers. LinkNYC has already created more than 155 local jobs and will generate more than $500 million in revenue for the city of New York over the next 12 years. LinkNYC offers an encrypted network for HotSpot 2.0-enabled devices, making it the first encrypted public Wi-Fi network of this scale to add a critical layer of protection to personal data. The Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications (DOITT), the Mayor’s Office and CityBridge have also created a customer-first privacy policy that ensures personal information is never shared or sold for third-party use. Each Link will have at least 24 hours of back-up battery power to enable 911 calling capability in the event of the loss of commercial power. In February 2016, the partnership announced the public launch of LinkNYC, and now there are more than 500 active LinkNYC kiosks spread across the five boroughs, with plans for thousands more over the next 8 years. Link deployment follows the installation of high-speed fiber optic cables along “corridors” through the city. When completed, users will be able to stay continuously connected with superfast Wi-Fi as they move throughout the five boroughs. The administration worked closely with the borough presidents to determine a guaranteed number of Links in each borough — as outlined in the franchise agreement with CityBridge — to ensure this project would reach neighborhoods across the five boroughs.

Mobile Health for Alcohol Addiction    

University of Wisconsin


In 2001, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the federal government funded The Center for Health Enhancement Systems Studies at the University of Wisconsin – Madison to improve care for people with addiction. They chose the Center because its staff had expertise as systems engineers in designing and improving complex systems, using methods from many disciplines. Center staff soon realized that the existing addiction treatment system, characterized by high staff turnover, treatment of only about 10 percent of people who needed it, and questionable success, warranted wholesale redesign. With additional funding from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Center staff convened in 2004 a two-day meeting of technology experts from several fields (e.g., nanotechnology, bioengineering, social psychology) and people with or family members affected by addiction. This group was tasked with imagining a new addiction treatment system that functioned mainly through technology. This meeting produced a vision that was refined in two follow-up meetings, culminating in December 2005 with the decision to build a smartphone app. In 2008, the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism funded the development and testing of the app, called A-CHESS. A-CHESS was tested in a randomized clinical trial with 349 recovering alcoholics, following patients for one year. Those with A-CHESS had significantly fewer risky drinking days and greater abstinence than those without it. The app has also been used by a consortium of 15 addiction treatment clinics nationwide, who agreed to share their results and suggestions with the development team in exchange for using the app with their patients. The Veterans Administration used it in its Bath, New York, facility that serves veterans in the Rochester area. A-CHESS also has been used by the drug court system and in 57 inpatient and outpatient facilities. In a study funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, clinicians are using A-CHESS to treat addicted patients in primary care clinics in Wisconsin, Montana, and New York City. A-CHESS is now being used by people with opioid addiction.

Mobility Initiative          

City of New York, NY

Begun in January 2014, the New York City Police Department (NYPD) committed to changing their approach to policing in the city, implementing a Plan of Action blueprint designed to deliver improved police services in the city of New York and break down the barriers between two parties who should be natural allies: the police and the people they serve. One essential and enabling element of this strategy involved a revolution in NYPD technology, making the police more accessible to the community, and delivering tailored information and analytics to police officers where they need it the most — in the field. To that end, the NYPD used the opportunity to build out its “Platform for Transformation” — a vision to put a smartphone in the hands of all 36,000 officers and place a tablet in every emergency response vehicle. By providing e-mail addresses and phone numbers to the entire uniformed workforce, the smartphones and tablets make officers, including the new Neighborhood Coordination Officers, directly accessible to the community. In addition, the devices come equipped with a number of custom-developed applications, which were created based on the ideas and feedback of officers in the field. These applications enhance the NYPD’s delivery of police services, including a 911 dispatching app, which alerts officers to 911 calls even before they come over the radio, with associated information about the location they are responding to and decreasing response times; a search app, which provides enterprise search of all NYPD and certain state and federal databases, streamlining investigations; form creation apps, which allows officers to take digital reports on scene in the field, and eventually provide them online to the public, paving the way for the NYPD to go paperless; blast messaging, which allows the NYPD to send critical informational bulletins, including officer safety alerts and pictures of missing persons direct to officers’ smartphones; and a training app, which allows for distance learning, which has the potential to fundamentally transform the Department’s approach to educating its workforce.

