Ash Center Announces Top 50 Innovations in Government

March 31, 2009

Programs Compete for 2009 Innovations in American Government Awards

Cambridge, Mass. – The Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University today announced the 2009 Top 50 Government Innovations competing for the Innovations in American Government Awards. Representing the work of city, county, state, federal, and tribal government agencies, the Top 50 were selected from over 600 applicants. Six Innovations in American Government Award winners will be announced in September.

The Top 50 programs underwent rigorous rounds of evaluation by policy experts and practitioners from across the country. The Top 50 programs include 21 cities and towns, seven counties, one school district, 11 states, eight federal agencies, one tribal government, and one regional authority.

Of this year’s six Innovations in American Government Awards, two government programs will be honored with policy-specific awards. Established in 2006, the Annie E. Casey Innovations Award in Children and Family System Reform honors public system reforms that benefit disadvantaged children and families. The newly created Innovations Award in Urban Policy acknowledges local community and urban center endeavors that improve quality of life by fostering citizen empowerment and engagement.

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. The awards program acts as a significant force in restoring public trust in government by promoting public sector creativity and excellence. Competing programs demonstrate innovative solutions within a host of policy areas including health and social services; management and governance; community and economic development; education and training; criminal justice; transportation and infrastructure; and the environment. Since its inception, over 400 government programs across all jurisdiction levels have been recognized and have collectively received more than $20 million in grants to support dissemination efforts.

In addition to encouraging the adaptation of innovative practices worldwide, award winners provide models of good governance taught in government school curricula worldwide. Such programs inform research and academic study around issues of democratic governance at Harvard Kennedy School and serve as the basis for case studies for present and future public practitioners. To date, more than 450 Harvard courses and over 2,250 courses worldwide have incorporated Innovations in American Government case studies.

“In this climate of economic uncertainty, these Top 50 innovative government programs demonstrate that creativity and innovation can still survive and flourish,” said Stephen Goldsmith, director of the Innovations in American Government Program at Harvard Kennedy School. “Despite strained budgets and diminishing resources, these programs prove that government continues to find solutions to pressing societal challenges.”

“Twenty-two years after its creation, the Innovations in American Government Program remains central to identifying and encouraging the spread of the country’s most novel practices,” said Anthony Saich, director of the Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation. “This year’s Top 50 Government Innovations promise to enhance the study of government innovation and influence new legislation and reform strategies.”

Finalists of the 2009 Innovations Awards will be announced on May 18 and will present before the National Selection Committee, chaired by HKS Professor of Public Service David Gergen, on May 27. This event is free and open to the public. The 2009 Innovations winners will be announced in September. Applicants for the 2010 Innovations in American Government Awards are encouraged to apply at

2009 Innovations in American Government Awards: Top 50 Government Innovations

Those programs with a * are also semifinalists for the 2009 Annie E. Casey Innovations Award in Children and Family System Reform


Biosolids Injection  T.I.R.E.
City of Los Angeles, CA
Los Angeles’ Biosolids Injection  Terminal Island Renewable Energy Project (T.I.R.E.) Project is the nation’s first and only full scale application of deep well injection technology to convert biosolids into green power while simultaneously sequestering greenhouse gases. The earth’s high temperature biodegrades organic compounds to generate methane gas to produce renewable energy.

Downtown Streets Team
City of Palo Alto, CA
Downtown Streets Team is an effort to address the problem of homelessness in Palo Alto by providing housing and employment services to residents in need.

Global Warming Solutions Act
State of California
California’s Global Warming Solutions Act, a cost-effective effort to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 30 percent, will drive technological innovation, promote clean energy, and create new green jobs.

Sacramento Municipal Utility District
Greenergy, an initiative of Sacramento’s Municipal Utility District, brings affordable, renewable energy in the form of wind, biomass, and captured methane, to customers in $3 and $6 per-month pricing packages.

Online Inmate Information and Jail Visit Reservation
Santa Clara County, CA
The Online Inmate Information and Jail Visit Reservation System is an application that allows approved users to look up inmate information and schedule inmate visits via the Santa Clara County’s website.

Residential Abandoned Property Program
City of Chula Vista, CA
Chula Vista’s Residential Abandoned Property Program addresses the adverse conditions and blight caused by vacant, abandoned, and financially distressed residential properties, by affirmatively placing responsibility for security and maintenance on mortgage holders.


Instant Ticket Program
City of Wilmington, DE
The Instant Ticket Program allows Code Enforcement Inspectors in Wilmington to issue instant $50 fines, similar to parking tickets, upon property owners who violate sanitation laws.

K-5 Early Intervention Program*
State of Delaware
Delaware’s K-5 Early Intervention Program provides intensive school and home-based services to at-risk children and families, preventing the future need for more expensive interventions by removing barriers to academic and social success.

District of Columbia

Data Feeds: Democratization of Government Data
Washington, D.C.
Data Feeds: Democratization of Government Data improves the utility and transparency of District of Columbia government data by providing a centralized access point with a focus on delivering real-time operational information from multiple agencies.


