Rhode Island’s Works Wonders Program Awarded Harvard’s 2018 Innovations In American Government Award

December 12, 2018
Innovations in American Government Awards
Cambridge, MA–The Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation, a leading research center at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, today named Works Wonders, a job training and placement initiative in Rhode Island aimed at youth who have aged out of—or are about to age out of—state care, as the winner of the 2018 Innovations in American Government Award. The award will be presented to Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo at a ceremony at 2:00 PM EST at the State House.
“Works Wonders is an outstanding program that helps foster kids in Rhode Island reach their full potential,” said Governor Gina M. Raimondo. “Through a partnership with two state agencies and Foster Forward, Rhode Island is meeting a crucial need for a population that is too often underserved. This would not have been possible without the foster youth who were both co-creators and participants in the program—and absolutely instrumental to its success. I also want to thank the teams at the Department of Labor and Training, the Department of Children, Youth and Families and particularly the folks at Foster Forward for their steadfast commitment to Rhode Island. I’m honored that the Ash Center at Harvard Kennedy School is recognizing this important work and awarding Works Wonders the 2018 Innovations in American Government Award.”
Rhode Island’s Works Wonders program was recognized by the Innovations Award Program at the Ash Center for its groundbreaking approach to filling the gap between traditional workforce development programs, which are traditionally aimed at adults, and youth-centric programs which assume a level of parental engagement. The Program involves adolescents ages 16-21 in a rounded support system that addresses both hard and soft skills. Participating youth have access to education, peer support, counseling, experiential learning opportunities and, ultimately, paid jobs, vocational programs, and continued educational opportunities.  A recent research study showed that Works Wonders has an 83 percent completion rate and participants are 37 percent more likely to be employed as compared to those who didn’t participate in the program.
“Rhode Island’s Works Wonders is an exemplar of how a range of stakeholders can come together to identify and meet the needs of an underserved group,” said Stephen Goldsmith, Daniel Paul Professor of the Practice of Government and the Director of the Innovations in American Government Program at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government. “The Award selection committee was unanimous in voting for Works Wonders as this year’s winner. We hope that this recognition will help the program scale and its award-winning attributes be adopted by other jurisdictions.”
Additional Resources
About the Innovations in American Government Awards
The Innovations in American Government Award is the nation’s preeminent recognition for excellence and creativity in the public sector. The award program receives thousands of applications that are evaluated on criteria to assess their novelty, effectiveness, significance, and transferability. Since its inception in 1985, 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 from the 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 www.ash.harvard.edu.
Contact Information:
Daniel Harsha
Associate Director for Communications
Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation
Harvard Kennedy School