Nature in the City           

City of Fort Collins, CO

With a 40-year history committed to protecting nature, the City of Fort Collins undertook a Strategic Planning process to ensure that as the community grows, high quality natural spaces will continue to be conserved to protect healthy ecosystems, wildlife habitat, and offer easy access to nature in the urban core. Phase I (2014) of the Nature in the City program (NIC) consisted of a citizen-driven planning process to identify strategies to further integrate nature into the City’s policies and programs. This phase included extensive data collection on the community’s environmental, social, and economic values regarding nature including community surveys and focus groups to understand diverse perspectives and needs; a visioning workshop to assess residents’ perceptions and values about nature; citywide bird, butterfly, and vegetation sampling; establishment of a Citizen Advisory Committee; analysis of economic benefits; and an online, interactive mapping tool to identify where residents access nature and where barriers exist. NIC utilizes a multifaceted, holistic approach including: public-private partnerships; restoring existing natural spaces to increase the natural quality of sites; implementing neighborhood-scale enhancement projects; establishing design guidelines to illustrate how nature can be incorporated into the urban environment; updated land use code requirements to offer developers guidance and flexibility in meeting NIC goals; education, incentives and resources for landowners, business owners and landscapers; tracking biodiversity trends through citizen science data collection; and targeted land acquisition to create a more connected open space network. As a result of the extensive community engagement efforts, there was significant stakeholder buy-in and political support for the planning process.

The resultant NIC Strategic Plan (Phase II) was adopted by the city council in March 2015, and the following month Fort Collins voters approved $3 million in sales tax to fund NIC initiatives over the next 10 years, demonstrating the community’s commitment to the NIC vision. With the dedicated sales tax funding, the City began implementation of NIC (Phase III) in 2016. Staff members in two departments, Natural Areas and Planning, were identified to collaboratively lead the initiative. Pilot projects identified for 2016 include identification of gaps in connectivity for both people and wildlife, installation of a Living Wall on a new City building, installation of a pollinator-friendly demonstration garden, expansion of the City’s tree canopy improvement program, and collaboration with the Poudre School District to create outdoor classrooms.

Pathways to College and Careers            

Rochester Public Schools ISD 535, MN


Rochester Community and Technical College (RCTC) and Hawthorne Education Center, the Rochester Public Schools' Adult Basic Education program, united to provide supportive and successful pathways to college and careers for immigrant, refugee, and under-educated adults. RCTC and Hawthorne's pathway partnership expanded to include Mayo Clinic, Workforce Development, Inc., and United Way of Olmsted County. Through a shared interest in the success of all Rochester residents, these public and private institutions began their work together in 2011. They applied for and received grants, explored each other's environments through shadowing and information sharing, removed any unnecessary barriers to collaboration, and utilized the strengths of each institution to build college and career pathways. They share facilities, staff, and materials, and the administrative team meets monthly and are also in daily phone and e-mail contact.