Emergency Contact Information
State of Florida
Through the Emergency Contact Information program, Florida’s motorists are able to upload electronic emergency contact information, which is then accessible by law enforcement officers in the event of a traffic accident.

Primary Care Access Network
Orange County, FL
Primary Care Access Network is a creative governance and implementation model comprised of community healthcare provider agencies that have joined together to expand and enhance healthcare services to uninsured residents throughout Orange County.

Senior Zones
Hillsborough County, FL
Hillsborough County’s Senior Zone Program works to slow traffic and increase safety for older adult drivers and pedestrians around retirement and assisted living communities through the use of traffic calming devices.


Crisis and Access Line
State of Georgia
Georgia’s statewide, 24-7 Crisis and Access Line provides callers with crisis intervention and access to behavioral health services. Making use of flexible software to triage calls, identify treatment options, and make real-time linkage to providers, this effort removes key barriers to service access and achieves significant cost savings.


Mapping Evapotranspiration from Satellites
State of Idaho
Idaho’s Mapping Evapotranspiration from Satellites produces detailed images of evapotranspiration, enhancing the understanding of local and regional water-demand issues.


New Leaders for New Schools
Chicago Public School District
New Leaders for New Schools ensures high academic achievement for every Chicago Public School student by attracting and preparing outstanding leaders and supporting the performance of the urban public schools they lead.


Neighborhood Place*
City of Louisville, KY
Neighborhood Place is a partnership of public sector agencies that have come together to create a network of community-based “one-stop” service centers. The purpose is to provide blended and accessible health, education, employment, and human services that support Louisville’s children and families in their progress toward self-sufficiency.


Child Welfare Reform*
State of Maine
Maine’s Child Welfare Reform has achieved sustained, system-wide child welfare reform through family-centered and permanency focused practice and data driven case management. This effort has resulted in improved child safety and increased permanency.


Auto Insurance Fraud Task Force
City of Lawrence, MA
The Lawrence Police Department’s Auto Insurance Fraud Task Force is a collaborative effort that has dramatically reduced vehicular insurance fraud and has saved city residents over $15.5 million in annual insurance premiums.

Commonwealth Health Insurance Connector Authority
Commonwealth of Massachusetts
The Commonwealth Health Insurance Connector Authority is an independent Massachusetts agency which implements many of the provisions of the state’s landmark 2006 health care reform law.

Foreclosure Prevention and Intervention
City of Boston, MA
The Foreclosure Prevention and Intervention program is an interdepartmental approach to minimize the impact of the financial crisis, specifically foreclosures of residential properties, on Boston’s neighborhoods.


Early Neutral Evaluation
Hennepin County, MN
Early Neutral Evaluation is a collaborative process in Hennepin County that promotes children’s well-being by helping parents reach an early and cooperative settlement in custody and parenting time disputes.

Family Homeless Prevention and Assistance Program
Hennepin County, MN
Hennepin County’s Family Homeless Prevention and Assistance Program is a network of public and private service providers who have developed highly successful, outcome-focused methods for preventing homelessness for at-risk families and rapidly re-housing homeless families.

New York

Citywide Performance Reporting Online System
City of New York, NY
The Citywide Performance Reporting Online System is an interactive dashboard for user-friendly access to New York City’s government performance data. This program gives agencies and citizens online access to critical measures with automatic trend evaluation.

Center for Economic Opportunity
City of New York, NY
New York City’s Center for Economic Opportunity, housed in the Office of the Mayor, implements and evaluates innovative anti-poverty initiatives, rigorously analyzes their outcomes, and makes funding decisions based on program performance.

Earned Income Tax Credit Mailing
City of New York, NY
Using data from federal tax returns, the Earned Income Tax Credit Mailing program identifies New Yorkers eligible for prior Earned Income Tax Credits, and then completes and mails amended tax returns so that citizens can claim their credits.

City of New York, NY
A partnership between New York City’s Department of Homeless Services and multiple non-profit service providers, Homebase combines flexible services and comprehensive data tools to prevent homelessness and help at-risk families find immediate alternatives to shelter.

Improved Outcomes for Children*
City of New York, NY
Improved Outcomes for Children is a child welfare system reform using innovative accountability measures, family-centered decision making, and flexible financing to improve key outcomes for New York City’s children in foster care and families receiving preventive services.

Office of Financial Empowerment
City of New York, NY
Created by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, the Office of Financial Empowerment is the first local government initiative in the nation aimed at educating, empowering, and protecting those with lower incomes to strengthen their financial well-being.

Officers Management Institute
City of New York, NY
Established in 2002, the New York City Fire Department Officer’s Management Institute provides fire and emergency medical services chiefs with leadership and management training.

PlaNYC: A Greener, Greater New York
City of New York, NY
Initiated in April 2007, PlaNYC: A Greener, Greater New York is Mayor Bloomberg’s comprehensive strategy to address environmental challenges, including air quality, climate change, and the sustainable use of land, water, and energy.


