Finalists for Preeminent Award in Public-Sector Innovation Announced

March 5, 2020
Finalists for Preeminent Award in Public-Sector Innovation Announced

Cambridge, MA – Today, the Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government announced four finalists from across the country for its 2020 Innovations in American Government Award. Honorees include the City University of New York’s Accelerated Study in Associate Programs, the City of Philadelphia’s BenePhilly program, the Massachusetts Pathways to Economic Advancement Project, and the Opportunities for Ohioans with Disabilities Business Relations Program.

For over thirty years, the Innovations Award has recognized public-sector programs that make American government, at all levels, more efficient, creative, and effective at addressing social problems and providing services to the public. This year the award program specifically sought out exemplary models of government innovation addressing and promoting economic opportunity for all.

Selected by a team of policy experts, researchers, and practitioners; the finalists were chosen for their novelty, effectiveness, significance, and transferability, as well as their impact on issues of economic and social mobility, inequity, and stratification. “These four programs demonstrate that the spirit of innovation is alive and well across government in the United States,” said Stephen Goldsmith, the Daniel Paul Professor of Practice in Government at Harvard Kennedy School and the director of the Innovations in American Government Program at the Ash Center. “By reimagining how government delivers services, these our finalists serve as important examples of the role that government can play in strengthening economic opportunity for all Americans.”

Representatives from each finalist program will give presentations before the National Selection Committee of the Innovations in American Government Awards on Thursday, March 12 in Cambridge, with the winner to be announced later this year. Recordings of the presentations will be released in the coming month.

For more information, contact:
Daniel Harsha
Associate Director for Communications, Ash Center

Kaitlin Burroughs
Program Associate, Innovations in American Government Awards

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

About the Innovations in American Government Awards 2020 Finalists  

Accelerated Study in Associate Programs (ASAP), City University of New York 

The Accelerated Study in Associated Programs, run by the City University of New York, helps students earn associate degrees within three years by providing a range of financial, academic, and personal support services. Specific services offered by the program include comprehensive and personalized advising, career counseling, tutoring, waivers for tuition and mandatory fees, public transportation passes, and additional financial assistance to defray the cost of textbooks.

ASAP, which is committed to graduating at least 50 percent of its student within three years, also offers special class scheduling options to ensure that ASAP students get the classes they need, are in classes with other ASAP students, and attend classes in convenient blocks of time to accommodate their work schedules. As students approach graduation, they receive special supports to help them transfer to four-year colleges or transition into the workforce, depending on their goals. ASAP originated as a demonstration project under the NYC Mayor’s Office for Economic Opportunity, which remains a partner on the project.  The program now serves 25,000 students per year across nine partner colleges, and is being replicated nationally in 5 states.


Launched in 2008 and expanded in 2014 by the Mayor’s Office of Community Empowerment in Philadelphia, BenePhilly is an anti-poverty initiative working to screen and enroll eligible Philadelphians for up to 19 public benefit programs. Trained counselors assist with completing applications, organizing key documents, and tracking the status of applications. The program operates out of municipal offices, a mobile unit, and is co-housed with multiple community-based agencies across the city.

Philadelphians may be eligible for critical benefits such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, but do not receive assistance because of hurdles they face in the application process. By providing in-person and over-the-phone screenings, counselors enroll over 5,000 households each year in essential benefits and services.

Massachusetts Pathways to Economic Advancement Project  

Developed through a partnership of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts; Jewish Vocational Service (JVS Boston); and Social Finance, a Boston-based nonprofit; Massachusetts Pathways to Economic Advancement Project is a Pay for Success (PFS) initiative that aims to increase employment opportunities for limited-English speakers and help them progress up the economic ladder by providing workforce development services. The project is the first PFS project in Massachusetts and the United States to focus exclusively on workforce development.

Vocational English language classes, integrated with job search assistance and coaching, will assist participants in making successful transitions to employment, higher-wage jobs, and higher education. JVS Boston, one of the area’s largest community-based workforce and adult education providers, draws on its longstanding expertise integrating adult education and workforce development to help implement the program. The Commonwealth will repay investors only if JVS Boston successfully achieves positive outcomes for participants, as defined in the contract.

Opportunities for Ohioans with Disabilities Business Relations Program 

In 2013, Opportunities for Ohioans with Disabilities (OOD)—the state of Ohio’s vocational rehabilitation agency—established a business relations program to work throughout the state to raise awareness of the agency and its mission to work with employer partners to promote and support the hiring of individuals with disabilities. In 2019, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that the proportion of people with disabilities in the workforce was about one-third that of people without disabilities. By investing in services to business to increase access to in-demand jobs and support to promote a more inclusive workplace, OOD is removing barriers to employment for Ohioans with disabilities.

Through OOD's network of employer partners, business relations specialists identify job opportunities that match job-seekers' skill sets and experience, and also provide services and resources that promote an inclusive and diverse work environment.