Pre-K for All     

City of New York, NY


In January of 2014, the New York City Mayor’s Office released its ambitious plan to implement universal pre-kindergarten to provide every four-year-old in New York City with access to free, full-day, high-quality pre-K by September of 2015. At that time, only 19,287 four-year-olds were enrolled in full-day pre-K in the city. The city’s Universal Pre-Kindergarten Planning and Implementation Task Force was formed, even before the incoming mayor took office, to design a sustainable, high-quality Pre-K model for the city. Pulling together experts from within and outside of New York, the task force sought to identify and replicate the core features of high-quality models that produce positive learning outcomes. With funding secured in April of 2014, the city began quickly preparing for the 2014–2015 school year. Filling the gap in full-day Pre-K access could not wait, as children eligible to enroll in September of 2014 would not get another chance to attend Pre-K. To implement the expansion within such an ambitious timeframe required extensive interagency coordination. The New York City Department of Education (NYCDOE) served as the lead agency for the initiative; expansion efforts were also coordinated with the Deputy Mayor for Strategic Policy Initiatives. In the summer of 2014, the NYCDOE and partner agencies worked quickly to identify and partner with high-quality community-based providers, ensuring they were ready to open their doors on the first day of school. At the same time, the city launched an unprecedented grassroots campaign to recruit and enroll families. This included establishing an outreach team of dedicated pre-K enrollment specialists to call families and canvas local communities. The city’s comprehensive approach was grounded in creating a sustainable, high-quality model. Pre-K 4 All programs operate in multiple setting types — district schools, community-based providers (“New York City Early Education Centers” or NYCEECs), and charter schools. The NYCDOE provides extensive support, oversight, and training to programs to make sure that the city’s four-year-olds receive a high quality education. Pre-K students receive a full day of instruction — 6 hours and 20 minutes, with 180 days of education. Instruction is grounded in the Prekindergarten Foundation for the Common Core, the New York State Pre-K learning standards covering all aspects of a child’s development and learning.

Police Orientation Preparation Program              

City of Los Angeles, CA

The Police Orientation Preparation Program (POPP) is an unprecedented and successful public-private partnership between the police department, the school district, community college, and a private donor that helps participants earn an associate degree while transitioning from high school into volunteer reserve police officers, and finally full-time police officers. The POPP is designed to combine the best of pre-academy recruit training programs (such as Cadets and Explorers) with the career and personal values of a secondary education. Additionally, the program was expressly designed to be housed within an active police training facility, allowing students to work directly with instructional officers who mentor students on an individual level, helping them prepare for the application process and avoid behaviors that can disqualify them later in the police hiring process. With the goal of recruiting students of the highest standards and to further improve hiring outcomes, the entrance standards for POPP were strengthened in 2015. Additionally, the POPP model was adapted to focus on community policing while implementing the concepts identified by the Federal Task Force on 21st Century Policing. These concepts include an increased focus on diversity, developing trust and legitimacy with communities, and building partnerships with education. To meet the challenge of providing consistent funding, POPP partner programs leverage resources by sharing the expense of the program. The Los Angeles Police Department provides logistics and staff officer salaries while West Los Angeles College provides for all professors. Additionally, the Los Angeles Unified School District funds an onsite administrator. Through the ongoing financial support from the Weintraub Foundation, POPP is able to absorb the expense of textbooks, supplies, and tutoring services. The POPP excels because each organization works together to monitor individual student progress and help them develop and utilize their skills to achieve their goals.

Project 25           

County of San Diego, CA

Project 25 is a 3-year pilot program to identify at twenty-five chronically homeless individuals in San Diego who are among those placing the heaviest burden on public services and resources such as emergency room visits and arrests. The program is operated by Father Joe’s Villages, a non-profit organization in San Diego, and followed the approach of Housing First, which is based on the premise that individuals need to be placed in affordable, permanent housing as quickly as possible and then offered a comprehensive set of services. Although the project’s initial goals were to identify and provide services to the top twenty-five users of public systems, the pool of participants was soon expanded to thirty-six people. Individuals identified for participation in the project ranged in age from 22 to 61, with a median age of 47; five of whom were Veterans. Participants all had some combination of mental illness, a serious physical disability, and/or a substance use disorder. The individuals analyzed were enrolled in the program and housed in their own apartments by the end of 2011. Their use of various public and behavioral health and other services was tracked during 2012 and 2013 and compared with the usage of 2010 prior to program enrollment. At the end of the pilot period, all individuals demonstrated a dramatic decrease in both utilization and costs of public services. A third of the participants still required supportive services to maintain their housing stability and continue their improved quality of life. This intense level of support may be required indefinitely. Another third “graduated” from the program and are utilizing a reduced level of services. The final third is anticipated to graduate after some additional time of receiving intensive support." The County and United Way supported key components of the project which and was initially funded through a United Way grant. When United Way funding ended, the project received a three year-funding grant from SAMHSA, through which sustained savings were successfully demonstrated to Medicaid Managed Care plans, resulting in the Plans agreeing to continuation funding.