Credit Crisis Relief
Cuyahoga County, OH
Cuyahoga County's Credit Crisis Relief program combats the devastating impacts of the global credit crisis by providing real, replicable solutions that protect communities, neighborhoods, and families. The program offers comprehensive foreclosure prevention services, prevents neighborhood blight, and creates a land bank to revitalize neighborhoods.

Rhode Island

After School Alliance
City of Providence, RI
After School Alliance is a public private venture that expands and improves the quality of after school opportunities for the youth of Providence by building a system of after school supports.


Creating Homes Initiative
State of Tennessee
Tennessee’s Creating Homes Initiative combines state leadership, regional housing development/funding experts, and local partnerships to develop affordable, supportive homes for people with mental illness. Since 2000, $250,000,000 has been leveraged, resulting in the development of 7,200 housing units.

Higher Education Initiative
City of Kingsport, TN
The Higher Education Initiative revitalized an ailing economy in the northeastern Tennessee city of Kingsport by improving the overall education level of its labor force.


Environmental Management System: Managing Sustainable Innovation
City of Dallas, TX
Through its Environmental Management System: Managing Sustainable Innovation, the city of Dallas fosters a culture of environmental awareness and encourages green living among city residents.

UTeach Natural Sciences
State of Texas
UTeach Natural Sciences is an innovative secondary math and science teacher preparation program in Texas. Successes include increased graduating class size (now 70 graduates annually), excellent teacher performance and retention, and national replication expansion.

United States Federal Government

A Business Model for Results in Ending Chronic Homelessness
Interagency Council on Homelessness
A Business Model for Results in Ending Chronic Homelessness is an effort by the Interagency Council on Homelessness to decrease costly street living. Through a partnership with more than 850 mayors and county executives, the program plans to end chronic homelessness in the next ten years.

Comprehensive Community Mental Health Services*
Department of Health and Human Services
The Department of Health and Human Services Comprehensive Community Mental Health Services provides grants to public agencies across the U.S. to comprehensively serve children and youth who have serious mental health challenges.

Emerging Contaminants Program
Department of Defense
The Emerging Contaminants program promotes proactive, integrated risk management of chemicals used by the Department of Defense to facilitate informed risk-based decisions that better protect the environment and serve the Department’s operational capacities.

Environmental Protection Agency
ENERGY STAR, an Environmental Protection Agency initiative, promotes energy efficiency across the residential, commercial, and industrial sectors of the U.S. economy. By using market-based information, objective measurement tools, expansive partnerships, and consumer outreach, ENERGY STAR helps consumers and organizations lower their energy bills and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Department of the Army
GoArmyEd harnesses Web-based technology into a one-stop virtual portal that provides online, secondary educational support, tuition, and other services, while efficiently streamlining administrative functions for the benefit of soldiers in the United States Army.

Knowledge Leadership Program
Department of State
The Knowledge Leadership Program represents organizational and technological innovation to foster collaboration and knowledge-sharing in the State Department. This effort is essential to successful diplomacy in today’s dynamic and globally integrated information age.

New Markets Tax Credit Program
Department of the Treasury
The Treasury Department’s New Markets Tax Credit Program provides tax incentives, on a competitive basis, to induce private-sector, market-driven investment in businesses and real estate developments located in distressed communities.

Video Service Delivery
Social Security Administration
The Social Security Administration offers a widespread Video Service Delivery network which drastically enhances service to American Indian Nations and rural area residents.

United States Tribal Government

Reintegration Program
Muscogee Creek Nation
The Muscogee Creek Nation’s Reintegration Program supports the seamless transition for both adult and juvenile ex-offenders from in-state penal facilities back to the community. This initiative encourages confidence, responsibility, and independence by offering individualized attention and customized aftercare services.


Return to Roots
Commonwealth of Virginia
Designed to attract talent and locate southwest Virginia expatriates, this program reaches former and potential residents through traditional and technology based media, informing them about business, community, and employment opportunities.

Second Responder Program
City of Richmond, VA
Richmond’s Second Responder Program unites social workers and police to provide on-the-scene assistance to family violence victims. The program delivers more effective child and family support services and decreases chances for repeat incidents.


GreenTools Green Building Program
King County, WA
GreenTools Green Building Program promotes sustainable built environments by leveraging partnerships with other agencies and organizations and offering voluntary incentives that increase the amount of green building in the county.


Office of Financial Literacy
State of Wisconsin
The Office of Financial Literacy promotes financial literacy in Wisconsin, fostering understanding of personal finance and allowing citizens to make the most of their earnings.

Wraparound Milwaukee*
Milwaukee County, WI
Wraparound Milwaukee is a Milwaukee County community-based system of care which provides comprehensive, highly individualized, family-directed services to youth with serious emotional and mental health needs and their families.

For more information, please contact:
Kate Hoagland
Ash Center

About the Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation
The Roy and Lila 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. The Ford Foundation is a founding donor of the Center. Additional information about the Ash Center is available at