Public Spaces Community Places

Michigan Economic Development Corporation, MI


The Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC) teamed up with Patronicity, to launch a crowdgranting platform to help create more vibrant communities throughout Michigan. Thriving public places help define a community’s economic vitality and contribute to a strong quality of life, help attract and retain talent, and grow stronger local economies. From bike trails, to pocket parks, to alley revitalization projects, they contribute to an overall mission of the MEDC of creating places people want to live, work, and play. This program was created to meet the needs of local communities across the state who needed assistance funding small but impactful placemaking projects. Through feedback from local communities throughout Michigan, MEDC staff responded to an acknowledged gap for funding these smaller projects with a mechanism that now creates active public and social spaces in Michigan communities.  This program was a way to spur more public involvement around the their surrounding built environment and engage various stakeholders to decide what they wanted in their community. The practice of crowdgranting aims to fund projects by raising small amounts of money from a large number of people that invites residents to be engaged in the process from start to finish. Contributing patrons also receive project specific incentives depending on the level of donation. The goal of this practice is to have an inclusive platform that allows local residents and stakeholders to play a role in projects that will transform their communities and make visions into reality. This program supports identified projects through a community or non-profit organization and provides the necessary funds to make their vision into a reality. Since the launch of the program in September of 2014, there have been improvements made to better assist the communities across the state. The original match maximum started at $100,000 and due to the expanding pipeline, high demand, and the desire to meet the needs of many different communities, the maximum match is now set at $50,000. If the project receives the initial goal amount set, they will receive all of that money and be backed with 1:1 matching dollars by the State. This change has allowed more projects to be completed and focusing on different areas instead of investing in one primary location.

Quincy Police NARCAN Program              

City of Quincy, MA


During the time period of 2008-2009, the City of Quincy, MA was experiencing a significant spike in opioid overdoses and deaths, and in that same period, the Massachusetts Department of Public Health was also monitoring those statistics. The normal procedure for law enforcement was to arrest the individual should they survive, but this was not a solution to addiction — rather it placed the individual in the criminal justice system in lieu of much needed treatment and counseling. Police officers, fire fighters and ambulance personnel responded to incidents of overdose, but each tier by law was prevented from possessing or administering Narcan, an opiate antidote. To overcome this barrier to life-saving treatment, a pilot program joined law enforcement and public heath into an exclusive partnership allowing trained police officers to administer Narcan to those experiencing an opioid overdose. The program created a new approach and outcome to the long-term wellbeing of the overdose victim, who are now seen as family members rather than carrying the stigmatized, dehumanizing label of “drug addict.” In October of 2010, all Quincy Police Officers completed training according to the guidelines set forth by the Department of Public Health, and the program was operational. This was indeed a lifesaving triumph, as the first overdose reversal quickly followed. Following the implementation of the new program,  Quincy Police saw a 66 percent decrease in the death rate compared to the previous year officers were prevented from administering Narcan. The 300th reversal was recorded three years later in 2013 and the 500th recorded in April of 2016. The program has since been deemed “The Quincy Model” by Office National Drug Control Policy. In addition, the Massachusetts Good Samaritan Law was amended in 2012 to exclude from arrest an individual calling 911 for assistance for themselves or another in an opioid overdose state, a landmark decision. The second pioneering change allowed any person trained with a prescription for Narcan to administer without fear of civil action. These two intersecting major amendments created an atmosphere where the community now accepted the police as a public service rather than only an enforcement body with an astonishing sense of community and trust.

Regulatory Roadmap Initiative 

State of Washington

When state of Washington businesses asked the state Department of Commerce (Commerce) to help simplify regulatory requirements, the agency set out to Lean state permitting processes. While businesses appreciated improvements at individual agencies, Commerce soon realized the problem was much more complex than any single regulation – businesses were spending large amounts of time researching all of the state and local regulations and then trying to navigate through them. For example, opening a restaurant can involve requirements from more than 17 different city, county and state regulatory agencies. Guided by businesses’ ideas of what would provide the most value, Commerce worked with the restaurant community, local jurisdictions and regulatory agencies to develop a better approach. The result was an online “roadmap” that distills all local and state requirements into easy-to-understand, sequential worksheets and checklists for opening a new restaurant. Examples of typical restaurant start-ups and planning tools that identify “trigger issues” help business owners avoid costly regulatory surprises. The pilot Restaurant Roadmap, started in Seattle in 2013, is saving prospective restaurateurs time, money and mistakes. The concept was adapted for other cities throughout 2015 and 2016. Building on this success, the roadmap approach is expanding into other industries. Commerce convened manufacturers to learn about their regulatory concerns, and heard once again that regulatory information was unpredictable and difficult to find. They wanted access to technical details to quickly make feasibility decisions – before hiring a consultant or architect. Based on the manufacturers’ input, Commerce produced a Manufacturing Roadmap that includes interactive tools to assess costs, timelines and overall feasibility of potential facility sites. Manufacturers reported that the roadmap could have saved them two months of combing through city codes and agency websites trying to understand if a potential site would pencil out. Like the restaurant pilot, the Manufacturing Roadmap is now being replicated in several other cities. A new roadmap for the construction sector is also under development.

Smartphones Enable Smart Supervision              

State of Oregon

Outreach Smartphone Monitoring (OSM) uses predictive technology to recognize changes in behavioral patterns by tapping into human/smartphone interaction, based on the belief that the smartphone is the perfect vehicle to distribute resources to individuals and collect the data needed to determine the best ways to reduce recidivism. Working with community supervision agencies, a district judge and an official from the Federal Judicial Center, an application was designed that would replace the use of an ankle bracelet. This was accomplished by incorporating a Bluetooth biometric wristband, remote blood alcohol testing using a Bluetooth breathalyzer, providing rehabilitative resources, and traditional electronic monitoring. The OSM smartphone and web application is now in use in over 20 states and customer groups include Drug Courts, Pretrial Services, Probation, Reentry, Juvenile Supervision, Treatment Facilities, and DUI law firms.

Sparking the Green Bank Movement    

State of Connecticut


The Connecticut Green Bank was established in a bipartisan manner by the Office of the Governor and General Assembly on July 1, 2011 through Public Act 11-80 as a quasi-public agency that supersedes the former Connecticut Clean Energy Fund. As the nation’s first state green bank, the Connecticut Green Bank makes clean energy more accessible and affordable to all citizens and businesses in the state by creating a thriving marketplace that accelerates the growth of green energy. The Green Bank’s mission is to support the Governor’s and Legislature’s energy strategy of achieving cleaner, cheaper and more reliable sources of energy while creating jobs and supporting local economic development. The Green Bank facilitates clean energy deployment by leveraging a public-private financing model that uses limited public dollars to attract multiples of private capital investments. By partnering with the private sector, the Green Bank creates solutions that result in long-term, affordable financing to increase the number of green energy projects statewide. The Green Bank is demonstrating how public resources can be better invested in ways that attract more private investment in our communities, lead to deployment of more green energy by local contractors, and most importantly providing positive value to our consumers. The Connecticut Green Bank is leading a movement to use public funds more responsibly. By attracting and deploying more green energy related private investment both its economy and environment benefit. In a September 2014 study done by the Center for America Progress, “Green Growth: A U.S. Program for Controlling Climate Change and Expanding Job Opportunities,” it was estimated that the U.S. requires at least $200 billion to be invested annually in efficient and renewable energy for 20 years to reduce carbon emissions and avert climate disaster. The Coalition for Green Capital estimates that based on Connecticut, its market size, growth rate, and private-public leverage ratio, a successfully operating green bank in every state would yield $200 billion in national annual investment within 5 years. And like Connecticut, 90 percent of funds would come from private sources with all public contributions returned over 10-20 years.

Startup in Residence     

City and County of San Francisco, CA

Startup in Residence (STIR) connects the public sector directly to innovative technology entrepreneurs to help solve challenges faced by City government, and make government more accountable, efficient and responsive. For 16 weeks, startups help departments unpack issues with data analysis and prototype solutions refined through user testing. Startups gain insight into civic needs to develop products that support critical community services. Announced in 2014, San Francisco, the first cohort had nearly 200 startups from 25 cities and countries apply to the program, from which the 6 most promising startups were selected to collaborate with government agencies across 16 weeks to build new products and services. All 6 of these collaborations resulted in innovative products for government. One of the most exciting outcomes from these collaborations was a solution to guide blind and visually impaired airport customers to their gate and other services. The application was built by a company from Vienna called in collaboration with our airport and in consultation with Lighthouse for the Blind, a SF-based non-profit that advocates for the blind and visually-impaired. The San Francisco International Airport installed nearly 500 ibeacons in Terminal 2 and shared detailed maps and resources down to the location of power outlets, and is planning to scale the technology and adapt the software into multiple languages. With the lessons learned from the initial cohort and a three year grant from the US Commerce Department, STIR was formally announced and expanded in January 2016 regionally with Oakland, San Leandro and West Sacramento. This multi-city collaborative has shared nearly 27 challenges for technologists and entrepreneurs to tackle. After the 16-week program, the government agencies and startups have the potential to enter into a commercial arrangement through the usual competitive process which means an RFP, and has been streamlined in San Francisco based upon our experience from 2014, reduced from months or years to weeks by having the call for startups be an RFP itself.

The Great Game of Government             

County of Greene, MO

Greene County, Missouri, implemented and practices the Great Game of Government in an effort to create widespread financial literacy among all County employees. Greene County is one of the first government organizations to adapt Jack Stack's book, “The Great Game of Business,” which emphasizes open-book management. The Great Game of Business office, part of Springfield Remanufacturing Corporation, (SRC), in Springfield, Missouri, provided the training, while Greene County employees accepted the culture change and implemented open-book management’s new way of viewing the County. Raising awareness of how each employees’ actions impact the County’s bottom line has produced tremendous savings for their departments or offices, as well as for the County as a whole.

Women's Reentry Assessment & Programming Initiative           

County of Chester, PA

In 2013, Chester County faced an increase in the number of women under community supervision (47-percent increase from 2011–2013) and the number incarcerated at the local jail (74-percent increase from 2005). Many of these women were cycling in and out of jail, which caused chaos and disruption in their lives and families without any real chance of addressing the causes of their criminality. Prior to implementation of the program, 30 percent of the women incarcerated were committed on violations of supervision. The 130 women eventually served by the program had experienced 692 separate commitments to the jail. Recognizing that business as usual was not working, and that the traditional male-centric justice system was not providing the connections and interventions that respect the life experiences women bring into the system, the county looked to the National Resource Center on Justice Involved Women and the National Institute of Corrections Justice Involved Women’s Initiative for resources and recommendations on evidence-based programming.

In January 2014, the first probation officer was assigned to the Women’s Reentry Assessment and Programming Initiative (WRAP). The program provides gender-responsive, evidence-based assessments, supervision, case management, and programming to at-risk women transitioning from jail or facing violations of supervision. For the first time in the county’s system, trauma — a prominent feature for justice-involved women — is screened. All staff receives training to understand the impact of trauma on behavior, which in turn drives trauma-informed approaches to supervision, services, and decision-making, allowing for better engagement and outcomes for the women. A gender-responsive risk assessment tool identifies women’s individual needs and strengths allowing for a strength-based model of case planning and supervision. Research has concluded that considering both gender-responsive and gender-neutral factors increases the accuracy of predicting reoffending and improves the quality of case management plans targeting the highest risk factors for women. Community Case Management, using the Collaborative Casework Model for Women, allows for women’s needs to be addressed holistically. Additionally, cognitive-based training and psycho-educational trauma groups are delivered to engage women in their own recovery-building skills, self-efficacy, and community connections. The WRAP program has transformed the traditional criminal justice paradigm of control and compliance, hierarchical relationships, and a focus on presenting problems, to a model where problems are seen as trauma-driven coping mechanisms and supervision emphasizes collaboration and relationships.